‘Aloha’ director apologizes for casting Emma Stone as Asian-American

CNN:

Writer-director Cameron Crowe is having a tough week. His critically savaged movie, “Aloha,” performed poorly in its first weekend in theaters, collecting just $10.5 million despite a shiny pedigree and a star-studded cast. And now he’s apologizing for what critics are calling the culturally insensitive casting of actress Emma Stone as a part-Asian character.

“Thank you so much for all the impassioned comments regarding the casting of the wonderful Emma Stone in the part of Allison Ng,” Crowe wrote in a post on his personal blog. “I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice.”

The Allison Ng character in the film is a young Air Force pilot in Hawaii with a father who is half Chinese. Ng is proud to be one-quarter Hawaiian, a fact she repeats to almost everyone she encounters.

But Stone, who grew up in Arizona, apparently has no Chinese or Pacific Islander ancestry. Native Hawaiians, Asian activists and bloggers have criticized the movie — set entirely in Hawaii — for its overwhelmingly white cast, with many singling out Stone’s casting as being especially egregious.

It’s so typical for Asian or Pacific Islanders to be rendered invisible in stories that we’re supposed to be in, in places that we live,” said Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans in an interview with the Huffington Post. “We’re 60% of the population (in Hawaii). We’d like them to reflect reality.”

Crowe, whose films include “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous,” said the casting of Stone was not meant to be disrespectful.

As far back as 2007, Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one. A half-Chinese father was meant to show the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent in Hawaii,” he wrote.

Extremely proud of her unlikely heritage, she feels personally compelled to over-explain every chance she gets. The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local who did just that.”

Aloha” is a romantic comedy-drama about a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) who returns to Hawaii to help negotiate the launch of a satellite. While there he reconnects with an old flame (Rachel McAdams) while falling for the young pilot (Stone) assigned to escort him around.

Asian American civil rights support: The untold story of why MLK wore a Hawaiian lei at Selma

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The Daily Beast (by Tim Mak): 

Bright Hawaiian lei will be on full display this weekend when President Barack Obama, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and others march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to mark the anniversary of the civil rights protests.

There’s an untold backstory of aloha—a Hawaiian word meaning compassion, peace and love—that runs through the Selma-to-Montgomery marches in Alabama, 50 years ago.

In photos of the 54-mile third march from Selma to Montgomery on March 21, 1965, Martin Luther King, John Lewis and other demonstrators can be seen wearing the iconic Hawaiian flower garlands.

It’s a jarring, out-of-place image of fragile, flowery optimism amidst a backdrop of intimidation, violence and federalized troops.

The journey of those flowers from Hawaii to Alabama started a year earlier, when King delivered a lecture at the University of Hawaii. It was there that he met Rev. Abraham Akaka, the brother of future U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

In the lead-up to the third march, as President Lyndon Johnson was making preparations to protect the demonstrators with military policemen and the Alabama National Guard, Rev. Akaka sent gifts of bright white lei from the Pacific Ocean to the Deep South to be draped on the marchers.

For the reverend, it was a symbolic gesture that affirmed Asian-American support for the civil rights movement.

Now, 50 years later, Lewis and Hawaii native Obama will join Asian-American lawmakers Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Mark Takai, among nearly 100 lawmakers, to pay homage to the civil rights movement and “Bloody Sunday.”

Dozens of marchers will be wearing white double carnation lei, the same kind that Rev. Akaka delivered to King and Lewis for that fateful march a half century before.

I will honor the men and women who risked their lives in the name of equality on Bloody Sunday by presenting civil rights leaders with flower leis, just as Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka did during the third Selma march in 1965,” Hirono said Thursday.

The marches led by King and Lewis marked a turning point for civil rights that continues to have meaningful effects for minorities today, including Asian Americans.

As an ethnic minority, I am thankful for those that paved the way for the freedoms and liberties that all of us as Americans enjoy,” Takai said. “They suffered insults and physical harm, yet their spirit remained unbroken.”