Why is this still happening? As a person of color, I am beyond sick and tired of Hollywood making TV and film adaptations of projects (books, plays, comics, etc) originally based on or inclusive of characters of color and whitewashing them. In other words, changing most - and sometimes all - characters of color to white people in TV/Film versions of the original work.
This practice is both grossly unnecessary and offensive, especially in light of the reality that people of color will soon outnumber whites in America as they already do across the globe. We are here. We exist. It's about time our cinematic imagery reflect this reality. There's a reason the original works, with people of color, became popular in the first place.
The latest offense? Warner Brothers' upcoming film adaptation of the wildly popular 1980s Japanese manga series and anime Sci-Fi/cyberpunk flick Akira. Akira was originally created by Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, the story unfolds as follows:
"The Third World War began in 1992 with the explosion of a new type of bomb over Japan. Thirty-eight years later, the world is at last recovering. But in Neo-Tokyo, near ground zero of the original destruction, a strange encounter takes place.
Kaneda - young, restless, committed to defying authority - nearly runs down a child with his motorcycle. A child with the wizened face of an old man. A child with powers beyond physical science. The child is number 26. He is the harbinger of deadly events that sweep Kaneda into a struggle between powerful and secret forces. At the center of this struggle is something feared and prized for the potential to shake the recovering world. Someone or something known only as ... Akira.
Tetsuo has a tremendous psychic power growing within him, consuming him. Kaneda, his former best friend, the Colonel, leader of Neo-Tokyo's defence forces, and Lady Miyako, leader of a psychic/Buddhist society, all want him dead. And, if they can't kill him, it could mean the end of the world." (Source)
Okay, so this might go without saying, but since the series is based on a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, the characters, in large part, are Japanese. And, in case that fact is still unclear, one only needs to look to the original manga series and anime film to further support this reality since the characters are obviously Asian. So what gives with changing these characters from Asian to white for the Hollywood adaptation?
Albert Hughes was originally slated to direct the film, but left the project upon learning of Warner Bros' plan to cast all white actors in the key roles and the resulting fan outcry it caused (with Japanese-American actor George Takei ("Star Wars") being one of the most notable and visible critics). I applaud Mr. Hughes for standing up against this ugly practice.
To date, Warner Bros has courted the following male actors for the roles of Kaneda and Tetsuo: Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Garrett Hedlund (officially offered role of "Kaneda"), Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, and Joaquin Phoenix - pictured below (Source).
And this week, it has been confirmed that actors Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham-Carter have officially been offered roles in the film - pictured below (Source).
Oh, and I almost forgot. Kristen Stewart ("Twilight") has been offered the part of Kei, Kaneda's love interest - pictured below (Source).
- Painting white people in blackface (to represent blacks while still maintaining white cast) and casting them as servants, mammies, criminals, promiscuous sexual deviants / rapists / sluts, lazy abusers of government assistance, and stupid/child-like human beings?
- Or maybe painting white people in brownface (to represent Latinos while still maintaining white cast) and casting them as servants, criminals, promiscuous sexual deviants / rapists / sluts, and abusers of American resources?
- Or better yet, painting white people in tanface (to represent Native Americans while still maintaining white cast) and casting them as savages, criminals and overall uncivilized beings?
- Or better better yet, painting white people in yellowface (to represent Asians while still maintaining white cast) and casting them as asexual (except for the women who are cast as exotic and submissive sirens), dorky, physically unappealing, and overbearing human beings.
OH, WAIT!! Hollywood has already done that. Although, nowadays, they've graduated to casting people of color into these stereotype-induced roles - if they cast them at all.
And when a project comes along - usually created by a person of color - that has the nerve to include (1) characters of color (2) who are fully-fleshed out, intelligent, interesting and thought-provoking, and (3) involved in creative and exciting circumstances and storylines, Hollywood typically ignores it unless it can rape its popularity for profit, complete with race elimination.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
(If you agree, spread awareness about the whitewashing of this movie)
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