Why the name change for the New Su­per-Man

China Daily (Canada) - - DEPTH -

briefly in the fifth in­stall­ment of Im­pos­si­ble star­ring Tom Cruise.

Her Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble ap­pear­ance was met with back­lash. Her cast­ing was ini­tially an­nounced as “a ma­jor role” in the film, but Zhang played a CIA an­a­lyst who had no more than sev­eral min­utes of screen time. Many at­trib­uted her in­volve­ment in the film to it hav­ing a ma­jor Chi­nese backer — e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba.

“What you have are more and more fa­mous Chi­nese faces and stars in th­ese Amer­i­can pro­duc­tions, but only for three sec­onds. They still want to keep [the movie] kind of white, but they want the Chi­nese to back with money,” said Long Bui, a pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can stud­ies at Wes­leyan Univer­sity.

“So in a weird sense, Chi­nese fi­nanciers and pro­duc­ers have more say in Hol­ly­wood now, but that doesn’t mean that Hol­ly­wood is go­ing to com­ply and ac­tu­ally in­cor­po­rate more Asian bod­ies and peo­ple. It’s like a tacit as­sess­ment of China’s power, but not nec­es­sar­ily mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism,” he said.

De­spite pro­duc­ing some of the most rec­og­niz­able actors and stories con­sumed by au­di­ences around the world, Hol­ly­wood has had a trou­bled his­tory with the cast­ing of Asian actors in roles that aren’t racist or stereo­typ­i­cal.

The oft-cited ex­am­ple of Mickey Rooney as a Ja­panese man in Breakfast at Tif­fany’s is one of many in­stances of “yel­low­face’’ in Hol­ly­wood, the prac­tice of putting makeup on white actors to make them look Asian for roles. In the 1937 movie adap­ta­tion of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, two white actors were cast as Chi­nese farm­ers in a story about their strug­gle to sur­vive.

The por­trayal of Asians as vil­lains was also pop­u­lar in early Hol­ly­wood, and con­tin­ues to be preva­lent in movies and tele­vi­sion shows to­day. Early in the 20th cen­tury, Hol­ly­wood re­sponded to peo­ple’s fears of “Yel­low Peril’’ — a xeno­pho­bic per­cep­tion that the East posed a threat to Amer­i­cans.

John Dower, an Amer­i­can his­tory pro­fes­sor, wrote that the fear “de­rived not from con­cern with any one coun­try or peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar” but from a “vague and omi­nous sense of the vast, face­less, name­less yel­low horde: the ris­ing tide, in­deed, of color.” Mis­sion

Dr. Fu Manchu

The im­age most as­so­ci­ated with the Yel­low Peril is Dr. Fu Manchu — a cun­ning ge­nius in­tro­duced in the early 1900s. The Fu Manchu char­ac­ter was smart, but used his in­tel­li­gence to plot mur­ders and com­mit crimes, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the drug trade and traf­fick­ing white slaves. He was de­scribed as hav­ing a “face like Satan” and was por­trayed as hav­ing a mus­tache that many now re­fer to as the Fu Manchu mus­tache. But even then, in movies only white actors like Christo­pher Lee and Ni­co­las Cage played Fu.

To­day, yel­low face and ob­vi­ous stereo­types like Fu Manchu have fallen out of fa­vor, though white­wash­ing is still a per­sis­tent is­sue, where stu­dios will of­ten cast white actors for Asian roles. With the rise of so­cial me­dia, prob­lem­atic cast­ing is­sues have been crit­i­cized quickly, lead­ing to fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions about the place of Asians in Amer­i­can pop cul­ture.

Last year, white Amer­i­can ac­tress Emma Stone was cast as a US Air Force pi­lot in Cameron Crowe’s movie Aloha as Al­li­son Ng, who is half-Chi­nese and one quar­ter Hawai­ian. Crit­i­cism for cast­ing a cau­casian ac­tress for a part-Asian char­ac­ter led Crowe to apol­o­gize for the cast­ing choice.

Most re­cently, ini­tial stills were re­leased from an up­com­ing Amer­i­can re­make of the Ja­panese story Ghost in the Shell, which stars Scar­lett Jo­hans­son as a Ja­panese char­ac­ter. Fans of the orig­i­nal manga were up­set that the char­ac­ter was be­ing played by a Cau­casian ac­tress. Di­rec­tor Max Lan­dis de­fended the cast­ing choice, say­ing that there are no


The New Su­per-Man will be a Chi­nese teen from Shang­hai named Ke­nan Kong, mak­ing it the first time that Superman is Asian.

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