Tuesday, December 06, 2005

more fun with Memoirs

I'm still sort of thinking about this casting issue, and about the movie as a whole. I went on an IMDB message board and found some interesting comments. The thread was started by someone arguing that the casting was not a big deal, but then someone had this to say:

You can't be serious! When I saw the previews to this film I was very excited because I recognised both female actors from the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", but then a bell went off inside of my mind telling me something wasn't right. Then I realised Geisha's are Japanese and these two actors are Chinese. The fact that they cast two Chinese actors as Japanese characters is saying that all asians look the same, which is RACIST. Secondly, since this movie is in English, I see no reason why they could not have cast American-Japanese actors.

Now I have skimmed through a few messages trying to rationalize the choice of actors by comparing it to white actors being cast in different European ethnic roles, but my dears you are comparing apples with oranges. In the end you can believe Russell Crow and Anthony Hopkins to be Italians because it is European white-ancient Roman descendants. The casting of Chinese actors as Japanese characters is the same as all those Hollywood Native American movies casting white people to play the aboriginal roles(major or minor). It is racism.

Yes, it is just a hollywood movie...in the end fluff, but if you let this slide, what else would you let slip...complacency is evil.

I kind of agree.

Then there was this exchange:

I totally agree with you. As a Chinese citizen of the USA, I think we should just stop complaining and be united in believing that this is a step forward for asian actors/actresses in Hollywood. This is moment that has been long delayed, and people who are complaining over this issue are only setting us back.

Exactly R! I'm Asian, and I was ecstatic to finally hear about a movie where the cast was Asian and that it was a big budget movie. I was amazed to finally see that America was making a movie with Asian leading roles. I don't see why everyone has to nag so much, just be happy that we (As Asians) are getting some recognation. Maybe after this movie, doors will be more open to Asian actors and possibly even an Asian will win an Oscar sooner or later. I hope this movie really changes the ways of hollywood, and damn all these people complaining, they're just making it so easy for other people to sterotype us.
I don't hate you because you're beautiful, I hate you because you're Asian.

Um... I'm Chinese and while I wouldn't normally be offended by actors of different ethnicity to play another, I am offended that this is an American production using Asian movie stars that are already well known in their own country to cast an American film. It's basically Hollywood copping out and doing a half-assed job because they know people will see the film anyway. Yes it is great that Asians are getting more screen time that I'm happy about too but these people are already famous in their own respective countries and there are far better actors who can do a better job but Hollywood is too lazy to look for them. You would also think that when Hollywood used international actors some of whom barely spoke english prior to the movie they would at the very least find one Japanese actress for the a main role.

While I understand the argument that it's just like when Americans play different ethnicities, or that it's the Chinese and Japanese who are racist (not the those who cast it) for being so offended that it was cast inauthentically, I really thinking that in this case, it was the wrong route to go. It's just such a culturally sensitive issue, and it makes the Americans in charge look culturally insensitive. Plus, early word indicates that it's hindered the movie. Ostensibly Japanese Geisha speaking English in stilted Chinese accents just doesn't work so much. I think a Japanese American actress would have worked fine and gotten just as many people into the theater.

What do others think?

I actually had to do a persuasive speech for a class and chose this topic to speak on, so now I'm still trying to rationalize my point of view on the matter (I could've argued both sides, which is why I chose the topic). But I really do think this call was a mistake that could've been avoided. They could've been more classy and made like Kevin Costner doing Dances with Wolves, insisting that the ethnic group in question be cast authentically since it was a central issue in the film.

The National Board of Review announces their winner (I think) tomorrow, so perhaps they'll anoint this film in order to give it a boost. I'd much rather see them champion Brokeback Mountain, though, which by all accounts is a far superior piece of work.


Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

The thing that annoys me more than the pan-asian casting is the fact that they're speaking in English, which I'm fairly certain they wouldn't do back then.

9:04 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Well the English does compound the problems because apparently Zhang and Gong speak with heavy Chinese accents. I'm quite certain they would've have done that back then.

11:42 AM  

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