You may or may not have heard about Aloha, Cameron Crowe’s latest romantic dramedy, featuring the usual hallmarks of a Crowe movie: likeable but lost hero returns to a formative locale from his youth, finds himself again and overcomes romantic adversity; eclectic soundtrack; and of course, manic pixie dream girl. The dream girl in this case is current Hollywood It Girl Emma Stone. So far, so good. Here’s the problem: Stone plays a character, Allison Ng, who is supposed to be part-Asian. A quick glance at Stone’s porcelain skin, ginger hair and dazzling blue eyes will affirm what you’ve already suspected: Stone is about as Asian as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Stone’s ethnic heritage is a mix of Swedish, Irish, Scottish, and whatever race is replete in perkiness. Needless to say, Stone’s casting has raised eyebrows. “Casting Emma Stone as Allison Ng is particularly dismaying because it participates in a long history of whitewashing Asian-American roles,” writes Vulture‘s E. Alex Jung.
Now Crowe has apologized for the casting. “I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice,” he writes here. “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 there: sometimes, man, the movies can be just like real life, especially the interesting real lives encountered in the 50th state. Still, though, Crowe’s explanation may not save the movie from bombing at the box office. Where’s Lloyd Dobler when we need him to stand outside our windows and proclaim his love for unlikely, unimaginably positive people of mixed races?