Published in 1815, Jane Austen’s classic Emma has been reworked into a modern-day YouTube webseries Emma Approved with actresses Joanna Sotomura staring as the title role. Wait. Sotomura? That doesn’t sound white. Yes, that’s right! Joanna Sotomura is half German, half Japanese. Not only is she at the center of it all, but the series also features actors Jessica Andres, Mapuana Makia, Stephen A. Chang, Tyra Colar and Nikea Gamby-Turner, all of whom are people of color. And that is awesome.
It is frustrating to see what seems to be a stagnation in the growth of diversity in movies and television shows. Backlash can be seen everywhere from HBO’S Girls to Disney’s Frozen. It’s 2014. People want to see color. Emma’s web-production company Pemberley Digital understands that a “modernized” classic refers not only to costumes, and dialogue, but racial representation.
Sotomura herself says says, “In Hollywood it’s easy for Asian actresses to get type-cast in stereotypical roles, so to play an iconic character such as Emma is a wonderful opportunity…The fact that the fans not only accept this but also embrace it makes me very excited to see where we’ve come as a society.” (source)
The casting choices over at Emma Approved perhaps teaches a lesson to Hollywood that old stories need not repeat old practices.