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Wong Fu Productions Co-Founder Philip Wang Offers New Approach to Media Whitewashing

by Christopher Pak
28 July 2016

For decades, minority groups have voiced their concerns about their misrepresentation in the media. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign gained prominence in the run-up to this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. But the focus pivoted to #StarringJohnCho, for example, after the Oscars telecast featured insulting portrayals of Asians. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scrambled to add more Asians and minorities to its board and membership ranks.

Many Asian Americans welcomed this change and various public-awareness campaigns to pressure Hollywood to cast more Asian actors. But there are still those who see a different approach to the problem. Enter Philip Wang.

Wang, along with two college friends, gained Internet fame by founding Wong Fu Productions, which produces high-quality videos and movies on YouTube. Their videos are oriented toward Asian-American youth and present many Asian-American actors, like Ki Hong Lee and Randall Park, before they go onto stardom in Hollywood.

In a vlog, posted on his personal YouTube page, Wang praises the actions of those behind the Asian-American movement. However, he thinks that the community relies too heavily on Hollywood executives to turn a new leaf and suddenly understand the plight of the Asian-American community.

Wang believes the way to get more Asian Americans in the media is to have more Asian-American creators. He lamented that “it is a little naïve of us to be like, ‘Hey Hollywood! (who’s mostly white & straight) Write me an Asian lead!’” That’s illogical “because it is not in their experience,” Wang said. Writers do what they know best. If the community wants Asian roles, why should we expect white people to write them?

Furthermore, Wang uses digital platforms to promote alternative channels for filmed content. He says that Hollywood is the way of the older generations. With the advent of Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming sites, there is no longer a need for Hollywood to deliver a story. He believes this decentralized system is perfect for the Asian-American community.

Ryan Higa, an Asian-American actor whose YouTube videos have been watched nearly three billion times, agreed in an interview with the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. He said that “on YouTube, it’s like everyone gets a free shot because every single viewer can see what they want to see, not what television tells them they have to see.”

Wong Fu Productions has helped pave the way for Asian-American content in the media. The company’s futuristic romance movie Everything Before Us, released in 2015 on Vimeo and now available on Netflix, was a hit. Wang is proud that he did not have to rely on “Kung Fu or anything edgy or provocative” in order to get the views.

YouTube has reported that on its mobile app alone, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S. It is possible that the next golden age of media might actually be realized away from Hollywood and pioneered by creators like Wang. His message is clear: It’s time to move past talking and start doing.