In honor of AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Heritage Month (May), BLM, and diversity appreciation in general, we will be talking about the importance of authenticity and diversity in the localization and entertainment industry, especially when it comes to casting voice actors for certain roles in dubbing projects and casting the right actors to play a certain movie or TV role.
Let us start with shedding some light on why the issue of needing more authenticity and diversity in the localization and entertainment industry has been growing…and rightfully so. Since the start of Hollywood and the entertainment business, the representation of diversity has been lacking. Not to say that it has not improved since the early 1900s, but there is still a long way to go before we can honestly see diversity in full throttle.
According to UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report, among the top 200 film releases in 2018 and 2019, 3 out of 10 lead actors were people of color, less than 2 out of 10 film directors were people of color, and less than 2 out of 10 film writers were people of color. Meanwhile, only 24 per cent of credited writers were people of color and only 22 per cent of all episodes airing, or streaming, were directed by people of color, on average, across all platforms. Not only do these statistics show a lack of diversity and inclusion, but it discloses issues of authenticity. A person who plays the role of or tries to write the story of another person who is of a different race will never be able to do so authentically. For example, when a movie or voiceover project calls for a character who is of Asian descent, then an actor who is of Asian descent should be cast for the role. As obvious as this decision may seem, there have been many castings that reflected the opposite. For example, when Tilda Swinson was cast in a Tibetan role in Dr. Strange and Emma Stone was cast as a part Native American/Chinese American in Aloha. This same situation was happening with animated films and TV series, where white voice actors were being cast to voice black characters.
But following the increasing publicity surrounding nationwide protests against police brutality, violence against people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage following the spread of COVID-19, and the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, which is just naming a few, there have been calls for change in all corners of pop culture and the entertainment industry. One of the areas that started seeing major change was the TV/movie voice acting industry. *Several white voice actors from popular TV shows, who were originally cast to play characters of color, have stepped away from their roles in order to encourage the show’s producers to recast them authentically. * One of the voice actors who participated in this movement was Jenny Slate, who stepped down from her role as a biracial character on the popular Netflix comedy Big Mouth. She was replaced by Ayo Edebiri.
As we mentioned earlier, the localization and entertainment industry still has a long way to go in terms of increasing diversity, but the movement has started and it is growing. Adding more diversity in the writer’s rooms, studios, the director chairs, and castings will not only increase authenticity in the final product presented onscreen but will encourage more creativity and inclusivity. At LinQ Media Group, we are allies in the push for more diversity and value authenticity in the localization process, because authenticity will always produce the best-finished work and diversity will always lead to innovative ideas and solutions.
*Information is taken from https://www.vox.com/2020/7/22/21326824/white-voice-actors-black-characters-cartoons-whitewashing.