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George Takei Steps Up His Protests Against Akira Whitewashing

By Arturo R. García

Actor George Takei’s penchant for activism has helped shed light on efforts to protest the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Akira – first with the tweet pictured above directing fans to join Racebending’s petition against the possible whitewashing of the story’s principal characters, and now with an interview with The Advocate that has garnered attention around blogging circles.

Weeks ago, a shortlist of actors reportedly being considered for the main roles of Kaneda and Tetsuo was revealed to be composed exclusively of white actors – in spite of the original character names being retained for the new version.

In the interview, Takei notes the practice’s history in Hollywood, specifically citing the film adaptation of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, and mentions the folly of changing the characters’ race in another, more recent film:

The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans. The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it. I think it’s pointless, so I thought I would save Warner Bros. a bit of failure by warning them of what will most likely happen if they continue in that vein.

In an ideal situation,Takei went on to say, would be for the movie to be cast with Asian-American actors. As Racebending had previously reported, only 2% of Warner Brothers films from 2000 to 2009 had an Asian actor in the lead.

Not only has Takei’s interview with The Advocate been quoted on mainstream entertainment sites like Perez Hilton and Moviefone, but it also appears some geek-oriented outlets are finally taking notice of the issue: Newsarama and NerdBastards have linked to Takei’s interview in a complementary fashion, though Newsarama’s J. Caleb Mozzocco still doesn’t seem to quite understand the issue at hand, as he followed his link with this statement:

While I admit being attracted to the sheer insanity of casting twenty-something white guy Robert Pattinson and 30-year-old white guy Justin Timberlake as Japanese teenagers Tetsuo and Kaneda, if they don’t land Pattinson while he’s still  a chick-money magnet, I can’t imagine this going over well at the box office or in film reviews.

“Insanity,” of course, is not what this is about. But, at least people are talking about Takei’s statements and remembering that he’s been able to balance his progressive stance with his sense of fun: