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Jamie Chung heads to 'Gotham' — plus 9 more diverse casting choices worth celebrating.

The recent un-whitewashing of these Hollywood roles is adding some much-needed diversity to the screen.

Actress Jamie Chung, who you might know from "Once Upon a Time" and "The Real World: San Diego," just got cast in Fox's popular bat-TV show "Gotham" as reporter Valerie Vale.

On the surface, this might not sound particularly noteworthy — probably because most casual viewers aren't instantly familiar with the character of Valerie or her better-known niece Vicki Vale who's also a reporter (and frequent Bat-romancer).


Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Absolut Elyx.

Chung's casting is notable because we live in an age when white actors are still being cast to play characters of color, while actors of actual color can't even get award nominations for the disproportionate number of roles that are available to them.

The decision to cast Chung in a the role of Valerie Vale is a pretty big deal (and a pretty low bar), but it's even better that it happened in spite of the fact that Vale has traditionally been depicted as a white woman.

Here are a few recent examples of un-whitewashing in Hollywood that's helped to add some much-needed diversity to the screen:

1. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, in "Fantastic 4."

When Jordan's casting was first announced, there plenty of vocal internet complainers decrying how a black actor like Michael B. Jordan could possibly play the fire-powered flying brother to Kate Mara, a white actress, who played Susan Storm.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

The in-movie answer? Adoption. Really. It was just that simple.

2. Idris Elba as Heimdall in the "Thor" movies.

Look, I understand that the descriptor "Norse" tends to invoke images of strapping white men with blond or red hair. But this is a movie series about interstellar spacegods with magical hammers who traverse the galaxy on a rainbow bridge — a bridge that Idris Elba kept a watchful eye on in his role as Heimdall.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

Did the fact that Heimdall was white in the comics prevent Elba from convincingly guarding a rainbow galaxy bridge? Of course not.

3. Chloe Bennet as Skye/Quake in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Following a brief career as a pop star, Chloe Bennet didn't find her first big acting break on the superhero TV show until she stopped using her given Chinese last name: Wang.

Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Kabam.

While that's an unfortunate testament to Hollywood's problem with race, it's still exciting that we get to see an earthquake-powered superhero, who's also Chinese-American, kickin' ass every Tuesday night.

4. Candice Patton as Iris West on "The Flash."

There's nothing about the character of a reporter who's also the love interest of the eponymous Scarlet Speedster that screams "must be played by a white actor" — or any specific race or ethnicity, for that matter.

Which is good, because Candice Patton rocks it each week as Iris West, Barry Allen's best friend and love interest.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for iHeartMedia.

5. Lucy Liu as Joan Watson on "Elementary."

The world of Sherlock Holmes has been altered and adapted a million times over, to the point that we're all pretty familiar with at least one version of it. By casting the eccentric detective's sidekick as a woman, and an Asian woman at that, "Elementary" brought a new, robust, and utterly unique angle to a classic character that we've seen so many times before.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.

And who doesn't love Lucy Liu?

6. Jason Momoa as Aquaman in "Justice League."

People tend to make fun of Aquaman for his superhuman ability to speak to fish, rather than, I dunno, the fact that he's usually portrayed as a blond-haired, blue-eyed dude from an island nation that exists beneath the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for 2014 Sarasota Film Festival.

In this case, the decision to cast Momoa, a mixed-race actor of Hawaiian, Native American, and white backgrounds is actually more believable than, well, anything else about the character.

7. Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

Despite Emma Watson's formative portrayal of the bookish Muggle heroine in the "Harry Potter" movie series, the only explicit physical descriptors for the character in the books was that she had brown eyes and curly brown hair.

Noma Dumezweni, left. Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images.

When Noma Dumezweni was cast in the part for the highly-anticipated theatrical production, J.K. Rowling herself came to the defense of the talented black actress, saying, "Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job. … But what shocked me was the way people couldn’t visualise a non-white person as the hero of a story. It’s therefore brilliant that this has happened."

8. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in ... a lot of Marvel movies.

Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox.

Admittedly, this one is a little tricky: In his first iteration, Nick Fury was a white guy, and then Marvel created another Nick Fury for their "Ultimate" alternative universe, and based him on Samuel L. Jackson's appearance.

Then they cast the actual Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury for the Marvel movie universe and replaced the white comic book Nick Fury with a new black Nick Fury, separate from the other black Nick Fury.

Follow that? No? That's OK. No one really understands it either. But the point is that there's nothing about his skin color that affects his ability to be an awesome super-spy.

9. Dean Cain as Superman in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

Here's a throwback for ya! Despite his "all-American appearance" (whatever that means), Cain is actually part-Japanese because one of his grandparents was Japanese.

Photo by Tom Sandler/Getty Images.

This is a particularly great example both because Superman is a literal extraterrestrial alien and thus has no need to conform to our earthly racial standards, but also because it's a good reminder that those same earthly racial standards are actually kind of arbitrary.

But the fact that we do acknowledge them is the exact same reason that casting with diversity in mind matters.

Opponents of on-screen diversity call this "reverse-racism" or "tokenism" whenever a white character gets "replaced" by someone of a different race.

But that same erasure has been happening to people of color for a long, long time.

When a white actor gets cast as a person of color, effectively "whitewashing" the character, that cycle of erasure continues and fans miss out on an opportunity to see themselves represented in the media.

If you're an Asian-American who wants to be an actor and you only see other Asian-Americans in background ninja roles or being good at math, well, that sends a message that that's all you can ever be — and could make you feel insecure if you aren't good at math or, say, a kickass ninja. And if you're a non-Asian person who only ever sees Asian characters in movies being good at math, your brain is subconsciously primed to think all Asians are good at math.

But when an actor of color gets cast in a traditionally white role? The only way it affects the story or the audience is that it makes us all more aware of how the world around us really looks. In turn, that helps break down racial stereotypes, and opens our minds to greater possibilities — like inspiring a brighter future where the full range of humanity can be seen in every role, on screen as well as off.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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