Recently, entertainment news outlets broke the story that Hollywood actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park will part ways from CBS and its primetime crime-drama “Hawaii Five-O.” Both Kim and Park starred in an ensemble cast alongside Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. The reason for the premature exiting was that the two parties could not reach an agreement with CBS regarding financial compensation.
Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park represented the ultimate rarity in Hollywood — prominent and successful Asian-American actors. What they sought was equal pay with their white Hawaii Five-O co-stars Loughlin and Caan. At the time of the negotiations, CBS was allegedly paying them about 10% to 15% lower.
As expected, the internet boards erupted, largely in support of CBS for taking a stand against political correctness. Such diatribes detract from the nuances of discrimination, particularly from liberal Hollywood.
CBS and the Hawaii Five-O executives apparently have no problem facing down any discrimination charges because they know that Asian Americans have no social power. But Hollywood wouldn’t dare discriminate against African American, Hispanic, or other minorities because they are willing to scream, and scream loudly.
But rather than urging Daniel Dae Kim or Grace Park to do anything more than their classy responses to the controversy, I would suggest that CBS strongly reconsider, and not because of underlying discrimination charges.
Rather, not promoting Asian American interests is simply bad business.
Asians are “High Margin”
Mainstream society often disregards Asian Americans because they’re the minorities of minorities. Few in number and in political presence, this demographic can be walked on with almost zero consequence. Even liberal institutions like Hollywood see absolutely no contradiction between their progressive views of diversity and treating Asians like crap.
The problem with this demographic perspective is that it ignores the high margins of Asian social currency. Generally speaking, Asians are not your trash collectors or your narcotics dealers. They are your accountants, your lawyers, your doctors. Indeed, large groups of Asian scientists are working right now on the next innovation that could possibly save your life.
Pissing them off may not engender consequences for Hollywood, but it surely will not accrue benefits.
International Syndication Opportunities
While the U.S. is the world’s greatest economic power, number two and number three are Asian juggernauts. It is increasingly myopic from a business perspective to continue to ignore, malign, or disrespect the Asian American community, culture, and experience.
Including India, 55% of the world is Asian. Roughly speaking, only about 15% of the world is white, or of white European ancestry. Such lopsided variances were papered over by CBS and the Hollywood albatross because whites, generally speaking, are higher-earning individuals and occupy a greater (or more desirable) social categorization.
However, Asians throughout the world are exponentially growing their wealth on a per-capita basis. That means they will want to consume luxuries, such as media content. And it doesn’t take a genius to propose that unfavorable portrayals — or a complete lack of them — is not conducive for international syndication opportunities.
Doing Right Has Benefits
CBS and other organizations have publicly fought against racial discrimination. The problem is that discrimination just means “black.” Indeed, Hollywood is probably the most racist institution ever created, yet it is regarded as the most liberal.
How can it be that in the year 2017, there are no fewer Asian Americans represented than in generations ago? Progressives may have progressed in including blacks, Hispanics, even transgender rights, but they openly discriminate against Asian American actors like Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.
Has it ever occurred to the CBS execs, I wonder, that the success of Hawaii Five-O was because they finally portrayed Asian Americans in a realistic manner, and not as a racialized caricature?
The evidence indicates that positive portrayals of Asians accrue far greater financial benefits than treating them as a punch line. Whatever media company realizes this first will likely win out big with a critical demographic.