I know this is old news, but I just saw it today so it’s new to me. Chinese-American singer-actor Victor Ma gave an interview a while ago discussing his Hollywood endeavors, where he says he got passed for roles because he didn’t “look Asian enough.” In particular, he was told his eyes were too large for a role in The Maze Runner (his eyes aren’t even that large compared to most Chinese celebs).
“I auditioned for The Maze Runner. The role went to a Korean-American, his name is Ki Hong Lee. The role was down to me and him. The audition was a last call. The reason why they didn’t want me was first, I was still a minor and it was more difficult to work with night schedules. That’s one thing. Second of all, the casting told me was that “You don’t look Asian enough.” ****. When I asked him why, he told me “Ki-hoon has smaller eyes than yours.” I was like, oh my god, are you kidding me.”-Victor Ma
This is one topic that I personally find really obvious, but is often difficult to discuss without making it sound like a criticism of certain looks. It’s nice to have someone to actually come out and say it’s definitely true.
It’s clear that Hollywood seems to prefer Chinese actors with those stereotypical features when such caricature looks would never pass in a comic. This isn’t saying that people who don’t fit certain standards of beauty shouldn’t get roles, but Hollywood is purposely choosing to reinforce a physical stereotype that isn’t necessarily true. This especially obvious in ensemble casts where every other person of every race clearly follows one standard of beauty and the Chinese actor looks like a caricature (which is not the actor’s fault, they already have an uphill battle just to get a role as an Asian). Sometimes even when the Chinese actor has large eyes, the make-up artist seems to make them smaller on purpose (ex. Disney’s Mulan), whereas they would never do that for an actor from another race. It’s even more disgusting that many of those roles or movies are cash grabs at the China box office.
Fun fact: Director Ma Chucheng said one reason they picked Zhao Wei for his version of Mulan was he was sick of how Disney’s version was such a Western stereotype with slanty eyes and thick lips, and Zhao Wei is known for her large eyes.