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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.

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

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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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