Two weeks ago, I brought you the story of Akira, a popular Japanese anime series that was being brought to the states by Warner Bros. in the form of a blockbuster Hollywood adaptation. Sounds exciting, right? It is. That is until news spread that Warner Bros planned to cast ALL lead and major roles with white actors.
This fact alone would not normally cause outrage if not for the following realities: (1) In original Akira manga series and anime film, not only was the backdrop set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, but the key characters were ~ gasp ~ Japanese; and (2) Instead of honoring Akira's original diversity by hiring Japanese and/or Japanese-American actors in many of the key roles, Warner Bros. chose to disregard it and intentionally hired ONLY white actors for these roles - effectively whitewashing the film.
Of course, all this was done under the guise of needing to "Americanize" the film. You've heard this before. It's the usual excuse Hollywood gives when it wants to get away with practicing racism.
Last time I checked, the American public was comprised of a multitude of colors and ethnicities. Thus, Warner Bros. could have easily "Americanized" the film simply by employing a multiethnic cast, with a substantial representation of Japanese/Japanese-American actors in light of the film's origins. To do the opposite - whitewash it - makes the film anything but American as it represents an America that does not exist, especially in the urban setting where the film is set to take place (i.e. Neo-Manhattan).
It seems Warner Bros. may be trying to backtrack on the mess it's made, but only a little. Apparently, the deal with actor Gary Oldman fell through - one of the many white actors. So Warner Bros. has now offered his part of "The Colonel" to Japanese actor Ken Watanabe (Inception, Last Samurai, Memories of a Geisha, Batman Begins). We should be happy, right? Not so fast.
"The Colonel" is the villain of the story. Now do you see the problem? Do you also see the offensive pattern perpetuated by Hollywood? Once again, we have a story where ALL of the "good" characters are white and the "bad" character is a person of color.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH WARNER BROS!! SHAME ON YOU!!
Here's a brief snippet on what actor George Takei had to say on the matter recently.