Sunday, May 1, 2016
Whitewashing is a tricky thing to get upset over.
Star Wars is an adaptation of The Hidden Fortress, just as The Magnificent Seven and The Departed are adaptations of Seven Samurai and Infernal Affairs… yet no one really got upset.
People did get upset about Dragonball and The Last Airbender, and I suppose it’s because no real effort was made to change the fact that the characters, despite being played by caucasians, are all extremely Asian.
But the thing is, movies, plays and musicals from around the world have been reinterpreted and redone since year dot. Characters and themes are always changed around to be gay, black, white, male, female, modern or futuristic to explore new meanings of existence or whatever… it adds to the spice of life.
Life would be pretty dull indeed if they all followed their predecessor line for line, shot for shot. In fact, I think that’s exactly what happened with Gus Van Sant’s take on Psycho. It was awful.
So where does that put Scarlett Johansson, who is playing Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell? Should I be upset that the whitest woman in America (to paraphrase Eddie Murphy’s dig in Raw), is playing a Japanese woman?
I get that it’s a lost opportunity for Asian actors living in Western countries, but as a consumer there’s nothing stopping me from watching the original Ghost in the Shell. It’s still out there. Still in Japanese, if you’re a purist. And it’s still pretty fantastic.
Yes, it would be very nice if Hollywood would stop pretending Asians don’t exist… or exist only as some kind of terrible cultural stereotype (seriously, watch the ending of Romeo Must Die where Jet Li hugs it out with Aaliyah because heaven forbid an Asian man is ever perceived as a romantic prospect. Super awkward). But the opportunity to change that, at least with Ghost in the Shell, passed quite a long time ago.
Getting upset about it now isn’t going to change the way this movie is going to turn out.
Choosing not to watch it, however, might change things in future.
About today’s picture: It’s not Wonderland, it’s Hogwarts. The sign at the back is a warning to beware of the Whomping Willow. I felt completely out of place in this environment, but then I remembered Harry Potter had schoolmates like Cho Chang, and Parvati and Padma Patil. Thanks for remembering us, JK Rowling.