Enter the White Privilege

Over the weekend Ain’t It Cool News revealed that the internet’s favorite hack director Brett Ratner is interested in remaking Enter the Dragon. At a screening of Rush Hour in Los Angeles, Ratner told the audience — almost in passing — that he is in the early stages of developing the movie and is looking for a martial artist to star. Now, before you start foaming at the mouth and cursing your keyboard, rest assured that this isn’t an official announcement that the movie is happening. For all we know, Ratner is just putting it out there with the hopes that Warner Brothers would give him the opportunity to do it — as blasphemous as it may be.

Of course, the internet is beside itself that a hack like Ratner would dare remake a classic like Enter the Dragon and is appropriately showing its disgust at the idea. Here’s the thing that no one’s seeming to be complaining about, though. Both of the names for the prospective lead that got tossed around in the original post are white. Buckle up, because some “reverse racism” is about to go down after the jump.

First off, let’s just put it out there how stupid of an idea this is altogether. There are just some movies that don’t need to be remade. Sure, one could argue that Enter the Dragon is probably not Bruce Lee’s best film, but it is undoubtedly Bruce’s film. It was designed and created precisely to showcase Bruce Lee’s persona and talent. Removing Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon is like concentrating on the finger pointing at the moon, you miss all that heavenly glory.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me concentrate on the bit that got under my skin more than the notion that Brett Ratner (or anyone, really) would dare remake this film. Before we get into it, here’s the relevant bit from the AICN article:

Would Ratner consider casting Scott Adkins in the Lee role? Ronda Rousey? Maybe go with Jackie Chan as the nefarious Han? He wouldn’t get into specifics. There’s no shortage of great movie martial artists kicking around today, so Ratner could easily recruit a big-screen fighting force of extraordinary magnitude.

It’s very interesting that the two names that were brought up to potentially play the lead in a hypothetical remake were Scott Adkins and Ronda Rousey. Despite having limited acting experience, both of them are always brought up in any franchise fancasting that happens on the internet. Adkins has been suggested for every role from Batman to the Punisher, meanwhile Rousey has publicly complained about not being Wonder Woman and has been known to shit talk Gal Gadot in the media.

It’s no wonder that names like Adkins and Rousey engender a lot of passion in fanboys. Neither actor has carried a movie on his or her own, but that doesn’t prevent YouTube videos and tumblrs devoted to their eventual ascension to the nerdvana of starring in their own mega blockbuster franchise. Both are trained martial artists, have legions of fans, and have both appeared in an Expendables movie or two. So why shouldn’t they be qualified to play the greatest martial arts icon in American cinematic history? Well, for starters, they’re white.

I’m sure the writer thought he was being clever or innovative by suggesting non-Asian actors for the role Bruce Lee made legendary. The fact that no one called him out on the suggestion is even more interesting. I read through the comments (I know, never read the comments) and not one person questioned the logic of whitewashing the Lee character (I mean, come on. He’s named LEE for chrissakes). I find this so irritating on so many levels.

For starters, almost exactly one year ago on this little website, I suggested that Netflix and Marvel Studios should open up the casting for their upcoming Iron Fist show to include Asian American actors. One year later, and I’m still getting hate mail for the suggestion. By the way, the name that constantly gets mentioned for Danny Rand by these angry fanboys? Scott Adkins. Damn.

adkins lee
Adkins vs. Lee image from YouTube

What fanboys don’t understand is that there is a huge gulf between whitewashing and casting a person of color in a role that would traditionally be white. A lot of it has to do with visibility (as in for every white character that is cross-racially cast, there are literally thousands of other roles that will go to a white person). Sure, Luther doesn’t technically have to be a Black man, but giving that role to a white actor makes it like every other cop show on television. Similarly, a Korean American Peter Parker is probably more realistic given the demographics of 21st century Queens, New York.

The thing is outrage in fandom only seems to go one way. No one bats an eye when Avatar or Ghost in the Shell or Akira or even motherfucking Enter the Dragon gets whitewashed, but merely suggesting a white character be played by anyone who isn’t white and suddenly “SJWs are ruining everything.”

I mean, it’s not like Scott Adkins can’t be in the movie. There were white folk in Enter the Dragon, after all. As my man David Walker told me:

Adkins can play the John Saxon part, only not in this movie, because it should never be remade.

21 thoughts on “Enter the White Privilege

  1. Just to remind folks, we’ve measure this. Ninety percent of all roles Asian actors get is because the writer specifies that part is played by an Asian actor.

    Think about that.

  2. Of course such fanboys are not going to object to White men getting roles. (Every time a PoC gets whitewashed, a fanboy goes out and buys a pair of wings.)Their only objection is when PoC get any work, even in their own stories.

    Also ,barring the fact that it’s a sacrilege to remake this movie at all, I’m a heck of a lot less impressed with Scott Adkins, than his fan club.

    What is Hollywood planning on doing, exactly? Making crappy remakes of all of Bruce Lee’s movies? ( Outside of making crap movies in general, I mean?) I get that Ratner is a fan but surely he could find some other way to pay homage to Bruce. Maybe a documentary or a crappy sequel?

    1. To be fair, the black Nick Fury was somewhat based on him before the recent movies even happened…

    2. First, who the heck thinks *anything* about Shyamalan’s monstrocity of an Airbender movie had any redeeming qualities? (other than you, who seem to keep flaunting Aang, who was one of the many things wrong with that movie).

      Second, if I recall, black Nick Fury was *based* on Jackson. That incarnation existed in the comics before the movies were a thing, even if a white Nick Fury existed first. So Nick getting the role based off himself isn’t really a victory.

    3. “making aang white on white is good”

      What in the world are you talking about?

    4. There is a black Nick Fury in the comics so it wasn’t changed just for the hell of it.

  3. The movie would make absolutely zero sense with a white man as the lead character. Most fanboys only see a series of stunts and some fight choreography, but the movie is heavily laden with nationalistic symbolism and themes. The protestant ethnic trope could certainly be extended to be explored with the use of a female lead, since women have traditionally been the colonized sex in mainstream society… but wait, they did that and called it Kill Bill.

    1. This is true.

      Watching Bruce Lee films and puzzling about the little nuggets of history he’d throw in, is what started me on my journey of learning about the History of the region. That’s mostly gone if you cast a White Man. Then it becomes just another ripoff of Jean Claude Van Damme’s early work.

      I’m also reasonably sure Ratner doesn’t know squat about the nuances of Chinese History either, so there’s that.

  4. You need to elaborate that last part, because it didn’t make any sense. Ang Lee does have Asian features. Furthermore, Japan and South Korea have been making their own martial arts films without white actors for years now.

  5. In a period where the media is obsessed with terrorism and racial politics I’m surprised they want to revisit a dated film like “Enter the Dragon”.

    1. You’re not making a sense. So many films and tv shows have been addressing post 9/11 stories and racial politics. Enter the Dragon is an old, dated story that helped propel more interest in Asian martial arts in the West. Any attempt to remake it now won’t make the same impact as Bruce Lee’s film.

      Let’s look at what Hollywood’s been doing for the past few years. They’ve been remaking classic Western stories like Greek myths, classic detectives, and World War 2 stories. There’s a plethora of straight-to-video films with leading white actors doing the same thing as before.They appear to be quite comfortable retelling stories of their own Western heroes. Remaking “Enter the Dragon” now is a hack job in anyone’s eyes.

  6. I disagree with your assessment, Keith. I think it is, at a minimum, dumb that people get up in arms about Johnny Storm being played by a black actor, or an all-girl Ghostbusters movie. But even setting aside the racist and sexist element at play there, that mentality ignores the fact that each remake is essentially a new story. Comic books have presented new and different takes on characters and lore for decades, and those takes rise and fall based on how good they are, not the fact that they diverge from the previous norm. There’s no reason that same principle cannot apply in film and that means that you can have perfectly legitimate versions of previously told stories with people of color or gender-flipped characters.

    But that principle goes both ways. I don’t think they should remake Enter the Dragon, especially not by Brett Ratner, but if they do, then there’s just as valid a story to be told with a white male or white female in the lead as an Asian man. It would, undoubtedly, be a different story, but that doesn’t make it lesser or to be criticized by definition.

    1. ?? You start off a sentence by saying the movie shouldn’t be remade, but go on to say if it is, it’s okay to change the race of the main character which is essential to the story line? White privilege indeed.

    2. You’re dumb as fuk. None of ur comments make sense. Do u even speak English brah?

  7. An Asian martial artist whose skills would rock people back the way Lee’s did: Tony Jaa. A thematic remake that ends up in Thailand.

  8. Sure, we can have an Asian Iron Fist/Danny Rand, just so long as nobody complains if we ask for a Chinese recast of Blade, and a white guy playing Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu.

  9. Let’s unpack: This whole scattered piece riffs off of a speculative bit from Ain’t It Cool, which has no affiliation with Ratner or the very distant hypothetical production. So what’s the point? That a semi-anonymous poster at Ain’t It Cool (“mrbeaks”) doesn’t think of the appropriate actors/players when lazily shitting out content about a project Ratner might do? I personally HATE Ratner’s work, but it would be silly not to mention that he built his career on a franchise starring a black man and Chinese man (the latter of whom didn’t know not to touch the former’s radio). Racist hollywood casting is fertile ground for INFINITE think pieces, but this post is grasping at straws (Or the rumor that there might be some straws to grasp at and, according to some, those straws might be white).

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