How Cameron Crowe Misunderstands Multiracial Politics in his “Aloha” Apology


Earlier last week, Cameron Crowe’s Aloha — which opened on Friday to pitiful box office returns — became embroiled in controversy as attention focused on the casting of Emma Stone in the role of love interest Allison Ng, who is described in the script as multiracially Chinese American and Native Hawaiian. Stone is of Swedish, Dutch German, English, Scottish and Irish heritage and has presumably zero Asian or Native Hawaiian ancestry.

I wrote last week about how Crowe’s miscasting of Stone as Allison Ng is part of a far larger pattern of how film mistreats the Asian American and Pacific Islander identities: we are either cast as racial or cultural fetish objects (in Aloha, a prescient storyline recapitulates but also flattens the political tension of Mauna Kea), or alternatively our bodies are rendered invisible (in Aloha, a multiracial AANHPI character is played by a White actress).

One of the frustrations of how the Aloha controversy has played out on the larger social media stage has involved the language that we use to discuss the strange White-washing of Allison Ng. As Sharon Chang has pointed out, outrage has focused on the casting of a White woman to play a multiracial Chinese American character; comparatively little attention has been focused on either the impact of Aloha (or its casting) on either Native Hawaiian indigenous politics, or on multiracial identity politics.

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