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NEWSARTICLE

Why Cameron Crowe's Emma Stone Apology Isn't Enough... Yet.

Chances are, more people will read about Cameron Crowe's critically-dismissed, financially-flatlining, Amy Pascal-loathed film Aloha than will ever actually see it.

As you've surely read by now, Crowe's latest film (released this past Friday) has already brewed up a storm of quick and justifiably furious controversy over the casting of the talented but totally Caucasian Emma Stone as a part-Asian character named Allison Ng, as well as the fact that this bizarre Hawaii-set rom-com about the personal entanglements of Hot White People and the military's colonization of space (!?) features zero non-white characters of actual significance or memorability. (There is, admittedly, a small role played by real-life Hawaiian activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, but you'd have to do some serious digging to find him anywhere within the film's promotional material.)

In an admirable but strangely swift move (remember, this movie isn't even a week old), Crowe has already taken to his personal website to apologize for Stone's casting:

"Emma Stone was chief among those who did tireless research, and if any part of her fine characterization has caused consternation and controversy, I am the one to blame," Crowe writes, before continuing to assure his critics that he is "grateful for the dialogue. And from the many voices, loud and small, I have learned something very inspiring. So many of us are hungry for stories with more racial diversity, more truth in representation, and I am anxious to help tell those stories in the future.”

The full mea culpa can be read here.

Like Crowe's real-life inspiration for Stone's character (in his words, "a super proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one"), I am a mixed-race American whose half-Chinese heritage is totally indiscernible. Hollywood's time-honored tendency for cultural whitewashing and ethnic misrepresentation is a continued concern for me, and I'm not exactly a fan of Crowe and his cinema of Sad White Men and Soul-Lifting Pixies, although even I can admit that Jerry Maguire is a total triumph of earnest entertainment and the same can very nearly be said for the best parts of Almost Famous. I don't think Crowe needs to be professionally punished for this blunder or that Aloha ought to be re-shot with Olivia Munn or Lucy Liu or whomever. It's hard for me not to appreciate the speed and sincerity of Crowe's response, which is definitely a helpful step in the right direction. But it's not enough...

At least, not yet.

"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" aside, diversity has never been a key component within Cameron Crowe's filmography, and there are a number of audiences who find that particularly exuberant catchphrase plenty awkward, at best. Since it's clear, at least from his words, that Crowe wishes to do his part in fixing Hollywood's infamously flawed representational practices by telling more racially inclusive stories, actually telling these sorts of stories would be the right and obvious thing to do.

That doesn't mean we need to see a Cameron Crowe Civil Rights romance or a Chinese immigration drama set to the tunes of Peter Gabriel, two terrifying thoughts in and of themselves. Crowe's talent for human-scaled storytelling could admittedly use some further revision as of late, but at the height of his powers, films like Say Anything..., Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous were able to achieve and sustain a shrewdly involving connection between their well-meaning characters and well-wishing audience, no matter how twisty the hero's goals became or how grandiose the romance got. Non-white actors (and audience members!) could use a few more well-told stories about regular, recognizable characters of color and the everyday personal and professional problems that people other than Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper work through.

Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere and Gina Prince-Bythewood's Beyond the Lights are just two recent dramas that tell universal stories about, respectively, a married woman's romantic sea-change and a beloved pop star's emotional tailspin. (It's a serious struggle to find current films of this ilk and caliber that star even one lead of Latino or Asian descent, among others.) And say what you will about Furious 7's dubious quality, but that movie's awesomely eclectic ensemble and staggering financial success only serve to prove that most audiences do. not. care what color your leads are so long as you give them something to invest in and get excited by. Why not apply this same mentality to more mainstream comedies, dramas, and romances? Crowe's stories of love, loss, and having each other at "hello" are common enough to accommodate actors of any color, and I hope he'll rise to the occasion he's now set for himself.

Because it's easy to merely say you'll help. It's harder but infinitely more rewarding, for filmmakers and filmgoers alike, to actually do something.

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