Back in April 2016, I helped launch the #whitewashedOUT hashtag alongside YA author Ellen Oh and a whole team of Asian American activists and authors. If you recall, the spring of 2016 was a rough time to be an Asian American consumer of pop culture.
With the latest release from Netflix, it turns out that Asian Americans will continue to get the shaft in 2017.
In March, Netflix released their trailer for the American adaptation of Death Note, a wildly popular manga series, which debuted on the world’s leading Internet television network on August 25. Death Note is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. As of 2015, the series has over 30 million copies in circulation worldwide and has won international awards as well as numerous award nominations domestically in Japan. It is regarded as one of the top 10 manga series of all time. It also happens to be one of my favorites, so this fight on racist bullshit has just became personal.
On February 28, I saw a 15-minute sneak peek of the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. From the announcement of the project, this has always been a bad idea. But the announcement of the cast and story has made things much worse. Most noticeably, Hollywood adaptations of Japanese anime have yet to be successful. Either their stories veer too far from the source material, the director isn’t a good fit or the casting makes no sense. You would think Hollywood would learn, yet here we are, on the precipice of another anime-adapted flop.
Here are the takeaways from what I have seen of Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell so far.
It’s been nearly a year since we were hit with the double whammy of Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johannson. Now with Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell just around the corner, we’re joined by BuzzFeed News’ entertainment reporter Susan Cheng to let us know where Asian Americans currently stand in the greater pop cultural landscape.
Wow, where to start with this trailer. It OPENS on a person in stylized Japanese esoteric garb to tell us how much we’re in that place Japan where things are weird. Who is this person? Don’t know, don’t care at all.
Then we get a pretty faithful live-action recreation of the original Ghost in the Shell’s elegant opening action sequence, pretty much nailing the point home that the only reason you aren’t aware of this seminal science-fiction already is because it didn’t have Scarlett Johannson in it, and now we fixed that for you.
Six months and change after the release of its first trailer — and therefore about the same amount of time since co-writer C. Robert Cargill’s infamous “[t]he social justice warriors were going to get mad at us for something this week” rebuttal to Asian American critics of the film’s whitewashing — the initial reviews are in for Doctor Strange, and they’re not encouraging.
Oh, the movie? Actually, the critics seem to like it just fine. Being The Nerds of Color, however, we’re interested in looking at a different metric. Doctor Strange’s whitewashing of primary character The Ancient One was, after all, one of the driving forces behind the hashtag and rallying cry #whitewashedOUT in May.
So no, this isn’t a review of Doctor Strange the film, but a review of the reviews of the film, using a simple standard: how accurately and humanely did each review portray Asian American dissent over the whitewashing of The Ancient One?
If you haven’t heard, this Thursday is the kickoff to another New York Comic-Con. In addition to hosting the very first East Coast BGNOC, I’ll be on a few panels and hanging out at the Epic Proportions booth (#2010) all weekend! Speaking of Epic Props, my boy Jerry Ma just Kickstarted his own martial arts comic, so see below for how to contribute and where to find me at NYCC.
The trailer for The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou, dropped yesterday and my first reaction to seeing it:
What. The. Frack?
Why is a white dude in a film about the construction of the Great Wall? And there’s dragons? One of them is voiced by Willem Dafoe? HUH??
Earlier this month we learned that David Franzoni, the Oscar-nominated writer and Oscar-winning producer of Gladiator, is working on a new screenplay based on the life of Persian poet and scholar Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.
We also learned, in an interview with The Guardian, that the writer would like Rumi to be played in this film by a white man.
Continuing our special live recordings of Hard NOC Life from the Smithsonian’s CrossLines pop-up culture lab on intersectionality. We were joined by young adult fantasy author and online activist, Ellen Oh.
This guy. Playing somebody named Takeshi, who is specifically described in the articles as being at least biracial Japanese.
Over the weekend, I was invited to join a CCTV America newscast — the Stateside arm of China Central Television — to discuss Hollywood’s continuing habit of erasing Asians and Asian Americans from the movies. It was my first time as an in-studio guest, but I was able to join anchorwoman Susan Roberts live from Washington, DC. Check out the video of the segment after the jump.
There’s been so much talk about Ghost in the Shell, Dr. Strange, whitewashing, yellowface, and underrepresentation I bet some of you out there are saying, “Man, I might be at my limit!” But wait, there’s more!
When the first look image of Scarlett Johansson as The Major came out, tons of people, Ghost in the Shell fans and regular movie fans alike, were dismayed that yet another opportunity to cast talented Asian actresses passed Hollywood by. Or to put it another way, folks were upset that Hollywood didn’t take the opportunity to advance itself into something better than it has been.
Today is the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Hollywood has been preparing for this month by announcing film after film after film with white people playing Asians. To that end, we’ve teamed up with some of the minds behind #WeNeedDiverseBooks and comedian/actress Margaret Cho to launch a new movement to tell Hollywood we are #whitewashedOUT.
Another week, another whitewashing controversy to unpack on Hard NOC Life. This time around, we welcome back NOC-favorite director Lexi Alexander and Shaun Lau from the podcast No, Totally! to break down Doctor Strange screenwriter Robert Cargill’s statements about why they whitewashed The Ancient One. They also chat about Keith’s New York Times op-ed and announce the new hashtag campaign #whitewashedOUT.