Two Minutes Hate: Whitewashing

Akira is widely lauded as one of, if not THE greatest manga of all time. It’s a work of sweeping scope, beautiful artistry and frightening vision. It’s no great shock that Warner Bros have bought the rights to it. What is shocking is that all eight male actors who have been solicited to play the lead roles are FUCKING WHITE.

The notion that white audiences will not go to see a blockbuster movie with asian leads is condescending, narrow-minded and goddamn insulting.

The author of this story was Japanese. The setting is neo TOKYO. The lead characters are named “Kaneda” and “Tetsuo“. This is bigotry at it’s worst, akin to casting a whitey to play the lead in Othello. I thought we lived in the 21st century.

Click this link and STOP IT.

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About Misterkristoff

New York Times and Internationally Bestselling SciFi/Fantasy author, and master of drunken karaoke-fu. View all posts by Misterkristoff

11 responses to “Two Minutes Hate: Whitewashing

  • A-bomb

    It’s hardly the first time Hollywood as done this. A particularly offensive example is not of whitewashing but of racial miscasting – various stunning Chinese actresses including Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang were cast in the American production of Memoirs of a Geisha. Cos all Asians look alike, right?

    This might also interest you:
    http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/jake-gyllenhaal-stole-my-identity-and-my-video-game/

  • Kate Evangelista

    I guess we still have a ways to go. We can’t really blame Hollywood since they’re going with what they know and what they feel works. I guess, it’s not Hollywood that we should look at, but the consumers. We’re the ones who go to the movies, right? It’s good that the fans are taking a stand. I for one believe Akira should be made, but it should be made right or not at all. 🙂

    • misterkristoff

      Kind of impossible to say whether people would still go to see it if it was set in Tokyo with Japanese actors. The thing that irks me is that these producers simply ASSUME we won’t. They ASSUME I’m so goddamn racist I can’t deal with a film where the leads aren’t white.

  • Manon Eileen

    Well, that’s sorta ridiculous to say the least. If they want that to be convincing, at least change the names to something “white” as well.

    *shrugs* I’ll just watch the anime if I want to watch Akira.

  • Eddie Louise

    The typical problem is that fans will go anyway – because they are fans, and punters who don’t know better will go and then wonder what all the fuss was about. Can we say Last Airbender anyone?

    I am curious though – is the process equally as vile in reverse? If a Japanese film-maker chose to do The Great Gatsby and cast all Japanese actors, would the same hew and cry result? Probably not, because the film would be in Japanese for a Japanese audience.

    It is not that I want white actors in Akira (I don’t, and I personally believe that we have moved beyond the age of needing to ‘whitewash’ everything)it is just that I sometimes think we take an uneven stance.

    • Kate Evangelista

      I needed therapy after that movie.

    • misterkristoff

      It’s a good point. Would it be as vile to me if the situations were reversed? Probably not. Would it be vile to a Japanese person to suggest they won’t watch a film unless it has Japanese people in it? I’d like to hope so, but you’d have to ask a Japanese person.

      The translation of Akira (the manga) was in English for an English audience. But they didn’t have to change the setting or nationalities for people to enjoy it.

  • Matt

    I think they should shoot Akira in Mumbai with an all Indian cast.

    I’d -SO- pay to see that shit.

  • Eddie Louise

    Had a great discussion on this with friends. The conclusion: Japanese cinema is targeted at Japanese speakers and rarely sets out to reach beyond the shores of Japan. Therefore, the ‘nationalizing’ is not really problematical. American cinema comes from a multi-racial society and purposely targets international audiences; therefore, we have a greater responsibility.

    I can buy that. Now I don’t have to feel guilty for excusing foreign films that blatantly steal American stories while pillorying the same thing in American Cinema. It is not that I think American Cinema is better (quite the opposite all too often), but I think we have an obligation to create art that is culturally aware. There is NO reason, excepting racism, to whitewash Akira in our multi-cultural society!

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