Mar 31, 2017

Localization and Racism Are Not the Same Thing

Localization and Racism Are Not the Same Thing
Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, and Other Adaptations to Screen
Travis Hedge Coke


If they had localized Ghost in the Shell for the American movie coming to theaters soon, I would’ve shrugged it off, maybe even watched it if someone else bought the ticket.

But, nah. People working on the movie had to keep talking. Apologists for the casting and arrangements had to keep talking.

“It has to be full of Americans. Recognizable American stars.”

One of the first names they announce: Pilou Asbæk.

“Some people in Japan were asked, and they don’t mind (also, they make money from this happening).”




But, it ain’t a Japanese movie, now is it? It’s an American movie. And, we’ve seen what a lot of Americans, some of whom are Asian, have had to say.

Now, we have the Death Note trailer to judge (prejudge?) that series by, and look: white lead! Woohoo.

And, we’ve got an actor tweeting-and-deleting that he’s “blackwashin shit” by playing a character on the show. Because… what? America is white people and black people?

Judging by TV and movies, yeah, it is. Or, at least, the rest of us are taught, repeatedly, that it is. And, here’s yet another TV show, a show that had a shot to fly in the face of that, just reaffirming.

Asians, in American productions, come from somewhere else unless it’s a joke that they speak American.

Localization, if it was being honest, would just be a change of place, a change where the cast are from the new place or regionally-appropriate places, alter some cultural or subcultural details. Localization to America would not mean “everyone’s white, there’s a black guy, and um… token tertiary Asian character, if we remember to bother.” That’s not America, that’s an American fantasy, and not every American’s, certainly.

I would love to see a localized-to-America Death Note with an entirely Asian American cast, and in the credits, “Starring: the American Community,” but that’s not going to happen. Luke Cage had too many black people per episode for enough people that there was actual stink over it. I don’t expect America to be that cool or to know what it looks like even when it’s standing in front of a mirror. And, Melvin Van Peebles might sue for stealing his move.

I don’t mind a mostly-white cast, really. I wouldn’t have blinked too hard at white leads.

But, if you start telling me it’s because the production is being localized for America, just pick your own curse words now and assume I’m thinking them at you LOUD! Because, I am.

That’s not localization. That’s racism. Just deal with the fact that when you reflexively - or defensively - believe America is white with one black guy, that you’re being racist. And, if you don’t want to be that racist, get over the reflex, get over your own defensiveness, and do something about it.

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