It's difficult to choose a favorite moment from this year's Hollywood Minstrel Awards. Was it Tom Cruise crashing the ceremony in a bloody samurai costume with an actual severed head? (Lol, Scientologists.) Or was it Clint Eastwood shouting racist obscenities at an empty chair while Jared Leto, in literal blackface, announced his next role would be abolitionist Frederick Douglas? (And wouldn't shut the hell up about his "method," whatever that means.) It's hard to beat witnessing the look of despondent confusion on poor Ryusuke Yamada's face as he tried to figure out just what he was doing there, and why the world is the way it is.
"The Minstrels," as the awards are fondly referred to, are a perversely cathartic release for all the pent up, casual racism Hollywood has mulling around in its gut. It's a chance for producers, directors and actors alike to get together and celebrate the best examples of whitewashed characters in both film and television; to say: "Hey, we know we could have cast any number of talented Asian actors to play the main character in a film adaptation of Japan's unofficial national legend, but fuck it, let's write in a new 'mixed-blood' warrior to be the lead role and cast Keanu Reeves instead." (We still have no idea how they're going to explain how Matt Damon ends up on the Great Wall of China, but we assume it will be through a similar trope.)
At The Minstrels, there's no need to sugar coat and pretend like Hollywood is actually making any real effort to consciously cast minority actors in leading roles, especially when the character in question is not white. Even in cases where casting a white actress could be logically explained within the confines of the story's universe, as is the case with Major Motoko Kusanagi from the forthcoming live action adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell," who will be played by Minstrel attendee Scarlett Johansson (the character has a full prosthetic body so, technically, she could physically appear to be any ethnicity she wants), or when—as is so often the case—the character is described as "mixed-blood" to explain the casting of a white actress, as is the case with Allison Ng from the film "Aloha," played by Minstrel attendee Emma Stone, one would normally feel obligated to ask "why?" Why, when there are so many talented actresses of minority descent who could fill those roles more accurately, does Hollywood insist on casting white actresses instead? Why the fuck was William Mapother cast as a character in “World Trade Center” whose real-life counterpart is black? And, more fundamentally, why aren't there more stories being written from the perspectives of minorities?
But not at The Minstrels. At The Minstrels, Jared Leto with "Reverse Jackson" surgery is less weird than Ryusuke Yamada showing up because he's playing a blond alchemist (wizard) whose last name is Elric in the forthcoming live action adaptation of "Full Metal Alchemist." Yamada later told us that he thought he'd been invited as a joke at first, but was beginning to think it wasn't all that funny.