Quoted: MANAA Speaks Up Against Cloud Atlas

Jim Sturgess in “Cloud Atlas.” Photo via Collider.com.

“Cloud Atlas” may be artistically ambitious, but it’s also racially retrograde, according to a blistering new release from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans …

… “Cloud Atlas” missed a great opportunity. The Korea story’s protagonist is an Asian man–an action hero who defies the odds and holds off armies of attackers,” Guy Aoki, MANAA’s founding president, said in a statement. “He’s the one who liberates [a clone played by actress] Doona Bae from her repressive life and encourages her to join the resistance against the government. It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren’t allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often.”

Instead, it is Jim Sturgess who plays that role, while Hugo Weaving and James D’Arcy are also cast as Asian actors.
- The Hollywood Reporter

  • Angel

    Thank god for racialicious and your readers. I watched this movie last night, not having heard anything beforehand and spend the whole time trying not to cringe.

    I wondered if I was alone in feeling this way, and a quick Google search found me a lot of ignorant posturing about how we need to get over ourselves for claiming that racism still exists, and how “Caucasian is a race too so stop being racist to us”. It made me want to cry.

    In this analysis and some of the thought-laden and thought-provoking comments below it, I found some hope for western culture. We aren’t all lost. Thank you for that.

  • The Word

    Absolute racism. This yellowface was SO offensive. I think this was just an attempt for white males to co-opt “ownership” of Asian women (and every other non-white woman) as “belonging” to them, and encouraging them to be divided from Asian men . There were a few real Asian men in the movie, but they were basically extras, in the background, or, in the case of one sexual harasser, a jerk. The strong or heroic roles were reserved for those in yellowface. The storyline would have still worked if even one Asian man had been included in a strong, leading man role.

    The terrible thing is that there are some extremely handsome, dynamic Asian men in America, but American media consistently attempts to erase or co-opt their images – with the exception of their representation in karate and Martial Arts movies, Asian men are relegated to obscurity or grotesque stereotypes. As a Black woman, I understand how evil this practice is, no matter how some try to justify it.

    Recently, I have seen an onslaught of negative portrayals of Asians in the media – most disturbing is that this trend usually requires one minority to be demeaned when another minority group is finally being portrayed non-stereotypically. I noticed that is Cloud Atlas – Asian men being demeaned while Black people are (finally) shown in multidimensional roles. This was also a problem in Men in Black III, with an Asian restaurant owner portrayed very negatively, in juxtaposition to Will Smith. Hollywood racists never seem willing to have two or more minority groups in a production without casting one decently at the expense of another.

    I was also very disturbed by the love scene between Samni, the Asian female lead, and Jim Sturgess (one of the many male leads in yellowface) because we so rarely get to see two Asians in truly loving, intimate relationships.

    This is no different than for Black people – rarely do we get to see a Black man and woman in highly sexual, LOVING movie scenes, yet we always get to see white couples, or one non-white with a white – never a minority couple of the same race. Ridiculous and sad. For a movie that seemed to want to promote the similarities and mutual relationship of all people, they sure messed up on this one. How about respecting more people than just white people, and representing our humanity fully, as is always done for whites?

    I’m glad they only made $9.5 million on opening weekend of their $100 million production budget. Sounds like a well-deserved flop to me.

  • The Word

    Absolute racism. This yellowface was SO offensive. I think this was just an attempt for white males to co-opt “ownership” of Asian women (and every other non-white woman) as “belonging” to them, and encouraging them to be divided from Asian men . There were a few real Asian men in the movie, but they were basically extras, in the background, or, in the case of one sexual harasser, a jerk. The strong or heroic roles were reserved for those in yellowface. The storyline would have still worked if even one Asian man had been included in a strong, leading man role.

    The terrible thing is that there are some extremely handsome, dynamic Asian men in America, but American media consistently attempts to erase or co-opt their images – with the exception of their representation in karate and Martial Arts movies, Asian men are relegated to obscurity or grotesque stereotypes. As a Black woman, I understand how evil this practice is, no matter how some try to justify it.

    Recently, I have seen an onslaught of negative portrayals of Asians in the media – most disturbing is that this trend usually requires one minority to be demeaned when another minority group is finally being portrayed non-stereotypically. I noticed that is Cloud Atlas – Asian men being demeaned while Black people are (finally) shown in multidimensional roles. This was also a problem in Men in Black III, with an Asian restaurant owner portrayed very negatively, in juxtaposition to Will Smith. Hollywood racists never seem willing to have two or more minority groups in a production without casting one decently at the expense of another.

    I was also very disturbed by the love scene between Samni, the Asian female lead, and Jim Sturgess (one of the many male leads in yellowface) because we so rarely get to see two Asians in truly loving, intimate relationships.

    This is no different than for Black people – rarely do we get to see a Black man and woman in highly sexual, LOVING movie scenes, yet we always get to see white couples, or one non-white with a white – never a minority couple of the same race. Ridiculous and sad. For a movie that seemed to want to promote the similarities and mutual relationship of all people, they sure messed up on this one. How about respecting more people than just white people, and representing our humanity fully, as is always done for whites?

    I’m glad they only made $9.5 million on opening weekend of their $100 million production budget. Sounds like a well-deserved flop to me.

  • The Word

    Absolute racism. This yellowface was SO offensive. I think this was just an attempt for white males to co-opt “ownership” of Asian women (and every other non-white woman) as “belonging” to them, and encouraging them to be divided from Asian men . There were a few real Asian men in the movie, but they were basically extras, in the background, or, in the case of one sexual harasser, a jerk. The strong or heroic roles were reserved for those in yellowface. The storyline would have still worked if even one Asian man had been included in a strong, leading man role.

    The terrible thing is that there are some extremely handsome, dynamic Asian men in America, but American media consistently attempts to erase or co-opt their images – with the exception of their representation in karate and Martial Arts movies, Asian men are relegated to obscurity or grotesque stereotypes. As a Black woman, I understand how evil this practice is, no matter how some try to justify it.

    Recently, I have seen an onslaught of negative portrayals of Asians in the media – most disturbing is that this trend usually requires one minority to be demeaned when another minority group is finally being portrayed non-stereotypically. I noticed that is Cloud Atlas – Asian men being demeaned while Black people are (finally) shown in multidimensional roles. This was also a problem in Men in Black III, with an Asian restaurant owner portrayed very negatively, in juxtaposition to Will Smith. Hollywood racists never seem willing to have two or more minority groups in a production without casting one decently at the expense of another.

    I was also very disturbed by the love scene between Samni, the Asian female lead, and Jim Sturgess (one of the many male leads in yellowface) because we so rarely get to see two Asians in truly loving, intimate relationships.

    This is no different than for Black people – rarely do we get to see a Black man and woman in highly sexual, LOVING movie scenes, yet we always get to see white couples, or one non-white with a white – never a minority couple of the same race. Ridiculous and sad. For a movie that seemed to want to promote the similarities and mutual relationship of all people, they sure messed up on this one. How about respecting more people than just white people, and representing our humanity fully, as is always done for whites?

    I’m glad they only made $9.5 million on opening weekend of their $100 million production budget. Sounds like a well-deserved flop to me.

  • Anonymous

    The casting directors and creators were just being racist period. Daniel Henney, Karl Yune, Rick Yune, even Aaron Yoo (who was in 21). They had choices. A lot of these casting directors act like they have to do yellow face, there are a number of Asian actors in Hollywood. They didn’t HAVE to have a white man dress as an Asian, wasn’t necessary. Can’t wait to hear their excuse, if they’ll even be able to have one.

  • Kai

    Reincarnation doesn’t mean you have the same face and body in the next life. It’s a bit lazy to just use the same actor to show that it’s the same person… This is art! It is very possible for good actors to portray the same soul in a different body – it would be amazing to see that actually. Look at Doctor Who. Even though there have been eleven different actors in the role, whenever The Doctor meets an old friend they recognize him in his new body because despite some different choices in how to portray the character, there is always that basic idea that this guy has so much more to him than a normal human, so much more that he can only be The Doctor. Same thing in any show or movie where characters switch bodies and the actors are able to accurately protray that other character’s essence.

  • Kai

    Reincarnation doesn’t mean you have the same face and body in the next life. It’s a bit lazy to just use the same actor to show that it’s the same person… This is art! It is very possible for good actors to portray the same soul in a different body – it would be amazing to see that actually. Look at Doctor Who. Even though there have been eleven different actors in the role, whenever The Doctor meets an old friend they recognize him in his new body because despite some different choices in how to portray the character, there is always that basic idea that this guy has so much more to him than a normal human, so much more that he can only be The Doctor. Same thing in any show or movie where characters switch bodies and the actors are able to accurately protray that other character’s essence.

  • J.L.

    The problem with comparing Jim to Halle is that there isn’t as big of a historical implication of Halle, a person of color, donning “white face” as their is for yellowface and blackface. Also, you could argue that since Halle is half-white, it might not be as big of a deal for her to be dressing up was a white woman.

    Also, what kept them from hiring an Asian man and making him look white? While still strange, it wouldn’t be as offensive as it is for Jim to do the same. Also, gender bending can’t really be equated to race-bending since gender is a bit of a societal construct and people dressing as the opposite gender doesn’t have the same history as minstrel shows.

    While I have no idea of the Wachowskis’ intent is, it won’t matter unless the intent matches up with the actual product.What’s interesting to me is that they didn’t simply hire actors of each race and ethnicity needed. I understand what’s trying to be portrayed but I’m not sure if that was the best way to go about it. It’d be much easier to swallow in animated form where you can just have the same people voicing the characters.

  • J.L.

    The problem with comparing Jim to Halle is that there isn’t as big of a historical implication of Halle, a person of color, donning “white face” as their is for yellowface and blackface. Also, you could argue that since Halle is half-white, it might not be as big of a deal for her to be dressing up was a white woman.

    Also, what kept them from hiring an Asian man and making him look white? While still strange, it wouldn’t be as offensive as it is for Jim to do the same. Also, gender bending can’t really be equated to race-bending since gender is a bit of a societal construct and people dressing as the opposite gender doesn’t have the same history as minstrel shows.

    While I have no idea of the Wachowskis’ intent is, it won’t matter unless the intent matches up with the actual product.What’s interesting to me is that they didn’t simply hire actors of each race and ethnicity needed. I understand what’s trying to be portrayed but I’m not sure if that was the best way to go about it. It’d be much easier to swallow in animated form where you can just have the same people voicing the characters.

  • J.L.

    The problem with comparing Jim to Halle is that there isn’t as big of a historical implication of Halle, a person of color, donning “white face” as their is for yellowface and blackface. Also, you could argue that since Halle is half-white, it might not be as big of a deal for her to be dressing up was a white woman.

    Also, what kept them from hiring an Asian man and making him look white? While still strange, it wouldn’t be as offensive as it is for Jim to do the same. Also, gender bending can’t really be equated to race-bending since gender is a bit of a societal construct and people dressing as the opposite gender doesn’t have the same history as minstrel shows.

    While I have no idea of the Wachowskis’ intent is, it won’t matter unless the intent matches up with the actual product.What’s interesting to me is that they didn’t simply hire actors of each race and ethnicity needed. I understand what’s trying to be portrayed but I’m not sure if that was the best way to go about it. It’d be much easier to swallow in animated form where you can just have the same people voicing the characters.

  • imnotasquirrel

    Can people stop comparing this to Halle Berry in whiteface? THE TWO THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME. Good grief. And quelle surprise, I see that the Cloud Atlas movie stans have already invaded this post in the comments….

  • imnotasquirrel

    Can people stop comparing this to Halle Berry in whiteface? THE TWO THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME. Good grief. And quelle surprise, I see that the Cloud Atlas movie stans have already invaded this post in the comments….

  • April

    I think this is an unfair assessment of the film and it’s casting. I’m a little surprised that someone who actually saw the film could walk away with this assessment. How the film is constructed, nearly even lead in the movies is playing a different race or gender at one point or the another. Doona Bae’s (whom I adore) primary character is a neo-Korean replicant but she also plays a Latina woman and a white woman. Xun Zhou also plays a replicant, Asian male and a white woman (I didn’t even recognize her until the credits). Halle plays black woman mostly, but she was also a white Jewish woman and a Korean male (she was something else but I’m not sure what race she was). Could they have cast a Korean male? Sure, but if he was Jim Sturgess’ character, he would have been white for most of the film. How is that different? In regards to Jim Sturgess, you might want to check out the interview he did about his apprehension to play the role exactly for this reason. And btw, he was great in his role (all 6 version).

  • April

    I think this is an unfair assessment of the film and it’s casting. I’m a little surprised that someone who actually saw the film could walk away with this assessment. How the film is constructed, nearly even lead in the movies is playing a different race or gender at one point or the another. Doona Bae’s (whom I adore) primary character is a neo-Korean replicant but she also plays a Latina woman and a white woman. Xun Zhou also plays a replicant, Asian male and a white woman (I didn’t even recognize her until the credits). Halle plays black woman mostly, but she was also a white Jewish woman and a Korean male (she was something else but I’m not sure what race she was). Could they have cast a Korean male? Sure, but if he was Jim Sturgess’ character, he would have been white for most of the film. How is that different? In regards to Jim Sturgess, you might want to check out the interview he did about his apprehension to play the role exactly for this reason. And btw, he was great in his role (all 6 version).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1164481042 Mieko Gavia

    Same. The trailer was the reason I read the book, and I kept waiting and waiting to get to the part about a white man with eyelid prosthesis.

    I’m not going to see the movie, however. The Wachowskis may be artists, and the Matrix may be awesome, but I’m not giving hipster racism a pass just because it comes from a “classier” source than, say, 21 or M. Night Shyamalan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1164481042 Mieko Gavia

    It’s actually not all that complicated because the racebending they did in the movie does not match the storyline of the characters in the book. If they had followed the storyline the same character would have played Sonmi (Doona Bae’s big role), Frobisher (Jim Sturgess’s big role), and Luisa Rey and Meronym (Halle Berry’s big roles). They did not need to do it at all, which frustrates me even more. It was a deliberate choice to ignore the source material to do this, making the racefail even more prominent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1164481042 Mieko Gavia

    It’s actually not all that complicated because the racebending they did in the movie does not match the storyline of the characters in the book. If they had followed the storyline the same character would have played Sonmi (Doona Bae’s big role), Frobisher (Jim Sturgess’s big role), and Luisa Rey and Meronym (Halle Berry’s big roles). They did not need to do it at all, which frustrates me even more. It was a deliberate choice to ignore the source material to do this, making the racefail even more prominent.

  • LSM

    A white director with dreads makes a major racial faux pas should we really be surprised?

  • LSM

    A white director with dreads makes a major racial faux pas should we really be surprised?

  • Anonymous

    Wow! That is truly outrageous! That picture!!! So they digitally (or prosthetically) altered the appearance of White English actor Jim Sturgess to APPEAR Korean rather than actually cast a Korean actor for a Korean role?! Here what Jim Sturgess normally looks like: http://jimsturgessonline.com/images/albums/userpics/10001/FDMW_tiff08_press_040.jpg and here http://images06.alloy.com/pagesystem/5/86/5719/5719_slide1.jpg
    Suggestion: I think it makes what happened here clearer with his image. Just a suggestion. I don’t think many people know him (including me). I first thought: “Wait- but the guy in the picture is Korean, isn’t he?”