Not signed in (Sign In)
  1.  (9927.1)
    So. One of our topics of conversation on Saturday night was the whitewashing (replacing non-white characters with white actors) of great cinematic or TV art. M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Last Airbender' is a classic example, along with the in-production live action version of Akira (which, unbelievably, retains the original Japanese names even though the entire cast is white).

    I have to ask - what are your thoughts on this? Are Western audiences really so shallow that we have to see white people in every lead role for a film to be successful? What the fuck is going on?
    • CommentAuthorRobson
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011
     (9927.2)
    Are Western audiences really so shallow that we have to see white people in every lead role for a film to be successful?

    I think many producers believe that this is the case - Hollywood is as conservative as an industry can be, and so you won't see as many non-famous/non-white actors in leads of movies that are expected to make a profit. Given that this is most movies,

    In terms of representation, Justin Lin's FAST FIVE may well be the most important movie at the multiplex right now. The loud and appreciative audience I saw it with seemed to have no problem with the incredibly diverse cast, and it doesn't seem that enough people are offended by, say, (spoiler)
    Han Lue getting the girl at the end
    to dissuade others from seeing it through negative word of mouth (the film's $200+ million take at the box office suggests that the audience aren't staying away from the film, despite its largely non-white cast). It would be grand indeed if Hollywood would take the hint from this and open up casting to a larger proportion of non-white actors (particularly in films like AKIRA, where you'd expect few, if any, white actors to appear).
    • CommentAuthorSBarrett
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011
     (9927.3)
    It's even worse than that, imo.

    Excellent movies like Let the Right One In and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are getting remade only a few years after their initial release for American audiences. Makes no sense to me.
    •  
      CommentAuthorkperkins
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011
     (9927.4)
    Huh, remember when Nick Fury used to be white?
    But seriously, no. The Last Airbender was a bad call, and showed us some people's thinking, but it, also did poorly at the box office (maybe because audiences aren't so shallow), and was, by all accounts, not a great movie.
    I can think of several great movies that had diverse, or mostly non-white casts.
    Precious
    Slumdog Millionaire
    American Gangster
    The Last King of Scotland
    Ghost Dog (speaking of Forrest Whitaker)
    etc.

    Of course, I'm sure there are other movies like Airbender, although I can't think of any, and there are certainly many movies with all white, or mostly white casts, I think that using Airbender as a rallying point to say that Western audiences are shallow is short sighted at best.

    I see shallowness reflected more in the need for stupid, inane comedies, and reality TV shows.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011
     (9927.5)
    Honestly, if the worst thing about an M. Night Shyam(insert joke mispelling)alan film is the colour of the actors, I'd consider that a miracle.

    Did a quick search - can't see any info on the cast of Akira. Other than Keanu Reeves dropping out (as, apparently, has the possible director, Albert Hughes). Has anyone got any inside tips?

    Also, do we really need to talk about the US-remake-of-a-recent-foreign-film thing again? Shameful though it may be, the logic and economics are obvious and inescapable.
    •  
      CommentAuthorNeila
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011
     (9927.6)
    I didn't go see Shymalan's "Airbender" because they white washed the cast. It really pisses me off when people do that to a movie. D:
  2.  (9927.7)
    I didn't go see it because it looked like shit trying to use FX to pass itself off as diamonds. I had no attachment to the original material.
  3.  (9927.8)
    Ghost Dog was a good movie!

    I do think that hollywood DOES have an issue with non-white actors in leading roles. Hell. I think it has an issue with them in marginal roles too; at least from what I've read, it's become increasingly hard for non-white actors to get jobs there, or non-white screenwriters, etc. :(

    Which totally sucks. Because race and ethnicity do not make one a better or worse writer or actor.

    I don't think that people are so shallow as to not be able to enjoy a movie with mostly non-white actors. I think it's a hollywood thing, and from what I understand, a lot of hollywood stuff is funded by conservative old men. Very conservative old men, who think (and are sure they are Right, regardless of facts) that all we want to see are whitewashed movies in the english language. Because they hold the purse strings, they can be influential in what gets made. I think the studio system is a bit fucked up.
  4.  (9927.9)
    It also doesn't help that film schools in the States teach their students that for a movie to be successful they need to cast the lead role as a white male.
    •  
      CommentAuthorFC
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2011 edited
     (9927.10)
    As an Asian myself, I do notice whitewashing as a major part of the Black and White bias in media. It's slowly getting better, but I weigh it heavily on all Western media I come across. While I'll take what entertainment I can get, it's often hard for me to connect on an emotional level. To be honest, pretty much every new show trailer i've watched this year so far has failed to interest me for this reason. One might almost be led to believe Asians are incapable of playing lead roles, which certainly isn't true.
    • CommentAuthorTalesin
    • CommentTimeJun 7th 2011
     (9927.11)
    Yeah I think its the studios perception of what people (particularly American audiences) want. Same reason why we had Carradine instead of Bruce Lee in Kung Fu. I can't believe that the majority of the movie going public wants European actors over suitable actors of whatever ethnicity.

    On a kind of semi related note I can remember when my sister did some acting in some American tv she had to do an American accent, because obviously people can't accept people speaking in other accents (funny thing was it was set in ancient Greece so who cares if they speak with a Kiwi accent or American its not going to be exactly realistic).

    In that regard one of my pet peeves: movies or tv shows from the states where people with slight accents who are easily understood have subtitles for what they are saying.
    •  
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeJun 7th 2011 edited
     (9927.12)
    who are easily understood by most people, except for the vast swathes of double-digit-I.Q. fuckwits watching American TV who can barely understand English, let alone anyone speaking it as a second language


    Fixed it for you. And, let's not forget that everyone with a British accent must either be the sarcastically funny smart friend, or full-on moohoohaha EVIL.

    Actually, that brings up a question - Do British TV/movies have a similar problem? It seems like the UK is a little more civilized about this sort of thing, but then again I don't watch nearly enough British TV/film to have a decent information set.
    •  
      CommentAuthorMagicSword!
    • CommentTimeJun 7th 2011 edited
     (9927.13)
    I'm not going to disagree with anything anyone's saying about the shallow fecklessness of Hollywood and so on, I think there should be more, and better roles for non-white actors in Western movies too, and no role should be 'whitenized' to pander to people. But I would like to play Devil's advocate a little with regards to Akira.

    Let's say this remake of Akira, which everyone has been getting astonishingly worked up about, is based on the original story but is heavily altered. Let's say Neo LA rather than Neo Tokyo, or Neo New York or whatever (EDIT - just googled it and it's Neo Manhattan). Then... well why would they need to cast Asian actors? The Last Airbender thing, since it seems to have been set in this mystic world heavily influenced by Asian culture, doesn't have the same defence, but is there really anything ethicallywrong with taking a story from another culture and altering it to put your own take on it? Y'know, I bet there's a great argument to be made that, post 9/11 the American mass-psyche has actually been brought closer to that of the Japanese people, for whom natural disasters and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have fueled a lot of pop culture...

    Frankly, I'm skeptical that the damn thing's ever going to get made since it still has no stars, and now no director, but the point that a lot of people are latching on to is that they're keeping the names Japanese. If it's set in America, with American actors then that's stupid and weird, but I don't think it's necessarily 'whitewashing' in this case.
  5.  (9927.14)
    keanu's only half white, so i guess that's something. the other half is basically asian/hawaiian mutt like most of us on the islands.
  6.  (9927.15)
    @ Alan Tyson - we've had enough years of Caribbean immigration, multi-culturalism and down-right having the old Empire kicked the 20th Century the shit out of us to be humble enough to take our heroes/anti-heroes where we can get them now.

    See: Luther
    Moses Jones
    [eta: there are some quality films about Brixton with positive-black leads, also. e.g. Attack The Block]

    But I could be overstating things as I don't actually have a TV, I just occasionally stream.

    Just adding to the debate...
    •  
      CommentAuthorarklight
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2011
     (9927.16)
    One thing i can't understand is when the yanks remake/re-do UK TV shows or Movies
    for the American market.

    It's as if the fact we all speak English is STILL too alien for them.


    So it's no surprise then when they get something as foreign
    as an Asian movie like Akira that they want to redo all of it.

    In the UK we watch US movies as they are, and dubbing foreign
    movies is almost always a no-no,subtitles dominate.

    The only exception might be Americanized anime imports where they
    have re-dubbed the Asian anime movie with American star actors.
    A good example being Studio Ghibli films.

    It's all strange because you'd think a country that is basically composed of the entire
    world like America should have more flexibility towards other cultures
    and take them as they are. But that's not the case.

    You can insert your Spike Lee "that all depends on the dominating culture"
    rant right here...


    Heri Mkocha
    http://www.youtube.com/thearklight
  7.  (9927.17)
    I just hope they never do a remake of Pan's Labyrinth.
    And the remake of Let the Right One In -while not a horrid movie- just seemed unnecessary to me.
    •  
      CommentAuthorNeila
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2011
     (9927.18)
    I recently heard they're wanting to make an American remake of "The Host", which I wont go see, like all the other remakes I didn't go see.

    @Rootfireember Noooooo! Don't give them ideas! D: remake of Pan's Labyrinth would take place in the American Civil War, and Pan would be named "Mister goat face" ono Ahh, now I'm giving them ideas. D: D: D: D:
  8.  (9927.19)
    Let the Right One in and its five or so minutes of actual dialogue very much did not need to be remade.

    Akira isnt as compact and self-complete and a remake can take it places, and I'm not opposed to any amount of cultural translation in the process -- though an all-white cast sounds like no one's behind the wheel who's going to bring clever ideas to the project.

    I wouldn't watch the movie because of my fondness for the source material either way. I would watch it if it seemed to be doing it's own thing very well. But the movie's free to be a piece of shit.

    More alt content exists and is readily available to any random kid with an Internet connection than the history of moving pictures; more movies with non-western leads and non-English audio is being watched by the anglophone world than ever; I don't get the recurring obsession over what ideas big American studios are squandering at the given moment. Hollywood is a cultural write-off.
  9.  (9927.20)
    @Neila

    How about Sharkpony's Labyrinth?