Hollywood casting more light-skinned actors to appeal to Chinese audiences: report

Researchers found that Hollywood executives created some of their summer blockbusters with the Chinese audience in mind

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An academic study has found that Hollywood execs have intentionally been casting more light-skinned actors for major roles in their blockbuster movies in an attempt to appeal to Chinese audiences. 

The report released by Axios this week is called “Can Emerging Markets Tilt Global Product Design? Impacts of Chinese Colorism on Hollywood Castings,” was initially written in 2017 and then published by Johns Hopkins University in February of this year.

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The reason the study has now gained new scrutiny is due to The Academy Awards’ announcement on Wednesday that films hoping to win Best Picture from 2024 will have to hire more Black, female, LGBTQ or disabled cast and crew members or at the very least address themes that affect those marginalized communities.  

The Academy explained that the new guidelines are intended to “better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience,” and this current study underscores why that may be a necessity to counteract current practices intended to skew films to be more white presenting.

In fact, after researchers reviewed 3,000 movies from 2009 until 2015, they found an 8 percent increase in the number roles filled by light-skinned actors after 2012 in a move the authors call the “light-skin shift.”

The February report notes: “For 1 of every 3 films in this category, the film went from having 2 out of 3 as very light-skinned actors, to having 3 out of 3 very light-skinned actors.”

Researches also discovered that this blatant shift only occurs in movies flagged for the Chinese market, like major action movies and summer blockbusters. Conversely, films with less international appeal that won’t be released in China, such as horror and comedy flicks don’t experience the same drastic shift, the report finds.  

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But despite all this data suggesting that intentional diversity is the only way to offset widespread bias towards whiteness, critics like Kirstie Alley and James Woods are already slamming the political correctness culture of turning the Oscars into a “weapon against anyone who disagreed with their politics.” 

“This is a disgrace to artists everywhere…can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his f***ing paintings,” Alley tweeted in response to the new mandate. “You people have lost your minds… Control artists,control individual thought… OSCAR ORWELL.”

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