An extensive study shows Hollywood started casting more light-skinned actors for major roles in movies deemed to appeal to Chinese audiences after the Communist Party started allowing more foreign films to enter the country.
Movies made after 2012 showed an 8% increase in the numbers of light-skinned actors being put in starring roles in action flicks and summer blockbusters, which the Chinese audiences prefer, according to the Johns Hopkins University study, "Impacts of Chinese Colorism on Hollywood Castings," Axios reported Tuesday.
Horror movies and comedies, which are not produced with the Chinese market in line, did not see the same shift.
The study, completed in 2017, was prompted by reports about a Chinese promo poster for the 2015 flick "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." In the Chinese poster, a Black actor, John Boyega, who starred as Finn, was minimized, but his image was prominent in U.S. posters.
At the time, racism allegations were made for the omission, according to CNN.
Researchers examined 3,000 films made between 2009 and 2015, and determined light-skinned actors increased after 2012, when the CCP started allowing foreign movies in.
The change meant, for one out of every three films in a category, the film went from having 2 out of 3 actors with very light skin to "having 3 out of 3 very light-skinned actors."
Researchers concluded the studios made their decisions to satisfy the aesthetic preference of Chinese movie watchers and the culture that places a premium on lighter skin through a practice known as colorism.
However, Manuel Hermosilla and other co-authors on the study said racism might not be at fault with the Chinese audiences.
"Colorism does not equate to racism," they wrote. "There may be significant variation in skin tones within races, and colorism may manifest within individuals of the same race."
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