Margaret Cho
Comedian Margaret Cho has criticised the production of Absolutely Fabulous: The MovieGetty

Award-winning comedy Absolutely Fabulous is known for its scandalous portrayal of the world of fashion, but the big-screen adaptation is now embroiled in a row over racial stereotyping.

Actress Janette Tough, who played Wee Jimmy Krankie in the 1980s comedy act, will make an appearance in the new Ab Fab film as Japanese fashion designer Huki Muki – a move that fans have criticised as racist.

Comedian Margaret Cho, known for her provocative, taboo-breaking humour, tweeted she was "sick of yellowface" – adding: "Have some respect. Hire Asian actors 4 Asian roles. I'm not going to name the production but I'm disgusted."

Cho tweeted: "I was thrilled about the Ab Fab movie but now I just can't be."

Offensive racial stereotyping is an ongoing row in Hollywood, but it is nothing new. In the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany's, white American actor Mickey Rooney was famously cast as grumpy Japanese landlord IY Yunioshi – which has been the subject of criticism ever since. More than three decades after the film first aired, the Los Angeles Daily News described the role as "an offensive stereotype even played by an Asian; the casting of Mickey Rooney added insult to injury".

The argument over the use of "yellowface" in Breakfast at Tiffany's continues to this day. In 2009, the DVD re-release of the film included a featurette on the character of Yunioshi, which briefly delves into the issue of racial stereotyping.

When the rom-com Aloha opened at the beginning of this year, director Cameron Crowe came under fire for his decision to caste Emma Stone as the partially Chinese character Allison Ng. Stone herself addressed the criticism in an Australian interview, saying: "I've learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is. It's ignited a conservation that's very important."

Stone added that although she acknowledged the issue, the character Ng was based on a real-life woman Crowe had met whose heritage was not apparent. "The character was not supposed to look like her background. Which was quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese," she said.

Popular television shows have also been condemned for the racial stereotyping of Asians, including an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Alyson Hannigan played a stereotyped Asian woman for a Kung Fu film tribute.

Debates and conversations have begun to circulate surrounding the issue, however. While some argue white actors and actresses portraying Asian character is no more insulting than male actors being cast as females for drag, others argue yellowface is entirely different – and is another example of whitewashing in the American film industry which encourages unrealistic and unauthentic depictions of actual cultures and behaviours.

In July, Buzzfeed published a video which sees a handful of east Asian people react to these portrayals in recent and classic films. When shown Marlon Brando's portrayal of a Japanese interpreter in 1956 film The Teahouse of the August Moon, one man says: "Watching this feels really dehumanising."