Last week, we spent a lot of time on the blog discussing the erasure of people of color — particularly Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — in movies like the upcoming Doctor Strange or the recently released Aloha. I was even asked to talk about whitewashed casting on outlets like HuffPost Live and The Rundown on msnbc. And frankly, getting outraged over Hollywood being racist is kind of exhausting. Fortunately, I was able to take solace knowing The Rock crushed Aloha at the box office and that James Wan would be directing Jason Momoa in Aquaman. There’s nothing like a good genre flick to cleanse the palate after a week of justified moral outrage. Take the new sci-fi thriller The Martian — which just had a pretty cool trailer drop yesterday. Surely, there won’t be anything controversial here? Oh wait, this is Hollywood. Crap.
Honestly, seeing this trailer made me really excited for the movie. Full disclosure: I have yet to read Andy Weir’s novel, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for the book, so I’ll likely get to it some time before October when the movie comes out. But seriously, what’s not to like? After all, I really enjoyed Saving Private Ryan, Gravity, and Interstellar. But what if they were all the same movie?!
Then, fellow NOC Noah pointed out that the film had whitewashed or racebent all of the significant Asian characters in the book because of course they did. Ridley Scott directing should have been the first clue that there was going to be some whitewashing going on. Here’s his explanation for why the Ancient Egypt of his last movie Exodus: Gods and Kings is full of white folk:
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” Scott says. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
I’ve discussed ad nauseam how infuriating this line of reasoning is. “Bankability” is such a smokescreen and is just used as an excuse for not casting people of color. It’s the excuse given for casting Emma Stone in Aloha and, when pressed, I’m sure it’ll be used as a similar excuse for why Mackenzie Davis is playing a fan-favorite character named Mindy Park1.
At this point, it’s not even surprising anymore to see Asian American actors erased from the screen and replaced by white actors. And while they’re no longer taping their eyelids — well, not all of the time — the result is the same: one less role for an Asian American actor. The Martian throws a few wrinkles in to this tradition though, since they’ve also cast Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor as an Indian character named Venkat Kapoor and Naomi Scott — who is multiracial Indian and British — as a (presumably) Japanese character named Ryoko.
To make matters worse, on the same day The Martian trailer was released, Warner Brothers announced that the once-dead Akira adaptation was being resuscitated under the pen of new Daredevil showrunner Marco Ramirez. Coincidentally, The Martian screenplay was written by Drew Goddard, the original showrunner and co-creator of the Daredevil series on Netflix.
This connection can only mean one thing. We already know who’s going to play the lead in the Akira movie.
P.S., we should totally make #EmmaStoned happen on twitter.