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Ridley Scott has been criticised by the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans for ‘white-washing’ Asian roles in his hit adventure The Martian.
The film, which is based on the bestselling novel by Andy Weir, features a diverse set of characters, two of which are Asian yet are played by white and black actors on screen.
“This feelgood movie, which has attracted Oscar buzz, shouldn’t get any awards for casting,” said Guy A0ki, MANAA founding president, in an open letter released on Thursday.
The anger focuses on the character of Mindy Park, who is described as Korean-American in the book and played by white actor Mackenzie Davis, and Dr Venkat Kapoor, an Asian-Indian character who is a Hindu yet embodied by black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and renamed Vincent.
“Was Ridley Scott not comfortable having two sets of Asian-Americans talking to each other?” said Aoki. “So few projects are written specifically with Asian-American characters in them and he’s now changed them to a white woman and black man. This was a great opportunity to give meaty roles to talented Asian American actors – and boost their careers – which would’ve enabled our community to become a greater part of the rescue team.”
It’s not the first time Scott has come under fire for “whitewashing” characters after his 2014 biblical epic was criticised for using white actors Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton.
“I’ve got no regrets on anything with Exodus,” he said during a recent press conference for The Martian. “I’m very proud of it but when they start saying, “Well gee, shouldn’t Moses have been black and shouldn’t the wife be Ethiopian”, well I don’t know, I wasn’t there. And also, I would never have got it, it would have been limited.”
There are concerns from the MANAA that the choice to change the ethnicity of Asian characters is a continuing trend in Hollywood with Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton both taking on Asian roles in Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange, respectively.
“This insulting practice of whitewashing has got to stop,” said Aki Aleong, MANAA president. “Alarmingly, it has been increasing in frequency. Today’s audiences expect multi-racial casts in entertainment, as they reflect the multicultural environment in which they’ve grown up.”