There's a lot going on here.
Obviously, racially specific casting calls are common. But there are things about this one that are, at best, preeeety embarrassing. I created it in 1999, when I was in college, and posted it in the streets around my high school (Stuyvesant, which has had a ropey few years but remains in my mind a golden exemplar of many many good things) to try to get actors for a film I shot that summer.
One note: it worked, well -- I got a decent number of kids who called, cast a few, and we shot the movie and had fun.
So, but the poster. Part of me admires my chutzpah, part of me is mortified at my insensitivity, and part of me just thinks it's interesting.
Chutzpah: way to go. You tried to catch the eye of Asian teenagers, challenged their coolness, and got them to call you to be in a movie. And it worked!
Mortified: wow, oh my God. Seriously what were you thinking? What the hell are those pictures of old Asian men playing cards about? You were not looking for old Asian men. Are you suggesting that there is some exoticized vision of the "Asian" as a denizen of card-playing opium dens, and that you are trying to channel that vision for your movie? Because that is possibly offensive, and also not what you were looking for. Also these images look like low-res cut and paste jobs from the internet back when it barely worked and computers were like stone stenography tools, because that's an accurate description of the circumstances under which they were produced. Next, what's that in the lower-left? Is that Maoist imagery or something? What the hell has that got to do with anything? You were looking for kids like the kids you knew in high school: Asian-American kids who were into '90s hip-hop culture and repped it in how they dressed and spoke. What the f%*# does shoddy pseudo-Maoist propaganda have to do with that? These images are like a bizarre grab bag from the mind of an insane person who has never met an "Asian" person (wtf btw? can you clarify?) and is not good at graphic design. Oh my God.
Interesting: Letting myself off the hook for none of the above, I do think there's something of the way we processed and spoke about race in my high school that I was channeling with this. We had a deliberate carelessness about racial tropes and signifiers, which made us -- I'd say -- simultaneously frank and naive about the whole thing. For those who don't know, Stuyvesant is unusual for a New York public high school. It is predominantly Asian and white (do I capitalize "white"?), in which categories I am carelessly lumping together all east Asian kids, all south Asian kids, and white kids who varied from 1st-generation Russian to upper-middle class private school escapees (me). It is, famously and controversially, very unrepresentative of the city's demographics in terms of the number of black (do I capitalize "black"?) and Latino students. We were aware of all of this, subliminally and explicitly, and the way some kids dealt with it was a brash explication of race and racial expectation that basically took the form of a lot of joking. I'm sure there were ugly and hurtful incidents, and I'm sure people were bruised by some of this joking. But as the holder of a comfortable and loose racial/ethnic affiliation, I always appreciated it (even, perhaps particularly, when directed at me) and thought it spoke well of the students. I still do, actually, although I also see now that some of the ways in which we probably thought we were being iconoclastic and bold were actually ways in which people were trying on for size racialized views of people/situations, and that it's probably harder to disambiguate faking it and feeling it than we imagined it was at age 15 in 1995. But anyway -- I think that's part of where this sign comes from, my attempt to channel that. Which of course, and rightly, looks totally insane and possibly offensive now. Also, it is incredible how awful I am at anything involving visuals.