Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hollywood to adapt 'Full Metal Panic!' without an Asian lead?

Mandalay Pictures has acquired the rights to adapt Full Metal Panic!, a manga, light novel, and anime series about Sousuke Sagara, an anti-terrorist mercenary who must protect high school girl Kaname Chidori. I've never read or seen Full Metal Panic!, but upon reading that Zac Efron is attached to the project, I decided to just seek out the original work and ignore the Hollywood version entirely.

It seems that once again, annoyingly, Hollywood will be casting Caucasian actors instead of Asian actors for the lead roles. I'm sure that they will cast Asian actors in the weakly written, measly supporting roles, but they certainly will not have the decency or good sense to cast an Asian actor as the leading man or leading lady. Perhaps they think we're blind or stupid, or hope that we won't notice that Zac Efron cannot convincingly play someone named Sousuke Sagara. Or maybe they will change his name to Sam Smith.

Of course, this is nothing new. They pulled this with Speed Racer (hey, thanks for giving us two seconds of Rain), the upcoming Dragonball Evolution, and the upcoming adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Katherine Bai from Hardboiled sums up this trend nicely:

Clearly, Hollywood doesn’t feel that the American public is ready to see Asian Americans cast in serious lead roles outside of the typical slapstick and stereotype-heavy, action films. One very important difference to note is that the television show [Avatar: The Last Air Bender] features animated Asian characters, while the film would be the first live-action portrayal of the show. Basically the public can handle cartoon Asians, but not real ones?

The movie producers must realize that it is not considered progress to make a film adaptation of an Asian show if they are only going to recast all the characters as Caucasian...

I don't think people in Hollywood know how maddening and absurd it is. To put it bluntly, this is just an insidious form of yellowface. Yes, I know that the Caucasian actors in these films do not actually have to wear makeup to appear Asian (though everyone from Marlon Brando to Peter Ustinov to Eddie Murphy has pulled that stunt), but wiping out the fact that these characters are in fact, originally Asian, is barely any better. In fact, in some cases it's simply worse. Hollywood will do everything in it's power to put an Asian face on an offensive stereotype, but complex, well loved characters created by Asian artists? No way. We have Zac Efron, Justin Chatwick, and Emile Hirsch (yes, I'm even looking at YOU Emile) to do that. I have a suggestion Hollywood: call Aaron Yoo. He's available. Or maybe find an unknown Asian actor. Just surprise me for a change.

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