By Stephanie Siek
(CNN) - America’s embrace of Japanese pop culture, particularly manga and anime, hasn’t resulted in an embrace of Asian and Asian-American actors when those storylines go to Hollywood.
Two upcoming feature films based on Japanese material are already stirring controversy after rumors that white American actors will be cast as characters originally written as Japanese.
Tom Cruise is rumored to be in talks to play the lead role in the Warner Bros. adaptation of Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill,” replacing a Japanese main character. Warner Bros., which is owned by the same parent company as CNN, is also in the pre-production stages of making a live-action version of “Akira,” a graphic novel that was made into a landmark 1988 animated feature film in Japan. All of the actors rumored to be in consideration for the upcoming film’s main characters are white Americans, although casting calls invited actors of “any race” to audition.
That’s troubling to both the series’ devoted fans and advocates of diversity in casting.
Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization founded in 2009, protests what it sees as the “whitewashing” of film roles and pushes for the fair representation of minorities in media. Spokesman Michael Le said that the increasing popularity of manga and anime titles means that movie producers are keen to cash in, but many don't see value in keeping the original Asian characters that made them popular.
“I remember 10 years ago, I could walk into [the comics aisle of] a Barnes and Noble and it would be all western comics, all DC and Marvel. Now I walk in and the Asian section is bigger than the western comics section,” Le said. “Asian culture is enormously popular and acceptable, but the people are not. The people are inconveniently the wrong race, and so whitewashing is a result.”( Collapse )