A recent study from USC Annenberg's Inclusion Initiative (with support from Amazon Studios) examined Asian and Pacific Islander representation in the top grossing films since 2007. Of the 1,300 movies they examined, only 44 had a lead or co-lead of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.
And of those 0.03% of top-grossing films with leads or co-leads of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, that lead or co-lead was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson nearly 1/3 of the time.
To be fair, Mr. Johnson is a god damn national treasure, whose impressively natural acting chops have been apparent since his on-screen debut in the American classic Southland Tales. But if a significant chunk of movies with Asian or Pacific Islander leads can only make that claim because they star The Rock, a Black Samoan actor from a family of successful wrestlers who had already risen to fame as a wrestler, then that's a pretty harrowing indictment on Asian and Pacific Islander representation in the film industry.
The report has more depressing statistics to back this up, of course. While 7.1% of the US population are of API descent, for example, only 5.9% of those top-grossing films across 13 years featured an API actor in a speaking role. A quarter of those characters were violently killed off before the end of the film, and nearly half of them experienced some sort of on-screen disparagement, including racist or sexist slurs.
So, to recap: the Rock is dope. API representation in the film industry is horrible.
The Prevalence and Portrayal of Asian and Pacific Islanders across 1,300 Popular Films [Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Dr. Katherine Pieper, Marc Choueiti, Kevin Yao & Dana Dinh / USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative]
Image: 惡龍~Stewart / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)