Gabriella Blanco/Contributing Writer
After year-long speculation and sorting through approximately 1,000 candidates, Walt Disney Studios has finally found its star for their long-awaited live-action remake of the 1998 animated classic, “Mulan.” Thirty-year-old Chinese actress, Liu Yifei, according to The Hollywood reporter, fits the bill for everything Disney required for the role: martial arts skills, proficiency in English, and global star quality.
Though a huge congratulation is in order on the actress’s behalf for scoring such a big role, is there really any pomp and circumstance necessary for Disney making what should have been an easy and correct decision? I don’t mean in picking this specific actress, though. I mean selecting a Chinese actress, period.
The only reason for all the actress’ attention could be the casting announcement for the highly anticipated live-action remake of 1991’s “Aladdin” this past summer where, to the disappointment of many, Naomi Scott was cast as Princess Jasmine.
Why? Because of her ethnicity. Scott is British and Indian and is severely mismatched for the film’s regional setting. Obviously, the kingdom of Agrabah isn’t real, but it isn’t hard to take in the aesthetics and climate to figure out that this land is made to resemble somewhere akin to the Middle East.
This anger is common and is due to the continued battle for proper representation for people of color in the media, which tackles everything from whitewashing to the interchangeability of races and ethnicities, which the case of Scott playing Jasmine, is an example of.
Perhaps the most daunting thing about the “Aladdin” casting is how they managed to find an appropriate actor for Aladdin — newcomer Mena Massoud is of Egyptian descent — and much of the supporting cast, excluding Will Smith, yet Disney missed the mark for their female lead.
Maybe the backlash from “Aladdin” prompted Disney to carefully select an ethnically Chinese actress.
But it shouldn’t be a discussion in the first place. If one wants to do a movie in a specific part of the world, then it should be common sense to seek out actors from or relating to the place in question to not only effectively tell the story, but to encourage diversity in Hollywood.
So, I suppose, good job, Disney. Keep up the good work and create the example of what the integrity behind casting means in the media and to the audience.
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Photo retrieved from Disney Official Facebook.