When Cameron Crowe’s latest paean to sad, confused men and the irrepressibly positive women whose purpose in life is to help said men out was released this past weekend, more than a few people noticed something awkward. Namely, lily-white actress Emma Stone had been cast in Aloha as a character named Allison Ng, whose heritage in the film is stressed as being one-quarter Hawaiian, with a half-Asian father. Hollywood movies need stars to get funding, but given the movie already had Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams, perhaps a little diversity might have made sense, especially when her diverse heritage is literally part of the character’s storyline?
Having already weathered criticism about the title of his film from some Native Hawaiians, Crowe took to his blog to address concerns about this casting choice. And it turns out you guys shouldn’t have worried, because Crowe has a part-Hawaiian friend, so he’s “down,” if you know what we mean. (You may not—it’s possible you aren’t chill like Cameron Crowe.) Here‘s Crowe‘s explanation:
I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heartfelt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice. 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. 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.
So you see, it wasn’t a bad casting choice on his part. It was a bad character to begin with, if you don’t want to bait people into pointing out that your extremely white movie is also using white people to play ostensibly Native Hawaiians. This isn’t to paint Hawaii as some avatar of unspoiled cultural purity, unless the state wants to pretend it doesn’t bend local culture in service of the tourism that drives its economy. It’s merely to point out what Crowe seems to have already known: people might not think this was a good decision.
Whether that story point felt hurtful or humorous has been, of course, the topic of much discussion. However I am so proud that in the same movie, we employed many Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, both before and behind the camera… including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and his village, and many other locals who worked closely in our crew and with our script to help ensure authenticity.
See? Just look at all the people in supporting roles, there to support the white people pretending to be Hawaiian. Crowe seems to have his heart in the right place; it’s just that, much like his new movie, it comes across a little tone-deaf. But we’ll always have, “Show me the money!”, right? Haha. Show me the money. You can’t physically be shown all that money at once, you crazy football player! Now, that’s movie-making.