As we all know, Saturday Night Live is not exactly a beacon of racial diversity, though things have gotten somewhat better in recent years. But the latest episode of the show showed just how far SNL still has to go.
It featured a sketch based on the original Star Trek, starring Spock’s half-brother from Queens, Spocko. So far so whatever. But the role of Sulu (originally played by George Takei) was played by what appeared to be a complete rando, whose sole line acknowledged his incongruity.
While casting a random Asian man for the role is a much better option than yellowface, it turned out that the actor was actually Akira Yoshimura, an SNL production designer who’s been with the show for its entire run. Funnily enough, as Vanity Fair pointed out, Yoshimura actually appeared as Sulu in a 1976 Star Trek sketch, and reprised the role a few more times throughout the show’s history.
It’s pretty dope that they keep bringing Yoshimura back and that he’s done the role for 40 years. But it also highlights the less dope fact that Saturday Night Live has never had an Asian cast member in its 42-year history. They’ve literally had to haul the same guy from the crew out for this role since the ‘70s! It’s never changed.
And don’t come at me with that oh what about Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider argument. Yes, they have some Asian heritage, but they either identify or pass as white.
It’s not like there aren’t any talented Asian actors or comedians looking for work, and it’s not like Asian actors have to specifically play only Asian roles, even though white people play Asian roles all the time, but come on now.
Then again, Chris Pine’s entire opening monologue was about how superhero movies are basically a bunch of white dudes named Chris, so why should we be so shocked?