The cast of Frozen on Broadway and their costumes.
In the news post that Ben Daimio was being recast as Daniel Dae Kim, I saw a lot of people in the notes saying it’s still bad because the actor should have been Japanese-American too.
As a Japanese-American myself, I think that objection is short-sighted. I didn’t mind John Cho playing Sulu in the Star Trek reboot and I’m absolutely fucking THRILLED that Daniel Dae Kim is getting such a good movie role after the fiasco of Hawaii 5-0 ending like it did.
I don’t think it’s productive for us to demand that all actors of color only ever play their own ethnicity within their own race. This isn’t a standard applied to white actors! White actors constantly play other ethnicities and nationalities! Look at Thor movies, for example. Brits and Aussies playing Scandinavians all over the place and nobody cares… as long as they’re white actors, that is.
I’m not saying that all cross-ethnic casting is benign. There are issues with more represented ethnicities taking roles from less-represented ethnicities—SE Asians, for example, are even less represented than E Asian ethnicities—but in this Hellboy case, that kind of power differential doesn’t apply. Cross-ethnic casting can be neutral as well, and benign when it comes to the trajectory of an acting career. Actors of color are never going to build up followings unless they have a greater pool of roles to choose from, and that pool is already limited because they’re locked out of so many white roles due to Hollywood racism.
And for those Asians saying “this just reinforces that we’re all the same,” I totally understand and empathize with your reservations… but I disagree with them. White people and other people influenced by anti-E/SE/Asian racism are going to say we’re “all the same” anyway. Why worry about catering to racists who hate us? We should cater to ourselves above all. And by “ourselves,” I mean diaspora Asians who support each other.
Finally, we haven’t seen the movie yet so maybe his ethnicity will actually be incorporated in a good way. There are many Japanese-Americans who also have Korean ancestry! Here’s a great personal article about one such family: http://kore.am/february-issue-i-am-zainichi/. While it’s important for non E/SE-Asians to know that we’re very different culturally and linguistically and so on, let’s not go too far in the other direction and pretend we’re totally isolated and different and have never had any cross-cultural communication that doesn’t involve white people.
“In more cosmopolitan regions it might be surprising that Huey’s casting as Ariel would raise any eyebrows at all. That has been the incredulous reaction of “Mermaid” director Glenn Casale, who said he cast Huey in the role for one simple reason: She was the best singer.
“She was a good actress, she was the right age, she sings it like nobody else,” said Casale, best known for directing Cathy Rigby in “Peter Pan.” “We probably saw 50 Ariels, and Diana really sang it the best.”
Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center Executive Director Maiko Tanaka, who is Japanese Canadian, had a similar response when asked to comment on the controversy.
Tanaka phrased her response in the form of two questions and a terse statement: “1. Can she sing? 2. Can she dance? 3. It’s a friggin’ mermaid.””
so that argument about “they just cast the most talented person” only applies when a character of color is whitewashed? shocker
And that’s why it’s always about colour and the fact that y’all believe the most talented people have to be white by default.
We did this in 2015.
And in 2016.
Now it’s 2017 and I’ve got at least four different posts on racebending under my belt because nerds still don’t know how to behave.
This is an ongoing project looking at the continuing state of fandom’s reaction to racebending following my first piece on how badly comic fans respond to racebending in the works that they love and three years in, people are still cutting up about racebending while claiming not to be racist.
They’re not racist, they claim in comment sections across the internet, but the idea of Black women being cast as aliens, goddesses, and the iconic love interest of the Fastest Man Alive, still sends them into literal conniptions. They assume that racebending is Social Justice Gone Wild, not the best actor/actress being chosen for the role. At multiple points, I’ve seen them claim that white redheads are being erased from popular culture.
Of course, these same people screaming about authenticity and sticking to the source material stay silent in the face of whitewashing (as in the case of Deadpool actor Ed Skrein initially being tapped to play a Japanese character in the upcoming Hellboy remake).
Dear Comic Fans, Guess What: You’re Still Not Handling Racebending and Diverse Casting Very Well!
Every year, I hope that my fellow nerds will realize that racebending isn’t an attempt to steal the game from white fans, but to level a historically uneven playing field. Every year, I try to imagine what the internet would look like if nerds didn’t accuse Hollywood of “blackwashing” or of “redhead erasure” every time a Black person is cast as their favorite white redhead. Every year, I wonder what it would feel like to make my way through nerdy websites without seeing Black people insulted or blamed for destroying nerdy media around the world.
And every year I’m disappointed.
I don’t want to make another post pointing out how comic fans around the world are still racist babies about racebending next year, but we’re three for three and as more casting announcements come out for comic adaptations, I’m assuming that this absolutely fake outrage will only increase.
Don’t they have anything better to do than get angry over casting news on the internet?
I mean… it’s just a comic book character casting. It’s not that serious.
Here’s hoping that this time next year, nerds will be a little less racist about racebending. I doubt it, but I have to stay hopeful. Also, this post is a little over three thousand words long. Geez.
This piece is available in three different formats and for the next two weeks, patrons are the only people that’ll see it.