It’s a crushing and stupid reality in Hollywood that actors of color have a harder time securing lead roles. This is largely because Hollywood assumes worldwide audiences can only reliably relate to straight white male protagonists, despite the unquestionable successes of films like The Hunger Games, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Furious 7 (to name a few). Hollywood defenders play the “A-lister” card whenever talk of whitewashing or inclusive casting arises. But people of color will never be A-listers if Hollywood keeps ignoring them for all but sidekick roles.
All this has led to rising Asian ingendude Jack Choi expressing his frustrations in a compelling interview with Salon, admitting, “There’s probably a bigger chance of me winning the lottery than getting a lead male role in a big budget feature.” The whole thing is really worth a read, but here we’re going to concentrate on a point too often ignored by whitewashing coverage: the desexualization of Asian men.
Choi said of the lack of Asian male sex symbols:
Asian men in media are so desexualized and emasculated. I wish I knew why. Sessue Hiyakawa was one of the first Hollywood sex symbol in the early 1900s. He was an Asian male to open a Hollywood film with a female love interest. A lot of white American women would go see his films. I think a lot of the fear comes from that, where executives noticed that their women like this Asian guy, so maybe we should assassinate his character and sexuality. If you look at the timeline of his career, you can see a change. Part of it is fear and racism. And Asian woman can be with a white man because you’re not compromising white male sexuality and dominance and perception and straight white male insecurity. Asian men are emasculated. Ads do a better job than films to portray sexy Asians. When Jet Li and Aaliyah made Romeo Must Die they shot a kissing scene, but it was cut from the film. An Asian man kissing a woman is never shown, which is the emasculation.
Now, wanting to be objectified might sound silly or superficial. But framing an up-and-coming actor as a swoon-worthy hunk is a major part of how Hollywood grooms leading men like Chris Evans, Channing Tatum, and Chris Pratt.
Just because Hollywood lacks a sexual imagination doesn’t mean we do. Below we rejoice in the sex appeal of Asian men with some of the hot actors we’d love to see more of.
First up, Choi was right: Sessue Hiyakawa was a babe.
And Jake Choi—who’s promoting the culture-clash rom-com Front Cover—is no slouch.
Rahul Kohli of iZombie is so sexy that it’s actually becoming a problem. Like how is Liv still pining for Major Lilywhite (ugh), when she’s got this tall, dark, and handsome stud ever at her shoulder?!
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets it. Rebecca’s life-changing crush is fully embodied by Vincent Rodriguez III, who is “all the boy band you ever need.”
Star Trek/Harold And Kumar Go Lots Of Places’ John Cho has so many fans craving to see him as a leading man it begat a whole meme.
And let’s not forget Ansari’s Master of None buff buddy Gerrard Lobo.
We won’t overlook Will Yun Lee of The Wolverine, True Blood, Hawaii Five-0 and Torque.
Then there’s Fast and Furious’ Sung Kang, who got our hearts racing, then ripped them out with an untimely crash. (R.I.P. Han Seoul-Oh)
Thankfully some in the media get the sex appeal of Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun.
Hell, we could do a whole post on the hot men of Lost from Daniel Dae Kim…
To Naveen Andrews…
To Ken Leung!
Dare we look outside of American productions? Here’s The Raid 1 & 2’s Iko Uwais .
And Rain of Ninja Assassin and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK.
Seriously, Hollywood. The Overlords composed this list in about 10 minutes. There are scads of hot, charismatic, and talented Asian actors ripe to be the Next Big Thing. Get it together.
Kristy Puchko is forever #TeamRavi.