Facing a torrent of criticism for casting Emma Stone as a ship captain who is 1/4 Native Hawaiian, 1/4 Asian-American and 1/2 white in his latest critically-panned film "Aloha," director Cameron Crowe took to his personal website today to face the music…sort of.
In a concise five-paragraph note, Crowe characterizes "Aloha" as "misunderstood" ever since last year’s Sony e-mail hacks. (In one leaked message, Amy Pascal, then co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, calls the script "ridiculous" an implies that the film is a waste of money.)
Crowe goes on to apologize “to all who felt [Stone] was an odd or misguided casting choice.” He claims that Stone’s character, Allison Ng, is based on a real "red-headed local" who is 1/4 Hawaiian and "frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one.” Crowe then tries to justify his decision in context of the others he employed in the movie:
Whether that story point felt hurtful or humorous has been, of course, the topic of much discussion. However I am so proud that in the same movie, we employed many Asian-American, Native-Hawaiian and Pacific-Islanders, both before and behind the camera… including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and his village, and many other locals who worked closely in our crew and with our script to help ensure authenticity.
Taking this level of care is perhaps admirable, but this apology reads as someone saying “I’m sorry your felt that way. That’s on me, even though I did all of this other stuff so you wouldn’t get mad!”
And various corners of the blogosphere agree. The Nerds of Color’s Keith Chow offered a list of rising mixed-race actresses who should have been cast instead in Stone’s role, while Screen Crush’s Jacob Hall argued that the inclusion of native actors in bit roles “doesn’t change the fact that Crowe has an opportunity to write a role for a person of color and deliberately chose to create a character who looks like, well, Emma Stone.”