Asians Just Aren't Cool Enough?

April 11, 2009

KevJumba (one of the most popular, subscribed people on Youtube) recently posted a new video, the first in several months since he started college. He talks about the whitewashed casting in the upcoming Dragonball movie, an issue that hits home personally for him as a big fan of Dragonball growing up. Seeing that video made my day, because KevJumba's videos routinely reach two million viewers, so he's reaching a lot of people when he's addressing the issues of whitewashed casting and the exclusion of non-stereotypical roles for Asian American male actors.

Near the end of the clip, KevJumba cleverly dances around the reasons for whitewashing by asking if it's an issue of cool-ness. Ultimately it's not about if Asians are cool or not; it is that Hollywood is essentially saying American consumers are so racist/discriminatory that they won't pay as much to see an Asian American or Asian male actor lead a movie. This explains why The Departed and My Sassy Girl were remade/copied from popular Asian movies, and why upcoming or recent projects like Avatar, Akira, Speed Racer, 21, and even Charlie Chan are all being whitewashed or excluding Asian actors from roles. Nevermind the fact that Slumdog Millionnaire just won Best Picture, that actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li have proven past box office success for Asian actors, and that Asian American actors are major characters in popular American shows such as Lost, Heroes, or House (before Kal Penn left).

On a related note, here is a link to an article I wrote about the unjustified discriminatory casting and whitewashing in Hollywood movies.


Alvin Lin


Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.



This response is fairly late but I only recently came across this blog.I think some interesting issues were mentioned here, however I don't think the the commentary on Dragonball goes deep enough. In fact I found this commentary somewhat ironic as I personally found the cartoon to be whitewashed. As a person who saw a few seasons of Dragonball when I was younger, I found it ridiculous that when Goku became a super sayan his hair turns yellow blonde and he becomes blue eyed, i.e. as he reaches a higher level he becomes white? That image a pretty powerful statement, which I saw no mention of in this video post or article. I mean if the Goku turns white when he becomes super sayan isn't that white washed, and how is it I am one of the few to notice that at all?While I understand the sentiment that Goku somewhat is a heroic/ superhero character that East-Asian youth can hold on to, especially as a minority population in a Western world, I think that it is a false image. It is not a surprise to me that a white actor was chosen to play this role, because in any case the character Goku looks 2 features short of being white (however that is a whole other critique on the anime style). I also don't see the reason for the resentment expressed by KevJumba and Alvin. If anything you should resent the fact that you were bamboozled from the start, because that cartoon hero wasn't really representing you in the first place. If you don't acknowledge and deal with the original issue, how can you go on to deal with it's product.
Goku is considered and perceived as an Asian because he was based on a Chinese Folk Tale character named Sun Wukong. He's name is a direct translation from Chinese to Japanese. He is also based on the famous Chinese Actor named Jackie Chan. He's clothes are also based on the Shaolin Monks of China.In the Anime no one notices that he's an alien until his brother Raditz revealed it(Saiyan Saga). Everybody thought he's the real grandson of Grandpa Gohan so they were shocked when they found out that he's an alien. So he passed as an Asian in terms of the looks department.When Goku transforms into a Super Saiyan he DOESN'T turn white. In fact his facial structure like eyes, nose, lips and jaw still remains the same even when his transformed into a Super Saiyan. The only thing changed is his hair and eye color. His eyes turn to GREEN and his hair becomes GOLDEN. It is a reference to the Monkey King because Sun Wukong also has Golden hair.So it is really a big mistake and an insult that they've casted a white guy to play Goku. Just imagine if they cast a Black man or a Chinese guy as Superman? How would you and the Superman fans feel?