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.
I am one of those nerds that came out later in life. Growing up, I was not hip to nerd culture, but I thought the things I was into at the time were the norm. Being an anime fan growing up in the Bronx, I was somewhat of an outlier. This made me feel like I belonged to an exclusive group of individuals. I was the only one I knew at my school, and the only one on my block, that was into Japanese animation. However, that exclusivity didn’t last long. I had to share anime with all of my friends, and soon everyone else got hooked as well.
My first introduction to anime was Akira. But my reaction to it might not be what you’d expect.
I distinctly remember watching Akira when I was about 10 years old. First off, Akira was NOT appropriate for a 10-year old kid, but I was hanging out with slightly older kids who wanted to watch it.
Even at that age, I already loved sci-fi, so I remembered liking the movie. Here are my 10-year old impressions of the movie that have stuck with me for the last 25 years:
With all the debate this week over cross-racial and trans-racial casting of comic book movies, one aspect that hasn’t really been discussed in depth yet is the phenomenon of Hollywood White-washing of explicitly non-White characters in live-action adaptations. Famously, Aang of The Last Airbender was played in the live-action adaptation (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) by a young White actor despite repeated references in the comics to Aang’s non-White racial makeup. More recently, a non-comic book (but nonetheless grindhouse-esque cult classic) Korean movie called Oldboy is being remade in Hollywood with an all-White cast.
With the existing dearth of non-White faces in film, let alone comic book film, it’s safe to say that most of us can agree that cross-racially casting a non-White character with White actors is problematic.
A few years back, Hollywood was also rumoured to be developing a live-action adaptation of the landmark anime, Akira. At one point, the film was going to star Zac Efron, and although he has since backed out, it’s still unlikely that today’s Hollywood will cast Asian actors to play Akira‘s all-Japanese cast of characters.
And why not? Hollywood typically argues that there aren’t enough (or talented) non-White talent in Hollywood.
Well, that argument sounds like complete trash to me.