7.24.2013

Hollywood isn't racist. It's worse.

Guest Post by Tak Toyoshima



Hey, folks! I'm on vacation, taking a much-needed blog break. Some batteries need recharging. But don't worry -- I've enlisted the generous help of some great guest bloggers to keep things fresh around here while I'm gone. Here's Tak Toyoshima, aka Secret Asian Man, on race, casting and Hollywood indifference.

For years, Hollywood has been a target for the Asian American community to fire off wave upon wave of wrath-filled petitioning and highly organized protests. Occasionally Hollywood rears its swollen head and notices and offers up a luke warm apology beginning with the words "We apologize to anyone who was offended. It was not our intention." Translation: "We're sorry you have a problem with it."

But after watching controversies come and go, from the flaccid hug between Jet Li and Aaliyah in Romeo Must Die, to the whitewashing of The Last Airbender, from the proposed all white cast of the hopefully doomed live-action Akira movie to the sadly soon-to-arrive remake of Oldboy by Spike Lee, I've come to the conclusion that Hollywood is actually not racist against Asians. It's indifferent. You know, the opposite of love.


To think that Hollywood hates Asians would infer that there is something that Hollywood fears about Asian Americans. That there's some threat that AAs pose to the industry. I just think that they don't care. Or more accurately, they care more about making money. Which they should. That's why they make movies. And as long as Johnny Depp rakes in more ticket sales than John Cho things aren't going to change.



This is not to say that big budget American movies are completely devoid of Asian characters. I'm glad to see James Hong getting more work in the upcoming R.I.P.D. movie playing Ryan Reynolds' live counterpart. Although I can't help to think he's functioning as a visual gag. Basically he's playing the opposite of a young, sexy, buff dude. And I'm reserving judgement on The Wolverine story involving Mariko Yashida and The Silver Samurai but it is yet another story involving a white character walking us through the exotic world of the far east.



But Hollywood is going through a very strange phase, especially in the realm of comic book based movies (which is pretty much all of the movies, right?). Character ethnicities seem to be getting switched around without any real explanation. I first noticed it when Michael Clarke Duncan played the Kingpin in Daredevil. Then again when suddenly Nick Fury also became black (which I realize came from the Ultimate Nick Fury comic series). And of course Jamie Foxx is about to suit up as Spider-Man arch-villain Electro.

Sounds great for the black community but what does that mean for us math-Americans? Is there a Chinese Wonder Woman waiting in the wings? A Filipino Black Panther maybe? Unlikely. This is going to be a long and slow battle that will be won with a combination of timing, changing demographics, and a bunch of luck. And only after enduring many more disappointments and outrageous acts of WTF. But celebrate the odd little victories. I, for one, am looking forward to Ken Watanabe's samurai remake of Clint Eastwood's western film Unforgiven. Perhaps it will inspire Japan to produce a remake of the Matthew Broderick version of Godzilla.

Let the yellow washing begin!

Tak Toyoshima is the creator/illustrator of Secret Asian Man comics. While he is taking a hiatus from SAM to work on other long neglected projects you can keep up with him on Facebook and Twitter for all the news that's inappropriate to share.