Take a look at a handful of movie posters from some of the hottest films, from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Me Before You and Jurassic World. What do you notice?
William Yu, a digital strategist at SapientNitro, noticed a serious lack of diversity. "The lack of representation of Asian-Americans in media is something that's always been top of mind for me," Yu told Adweek. Recently, Yu came across a study reporting that movies with more diverse casts actually lead to higher box office numbers and returns on investments. So why, he thought to himself, is Hollywood still not putting Asian actors in starring roles and hiring white actors for Asian roles?
That prompted the 25-year-old Korean American to launch the Starring John Cho campaign on Twitter with Harold & Kumar actor John Cho as the star. Yu took a number of big movies from the past year and a few highly anticipated ones for 2016 and replaced faces of lead characters with Cho's to address the serious lack of diversity in Hollywood.
Chris Evans as Captain America in Avengers: Age of Ultron suddenly becomes John Cho. Matt Damon in The Martian, Daniel Craig in Spectre, Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys, all replaced with Cho's face. Yu went with Cho because the actor is one of the most well-known Asian-American actors in Hollywood and, with a starring role in the Harold & Kumar franchise and a role in Star Trek, Cho "has both the presence and the bankable talent to build a tent pole around," Yu said.
Yu also made sure to pick from a wide range of genres to show that Asian-Americans can play every role from the action star to the romantic lead.
"I really wanted to give people visual and tangible evidence that having an Asian-American star in a leader role wasn't quite so crazy or outrageous but it was actually quite fitting," Yu said.
After picking a leading man and a few movie posters, Yu created the hashtag #StarringJohnCho, built a website where people could see all of the posters and read about the project and let the conversation kick off from there. The goal, he said, was always to "spark and ignite a conversation about Asian-Americans and how they are presented in Hollywood."
The campaign has already gained traction on Twitter and, as Yu hoped, sparked a conversation and even a larger movement with fans of the campaign creating their very own movie posters. Cho has even been in on the action, tweeting a heart at the Starring John Cho Twitter account.
— #StarringJohnCho (@starringjohncho) May 10, 2016
— The October Geek (@mjsoctober) May 12, 2016
— Cheryl Chastain (@myveryown) May 12, 2016
Whoever came up with this #StarringJohnCho is a creatively genius I'm gonna make a Vlog on this subject trending matter
— jay Khorn (@Jay_Khorn93) May 12, 2016
— worst dressed girl (@barelyconcealed) May 11, 2016
— Jigme (@JigmeUgen) May 11, 2016