Book Review: The Beige Index

The Whitewash and The Beige Index

By Siang Lu

Published by University of Queensland Press



Emerging Queensland writer Siang Lu has won accolades for his novel The Whitewash by luminaries such as Benjamin Law who described it as “an utter fever-dream of a mockumentary, drawing on truths from life-life racism and film history that it sometimes hurts to laugh at what you're reading because it cuts so close to the bone.

“Audacious, original and a kick to the guts – in the best possible way.”

Author Mirandi Riwoe called it an incredible book, searing, humorous and inventive. A book that describes the whitewashing of Asian roles in Hollywood.

It's certainly a rollicking read, about the making of a spy thriller, starring for the first time in history, an Asian male lead.

With a huge production budget and starring JK Jr, the current hottest Hong Kong actor, the film Brood Empire was going to be a guaranteed success.

Until it wasn't.

Read Whitewash and find out why it went so horribly wrong and meet all the characters, from the actors, producers, directors, film historians and click-bait journalists, who make up the motley crew in the story.


The Beige Index

And just because Siang Lu and co-creator Jonathan O'Brien had time on their hands during the lockdown periods, they binge-watched their way through numerous films, getting fat in the process.

The result was The Beige Index, their creation of a big data exploration of diversity in popular film.

The Beige Index is the Bechdel Test for race, exploring ethnic representation in the IMDb Top 250 Films over time.

It features hot takes and data visualisation from co-creators Siang Lu and Jonathan O'Brien.

The site's dataset features more than 10,000 distinct actors across 250 films with a total runtime of 22.5 days.

And yes, they watched all of the films, and did all the research on actors both famous and obscure.

Did you know Joaquin Phoenix was born in Puerto Rico? Thanks to The Beige Index, now you do.

The Beige Index's data is available for users to explore in a DVD-style shelf, colour-coded by each film's casting diversity. Responsive chart and table views are also available for data enthusiasts.

The website is now live and can be found on