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Things That Should Not Be? or The March of Progress? [via Jackie Chan]
I saw the poster at the Lincoln Center Loews this weekend. There was a shot of them on the Great Wall of China.
So STRIKE ONE: No issei/442nd backstory
The original Karate Kid was cheesy enough, this? I can’t even imagine. I mean is Jackie that old now? And how is this little ‘thug’?
Could someone please explain what the problem is?
Since Jackie is chinese, the locales and shaolin inspired fighting style are also chinese, then the movie would be more accuratley called “The Kung Fu Kid”. Granted, the Name recognition is a factor, that and Hollywood generally casts asians incorrectly so it’s not surprising. I’ve seen a trailer and Jaden has a bit of a Jake Lloyd acting style coupled with a few “that is wack” type lines so I’m filing it under things that should not be.
I neglected to point out that Karate is of japanese origin.
From what I’ve gleaned from the trailers the “kid” knows some Karate but that is not enough in China—the world of Kung-Fu.
In that context the name seems appropriate to me.
I saw the original and like that they seem to be changing things up a bit but still staying true to the overall theme.
I still do not see a problem here. If the movie is lousy it certainly will not be the first one that Jackie has been in. I’m cautiously optimistic that the role will allow Jackie to show an audience (especially a western one) more performance versatility than we usually get from him.
What Karate is indeed a Japanese word for a Japanese art form, it can also be said that China in general and Shaolin Temple in particular are the birthplace of all martial arts.
Also of note, the Movie will be titled KUNGFU DREAM outside of English speaking markets.
The title “Karate Kid” is written as an in-story insult to the Jaden Smith Character whose handful of Karate lessons earn him that title amongst the wushu students of the area. Over the course of the movie Jaden’s character develops “Kung Fu” in the traditional sense of the word (great achievement as a result of hard work) in much the same way as the original character became a Karateka by the end of the movie despite having started the film with a few Tae Kwon Do lessons learned.
If it’s Tae Kwon Do then that is a korean martial art, although we might at the hairplitting stage here. I believe Jackie’s character is Mr Miyagi which is a japanese name. More telling for the quality of the film is the track record of Jackie’s american produced films.
After “The Forbidden Kingdom”, this film and the upcoming “The Last Airbender”, would it kill Hollywood to actually have an Asian male heroic lead in a martial arts action movie, instead of co-opting an important piece of Asian culture.
I’m so looking to the remake of “Red Dawn” where the Chinese invade the USA. I love that Yellow Peril.
I think I can understand where you are coming from, but I do not think things will change much until more Asian Americans take the initiative in financing, producing and directing US-made films.
This reminds me of the late 1980s when there was audible frustration voiced in the African American community about the opportunities for and presentation of blacks in Hollywood.
Two decades later there is a steady flow of films that speak more to an African American audience. Also, there are a number of quality African American actors in mainstream, high profile Hollywood productions.
I have no doubt that Asian Americans will have similar impact.
Um yeah, as many have pointed out Karate is Japanese not Chinese. Sort of like having a kid travel to Germany to study Shakesphere or go to France to learn how to win wars.
Does not compute.
Uhm, they’re REMAKING The Karate Kid. That, within itself, is “what the problem is.” NO need to go any further.
Jackie Chan … Mr. Han (Not Miyagi)
A simple IMDB check will give you that. IMDB also confirms why it’s called “The Karate Kid” which I think has more to do with name recognition forcing a screenwriter to make it work than the other way around. However, it’s not a bad fix, and I will no longer get twitchy when I see it advertised because I now know the reasoning behind why it’s not called The Kung Fu Kid. At least they were smart enough to make a screenwriter fix it instead of assuming no one would notice.
“After…the upcoming “The Last Airbender”, would it kill Hollywood to actually have an Asian male heroic lead in a martial arts action movie, instead of co-opting an important piece of Asian culture.”
There aren’t any Asians in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon. Asians don’t have a monopoly on martial arts. Last Airbender was created by two white guys and like a lot of cartoons (including Japanese Animation) many of the characters are made to look racially neutral as much as possible. There was no reason to cast Asians in those roles. Similarly, there wasn’t any reason to cast an Asian lead in Forbidden Kingdom because the story is about an awkward white kid learning how to stick up for himself. Get over it. Also, see: Ninja Assassin (which I very much enjoyed.)
On the other hand, I do grant you that Asian actors are still at a disadvantage in Hollywood, but it’s not ALL Hollywood’s fault. I tried looking up books with asian male leads and came up empty. Hollywood mines other media for its material, and if it’s difficult to find outside material with what you want out of Hollywood, then you’ll never get what you want. If Hollywood tries to make a movie out of American Born Chinese or any of Adrian Tomine’s work and recasts with white people, then I’ll be right there with you screaming blasphemy.
Last Airbender looks fantastic, and Karate Kid looks fun. I’m looking forward to both, and I’m really pissed off that they went 3D on Last Airbender instead of IMAX.
“Jake Lloyd acting style”
As JB said, change take more than letters or internet griping, but it certainly doesn’t need complacency. Jaden Smith has a starring role in large part to the work his father has put into cultivating broad appeal and influence, while purposely putting up people of color in play when default is always white. The fact that Hollywood will continue to make what it perceives is the largest audience nabbing pictures and cast is a given. The fact that it’s going to involve adaptations or remakes and all the other concessions inherent in multimillion dollar ventures is also a given.
That said, nobody needs to “Get over it” if they’re upset with the casting. It is entirely irrelevant what race the creators were and the desire for Asian leads in a story doesn’t require looking up books with Asian male leads–it only requires racially neutral story with a male lead, or hell, female lead, who cares? Wanting a greater acknowledgment of the massive role Asian cultures play in Airbender isn’t a crazy thought, even beyond the fact that despite more neutrally drawn leads, the adults aren’t, and they would fit the world better, and Asians definitely exist in that world. Even conceding to the realities of Hollywood, the fact that of four leading characters, exactly none were originally cast as Asian is at best completely short-sighted. The fact that people of any background may feel frustrated when a generally underrepresented group doesn’t even get to show up for when their culture is paraded about is both reasonable and expected.
I liked Forbidden Kingdom (it was a sloppy love letter not just to the martial arts genre, but to the way that my generation of fanfom got to see it), and yeah, this Karate Kid has explained the title so it can retain name recognition (for what little I actually think its worth…it’s not like Kung Fu Kid would have confused old fans), and I’m not terribly worked up over them but I’m older and I figure whatever. When I was a kid I could follow Ralph Macchio just as easily as anyone else, but I bet there’d be something extra if I had seen a face like mine, let alone in a movie whose setting came from my ancestral culture. And you know what, I bet the kids now who rarely see it would love it, and the others kids wouldn’t care about. Frankly, the complaints point out changes that would’ve been win-win for all involved and some of these defenses come off willfully myopic.
@Army of Dorkness – I agree with a lot of you’re saying but totally disagree with your statement – “There aren’t any Asians in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon”.
Yes, the majority of the main characters are drawn racially neutral (like much of Japanese anime) and the cartoon creators were white, BUT everything else in the cartoon is ASIAN from the costume designs to the Chinese characters to the architecture.
While I have yet to find any comment by the creators about the race of the characters, it has been established that everything else is based upon some aspect of Asian culture.
So if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck and acts like a duck, please don’t cast it with chickens. But then again, you might probably think Naruto is white too.
And yes, there is a dearth of strong Asian and Asian American male characters and heroes in many mediums including books and comic books. For every Shang Chi, there a 2 or 3 Iron Fists and Richard Dragons.
That’s partly the fault of Asian American creators are still finding their voice within the pop culture, but it’s also because Hollywood goes for the commercialized approach to everything unless it’s controversial. It’s why Tyler Perry had to initially finance his own films. It’s why they didn’t make any effort to have an Asian cast for “The Last Airbender”.
Paramount and Nickelodeon could have made the attempt to do a casting search in heavily Asian populated areas similar to the Harry Potter casting but they didn’t. But they probably thought that 1) the general American audience couldn’t empathsize with Asian leads and 2) the Asian community wouldn’t complain about it.
As for “The Last Airbender”, I’m boycotting it but that’s because it’s a M. Night Sucksbigtime movie.
“That said, nobody needs to “Get over it” if they’re upset with the casting.”
They absolutely do. This crap is played out. Pick the battles that can and should be won. This isn’t one of them.
With Last Airbender in particular, I would have loved to see Mako actually in the film as Uncle Iroh, but that’s not gonna happen. Aang looks like a little white kid with a tattoo. That’s what he is in the live action film. I would be more pissed off if he needed an Asian kid as a stunt double because he didn’t know martial arts. He does. So does Dev Patel. Getting the best person for the role is all that matters. .
“the desire for Asian leads in a story doesn’t require looking up books with Asian male leads”
but having books with Asian lead characters would go a long way to having more MOVIES with Asian male leads.
“@Army of Dorkness – I agree with a lot of you’re saying but totally disagree with your statement – “There aren’t any Asians in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon”.
Yes, the majority of the main characters are drawn racially neutral (like much of Japanese anime) and the cartoon creators were white, BUT everything else in the cartoon is ASIAN from the costume designs to the Chinese characters to the architecture.”
you’re not supporting your disagreement. You’re kinda supporting my point, actually.
I think Last Airbender would have been greatly improved by having Donnie Yen in there somewhere. I’m just tired of the same pointless baseless arguments being thrown out there every time something racial pops up.
“So if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck and acts like a duck, please don’t cast it with chickens. But then again, you might probably think Naruto is white too.”
The character Naruto definitely looks white. Looks a lot like that guy from Forbidden Kindom, actually. You make it sound like I’m advocating a whites-only policy. That’s very far from the truth. In fact, I think Sokka and Katara should’ve been cast with Eskimos. Not a lot of Eskimo actors running around Hollywood, so I’ll overlook it. I got over it. Everyone else should too.
“Paramount and Nickelodeon could have made the attempt to do a casting search in heavily Asian populated areas similar to the Harry Potter casting but they didn’t.”
I have yet to see a good argument for why they should have done this if they in fact didn’t. It has already been established that none of the characters are explicitly Asian so there need not be any effort made to specifically cast Asians. I’m not ignoring anything about the show when I say that either. Chow Yun-Fat or Ken Watanabe would have been awesome in this movie, but I’m not up in arms over the fact that they’re not due to the cartoon being so Asian-y in its design.
And if someone isn’t going to get over it, then they should be prepared for people thinking they’re being silly and telling them to get over it.
Frankly, all y’all have got it wrong – karate is Okinawan, not Japanese; and yes, believe me, there is a difference! The Japanese co-opted it after they annexed the Ryukyu Islands in the 19th century. My husband is a karateka and taught karate more than 30 years ago.
What’s funny about all this is that Jackie Chan just made a truly great movie, his best since DRUNKEN MASTER II waaay back in 1994. It’s called LITTLE BIG SOLDIER and here’s a review:
The movie bombed in Hong Kong and only did middling business in China. I’ve been watching from the sidelines as one US distributor after another passes on it which is too bad – it could actually do arthouse numbers in the US ($9 – $12 million at the box office) easily, in my opinion, especially if it piggy backs off KARATE KID.
We’ll be showing it at this summer’s New York Asian Film Festival up at Lincoln Center (plug, plug):
But it’s also available on DVD if you don’t live in NYC. Jackie Chan seems aware that he’s becoming a bit of a joke overseas, and he’s fighting hard to regain some credibility these days, at least according to people who work for him.
On another quick note: it doesn’t matter about Hollywood’s representation of Asian characters. It’s not going to get any better no matter what happens. Asian Americans will protest, they’ll get labeled whiners, and Hollywood will keep on rolling.
But take a tip from most Asian film industries which have given up on the US: we’re no longer part of their distribution or financing plans. So give up, vote with your pocket books, and get your movies elsewhere. China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Thailand make all their current films available on DVD with English subs and you can buy them online. Also, there are a ton of festivals that bring these movies to the US. Heck, Bollywood distributes first run movies in theaters across the country. So just let Hollywood do its thing and get your entertainment elsewhere.
Looks like progress to me. I see two minorities on a poster, which is a rare thing even in 2010 (except if its a comedy)
The thing that should not be is The Last Airbender casting. There’s an author who’s
much better explaining it than I could, here’s the link: http://elloecho.blogspot.com/2010/02/whitewashing-is-racist.html
I’ve gotten so fed up with the lack of diversity in not just movies, but books, I decided to make my own webcomics with a paranormal cast (black Valkyie, Japanese Wizard, Chinese Gargoyle, Black hispanic Werewolf, Maori/African American she-wolf)
If anyone’s interested, here are the links:
http://razher.com (teen webcomic)
I’m just starting out, its not perfect but I saw a void and decided to fill it.
@Army of Dorkness…
“On the other hand, I do grant you that Asian actors are still at a disadvantage in Hollywood, but it’s not ALL Hollywood’s fault. I tried looking up books with asian male leads and came up empty. Hollywood mines other media for its material, and if it’s difficult to find outside material with what you want out of Hollywood, then you’ll never get what you want. If Hollywood tries to make a movie out of American Born Chinese or any of Adrian Tomine’s work and recasts with white people, then I’ll be right there with you screaming blasphemy. ”
Starship Troopers’ lead character Johnnie Rico is a Filipino in the book, but was played by the very white Casper Van Dien in the movie. Commence with the screaming. :P
Starship Troopers’ lead character Johnnie Rico is a Filipino in the book, but was played by the very white Casper Van Dien in the movie.
Yeah, I remember THAT.
The funniest/sad thing about the movie’s
‘racebending’ was that he was changed from being Filipino… into a Brazilian. I suppose that was done to provide cover for his name— but they didn’t want to unnecessarily make him “Hispanic” by turning him Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Guatamalan, Columbian, etc. etc.
Apparently “Brazilians” can be sufficiently Caucasian to allow for CvD’s casting. So at least Filipinos were saved from seeing Manila being destroyed by the Bugs— even
if it meant subverting Heinlein’s intent of having Juan “Johnny” Rico be Filipino,
in Verhoeven’s film version of the book.
Then again: the part-Filipino Lou Diamond Phillips was cast to play Chicano Ritchie Valens in LA BAMBA 10 years before STARSHIP TROOPERS… so there? I guess where White Hollywood casting opened a window, another door will be shut.
With LAST AIRBENDER and this KARATE [sic] KID, it seems like it’s now Eastern Asians’ turn for that Hollyood treatment…
“Starship Troopers’ lead character Johnnie Rico is a Filipino in the book, but was played by the very white Casper Van Dien in the movie. Commence with the screaming.”
You just tried to “razz” me? Nice.
I was actually pissed off about this back when the movie was cast. Rico should’ve been at the very least non-white. They also turned Dizzy into a woman for what seemed like no other reason than to get boobs on the screen to get people to watch the movie. Speaking of Lou Diamond Phillips, he could’ve made a good Johnny Rico.
Aside from the obnoxious razz emoticon, nice job. I had forgotten about that one, but I must’ve been so pissed off about the many ways they ruined that film that it’s just a blur of annoyance when I think about it. However, I did still enjoy the film, but only because I don’t view it as a true adaptation of Heinlein’s book.
So, “razz” right back to you, buddy.
Hollywood producers don’t respect the end of Heinlein books so there’s no reason they will read any books about Asian actors.
At the end the day we just have different tolerances. For me, I concede to the Hollywood realities the Karate Kid remake, but for Airbender, well no. Partly because some battles picked are lost but the ones you win come closer after because of that. The time they’ll go with a non-white lead for a movie (and btw, once again, most characters aren’t race specific, so it’s not necessary to wait for the one with asian lead), it won’t be just because he’s the perfect guy or gal for it and the casting director see it, it’ll be in part because they’ll remember people complained. And frankly, we all know Hollywood doesn’t cast the best options. Hell, Dev Patel is the partial victory, he’s the replacement for the original choice.
Two things more things, and then I drop it. The thing with Airbender is that a lot of kids like it, not just cause its a good show, but for some of them, its probably the first time they’ve seen their face and culture up there. It’s special, the way Supergirl or Wonder Woman are special to girls, it’s special to Asian kids. So you know what? Casting wider would have made the movie more special and frankly, not been that hard. And Hollywood needs to know that.
Just an observation though, in Japan everyone thinks Naruto is Japanese. As do most manga characters. Characters don’t have to all be so explicit as Dora the Explorer to read as specific races. You can argue he’s neutral, but that doesn’t mean he’s white. That means he’s anything.
Verhoeven made the movie he wanted to, not Heinlein, and cast it as such. I’m alright with that since it felt like he had a point to make, even if different than Heinlein’s. They were purely commercial changes.
Obviously they didn’t get the point of the original movie. The Karate kid was a scrawny boy roughed up by a pack of bullies. And Miyagi was Japanese because karate is from Japan. Now if they wanted to call this movie The Kung Fu Kid, I’d had nothing against it.
@Army of Dorkness I remember Johnnie Rico in the movie is Argentinean. It really doesn’t make a difference in this kind of movie anyway.
@Chris has anyone seen the horrible Street Fighter movie, “The Legend of Chun Li”? Chun Li, as her name suggest, is Chinese. Not so in this movie, she’s very white.
Yes, should have been the KUNG FU KID, because the end result is that the kid learns Kung Fu, just like the original kid ended up studying Karate not TKD. So they stay within the context of the original film. This isn’t about casting race per se, but Hollywood only having a shallow layer of understanding Asian culture.
In the case of STARSHIP TROOPERS, Hollywood casts Filipino actors in very minor roles, or “default” asian/latino, not main protagonist as Filipinos. Pretty convenient and convenience is what Hollywood is all about.
“but for Airbender, well no[…]Just an observation though, in Japan everyone thinks Naruto is Japanese. As do most manga characters. Characters don’t have to all be so explicit as Dora the Explorer to read as specific races. You can argue he’s neutral, but that doesn’t mean he’s white. That means he’s anything.”
This sort of makes you a hypocrite. I don’t mind if you wish they could have found more Asians for the main roles in Last Airbender, but taking a critical stance that SHOULD have or were required to is going too far because of the admitted neutral nature of the characters. Same thing with Naruto. If they made live action Naruto in Asia and a bunch of white blonde people complained that they didn’t cast a white blonde person, you probably wouldn’t have any sympathy for them. I’m saying it goes both ways. If Last Airbender was made in Asia, I’d expect a predominantly Asian cast regardless of the fact that the characters were drawn race-neutral. I think a little Asian kid for Aang would’ve been fine, and I was worried when I heard of who they went with but mostly because I wanted them to cast a real martial artist and it turned out that this kid was so I’m fine with it. If most people just stuck with ” you know it would’ve been nice if they had gone with an Asian kid since the show has heavy Asian influences…and you know, because all Asian kids know martial arts(this last bit is sarcastic)”, then it would be fine, but a lot of people are seriously pissed off about it for no good reason because the characters are race-neutral, and I’m saying let it go to those people. As I said, Donnie Yen would’ve been awesome in some role… don’t care where…Donnie Yen is awesome. Keep in mind, though, that if they cast an obvious minority for certain roles, they may have been forced to pick minorities for all the roles connected to them… for example, Sokka and Katara would need to look alike and so would their grandmother and father, etc. Iroh, Ozai, and Zuko…etc. I’d prefer that they just chose the best actors for the role regardless of race, and picking a minority would heavily narrow the filed… it wouldn’t be impossible… but I’m just pointing out what would’ve likely happened.
“it’ll be in part because they’ll remember people complained.”
I seriously doubt that. I think most people understand that the current crop of complaints are not a big deal. Most Last Airbender fans (like myself) just want the movie to be good and respectful to the creators. See how much they gave a crap about the Johnny Rico issue? But by all means, contact the studio and say you would’ve preferred an Asian lead or at least more Asians in major roles. Nothing wrong with that.
“Hell, Dev Patel is the partial victory, he’s the replacement for the original choice.”
Shit, yeah! Wasn’t it Jesse McCartney or something? That’s the one I hated most… I was actually hoping for Dante Basco. :) Sad part is he probably only got the role because of Slumdog Millionaire, but I’ll take it. I was pretty happy when I found out about Dev Patel’s casting… still not Dante Basco, but as I said, I’ll take it and it’s a huge improvement over the original. I don’t even care much for Jackson Rathbone as Sokka either, but I wasn’t doing the casting so maybe he was the best of what they had to choose from.
“Two things more things, and then I drop it. The thing with Airbender is that a lot of kids like it, not just cause its a good show, but for some of them, its probably the first time they’ve seen their face and culture up there. It’s special, the way Supergirl or Wonder Woman are special to girls, it’s special to Asian kids. So you know what? Casting wider would have made the movie more special and frankly, not been that hard. And Hollywood needs to know that.”
I completely agree. But not if it hurts the production by having to cast crappy actors to fulfill a minority quota, and I don’t think you’re advocating that either. They did cast a wide net, if you look closely. Cliff Curtis is Maori, etc. I think James Hong would’ve been great as that crazy old Earthbender guy (Bumi?), but it looks like he’s not in the movie (and Hong might be too old) nor is Azula… Movie only seems to cover the first season of the show, so there’s always hope that more Asian actors will show up later if they make sequels… and I hope they do.
“You can argue [Naruto]he’s neutral, but that doesn’t mean he’s white. That means he’s anything.”
And that’s all I’m trying to say, really. I’m sorry that Asians aren’t better represented, but it’s not like they were required to be. If live Naruto was made here, I’d expect a white person and if it was made in Asia I’d expect an Asian to be Naruto regardless of whether or not it’s PC to do so. I wouldn’t *insist* that Naruto be a white kid though…just a talented kid. Seriously, I’m on your side that they could be better represented, but not at the expense of the film…yet there are a lot of really good Asian actors working right now and if they’re interested, I hope they can pop up in Last Airbender sequels. Oh, also to your point, I think they should’ve cast an Asian guy as Avatar Roku instead of that white stunt guy they chose. That’s a terrible missed opportunity for an Asian actor, in my opinion.
Rafael K says:
05/05/2010 at 1:08 pm
“Yes, should have been the KUNG FU KID, etc.”
This has been covered. I’m on the side of Karate Kid now and with good reason. May be a cheap, forced reason, but it’s still reasonable.
05/05/2010 at 11:10 am
“@Army of Dorkness I remember Johnnie Rico in the movie is Argentinean. It really doesn’t make a difference in this kind of movie anyway.”
He lived in Buenos Aires, yeah. Thanks to globalization, there’s no guarantee that just because he lives there that he can’t be white… conveniently for the casting of the film. I’m sticking with Lou Diamond Phillips for that one.
Then: “@Chris has anyone seen the horrible Street Fighter movie, “The Legend of Chun Li”? Chun Li, as her name suggest, is Chinese. Not so in this movie, she’s very white.”
Kristen Kreuk is not even close to “very white.” “Her father, Peter Kreuk, is of Dutch ancestry and her mother, Deanna Che, is of Chinese ancestry but born in Indonesia.”
Sorry for such a long post. Just supporting my point of view. I’m a big Avatar: the last airbender fan, and I’m not ashamed to be a fan and an adult. That show had better writing than a large portion of prime time network television shows do. I feared the live film would suck, but all the trailers I’ve seen look great and I can hardly wait… (still time to upgrade to IMAX, guys!).
So, in what I hope is my final word on the subject, I agree that there should be more Asian actors in Last Airbender, but they weren’t required and no one is stealing what is rightfully a role for a minority actor. Let’s move on.
Somebody: I remember Johnnie Rico in the movie is Argentinean. It really doesn’t make a difference in this kind of movie anyway.
You’re right– it was Buenos Aires, and NOT Sao Paolo that got destroyed in Verhoeven’s film! (Must have been the influx of those Aryans into Argentina after WWII to explain the Van Dien Caucasian “Juan Rico”, then?) My bad. Er, um, mixing up Brazilians with Argentinians… ALL South Americans look alike to me? :p
But I still think that Rico revealed as Filipino in the last pages of the STARSHIP TROOPERS book IS important, providing an interesting context to Heinlein’s story.
Army of Dorkness: Like you, I’ll be paying my ticket to see M. Knight’s film version of THE LAST AIRBENDER… despite my “racebending” reservations… because I know that the REAL versions of Aang, Kitara, Sokka, Zuko are right there in the NICKLEODEON dvds of the series. And will ALWAYS be there for me to watch— regardless of how Good or Bad the movie is!
And, see ya back here when you justify that kid from THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN and that guy who froze from the TITANIC mixing it up in “Neo New York” if/when that movie version of AKIRA gets to hit the screens…
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