Written March 2002 for Owen’s online newsletter….. the website this was originally published on has gone defunct, and I didn’t want to lose it. So, here it is.
The Academy made history the other night when African American actress Halle Berry was given the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the annual Academy Awards in Southern California.
Further history was made when Denzel Washington clenched the title of Best Actor, beating out Australian Russell Crowe, star of Best Picture A Beautiful Mind.
Similarly, the night’s MC was Whoopi Goldberg, while Sidney Poitier received an Honorary Award “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen, and for representing the motion picture industry with dignity, style and intelligence throughout the world.”
As a matter of fact, the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Arthur Hiller, was awarded for his perpetuation of diversity and equality in color, race, and religion in the industry. It’s no wonder Whoopi made mentions of how the doors are opening for minorities and people of color in the film industry. However, I have to ask – where is the yellow?
Sure, the success of the African American community is encouraging to the Asian Americans in the industry, but the fact still stands that Asian Americans, till this day, have still not been able to walk through this opening door. Asian Americans, especially at this last Oscars, are virtually invisible in Hollywood, and when they are, they are usually portrayed in a very stereotypical way. Very rarely, if ever, has an Asian American, especially Asian American men, been placed in a leading role in a movie that has nothing to do with Asian or Asian America.
However, there is hope, especially in the area of television.
Asian American actors like Garrett Wang and Lucy Liu have started to play parts that do not perpetuate Asian American stereotypes, speaking in perfect American English. Furthermore, Better Luck Tomorrow, a film by Justin Lin slated to open in mainstream theatres, portrays Asian American high school students in a different light than has been previously seen. This is a movie that is almost fully Asian American – Asian American cast, director, storyline…no more accents, no more Model Minority Myth, no more stereotypes, hopefully. Then hopefully, sometime in the near future, we will be able to see an Asian or Asian American actor or actress at the Oscars receiving an award for Best Performance.
And, if we’re lucky, Margaret Cho will undertake the daunting task of hosting the Academy Awards as well. Wouldn’t that be something?