Warning: This post is a RANT with a heavily identity politics bend. So if you have no time nor patience to listen to People of Color whining “Oh no not that wah-wah we want to be represented crap again!”, please just ignore me when I come back down from my high horse.

I AM BACK! PEOPLE! Remember what I said? That a good case of justifiable (or not who gives a shit? Not me certainly!) indignation is the best way to get me all fired up and ready to go?!

Go like AKIRA!

Akira 300x200 Sucker Punched

 

Kicking and screaming like Sucker Punch!

Sucker Punch 300x225 Sucker Punched

 

I read an article on Racialicious today that made me pause everything I was doing to write a long comment. It surfaces up all the internal debates I have had about identity politics, about ownerships, about representations, about who gets to represent whom, about the gaze.

“An Uncomfortable Silence: Why Is Geek Media Keeping Quiet About The akira Remake?”

Long story short: the manga series and anime films AKIRA have long been revered by fans all over the world, including the self-professed Otakus in the U.S. (I should really write about “Otaku” and the adoption of this self-identity by the youth / geek culture in the U.S. … Focus. Focus!) There has been a rumor for many years that a major adaptation by Hollywood is in the works while fans all over hold their breath waiting for the announcement of WHO will be playing their beloved biker gang in a post-apocalyptic world. Lists of actors have been floating around and it becomes more and more alarming to the Asian American community as EVERYONE attached to play to lead characters so far has been… Lily white.

The GEEK community, usually considered to be progressive and presumably to be more aware of the reality of “racial diversity” in major urban cities in the U.S., has been quiet about this. NO protest. NO griping in the chat rooms.

Seriously? If even the self-professed self-identified Otakus have deserted our cause, why does Hollywood have to give a rat’s ass about under-representation by Asian American actors, especially MALE actors?

 

Anyway, here is my long comment. I am sharing it here in case the editors over at Racialicious deems my comment unworthy of being published over on their site

Thank you so much for this article! I was just lamenting this fact of Hollywood coopting the fringe Geek Culture (manga, anime) and “Whitewashing” it to try to mainstream it all in the pursuit of something NEW to revitalize the at-risk film industry (Hello YouTube!)

I saw the trailer for Sucker Punch and it looked like a balled-up conglomeration of every Otaku’s fantasy from anime and mange rolled into one. As far as I could tell, all of the lead girls (yes, they are MEANT to be objectified as girls, so no disrespect on my part) are blonde and so pale they glow in the dark. “So this is it? We can’t f*** get a break? They are taking away manga and anime from us too?”

(Let’s not go into the whole obvious issue of the problematic of perpetually objectifying women in the name of empowering them through hyper-sexualization…)

On a bright note, actually, now I think about it, I am not sure whether this counts as a plus or minus but the ONLY U.S. movie I know with an Asian American male lead who is NOT a kung fu master and who actually gets to kiss and gets the girl aka Debbie Gibson (sorry about the spoiler; and IF you don’t know who Debbi Gibson is then you are too young and I shouldn’t be talking to you…) is Vic Chao in… “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus”

In this post-Obama juncture, I have many people telling me that we are a “color blind” society and I should NOT be so hung up on race/ethnicity/blah blah blah, implying that by not letting go I am being the “racist” myself because I seem to be the only one seeing race. Now I get it. “Color blind” means “Universal” which in turn applies to “WHITES ONLY” as in “White actors/actresses can represent any culture especially in the post-apocalyptic universe previously residing in manga/anime aka Japanese culture”. Sorry. I’d better stop since I am merely repeating myself: I have written about this in my graduate school more than a decade ago.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Justine March 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm

You go girl! I love your rants – and understandably so. Someone has to speak up, and I’m glad it’s fiery, articulate, intelligent, witty and awe-inspiring you. xoxo
Justine´s last blog post…She’s here! No- not that she The other she of the house

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Absence Alternatives March 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Thank you baby! I hope you are having fun with your mom. 3 generations of women. I know you are definitely not a bitch I am, and your daughter always sounds a delight to me, and your mother also sounds like a calm presence…. still your guy is a SAINT. A SAINT! :-)

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William March 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I did not read the article at Racilicious and what not. I will say that I am a fan of Akira, the comic book first relased by Epic/Marvel and then the Movie and even the soundtrack whic I used to listen too all the time. I am not a fan of Anime but I appreciate the “artform”.

I do not think the film would work the same for me if they did not cast an Asian in the lead roles especially Tetsuo and Kaneda. The others cast memebers being of various races would not be that big a deal to me.

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Absence Alternatives March 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Thank you so much for your comment! Right after I published this, I thought to myself, “Perhaps for the Euro-American fans they actually would prefer someone that they could ‘identify’ with?” I’m glad you proved me wrong!

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Andrea March 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I have no words. But if I did, I would write them here.

Sorry, I know nothing about mange and anime! I feel like my nerd card was just revoked! But I totally get your argument, and it’s incredibly valid. It doesn’t seem like it would even make much sense in a world of white characters. There’s really been little outrage?
Andrea´s last blog post…Long Train Running

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Absence Alternatives March 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm

There may be some outrage at the beginning when the Titanic kid picked up the rights to produce this movie, and Zac Effron (?) was rumored to play the lead… People may just be tired of talking about this…

Hey, now we are even: I feel so definitely uncool when I think you rocking out with your band! (Will you still be my friend even though I am still listening to ABBA and the Beatles?)

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secret agent woman March 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I’m old and I still don’t know who Debbie Gibson is.

I agree with you about changing the ethnicity, even though I have NO idea what you are talking about otherwise. Where I was perturbed by it was “Pay it Forward,” where Kevin Spacey played the male. The main male character in the book was African-American and that was an important part of who he was. They removed one of the central tensions of the whole story by casting him as a white guy. Ticked me off.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…At the risk of alienating all my Northern readers

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:52 am

“Foolish Beat” does it ring a bell? :-) I did not know Pay It Forward was based on a book. Very interesting fact.

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Jotter Girl March 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

Well written rant my friend! There is something to be said for authenticity in Hollywood but we don’t get to see it that often. I agree that we are NOT a color blind society but I think Hollywood is wearing super sonic corrective lenses. Money wins over authenticity most every time.
Jotter Girl´s last blog post…The Jotter Pages…my old man in Rome

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:52 am

MONEY. That is what Hollywood is all about right? We should not have been surprised. But rant I will still. ;-)

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Melme March 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

Wow… Just wow. As a self professed geek, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even know they were remaking Akira! I haven’t heard a peep! And that casting list is bullshit! While I don’t think that non-Asian American actors should be excluded from consideration if their talents merit said consideration, it is appalling that THE ENTIRE LIST is white! This is the same bullshit Hollywood pulled with The Last Airbender! And yes, the property was American, but the characters in the original cartoon were all non-white but, they specifically looked for a cast that had “facial expression American audiences could understand and relate to.” What a load of crap!
Melme´s last blog post…Bits and Pieces- Glasses- mattresses and other things

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:56 am

I actually saw the Airbender movie (Don’t ask…) I was laughing the whole time. The only good thing I can say about it is that that movie employed a lot of Asian Indian American actors.

That excuse you quoted? OMG. Is that even for real? That’s so out there I am not even offended. Priceless. When we do meet in person, if you cannot tell that I am smiling, please know that I AM. LOL.

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pattypunker March 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

i just think you’re the coolest mom, suburbanite, corporate professional i have ever met!!! i love that you write scholarly articles/comments/posts about the raddest geek stuff going. and i totally agree with your outrage on this. *skips off happily because i know you*
pattypunker´s last blog post…puissance!

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:56 am

*heart*

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Life with Kaishon March 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I love that you always stand for what you believe in. You are in inspiration. I hope ‘they’ listen to you and reconsider their actor choices!
Life with Kaishon´s last blog post…beauty everywhere! from the city to the country

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:56 am

Thank you. In all honesty, without this blog as my soap box, I’m in real life a coward…

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Unknown Mami March 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Preaching to the choir. So sick of this crap! How is it that everyone isn’t pissed off by it? It’s exhausting.
Unknown Mami´s last blog post…Fragmented Fridays

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

Exhausting indeed!

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Mama Zen March 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm

That is the simplest, best, most all-encompassing description that I’ve read of the current state of racism. White is still the default universal.

Fascinating post.
Mama Zen´s last blog post…Review- A Pointed Death

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

*blushing* Coming from you it means a lot to me. Thanks.

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Wicked Shawn March 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm

A simple question……..are we a “color-blind society” if Hollywood had the balls..BALLS…to remake Gone With the Wind with all non-white actors? Would that fall quietly into the abyss, as these things so often do? Somehow I seriously doubt it.

The smug, comfortable attitude of “We are all equal now, look, we elected a black president” pisses me off to no end. We are actually all different, with unique and beautiful qualities to showcase and celebrate. Is it really so bad that some of us love and appreciate this fact and don’t want our entire world to be whitewashed? *flipping Hollywood off with BOTH hands* Show some respect, or continue to see your industry tank!

Your rant was beautiful……
Wicked Shawn´s last blog post…You’ve Been Warned!

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:58 am

I am so lucky to have you have my back all the time.

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MacDougal Street Baby March 27, 2011 at 5:39 am

I’m not familiar with AKIRA (my bad) but I get your frustration. Thanks for putting this out there and educating us. One also has to wonder about the author. Where is his responsibility in all of this? I would think he would want his cast to resemble the world he created and not the one Hollywood owns.

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:58 am

You are welcome. Thank you for listening!

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linlah March 27, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I like when you get on your high horse and make me think about things I wouldn’t usually think about. Ride on.
linlah´s last blog post…it’s allergies- it’s a cold- it’s bronchitis

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:58 am

Ride on. I like that. ;-)

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Kernut the Blond March 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I love your educational rants! As some of the other commenters, I’m not familiar with Akira, or much anime, but I agree with you whole-heartedly. Rant on, Sister!
Kernut the Blond´s last blog post…Playing With Matches on Matchcom

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:59 am

Thank you! I will! Be forewarned! LOL

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meleah rebeccah March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

a most excellently written rant, my friend!

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Absence Alternatives April 1, 2011 at 12:59 am

Thanks!!

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Backpacking Dad April 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Does John Cho in the Harold and Kumar movies count as a lead?

The fact that I have to reach that far just shows that this is the exception that proves the rule.
Backpacking Dad´s last blog post…What’s In the Bag Backpacking Dad’s Mystery Prize Giveaway

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Absence Alternatives April 11, 2011 at 12:34 am

You are right! Absolutely! :-) <– this is said with sincerity. I completely forgot about it. And it did great in the box office right?

So now we have the two sides of a stereotype of the Asian men (stoners vs. model minority) to match those for the Asian women (lotus blossoms vs. dragon ladies). And the two sides came to an awesome mash-up when John Cho made a cameo on 30 Rock. Nicely done!

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Betty Fokker April 10, 2011 at 7:40 pm

My favorite part of Mega Shark v/s Giant Octopus was when the shark jumped up in the air and caught an airplane. It was even better than a shark eating a submarine or the idea of Debbie Gibson as a scientist.

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Absence Alternatives April 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

Yes yes yes! It was total WTF moment, with awesome sauce on the side.

Thank you for visiting and commenting!

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Ashe April 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm

You do realize that two of the lead girls in Sucker Punch are half or whole Asian right? Jamie Chung is Korean and Vanessa Hudgens is half Asian.

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Absence Alternatives April 11, 2011 at 12:53 am

Thank you. I did not know that Hudgens is half Asian. It’s interesting how the press has not made a big deal out of it. It’s possible that I have simply missed it or it has only been discussed in Asian American zines such as Yolk which I have not read for a long long time now. (It is not that I do not like to read those zines but that I seem now to be too old for their targeted demographic…) As for Chung, yes, I knew that she’s in the cast, but the one featured picture (as the one I saw in the newspaper and included in this post) shows the 3 blond-looking girls.

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