“Hollywood is racist.” In the midst of the ongoing Hollywood whitewashing controversy, Chloe Bennet (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) has defended her last name change in order to book acting roles. The actor recently lauded Ed Skrein’s (“Deadpool”) decision to step down from a role in the “Hellboy” reboot, regramming his public announcement with her own public kudos:
DAMN, that's a man. Thank you @edskrein for standing up against hollywoods continuous insensitivity and flippant behavior towards the Asian American community. There is no way this decision came lightly on your part, so thank you for your bravery and genuinely impactful step forward. I hope this inspires other actors/film makers to do the same.??????–Also, dayum cute af AND a pioneer for social injustice?! Fellas, take note. That's how it's done.
DAMN, that’s a man. Thank you @edskrein for standing up against hollywoods (sic) continuous insensitivity and flippant behavior towards the Asian American community. There is no way this decision came lightly on your part, so thank you for your bravery and genuinely impactful step forward. I hope this inspires other actors/film makers to do the same [clapping emojis].–Also, dayum cute af AND a pioneer for social injustice?! Fellas, take note. That’s how it’s done.
Skrein, a white actor, had been cast as Major Ben Daimio, an Asian American character in the “Hellboy” comics. After backlash from fans, Skrein gracefully bowed out. Bennet, who’s of Asian American and European descent, thanked Skrein for his contribution in the fight for equality. As Bennet, a star of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” is one of the few Asian American actors on a hit show, it makes sense for her to comment on Skrein’s move.
But then a commenter on Bennet’s regram questioned Bennet’s own decision to have a stage name; Bennet’s legal last name is actually Wang. According to Variety, Bennet responded with a succinct breakdown of her struggles before changing her name, along with proudly claiming her own heritage:
Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my BLOOD is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese. It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable.
This is not the first time Bennet has been frank about her experiences in the TV and film industry, telling the Daily Beast last year, “the first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked.”
Bennet’s comments highlight major issues within an industry that values white, cis straight men above all else. A recent USC study found that of 34 hit films with a female lead, there were only three women of color among them. Of 2016’s top 100 hit films, 44 did not have a single speaking Asian character. Depressingly, that number is not an anomaly; 49 films did not have speaking Asian characters in 2015.