Anime Talk: White-Washing?

This week on Anime Talk I want to discuss a topic I briefly touched upon in the comments of a previous Anime Talk talking about the live action Ghost in the Shell Movie that Dreamworks is putting together. That topic would be the White-Washing of Asian character in the Hollywood adaptations of the works in which the characters have originally appeared.  For those not familiar with the term, white-washing is the practice of casting the white actor or actress for a role of a character that is of a different race in the source material in this case Asians.

Now personally I never really saw this as an issue and can only think of two instances of this happening The Aforementioned Ghost in the Shell movie and the DragonBallZ live action movie. My personal experience side I am certain you all can point out additional examples of this practice and surely will in the comments below. The reason I bring this up now is due to learning about an online petition that is currently being circulated asking Dreamworks to reconsider casting Scarlet Johansson and instead recast the role with an Asian actress which you can find HERE.

The whole arguments for and against white-washing  can be summed up as follows. People believe that Asian actors/actresses are not getting enough mainstream exposure thus making it impossible to build a name for themselves, while the studios believe that these actor/actresses  do not have the drawing power needed to star in these movies thus fearing a lack of success if they are cast in these starring roles.  I never considered this issue before but I can empathize with issue.

You see I view this along the same lines as the job market here in the USA. I have a job that I have been work at for years, but it is only seasonal work so I end up unemployed 4 - 5 months out of the year. Every year I look for a new job on my "off season" and I see all these jobs advertised but most of them have the requirement of 3-5 yrs experience needed to get the job. I see this and the White-washing issues in the same light. To get experience in the Job you need to perform the job, however if they will not hiring you without the experience how are you suppose to gain it ?

So how do you expect an Asian actor to gain name value when only cast in bit roles ? and what better way to build a name value for an actor/actress then to cast them in a role that already has a huge fan following that expects to see that role filled by someone of the particular race ? Well those are my thoughts on this issue, please share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

Kaldath

About Kaldath

EMAIL ADDRESS: Kaldath@HeroMachine.com ---------- TWITTER HANDLE: @Kaldath ---------- YOU CAN FIND ME ON GOOGLE+: https://plus.google.com/+HarryCreter/about ---------- FIND ME ON DEVIANTART: http://kaldath.deviantart.com/ ----------

16 Responses to Anime Talk: White-Washing?

  1. It’s hard for me to really form an opinion on this matter because I like to hear both sides of the argument and we’re likely only going to hear the opinions of the people who are complaining because the studio have made their call and aren’t going to change their minds at all when it comes to the casting of their main character, so why would they need to respond.
    On the whole, as you said, there isn’t a huge president for this, because when Hollywood, or Western film studios in general, take a Japanese idea, they don’t do a straight copy, they adapt it to fit western tastes (think Seven Samurai and The Dirty Dozen). I’m not saying it’s going to be that drastic, obviously they have an established property on their hands, but the film will be different (and Americanised) to the source material. And to that end you’ve got to think about the difference in demographics. If the Japanese were to adapt an American animation to live action, lets go with Avatar: The Last Airbender as our example. Would they get a white kid to play Ang? No, because their target demographic won’t be able to identify with them as much. It’s the same principle here. The target demographic for this film isn’t asian, it’s white (if you want me to be more specific it’s white, male, young adult (18- 25, give or take 5 years at the top end), with some disposable income).
    Yeah it isn’t right that the film industry doesn’t utilise as many asian actors as it does white actors, but that’s the movies. In case people hadn’t noticed, there aren’t as many black leading actors as there are white leading actors, and there aren’t as many hispanic leading actors as there are black (I’d go into why, but that’s politics and we ain’t goin’ there), so it isn’t just asian actors who are being overlooked.

  2. To me this is the same as changing the sex, race, age, or sexual orientation of any comic book character. They do it all the time. If the character is already set in the books don’t change it for the movies. The books are loved for what they are, don’t change them. James Bond might even be changed.

  3. I don’t have a problem with it at all. The already said it was an adaption, and that it was going to take place here in the US. It’s a financial decision; Scarlett will but bottoms in the seats. If there was an actress of another ethnicity with a higher popularity rating than Scarlett right now, they’d have signed her on.

    With all that said, I’m not what you’d call a big Anime fan, but I have seen, own, and enjoy GitS. I can see where the serious fans might have an issue with it. It’s just not an issue I have with it. As said before; Movie Nick Fury is black, New Movie Human Torch is black, they made Starbuck a woman. Whatever; I’ll either like it or not, not because o the actors ethnic/religious/sexual orientation, but if they do a good job in the role, and it’s swell written, directed, scored, etc.

  4. I am a big fan of anime – but here’s the thing, I see most of the characters as whites. Really, there are very few characters that I look at and say – “well, that’s totally an Asian”. L from Death Note, Ban from Seven Deadly Sins, Karma from Assassination Classroom and Sasuke from Naruto, for example, are Asians for me – but most others are whites for me, and it’s not racist. At least I think it isn’t.

  5. Honestly, the directing and script are much more important to me than the race of the main actress. I’m really worried this will be another example of the trend of Hollywood taking amazing source materials and adapting them into really generic or stupid films (see also: The Last Airbender, World War Z, Dragonball: Evolution, The Great Gatsby, The Lorax, et cetera).

    That said, I’ll reserve judgement until I actually see the films in, what looks to be, 2017. I just don’t have very high hopes.

    By the way, most of Kusanagi’s body is completely artificial, so it’s not exactly correct to refer to her as an Asian woman. Same thing with Goku. Dude’s an alien, not Japanese.

  6. The term “white-washing” seems an anti-white racial slur.

    How many Asian movies in China, Japan, North Korea, etc have white European characters?

    Did you guys complain when and Indian woman doing bollywood dance was awarded the Miss America title?

    Did you guys complain when the Nordic god Heimdallr was portrayed as a black African in the movie Thor?

    I bet you didn’t.

    It seems that racial bigotry is just fine when it is anti-white.

  7. That actor thing is just bullshit.

    Was Sigourney Weather an entrenched actor when she starred in Alien? Did district 9 suffer because of Sharlto Copley?
    Conversely, if that was true, why cast unknown whites in Avatar: The Last Airbender, or in Kingsman?
    And it’s not like you couldn’t have had Will Smith play Moses in Exodus.

    Likewise, one can easily find reasons why big stars could be a hurdle for a movie, between their demands for huge pays to imposing their wills to the casting.

    Conversely, saying that the movie is “aimed at the whites (males)” is both right and wrong.
    Right because it’s made by whites males, for whites males.
    Wrong, because it ignores that America, or Europe, is no longer composed uniquely of whites (by 2050, they should no longer be the majority in the USA), and was never composed entirely of men.

  8. John:
    The term “white-washing” seems an anti-white racial slur.

    Sigh…
    You should read a little about racism before saying something like this.
    One hint: It’s hard for a race to be oppressed when most, if not all, of the higher-ups and office holders come from that race and get to decide what is done and how.

    Asian movies:
    1) How many white live there, compared to black and latinos in the USA and europe?
    2) The beauty standards for asian actors, especially for women, are white beauty standards. See for example this:
    http://shanghaiist.com/2014/11/10/20-women-before-after-plastic-surgery.php

    Miss America: First, what’s her nationality? American. So I guess you want only white americans to be able to enter american beauty contests? Bring back the brown paper bag test maybe?
    And yes, people complained, in what feels, sadly, like an echo of your words:
    http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/09/16/miss-america-victory-marred-by-racist-slurs/

    Heimdall: Ooooh yes, there was a lot of complaining all over the internet, not unlike when John Boyega was seen in a StormTrooper uniform. Which stands to reason: With only Thor, Odin, Loki, Balder, Fandral, Erik Selvig, Phil Coulson, Volstagg and Hawkeye to pick from, white (male) americans were sorely under-represented and had almost no choice of cool characters with which to identify. Be damned, marvel! I felt like Heimdall!!!

    Feel like I should get out of this thread asap…

  9. Wow! Not even sure where to begin.

    John:
    The term “white-washing” seems an anti-white racial slur.

    How many Asian movies in China, Japan, North Korea, etc have white European characters?

    Did you guys complain when and Indian woman doing bollywood dance was awarded the Miss America title?

    Did you guys complain when the Nordic god Heimdallr was portrayed as a black African in the movie Thor?

    I bet you didn’t.

    It seems that racial bigotry is just fine when it is anti-white.

  10. Now before we get our tempers flaring I would like to remind everyone that this is suppose to be a friendly discussion on the topic so please keep that in mind when commenting. Secondly to address the issues of why this wasn’t brought up for other movies and other races, it is because I write about Anime and this discussion is linked to a pervious topic I had already written about. As I said in my article I do empathize with the position being taken on the at least perceived reasons for not casting Asian actors in the roles of Asian derived characters, but for the most part I have not seen this to be a big issue. I will admit I get annoyed when Hollywood changes race or gender of an established character. Not enough so to not watch the movie but annoyed never the less. I did not mind Nick Fury being played by Samuel L Jackson as Fury was already established as a Black man in the Marvels Ulimates universe long before ever Mr Jackson took the role on the big screen. Am I going to sign the petition to recast Johansson ? No. Am I going to watch the movie when it comes out? Yes. Will I be annoyed that all the Asian characters are going to be non-asian ? Most likely. Will I let that annoyance interfere with my enjoyment of the movie if it is otherwise a good movie? No!

  11. JR, Hollywood didn’t film the Seven Samarai. The made a cowboy movie. If they want to make a Scarlet Johansen as a cybernetic cop movie, that’s fine. But by using Ghost in the Shell, they are acknowledging that the sum of the parts is a greater draw than just ripping the plot like Vanilla Ice or something. As for your demographics point, white boys are already less than half the population. Hollywood really needs to figure that out sooner than later.

  12. @Bael- Dirty Dozen has exactly the same plot as Seven Samurai, just with a different setting. And I agree, Hollywood does need to start changing its attitudes. But that’s not going to happen any time soon, because they rake in billions each year with their current way of doing things, and money decides what gets made and what doesn’t.

  13. So do the Magnificent Seven and Battle Beyond the Stars. In fact, I have at least eight movies in this room with the same plot. Not one of them claims to be Seven Samarai. If one did, I would expect it to have actual samarai in it and, yes, be set in Japan with actual Japanese people. Otherwise there is no reason to have that title on it. Or, to put it another way, I would be most disappointed to go to a Superman movie and see Hyperion.

  14. @Bael- I think I actually meant Magnificent Seven, not Dirty Dozen, I’m alway getting those two films mixed up. Either way, Magnificent Seven definitely makes no bones about being The Seven Samurai, just search it on the internet and every reference says it’s a westernisation of The Seven Samurai. But that’s by the by, as you said if it were titled Seven Samurai it would be set in Japan and have actual Samurai in it, but it isn’t because the producers didn’t own the rights. But they do have the rights to using the Ghost In The Shell name, so are we expecting to see the anime just played out in live action? No, because that never happens when animated films or shows get a live action film. Going back to the original point of why didn’t they hire an Asian actress for the lead role, my view on this depends on how they actually write the film. If they do in fact decide to fully westernise it, move it from Japan to America and just follow the original storyline in movie form, then I can understand casting a white actress (there being a higher white population in America than an asian population in America). However, if they do leave the setting in Japan, then sorry, that is a bit dumb. Am I going to let it spoil the film for me? No. If it turns out to be decent, I’ll watch it, no matter if the ethnicity of the actress doesn’t exactly match up with the ethnicity of the original character she’s portraying. As Malfar said earlier, in many cases in anime, you could mistake the characters for white rather than asian, because the style doesn’t suggest either ethnicity very much and they hardly ever mention ethnicity anyway (I certainly don’t recall it being a major theme in Ghost In The Shell, apart from there being refugees in the ghettos being from other Asian countries, which is transferable to any country or setting). Being honest, I don’t care as long as the movie isn’t terrible and does the original GITS justice.

  15. Malfar:
    I am a big fan of anime – but here’s the thing, I see most of the characters as whites. Really, there are very few characters that I look at and say – “well, that’s totally an Asian”. L from Death Note, Ban from Seven Deadly Sins, Karma from Assassination Classroom and Sasuke from Naruto, for example, are Asians for me – but most others are whites for me, and it’s not racist. At least I think it isn’t.

    John:
    The term “white-washing” seems an anti-white racial slur.

    How many Asian movies in China, Japan, North Korea, etc have white European characters?

    Did you guys complain when and Indian woman doing bollywood dance was awarded the Miss America title?

    Did you guys complain when the Nordic god Heimdallr was portrayed as a black African in the movie Thor?

    I bet you didn’t.

    It seems that racial bigotry is just fine when it is anti-white.

    John:
    The term “white-washing” seems an anti-white racial slur.

    How many Asian movies in China, Japan, North Korea, etc have white European characters?

    Did you guys complain when and Indian woman doing bollywood dance was awarded the Miss America title?

    Did you guys complain when the Nordic god Heimdallr was portrayed as a black African in the movie Thor?

    I bet you didn’t.

    It seems that racial bigotry is just fine when it is anti-white.

    “Anti-white” racism doesn’t exist here. White are not under/mis-represented in Hollywood. This is taking away roles from Asian American actors. There is a huge problem with this, in general. If you can’t even point out a racist practice without being called a “reverse racist”, we need to educate people.

  16. Unfortunately, the decisions are about money. There is nothing more arbitrary or foolish, nothing less sensible without being ludicrous or insane. And as long as we go to the movies, things will tend to stay the same.

    The same dissatisfied arguments can be made against tv shows being cancelled. More intelligent people have more of their favorite shows cancelled because of money. Advertisers know full well that they can’t get smarter people to buy as easily, so they get more bang for their buck advertising on the shows that cater to the lowest common denominator. Smarter dialogue is also harder to write.

    A famous anchorwoman had eye surgery, not to hide her ethnicity, but to make more money. Her name stayed Asian, just her eyes looked more attractive to more people in her target audience.

    If you want any of this to change, you’ll probably need to organize a boycott.