White Washing

drainer at mpinet.net drainer at mpinet.net
Wed Aug 26 17:44:52 EDT 2009

 That reminds me of Edward Said's writings on the damage of stereotypes, 
though it would be more appropriately described by Bhabha and his 
neverending ideas on the misappropriation of culture, hybridity, etc...what 
are the fans' base of authenticity anyway?


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mark%20Mays" <tetsuwan at comcast.net>
To: <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 4:57 PM
Subject: Re: White Washing

The show itself is a funny mishmash of myths and icons curiously passed off 
as both authentically "Asian" and created out of whole cloth, which begs a 
question (and perhaps is what Tim is getting at?); if something is initially 
inauthentic can one expect authenticity derived from it?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tim Iles" <timiles2003 at yahoo.com>
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:43:14 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Subject: Re: White Washing

This is an interesting issue and thread, but I have to ask whether this is 
really a "problem" as such (I'm hoping to sidestep the invisibility of 
Asians in non-Asian popular media in general, something which does frustrate 
me)--in some ways it is a different issue from casting Zhang Ziyi and Li 
Gong in _Memoirs of a Geisha_.

One can argue that the _faces_ of Japanese anime characters are themselves 
intended to be 'international' rather than particularly Japanese, or even 
Asian for that matter. If that's so, then there's almost a tacit license for 
using non-Asian actors in a live-action adaptation.

Given that the creators of the animated series are not Japanese and the 
program uses a "mish-mash" of Asian references and influences (I haven't 
seen it so I can't comment on whether it all works), perhaps it's forgivable 
for the live-action film to make use of non-Asian characters.

I have much greater trepidation at the thought of another Hollywood remake 
of a Japanese film, such as _Ringu_ or _Kairio_, neatly excising all traces 
of Asia... That to me is a much less forgivable issue, especially 
considering how poor the remakes are. Greater distribution of Japanese films 
just doesn't seem likely when Hollywood is content to plunder Japanese 
sources for remakes, reaping the benefits of direct profits etc.


Tim Iles
University of Victoria

--- On Tue, 8/25/09, Roger Macy <macyroger at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

From: Roger Macy <macyroger at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Re: White Washing
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Received: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 5:26 AM

Interesting, Jun-Dai,
Your mention of Miyazaki and your suspicion that the promoters are going for 
two hits for the price of one by provoking controversy, chimes with a piece 
in London's Guardian newspaper last week, 'Ponyo: can a Japanese fantasy 
finally animate US audiences ? Miyazaki's latest animé release follows 
string of acclaimed cartoons that had muted success in America.'
I originally picked this up in a badly-mangled print piece the next day (in 
'International'[news]) that looked like nothing more than a studio 
puff-piece but, even so, the story presumably originated from the studio *, 
and the use of 'original' to describe a US version with Hollywood star 
high-recognition looks like an attempt to lengthen the news cycle by 
courting 'controversy'.

But the connection to this thread is that, whilst dubbing may often have 
some comparison to white-washing, when the publicity is all about 
identifying home-market stars to the roles, then it has become, I contend, a 
process wholly comparable to white-washing.

* - for a comparable, non-Japanese case of a studio concocting a 
'controversy' about subtitles last week, there was -


---- Original Message ----- 

From: Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sent: Monday, August 24, 2009 11:25 PM
Subject: Re: White Washing

This reminds me a lot of the controversy around casting a white actor to 
play Ged in the TV Earthsea adaptation (Goro Miyazaki's Ged is also very 
caucasion-looking), though in that case Ged's dark skin was a matter of 
great importance to LeGuin, whereas I'm not sure how much of a similar 
'point' is being made by DiMartin and Konietzko.

Given that Hollywood's idea of the widest possible audience and the lowest 
common denominator is a white male hero, the move makes sense. TV can be 
niche-targeted, but big-budget films can't be, and unless your hero is 
Jackie Chan, Jet Li, or one of a handful of established-in-the-US martial 
arts actors, then casting an Asian or Asian American as your hero qualifies 
as niche targeting, since white people will have a bit of a barrier 
identifying with the character (a barrier that Asian Americans, African 
Americans, women, etc., are less likely to have regarding white 
protagonists). I am kind of surprised that they chose to make all three 
heroes white. That and choosing an Indian for the bad guy makes it seem like 
they *want* protest websites and letter-writing campaigns.

It's unfortunate, but the trend seems to be getting worse rather than 
better, despite the slightly increased awareness of Asian films in the 
mainstream (Miyazaki, anime in general, Crouching Tiger, etc., and, if it 
counts, Slumdog).

How many Japanese American movie actors can you name? (that's probably why 
John Cho gets to be Sulu)


On Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 12:35 PM, Nornes, Mark < amnornes at umich.edu > wrote:

There has been some discussion over the years of Asian characters being 
played by Caucasians in American remakes. Here?s another one for the mill, 
from an article in the new Flow:

"Fan Protests, Cultural Authenticity, and the Adaptation of Avatar: The Last 
Airbender" by Patricia Nelson ( http://flowtv.org/?p=4215 ) A consideration 
of the fan backlash surrounding Paramount?s choice to cast white actors as 
Asian characters.


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