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biast | by maryann johanson

curated: Wes Anderson’s next movie is set in Japan, has mostly white cast

*facepalm*


posted in:
movie buzz
  • Bluejay

    And to add insult to injury, at least four of the white actors have previously (and sometimes famously) been involved in yellowface or whitewashing: Fisher Stevens (in Short Circuit), Bob Balaban (in 2010), Tilda Swinton (in Doctor Strange), and ScarJo (in Ghost in the Shell). I’m half-expecting a cameo from Emma Stone.

    Obviously we don’t know much about the movie besides the voice cast, the setting, and the barebones premise, but I’ve been struggling to come up with scenarios where this is okay. This is apparently an animated movie featuring talking dogs; fine. But if you’re setting it in Asia and NOT using mostly Asian or Asian-American voice talent, then you’re contributing to the pattern of Hollywood being fine with the trappings of Asian culture while ignoring Asian people.

    I preemptively call BS on the usual excuses. “Authenticity is unnecessary in the voice cast for a cartoon”? Doesn’t hold as much water in 2017, after Disney’s Moana. “It’s hard to find diverse voice actors”? No it isn’t; ask the folks behind Cartoon Network’s powerhouse Steven Universe. “We needed star power” or “we got the best actors for the job”? Totally fails to explain hiring Fisher Stevens and Bob Balaban. “Dogs don’t have human ‘races,’ so there’s nothing wrong with white actors voicing talking dogs”? Nothing wrong with Asian actors voicing talking dogs either, especially in an Asian setting. “Don’t be so unimaginative, it’s a fantasy”? Yes, but isn’t it interesting how often “being imaginative” justifies casting more white people, and how much LESS often Hollywood is able to “imagine” casting more POC.

    This may or may not be a bad film. Anderson’s a good director, and this is apparently going to be an homage to Kurosawa, or something. That doesn’t mean he gets a pass for poor representation. It’s 2017 and people should know better.

  • Danielm80

    I can’t imagine this working unless—as MaryAnn suggested*—the movie is supposed to be a parody of whitewashing, and even then it might backfire. But then, Wes Anderson has had a lot of success with ideas that shouldn’t work.

    *Unless her suggestion that the movie is ironic was ironic.

  • Bluejay

    You’d think at least Fisher Stevens would have known better. He seemed to get it in this interview:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2015/11/19/fisher-stevens-aziz-ansari-master-of-none-short-circuit/76045238/

    But apparently not.

  • palmero

    Why are we getting worked up about the casting? These actors are voicing dogs. Do the voice actors need to match the dog breeds? Latino actors for Chihuahuas? Canadian actors for Labrador Retrievers? Germans for German Shepherds? Do all the dogs in this movie need to be Akitas or Shibas? And do we know if these are all Japanese dogs? Maybe they’re foreigner or refugee dogs from many different countries? I for one think it’s commendable that there are 6 Japanese actors named in the poster.

  • Bohica

    Next we will should take Hollywood to task over not using a Japanese voice artist for Godzilla’s roars and bellows in the US made versions.

  • “Dogs don’t have human ‘races,’ so there’s nothing wrong with white actors voicing talking dogs”?

    But I wouldn’t be surprised if different cultures didn’t have different ideas about the inner lives of dogs, even on a fantasy level!

  • Yes, that’s clearly the same thing. I’m starting a campaign to protest this now!

  • Bluejay

    These actors are voicing dogs. Do the voice actors need to match the dog breeds?

    No, they don’t. So there’s no reason why Asian actors can’t voice all the dog breeds.

    Do all the dogs in this movie need to be Akitas or Shibas? And do we know if these are all Japanese dogs? Maybe they’re foreigner or refugee dogs from many different countries?

    But you just said it yourself: the voice actors don’t need to match the dogs. So it’s possible for Asian actors to voice any and all of them. (If the dogs are all “from many different countries,” then their voices will be played by mostly white American actors pretending to be from different countries. Why can’t Asian and Asian-American actors pretend to be those things too?)

    Have you ever wondered why, every time there’s a “race doesn’t matter” excuse, it’s always to justify NOT casting more Asians? If “race doesn’t matter,” how come Hollywood never uses that reason to cast Asian actors over whites? Why should white actors get all the “race doesn’t matter” roles?

    I for one think it’s commendable that there are 6 Japanese actors named in the poster.

    A whopping 6 out of 22. In a movie set in Japan, (presumably) featuring lots of visual aspects of Japanese culture, and supposedly inspired by the films of a Japanese auteur. So, from here, it just looks like the latest in a long line of films that have no problem using Asia as inspiration or background, while mostly ignoring Asian people.

    Look, I’ll admit we don’t know very much yet about this movie, and it’s possible that what Anderson comes up with won’t be so offensive. But from what I’m seeing so far, and based on Hollywood’s history, I’m not going to hold my breath.

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