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White Males in Films Pretending to be Asian

edited 2013-07-24 08:25:18 in Media

Ra's al Ghul (Batman Begins).

The Mandarin (Iron Man 3).

Hannibal Chau (Pacific Rim, and I really like Hannibal Chau).

All criminals who adopted Asian personas to serve an agenda.

You know what I miss? The Yellow Peril. Because at least when you were afraid of us, you were afraid of us, not yourselves in different clothing. 


  • There is love everywhere, I already know

    I think the general response to this is "Hollywood needs films to make money, and there aren't any actors who are famous enough to draw in a crowd based on 'Name on Poster' alone that happen to be Asian." So... basically you shouldn't complain because Hollywood is trying to make money because they are a money-making industry that's become obsessed with overly expensive movies (ie all three movies you listed) and if you want to see Asian people being Asian you should watch non-Hollywood movies.

    Or something <_<

  • Don't forget Charlie Chan-since he's a hero, he was played by a white dude.

  • and there aren't any actors who are famous enough to draw in a crowd based on 'Name on Poster' alone that happen to be Asian.

    There's Ken Watanabe. And him being the villain in every single blockbuster to be is something I can live with.

  • edited 2013-07-24 13:35:57
    One foot in front of the other, every day.

    Ra's al Ghul

    Justified, I think, given that the general audience is led to believe that Liam Neeson isn't Ra'as until reasonably late in the film. 

  • Mandarin can also be justified as a fake Asian, since he was a fake EVERYTHING.

  • I'm not saying that it doesn't make sense in-universe. I actually really like Mandarin's reveal as a larger-than-life bad actor.

    My issue is that by attempting to avoid being called racist, they have done a racist thing. They co-opted our identities, our imagery, to make themselves seem threatening, legitimate.

    Asians can't be villains. They can't be heroes either. They're either teachers or a different set of clothes for you white folks to put on.

    (Pacific Rim is both a step forward and a slight step back, honestly)
  • Judging by her outlandish attire she's some sort of free-thinking anarchist

    Shallow fangirl moment: Asian leading men are also usually hotter than white ones.

    Hell, look at Bunraku - even pretty-boy Josh Hartnett can't compete with Gackt.

  • We do need more Asian actors.  Only ones I can think of are the usual chop-socky stars, Lucy Liu, and Kal Penn.

  • He who laments and can't let go of the past is forever doomed to solitude.

    My issue is that by attempting to avoid being called racist, they have done a racist thing. They co-opted our identities, our imagery, to make themselves seem threatening, legitimate. 

    In the case of Iron Man 3, the mere idea of co-opting the identity of asian mysticism to become a legitimate threat in the eyes of the western public does imply there is some issue at hand, but at the same time doesn't it condemn the western public for this appropriation?

  • Iron Man 3 was not interested in condemnation. You could draw a different conclusion about the movie, but it wasn't the point that the movie was trying to make.

  • BeeBee
    edited 2013-07-25 01:47:09

    Iron Man 3 was mostly going for the sheer WTF value of taking one of the most menacing figures in the mythology, building him up to be a slightly more realistic but still mysterious terrorist mastermind, and then revealing him to be some random drunken loser being paid for screen time.

    I thought it was brilliant, personally.  But even if they were trying to make a statement on appropriating Asian mysticism, it would have been undermined by said WTF value.

    I dunno, I'm not too put off by appropriation of culture in entertainment.  I mean, a while lot of Asian entertainment appropriates their own mythology as often as everyone else's.  It's like, half of Japan's repertoire.  If they're going to have scantily-clad Catholic nuns killing demons and Presidents in giant mechas blowing shit up, I'd say their own stuff is fair game as long as it's fun enough.  And how often do you see Chinese films where the bigger bad guy behind the first bad guy is a pack of rich white businessmen?

    I'd only get offended if they do it tastelessly, and even then it's usually less "I'm offended as a white American" and more "I'm offended as an audience member who wanted to see something that wasn't crap."  A shallow portrayal of Americans as sociopathic tourists is usually going to be awful regardless of whether it's a PRC propaganda piece or a Seltzer and Friedberg "comedy".

  • My experience with Chinese cinema is that we do more stories about ourselves than relations with other nations. We're our own villains, our own heroes.

  • I think I would have been offended by Hannibal Chau had it been anyone other than Ron Perlman, who 1) is Ron Perlman 2) is the guy del Toro would drift with, so his presence in a del Toro film is boosting to a large degree.

  • Actually, Hannibal Chau states that he got his name from his favorite Chinese joint. He's not actually Asian, he just adopted an Asian name to look cool.

  • The original version had him as a Chinese character, but then del Toro decided that the character was so full of shit that it made more sense to make him someone of another ethnicity just to make him even more full of shit.

  • Oh, he was amazing, but he's a black market alien seller.  He's an A+ swindler, that's his character.

  • That's my point; none of these criminals are Asian at all; they just adopted Asian personas to look cool, to make them seem threatening, to give them legitimacy.

  • The Mandarin isn't white either.

  • A. K. is; he's the mastermind. As for the actor who plays the Mandarin, it's ambiguous.
  • Ben Kingsley is Indian, so I don't think it's very ambiguous.

  • I'd like to bring up that with Iron Man 3

    the movie did decide at the last minute decide that Killian himself was the Mandarin, which kinda fits with the whole "advisor to the king" deal Tony mentioned before. And he was a white dude with Chinese Dragons tattooed on.

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