Adapting foreign stories to American cinema

Adapting foreign stories to American cinema

AKA: Making movies white for no good reason

It has been a trend in American cinema ever since the first film hit the screen - using white actors to portray the roles of ethnically diverse people.  At first the reasons were blatantly discriminatory.  Those in Hollywood didn’t want to hire actors and actresses who were black, Native American, Mexican or any other race they felt was “inappropriate” to allow in a movie.  But even years after this stigma has been broken down and people of all ethnicities are making their names as exceptional performers, the trend of “whitening” movies still continues.

A few recent Japanese adaptations really set me off on this one.  One is Akira.  Once a great Japanese cartoon, now the boys in Hollywood want to make it a live-action film.  I’m all for this.  Go ahead and bring this amazing story to a full U.S. audience and show them the glory that is Akira.  Then I heard about the casting.  Kristen Stewart being cast as Kei?  Other white folks who I’ve never heard of in the other roles?  Luckily, it appears as if this one has been side-lined.  Maybe they can fix it, but I somehow doubt it.

Another blatantly annoying adaptation is All You Need is Kill.  The lead role of Keiji Kiriya has been mutated and Tom Cruise (???) will be filling it.  I never thought of a young Japanese soldier being quite the right role for a 50-year-old Cruise.  And to keep with the whiteness, Emily Blunt will be playing the other lead.

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are plenty of other films that choose not to use the correct ethnicity (or anything even close) to fill roles.  For some reason they feel that butchering the story is the best (easiest?) way to get from point A to point B.  I just don’t see the reason for making all these changes, especially when they serve no purpose other than to get some big-named money-maker into the lead.

Please, America, stop screwing these things up.  If you can’t adapt a movie or book properly, then leave them alone.  Let the fond memories of these excellent tales remain, unshattered by a dollar-hungry Hollywood.  Stop deciding that white is better and that audiences won’t understand something unless you make it more culturally specific.  Leave the discrimination and racist BS in the past and try to make a good film that is true to the culture from which it originates.