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John Cho Stars In Every Blockbuster Movie In Viral Internet Meme

First it was a Doctor Strange trailer with Tilda Swinton playing the Tibetan Ancient One. Then it was a photo of Scarlett Johansson as Japanese cyborg Motoko Kusnagi in Ghost in the Shell. Add to that, the first-look images of Elizabeth Banks as the originally Asian character Rita Repulsa in 2017’s Power Rangers remake. All those reveals in the last month had one thing in common: Caucasians cast in Asian roles.

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In response, New York-based digital strategist William Yu launched a viral campaign with the hashtag #StarringJohnCho on Thursday, May 5, featuring Star Trek actor John Cho Photoshopped onto the posters of The Nice Guys, Spectre, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

“Opposition to an Asian-American playing the lead of a major motion picture is an unfounded and antiquated notion,” 25-year-old Yu tells Us Weekly. “With #OscarsSoWhite and then with the slew of recent white-washing of Asian roles, it became clear that now was the time to do something.”

How did Yu land on using the 43-year-old Korean-American actor as the face of his campaign? “I wanted focus on someone who not only has the artistic chops, but also the financial backing,” Yu tells Us. “Cho has received critical praise … while also bringing in over $100,000,000 as the face of the Harold & Kumar franchise. [He also] possesses the unique combination of charisma, presence and bankable talent that a leading man requires.”

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So far, Cho’s only response has been a red heart emoji to Yu’s @StarringJohnCho Twitter account. But the digital strategist’s goal “to spark a discussion and challenge the ways in which Asian-Americans are perceived in popular culture” is happening, thanks to responses from stars including Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu.

This meme follows last week’s #WhiteWashedOut campaign, led by comedian Margaret Cho and The Prophecy series author Ellen Oh to call Hollywood out on the recent whitewashed casting. Kerry Washington and Johnathon Schaech have also shared the hashtag in solidarity. 

Also last week, the tag #MyYellowFaceStory launched, encouraging Asian-Americans, especially in theater, to share their stories of inequality behind the scenes. While Tony winner Lea Salonga shared bias she experienced while attempting to audition for a Broadway role, Katie Leung, who played Cho Chang in the Harry Potter film series, posted a photo of a collectible Potter card, where a photo of another Asian actress was used.

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This trio of hashtags continues the conversations that have long been a part of diversity in the media, as Ming-Na Wen and George Takei, among others, have voiced.

As Yu’s visual meme continues to travel through the internet, he hopes it will get the attention of those who can make an impact. “It’s been great seeing those in the film industry support the movement,” he tells Us. “#StarringJohnCho demonstrates the desire for an Asian-American lead, now Hollywood execs just have to see it … and take note.”

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