Randall Park is a Korean-American actor, and also now a director, who has played numerous roles. According to IMDB, he has over 160 acting roles. While I cannot recommend his directorial debut Shortcomings enough, the film features a somewhat controversial practice that is common in the entertainment industry, of an actor portraying a race/heritage they are not. This is by no means a new occurrence, and for obvious reasons, it is far less insensitive and insulting than what happening in Dragon Ball: Evolution.
Asians Isn’t Really a Thing in Asia, But It Is In the USA
Having played a number of different kinds of Asians, Randall Park is no stranger to this. Among his most famous roles, Park portrays Chinese and Taiwanese characters, despite being Korean. And in his directorial debut, Justin H. Min, who is also Korean, portrays Japanese Ben Tanaka. While Asian is a recognized and identified grouping in America, it’s not much of a thing in Asia itself. In fact, many who unite under Asian here in America, often have major prejudices in their motherlands. It’s really only in America that we proudly unite under a larger grouping.
Randall Park Listens to His Gut When It Comes to Asians Playing Other Asians
While there is a large demographic that can not tell the difference, even among us who are much more connected to this matter and have skin in the game are often very supportive and understanding when it happens, especially in American projects. But regardless, there are some who always argue for authenticity. There is a fine line with no set right or wrong answer. But there are definitely wrong answers. Having so much experience on this subject, I asked Randall Park what his litmus test/standard is for Asians playing other Asians.
“I think, you know, everyone has their different take on this and their different personal rules on it. I mean, for me, it’s a lot of it is a gut feeling. I do feel like, for me, it’s like if the role is primarily an Asian American role, you know, then I’m a little more open to being open in terms of casting, you know, but if the role is very intertwined with a specific culture, then to me, it’s more important to cast someone of that culture. But I do get that everyone has a different take on it, and I don’t begrudge anyone for doing things their way.”-Randall Park, ‘Shortcomings’ Director-
Randall Park’s take is unique, but also one I feel many Asian Americans have sort of internalized. We have nearly a century of history where melanin-lacking individuals have insultingly made themselves to look like us and constantly been replaced by the melanin lackers in our own stories. So we understand completely the opportunity and usually support them for representing a general version of us. But as things progress there are times where the line is a bit more blurry. But like it is with most situations, if the intent is right and the proper effort is put into respecting each other, the majority are usually fine with it. And to each their own.
Experience being open to being open in Randall Park’s incredible directorial debut Shortcomings, now playing in Los Angeles and New York, with a nationwide release to follow.
Release Date: Limited LA/NY Release, August 4, 2023
Director: Randall Park
Written by: Adrian Tomine
Producers: Hieu Ho, Randall Park, Michael Golamco, Margot Hand, Jennifer Berman, Howard Cohen, ERic D’Arbeloff
Runtime: 92 minutes
Starring: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavi Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, Timothy Simons
Ben, a struggling filmmaker, lives in Berkeley, California, with his girlfriend, Miko, who works for a local Asian American film festival. When he’s not managing an arthouse movie theater as his day job, Ben spends his time obsessing over unavailable blonde women, watching Criterion Collection DVDs, and eating in diners with his best friend Alice, a queer grad student with a serial dating habit. When Miko moves to New York for an internship, Ben is left to his own devices, and begins to explore what he thinks he might want.
Are you excited to watch Shortcomings? Have you read Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel? How do you feel when Asians portray other Asians, or when melanin-lacking people portray other melanin-lacking people? Let us know your thoughts on social media!