We all know that the entertainment industry is racist. You don’t need to see the statistics to understand how deep their fetish for whiteness runs. Between whitewashed anime adaptations, overdone hysteria on truly colour blind casting, and pay disparities on major shows, it’s hard to overlook the smothering reality of one of our world’s most visible and influential fields. That’s why it’s so striking and exciting when, once in a while, someone does the right thing. When Ed Skrein pulled out of playing a Japanese role in the new Hellboy movie, it was a moment of relief because it showed that all the old excuses are now dead. No longer can an actor play ignorant on taking a whitewashed role, nor can they pretend their involvement in the process was our of their control. Skrein threw down the gauntlet and even that relatively minor action is enough to ensure further change must happen.
For Chloe Bennet, the Asian American actress who plays Daisy on Agents of SHIELD, it was also a moment to celebrate, and another moment to remind people of how racism has effected her own career. In an Instagram post, where she congratulated Skrein for doing the right thing, a follower queried her name change from Wang to Bennet. Why do it? Simple - Hollywood is racist.
Preach it, Chloe.
Bennet has been open in the past about how racism forced changes in her career. In an interview with the Daily Beast, she said, ‘Oh, the first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked. So that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.’
She’s not alone in this problem either. Ben Kingsley admitted that his name change from Krishna Pandit Bhanji got him jobs almost instantly, and that was in the 1960s. Carlos Estévez became Charlie Sheen. Vera Mindy Chokalingam became Mindy Kaling. Anything with more than four syllables in it becomes too icky and foreign for Hollywood to want to deal with.
Chloe Bennet is also the founder of RUN (Represent Us Now), a group that campaigns for increased representation of Asian American Pacific Islanders. You can check out their work here.