21: Based On Real Life (without all those Asian kids)

So, the new trailer to 21 has been released – a movie based on the non-fiction book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich involving a group of MIT students that, well, brought down the houses of Las Vegas casinos. It’s a Hollywood movie, starring Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne.

It’s a true-story-turned-Hollywood movie in every fashion – promising MIT students, desperate to raise tuition money! Dramatic kidnappings! Kevin Spacey slowly turning evil! Oh, and one other little thing: the mostly Asian American MIT Blackjack team had been replaced with white actors.

According to this article from MIT’s newspaper, The Tech:

During the talk, Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process — though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film’s actors would be white, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as “Better Luck Tomorrow” and the upcoming “Memoirs of a Geisha,” these stereotypes still exist, Mezrich said.

Okay, white actors and also the previously blogged about Aaron Yoo. But even then, Aaron Yoo is super attractive. If people that attractive were really on the MIT Blackjack team, well, they wouldn’t be at MIT, they’d all be actor-models. Replacing Asians with white people also prevents the explanation of why the MIT Blackjack team was consciously non-white, according to this article in Wired:

The MIT team thrived by choosing BPs [Big Players] who fit the casino mold of the young, foolish, and wealthy. Primarily nonwhite, either Asian or Middle Eastern, these were the kids the casinos were accustomed to seeing bet a thousand bucks a hand. Like many on the team, Kevin Lewis was part Asian, and could pass as the child of a rich Chinese or Japanese executive. “When you’re recruiting, you don’t recruit white kids. They look conspicuous. Asian kids, Greek kids, dark skin fits in better with lots of money in the casinos. White 20-year-olds with $2 million bankrolls stand out,” explains Andrew Tay, one of Lewis’ teammates. “A geeky Asian kid with $100,000 in his wallet didn’t raise any eyebrows.”

Fine, it’s a Hollywood movie; it’s perfectly okay to make little changes for more people to run to the movie theater, if only to suspend disbelief for a little bit. Maybe adding Aaron Yoo was a specific nod and wink to people who know the background story to acknowledge that yes, the real-life Blackjack team was more diverse than in the movie. But still. [sigh]

I hope the MIT Blackjack team have cameos in the movie. Hopefully that aren’t working as extras in a scene involving the casino’s Chinese buffet.

(Huge props, including the Wired Link: kevnull)

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About Ernie

I'm the creator of 8 Asians and one of the editors. While I'm a regular blogger to the site as well, think of my role as Barbara Walters on "The View," except without the weird white hair. During the day, I'm a Developer for a major Internet company and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've also been writing in my blog, littleyellowdifferent.com, for seven years.
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