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!
Kicking and screaming like Sucker Punch!
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.
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.