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The Cloud Atlas Conversation: Yellowface, Prejudice, and Artistic License

August 17, 2012

The shock of watching the Cloud Atlas trailer, and witnessing white actors portray Asian characters, is that there is no shock. Because it is absolutely nothing new. It was part of the tradition of American entertainment long before Luise Rainer won the Oscar for The Good Earth in 1937. It was a torch passed on through the decades, from Charlie Chan to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Unlike blackface, yellowface has never quite fallen out of vogue. And Cloud Atlas shows us it’s still in-fashion today.


Above: Actor Hugo Weaving in yellowface in a promotional image for Cloud Atlas
If you don’t understand the controversy around Cloud Atlas, then in all likelihood, you are focused on the film in terms of its artistic quality. What you appreciate about the film is its grand vision: the sweeping soundtrack, grand special effects, universal concepts of reincarnation and rebirth, adventure on the scale of centuries or millennia.

So I’d like to make something perfectly clear: our concerns are not about the quality of the writing, the story, the special effects, makeup artistry, or cinematography.

Our discussion will be about social impact, culture, and politics. The nature of a multimillion dollar venture like Cloud Atlas is that it is shaped by culture and society. It is designed for the consumption of moviegoers. Millions of consumers will pay to see this film. The act of payment will encourage other films of similar cloth and make. The act of viewing will refine the viewer’s sense of pop culture, if only in a small way.

Ultimately, whatever the film’s grand aspirations (or achievements), my belief is that Cloud Atlas will eventually be viewed through the same lens as films like The Good EarthBirth of a Nation, or even Dumbo. These are films known to have artistic merit, that tell engaging stories, with imagery both striking and iconic. They are also films that are, in one way or another, formed by the culture and politics of their respective eras. They are deeply embedded with concepts of race, interwoven with acts of exclusion and stereotype and prejudice.


In a promotional image from Cloud Atlas, an Asian woman sits behind a barred window next to a sign that reads “Comfort Hives”
Luise Rainer’s yellowface depiction of a subservient and silent Chinese girl in won an Academy Award. Her role perfectly matched Western notions about how a Chinese woman should behave, a notion controlled and depicted by white faces and white bodies. Similarly, Birth of a Nation was groundbreaking in a number of fillmmaking techniques that we take for granted now: elements as fundamental as panning shots, the modern conception of a battle sequence, and the notion of a plot of building action and eventual climax. But its technical and dramatic successes are overshadowed because we, as modern viewers, recognize the racism implicit in the plot, of white writers and white actors controlling what it means to be black on the American screen. These ideas, plucked straight from theatrical minstrelsy, still form the basis for modern anti-black prejudice.


In a scene from the trailer, a white male character monologues about a dream where all the (Asian) waitresses had the same face.
In watching the Cloud Atlas trailer, the parallels are clear. As with these other films, we see that white creators and performers are permitted to determine what it means to be Asian. It’s frustrating, because the trailer suggests a story that comfortably meshes with preconceptions and stereotypes of Asians: of a futuristic world of high technology and little soul, where the “all-look-same” vision of Asianness is directly translated into racks of identical, interchangeable Asian “fabricant” clones. It suggests a world where white actors (in yellowface) and Asian actresses enter into romantic trysts–while excluding the voices and faces of Asian American actors.


In a promotional still from Cloud Altas, Asian actress Bae Doona cries as she is snuggled by Jim Sturgess in yellowface
We cannot judge what the Wachowski siblings intend to do with their depiction of Asian people any more than we could judge what M. Night Shyamalan intended in casting The Last Airbender. The intentions may be different, but acts of exclusion and discrimination cannot be about intent, but only about outcome.

Some will suggest that the racebending roles given to some of the actresses in Cloud Atlas mitigate or even forgive the use of yellowface in the film. This strikes me as tokenism of the worst kind. Placing a white performer in yellowface is to put a megaphone to the lips of an A-list actor so he can announce “chink” before an audience of millions. The equivalent use of “whiteface” cannot compare to the act, because there is no history of white exclusion from the American mainstream. In the last decade, 71% of Warner Bros movies’ lead roles went to white men. All other demographics – black, Latino, Asian, Native American, women of any race – have access to one-quarter the leading roles as white men. (This lopsided distribution is remarkably disproportionate compared to the demographics of moviegoers; according to the MPAA, in 2011, women accounted for 51% of all ticket purchases, and people of color were more likely to go to the movies than white viewers.)

All too often in conversations about race in the 2010s, it seems that the racial conversation is all about performing the same racist actions but justifying them with new words. The use of yellowface, or even blackface, can be justified if the director uses the term “post-racial” or “colorblind.” But an honest look at statistics and demographics reveals that our society is anything but. We cannot enter a “post-racial” world by pretending problems do not exist, by pretending that lopsided representation is justified.

Acting as an apologist preserves the status quo in favor of those who already have the lion’s share of representation, who “don’t care” about race issues because they are fundamentally content with the system. If you can see your race and gender reflected in 80% of the faces that dominate movie posters, then it becomes meaningless to you. It’s worth nothing. It doesn’t damage your self-esteem, as it does for American children of any demographic other than “white male.”

For the rest of us, Cloud Atlas represents simply another film in the long tradition of Hollywood exclusion. It has been a very, very long road. We can only keep the discussion alive, despite how much further yet we need to go.

Categories: blog
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About the Author

Mike Le is the Media Liaison for Racebending. A native-born Californian, he objects to shoveling snow and is a strong proponent of carne asada fries. Mike has been interviewed about media diversity by dozens of news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, BBC Radio, and Public Radio International.

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  • http://twitter.com/DarkMatterzine Dark Matter fanzine

    I love Hugo Weaving in many movies, but that image of him in yellowface is so deeply wrong and deeply disturbing. There are so many very talented Asian actors, why oh why weren’t they cast? I was looking forward to Cloud Atlas, but now… not so much.

    • http://www.plan8.tv Roanhouse

      You should know that Doona Bae will be in white face as well as Halle Berry for there characters souls who reincarnate. They are not just having white actors play asian they are having black actors play white or indian and asian actors playing white as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Atlas_(film)

      • happyappa

        lol

      • Mike Le

        I addressed the fact that cross-racebending occurs in the post. Please take another look at my post when you get a chance.

        • http://www.plan8.tv Roanhouse

          Then why not show the other pictures of the characters then that were released. You make it sound like there are no Asian actors in this film at all and all the “asian parts” are played by actors in yellow face. There are in fact 3 asian actors in the top billing for the film. I mean even Halle Berry plays a “Yellow Face” Role as well as a white face roll. Also have you read the book that this movie is based on?

          http://www.aceshowbiz.com/movie/cloud_atlas/photo.html

        • Anonymous

          To be fair, your addressing it came across (to me, anyway) as “Yes, there are also actors made up as Caucasians, but this contradicts my thesis so I’ll dismiss that as not good enough.”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Homig/766667960 Robert Homig

          Mike have you read the book? You need to if you want to truly understand what is going on here. It has nothing to do with the reincarnation part of the story. I am assuming that you have read it otherwise you wouldn’t be commenting as if you were so sure you knew what you were talking about.

  • Kar-nar

    I cannot understand why they feel the need for yellowface at all- it looks unnatural and is completely unnecessary.

  • Cee

    Making a movie out of Cloud Atlas makes little sense but the fact that it brings such discussion makes me sad when you consider how fabulously David Mitchell writes about Asia (and Japan in particular). Number9dream (not a single white character as far as I can remember) and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet are brilliant examples. As someone so involved with the Asian culture (and someone involved with the making of the movie) I feel like he would have vetoed the use of yellowface if it had seemed wrong.

    • http://www.elizabethkateswitaj.net/ EKSwitaj

      Authors don’t have that kind of power when movies are made of their books.

  • http://twitter.com/lilianajoo Liliana Joo

    This is s freaking unreal. WHY IS THIS EVEN NECESSARY? Shame on them -___-. I wonder if this was blackface, how people would react… -__-^.

  • http://twitter.com/MalikPanama NYC’s No Lark

    People haven’t stopped performing in blackface at all considering one of the cast members of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was in it in 2010.

    • Mike Le

      Very true. Still, I think it’s very rarely brought up out-of-context. In the cases I’ve seen it recently, such as Tropic Thunder, it’s very apparent to the audience that blackface is unacceptable.

      It’s become so deeply ingrained in our culture that film and television can play off that fact, either by very intentionally offending or by letting the audience “in” on the joke that the blackface performer is in the wrong.

      That’s a triumph of African American activism, which I hope Asian Americans will be able to emulate in the near future. As it stands now, yellowface is used in many films without such self-awareness, as evidenced by its use in Cloud Atlas.

      • http://twitter.com/RobotXRobot Robot X Robot

        I honestly didn’t know that was even Jim Sturgess….from a distance in the trailer I thought maybe the guy was an alien. I didn’t realize what was going. It makes me sad because I wanted to see the movie. Now I don’t feel inclined.

        • Anonymous

          To be honest it was my favorite film last year. I’m a black working actor in Los Angeles and know this struggle very well, and usually I agree with many things on this site, but to be fair, he is doing some bending of his own on this one. Firstly, this isn’t the wachowskis story. It is based on a novel, a great one btw. And the entire purpose is that neo-Seoul IS THE WHITE MANS VERSION OF KOREA. They are saying that the whites have been wrong this entire time, and unfortunately I have to spoil one of my more favorite plot points for the sale of you not missing an excellent film here, but the white man is in charge in the beginning of the film and by the end, people of color are the world’s savior and white man’s only hope. I understand his point about “yellow face” but even then, he is acting like that’s comparable to blackface, which it is not. Blacks built the very country we are living in today on our backs through our own sweat and blood and were then denied any rights to it. We were raped murdered tortured and ridiculed through all of this AND THEN black face was done to make us look awful and feel even more ridiculous with nothing other than malicious intent. The Asian plight in this country while existent, is not treated as harshly because to be honest, Asians have more respect and opportunities in this country than even the ones that actually built it. Access to better jobs, higher education, less broken homes, more proper families, better general credit and financial situations, and the list goes on. There is a very bid difference and him treating “yellow face” like its the same is a silly notion. I still understand his feelings and his points but there is nothing wrong with this movies intent, nor it’s execution. You should watch it. There’s a lot more that should be said but I’m in bed and typing this on my iPad so that’s it for now. I still agree with many of his points n this site, but not this one.

          • happyappa

            “but the white man is in charge in the beginning of the film and by the
            end, people of color are the world’s savior and white man’s only hope.”

            Okay, so why is the white man in yellowface…

            “neo-Seoul IS THE WHITE MANS VERSION OF KOREA”

            And do we really need more of this crap where white people take over other countries, romanticizing colonization much?

            Did you really just go there, saying that yellowface isn’t as bad? As it has been said before, yellowface is almost insidious, whereas blackface may be outright rejected. That is not to say that “racism like this just doesn’t happen to black people”. Which is basically what you are saying, except “It just doesn’t happen to asian people/it’s not the same as blackface”

            I would never pit pocs against other pocs, but you are doing it. You are undermining and dismissing how racist yellowface is and by saying it is NOT harmful, and we are NOT treated as harshly is trivializing, and racist in itself. Black people and asians are both dealing with racist crap from white people. It’s no good to say “so and so poc group” has had it worst.

      • BunnyOle

        –Black actors portray white, Korean, and Polynesian characters
        –Korean and Chinese actors portray white and Mexican characters

        But I guess none of that bothers you, since you obviously just hate and resent white people. WHICH IS HYSTERICALLY FUNNY in terms of racism, because China is virtually, what, 97% ‘HAN’ chinese (a single ethnic group, that would be like Europe being 97% Swedish) and Korea is the most homogeneous country ON EARTH, at over 99% indigenous Korean. Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, blah blah. Yeah, yeah, I don’t really see any theme of encouraging millions of blacks and whites to move in and start telling them how to act & how racist they are (which MAN OH MAN ARE THEY EVER – they’re so ‘racist’ they don’t even like their own race if they’re from a separate ethnic group).

        As a matter of fact, can you name for me the one REALLY REAL multicultural ‘Asian’ race country? Oh well, let me help you there, THERE ISN’T ONE.

        HEY; I’ll tell you what, maybe I could move to Korea and start bitching about Koreans doing Korean things and how outraged I am by Korean actors bleaaah.

        OH ‘yellowface is used in many films…as evidenced by its use in Cloud Atlas’? REALLY? How is this one movie evidence of ANYTHING?

        And again, remind me again how it was only the whites portraying other races that you revile so much?

        Oh wut? Here Doona Bae ‘in whiteface’ – but EVERY one of these STUPID COMMENTS SEEMS TO OMIT THAT FACT

        • happyappa

          you sound offended that someone would call out white racists.. like more offended by that than the subject of yellowface. While I personally don’t want any “color”face, your justification is mostly about how whiteface is racist, with a side order of asians are the real racist ones? lol really

          And saying that “EVERY one” of the comments omits the whiteface is simply not true. You can not compare whiteface to yellowface, and I won’t explain again as many others stated in the comments. But you probably didn’t read them

        • Kerrigan Grace

          Actually, the actress in “whiteface” in that picture is Chinese actress Xun Zhou, not Doona Bae.
          As you are clearly nothing short of an expert in all things related to the Asian experience, I’m shocked that you would mistake a detail like that, truly.

        • Kang Rui

          “As a matter of fact, can you name for me the one REALLY REAL multicultural ‘Asian’ race country? Oh well, let me help you there, THERE ISN’T ONE.”

          Singapore

          • Andrea Goh

            FINALLY SOMEONE ELSE.

        • Andrea Goh

          SINGAPORE. DO YOUR BLOODY RESEARCH BEOFRE YOU COMMENT.
          Singapore is an Asian country. It’s filled with Chinese, Malays, Indians AND Caucasians.

  • Sigh

    Clearly you haven’t read the book. Races have blended into one in the section in question.

    • Well

      Why did they only cast white actors with “asian makeup” then? Couldn’t they just as easily cast an asian actor, or half asian actor?

      • Anonymous

        They did cast Asian actors in some of the parts. And they had black and Asian actors playing multiple parts as multiple races.

        Connections between the people of different eras is the major theme of the movie, and having the main actors play people in multiple different eras is its fundamental conceit. In that context, and given the the settings vary from a transpacific voyage in 19th-century America to early-20th-century Britain to futuristic Korea to a post-apocalyptic world, there’s no way to make the movie without actors playing people of multiple different races.

    • incitatus-ebooks

      This just isn’t true– the majority population in Nea So Copros’ Korea is still Asian (note how when Sonmi sees the photo of the Caucasian prostitutes in the Pusan hotel room, she specifies that they’re “Caucasian”, indicating that whites are a separate race which isn’t the “default” from her point of view.

      And we don’t really know anything about the races of the Valleysmen at all (although just from the fact that it’s Hawaii, we can suppose a lot of them are of Asian or Native Hawaiian descent– maybe even more so than in the 21st century, since the Sonmi section seems to indicate that Hawaii was part of Nea So Copros)

  • crazy MMer

    the joke’s really on the 51% women and people of color audiences who went and bought movie tix isn’t it?

    lots of people just don’t care, but those of us who do should get the word out: BOYCOTT!

  • Venom

    Please tell me this is a late April Fool’s joke. This is beyond sickening. I can only hope the cast and crew are held accountable by society and never work in this business again.

  • happyappa

    Just curious, what context are you looking for exactly? That’s like not crying racist when looking at the movie trailer for The Last Airbender. Jim Sturgess is credited as Adam Ewing/Hae-Joo Im. James D’Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith/Asian Character and Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke/Female character/Asian Character/Tribesman. Look at the history of yellowface and how white people are made up to look asian.

    • Common Sense

      I can’t believe you’re using name credits from imdb as a basis for your argument, that’s possibly even more ridiculous than calling the film racist going by the trailer/a few images taken out of context.

      And I mean context as in the STORY. None of you have seen the film so stop jumping to conclusions. Yes, we were burned badly with The Last Airbender but that doesn’t mean we should tar all filmmakers with the same brush. A few people on here have now explained the concept of the movie but others are still ignoring the facts in order to jump on the bandwagon. This kind of trolling practice I find disgusting.

      As Medium shares:
      “But they have multiple actors playing multiple roles across gender and race. Halle Berry will also play a white woman for example. They explicitely say, that is a part of the concept.”

      Multiple actors playing multiple roles across gender and race. If you do a little more research you’ll find many more articles online proving just this point.

      And I know all about the history of yellowface, I’m Asian myself but I choose to use my brain by collating all the facts – and watching the movie – before I cry racist.

      • happyappa

        I can’t believe you brought up the fact that you’re Asian. I’m sorry that I’m an Asian who is offended by someone obviously doing yellowface.

        Actually, I didn’t take it from IMDB. Did you bother looking? The cast list is on practically every other site that lists the movie credits. Those must all be wrong.
        Also, go to cloudatlasmovie.com. Use the horizontal scrollbar to scroll through different images organized by story. You’ll find the Korean one with Bae Doona and…. white guys magically looking Asian!

        People really need to stop comparing whiteface to yellowface. I know that “multiple actors” are playing “multiple roles across gender and race”. So you admit to the racebending. I’m sorry it is so hard for you to admit to the yellowface going on though.

  • http://twitter.com/MediumN3rd Medium

    But they have multiple actors playing multiple roles across gender and race. Halle Berry will also play a white woman for example. They explicitely say, that is a part of the concept. So I think it’s too early to judge, if this concept workes or is problematic in this certain case.

    • happyappa

      I don’t understand why you are justifying yellowface with whiteface? Did you read the article? Whiteface can not be compared to other [color]face, as there is no history of it excluding white people from media. The brownface going on in the movie is just as bad, and I’m not sure if there is blackface. They should cast actors that are the same race as the characters.

  • Cee

    That’s not at all what I’m saying! David Mitchell isn’t just some White British Author making stuff up about Asia. He’s probably very aware of the implications of yellowface and how offensive it is. Culture matters because culture is shaped by people, everything matters! And all that might also be a narrative choice.
    Can’t we just have a civil discussion about it? I, too, am offended by the use of yellowface but I’ll wait to see the completed movie. If the characters in yellowface are meant to look weird, sort of alien, because it takes place in the future where races have blended, and where Somni (even if she’s a clone) is the most human of all (which makes me think that if Asian actors had been cast, people would have complained that they’re only villains). But people need to see the narrative behind all that, not just get offended by lousy concept art.

    • happyappa

      But you are saying that he is probably aware of it, and he would have vetoed the yellowface if it seemed wrong. If he didn’t veto it, then he must be fine with it? Just because the author is fine with it doesn’t make it fine. Also, like the other commenter said, authors don’t usually have a say about casting, but I’m not saying this is the case here either.

      Races blending in the future doesn’t require the use of something racist like yellowface. If it were blackface, would that be fine? So the people will also look “weird” in a “post-racial” future? Apparently in the book, it uses a birthmark to show the “different races blending”. They could’ve just used that, without the racebending.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/5ZXIEGCAFZ4F7LBI6QTTN3YJCY Ashe

      Keep your ‘civil discussion’ crap out of this site. That’s a common derailment tactic used by people to squander the feelings of those hurt the most by this behavior. “Just because the media has insulted and ignored you for decades doesn’t mean you should be so MAD about it! Sheesh!”

      People are allowed to be as pissed off as they please by this disgusting and cruel practice. Every time people of color see this, it’s like a slap in the face. And I’m sure you’d be right angry yourself if you got backhanded in the mouth one hundred times over, and then were told to be civil about it.

      There’s very little context around yellowfacing or blackfacing or brownfacing that can excuse its existence. Maybe in a blunt and informative documentary, MAYBE, but that’s not happening here. So who gives a shit? The more excuses we see for this, the more clarifications and reasonings, the more it stays around, and the only result is yet more people of color denied film roles for years and years and years to come.

      • happyappa

        +100

        “People are so sensitive”, “but there’s whiteface”, “no biggie this is just one movie”, “this is RESPECTFUL yellowface”, “racial blending” (aka default to white in -face)… It’s this same kind of garbage over and over, and people actually think they all are such strong arguments to justify the yellowface and other crap in this movie.

  • NanoBlacknology

    I mean for a skit or a comedic show. I surely dont see the problem. Though an entire movie? Are you serious?

  • http://twitter.com/SwimDMC Dustin Chisam

    To all the defenders: These are all the points you can make:
    1. The performances are played straight and are not stereotypical, a la Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
    2. All of the characters are reincarnated several times across all stories(as opposed to a few from the novel) so consistency is needed, and it wouldn’t make sense to not do that for one segment of the movie.
    3. Only one of these stories is set in a version of Asia, so perhaps, going only from cold logic, it makes sense to favor the races most commonly depicted in the other stories in terms of casting.
    4. Doo Na Bae and Halle Berry play white characters so despite the lopsided ratio of actors playing other races, it is still done the other way, and there may be more instances we haven’t seen.

    To that I say “Blah blah blah, yakkity smakkity blah.”

    It all boils down to the fact that yellowface obviously hurts. And evoking it rips the scab off those old wounds.

    Maybe if we magically lived in a world where actors never slathered on yellowface in decades past we could argue that it would be acceptable in this extreme case of a unique plot being made by filmmakers who are insisting on the same group of actors playing most of the characters in every segment. But we don’t live in that world. So the point is moot.

    The filmmakers are obviously in love with the idea of having the small group of actors playing the enormous cast, and there’s a way they could have done that without offending anyone- make a CGI or cel shaded animated movie and just cast voices. Or just cast Asian actors in the Asian segment and give them physical “tells” or mannerisms, along with the birthmark some had in the books. Of course, having seen V for Vendetta and what they did to Alan Moore’s story, that might be too subtle for the Wachowskis.

    Plus- the makeup is horrific looking. It reminds me of all those HP Lovecraft stories where if you look at something too long it drives you crazy. I feel a weird pressure on my forehead when I look at that picture of Asian Hugo Weaving.

    • happyappa

      Great points, I would like to expand on #2 since that seems to be a common defense:

      For those arguing that “racial blending” in the story makes it fine for a guy to do whatever they think he’s doing – it’s still called yellowface. The concept of actors playing different races across time does not make it right. Many of us are not ignoring STORY, but all some people see is story. We acknowledge this context, and the movie is still guilty of racebending. Birthmarking was used in the book, they could have done it that way instead of using [-face].

      Justifying it is plain ignorant and sad. I will not “suspend disbelief” for the millionth time for “artistic license”. It is a stupid, sleazy, and lazy excuse to deny more roles to people of color. They could have easily cast someone like Daniel Henney or Lee Byung-hun as the Korean characters, instead of a reincarnated white guy taping his eyes back to look asian. See how there is little difference from a non-reincarnated white guy taping his eyes back to look asian? And the screwy ratio of white to poc actors has already been discussed.

      These kinds of weak excuses are similar to the ones for Airbender to justify casting White actors in Asian roles. And we did not have to wait for the movie to come out.
      Airbender: But it’s a fantasy world! (fantasy does not equal white actors playing east asians)
      versus Cloud Atlas: But it’s reincarnation! (reincarnation does not equal white actors playing xyz race). Is being reincarnated in [-face] supposed to be believable? It’s insulting. If a soul transcends time and one is reborn as a different race, I sincerely hope shoe polish or scotch tape are not involved.

      But the only counter-arguments will be “but … the story!” right?
      I’d also like to know why people are using “But this isn’t a Hollywood movie” as a defense.

      • dickwad mcfarts

        It’s not a Hollywood movie…it’s independently financed and it probably would’ve been too expensive to hire an entirely new cast of Asian actors for only one segment of the film.

        • happyappa

          Which is why I’m asking why people are using it as a defense of the colorface. Your point?

          Cost, etc etc, excuses for yellowface crap. Guess what, there are independently financed movies that actually have asians playing asians!

          New cast of Asians? Well gee, why didn’t they just cast more asians instead of white actors, instead of doing white people in yellowface. oh wait, racism and poc exclusion.

          Excuses.

          • Derp

            Yes,yes… Once again, the film also has some “whiteface” going on. Don’t see a problem with it… Maybe you should not pick apart another persons piece, as it has nothing to do with you. Don’t like it?? Don’t watch it. You don’t need to inject racial issues in to every piece of work out there.

            Don’t have to be silent, but atleast have the common sense to see that not everything is an attack on race.. And even is it is, it’s still their right to express it. It’s none of your damn business why they used whites to play asians and asians to play whites.

          • Renee Wang

            “Don’t like it?? Don’t watch it.”

            Are you kidding me? It doesn’t matter if I choose to see the movie or not, it matters that this movie is going to be seen by millions of people and will affect how they view Asian Americans.

            And of course it’s my business why they “used whites to play asians and asians to play white.” It affects my dignity not only as an Asian American, but as a general person of color, and it sets precedence to how other races will continue to be marginalized in film and media. And questions of race are inherent in every situation, whether we choose to address it or not. Americans have traditionally been squeamish about issues like race, gender, and sexuality, because these are extremely personal and tough questions. However, this doesn’t mean that we can ignore them and “choose” which situations are “an attack on race.” The fact is, every situation that involves race is a situation that requires a conversation on race.

          • Anonymous

            This movie had no effect on how I view Asian Americans. As a note, my girlfriend is Korean, my grandmother is Japanese, and I live in Koreantown where I am routinely looked at with demeaning eyes. I love the Asians in my life, both the non racist ones and the racist ones. I go to an all Korean church, and I teach the Korean mothers and elders English on Sundays after we have lunch. This movie had no negative impact on my view of any Asians. It did make me angry about how whites tried to enslave the world, and for so long thought they were collectively superior to the world, but nope, no change in opinion about Asians.

            And it has nothing to do with me being a quarter Asian. As I said before, I appear completely black and I experience more racism with the Koreans in my neighborhood than I ever have my entire life with whites. The difference here is that the Korean racism comes from a lack of exposure to black people. Once everyone in my neighborhood got to know me, their racism and stereotypical thinking towards me stopped.

            I broke the hypnosis they were under all of their lives from white people’s version of black people being shoved in their faces without them getting an opportunity to meet real black folks like myself. This is entirely opposite of white racism which is generational hatred taught to them by their parents and onward. That said most people are exposed to Asian America and Asian America doesn’t exactly suffer from what black America has gone through. You guys don’t have anything to worry about. It’s 2023, the Asia’s are moving forward in the world economically and business wise, and Asians are looked upon with such a high regard in this country fit now its almost laughable that you could even begin to think this movie did any kind of harm. To be honest, I was mostly excited that a young Asian actress that I have loved for so long was getting international exposure and I was hoping this would open a bigger door for more Korean American actors and actresses that I love to get into our films, but hey…to each his/her own I suppose.

          • happyappa

            Well good for you, what about the millions of other people (unfortunately) who watched this movie. And as a note, using the “I have a [insert poc] girlfriend/friend” is problematic and adds nothing to your argument.

            “its almost laughable that you could even begin to think this movie did any kind of harm.”

            YOU MUST BE JOKING. Don’t you dare laugh at the racism, and at people who have every right to be offended by this. Oh with the Asian powers and 2013 you’d expect Asians to have it on easy street. Really, with attitudes like yours we will get nowhere.

            You stated “Asians are looked upon with such a high regard in this country fit now” lmao, right, tell that to the people who treat us like perpetual foreigners, refuse to believe we’re American, call us j-p, ch-nk, g-ok (among other things), and emulate the Chinese language with the HIGHEST regard of “ching chong” And that’s just 2013, what about years back. I’m not giving you a history lesson, go research yourself.

            “That said most people are exposed to Asian America”
            What does that even mean

            As I said before, it is obnoxious constantly stating that black people are the ones that have it worst. You’re ignoring the racism that other people of color go through every day, and are invalidating their oppression and experiences. Note how I never once said asians had it worse. It is possible to argue against the racism against your race and not be that way.

            Topping it off with asians are more racist than white people, you might as well be a white person pretending to be a poc online

          • kidlitfan

            First of all, the Asian make-up is very bad they simply “slanted” the white actors’ eyes and called it a day, whereas the effort made to make non-white actors look Caucasian was much greater (Halle Berry was unrecognizable as Jocasta, and Bae Doona as red-haired Tilda dipped MUCH less into the Uncanny Valley than Jim Sturgess and especially Hugo Weaving. Jim Sturgess’ Korean character’s proximity to an actual Asian actress served to point up just how much his unblinking, lidless eyes didn’t look Asian.) It’s as if the make-up artists (and many of the prosthetics were wonderful) knows what Caucasians look like but didn’t even look at a picture of Asians for reference. Marlon Brando in “Teahouse of the August Moon” looked more genuinely Asian, and that role is cited as horrific yellowface and the movie is over 50 years old.

            In the credits reveal of all the parts various actors played, there were many surprises, the make-up completely disguised the actors. But Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving look very much like themselves, and not at all like Asians.
            Also, “whiteface” is a ridiculous justification. Most actors and roles ARE white. It is very rare that actors of color are cast as Caucasians, even though there are many talented Caucasian actors who would be more convincing. It is not remotely common that an actor of color plays the lead while a white actor plays the wacky sidekick or the sassy best friend.
            I can think of one movie (“A Dolphin Tale”) where a white character was re-written to a different race, but there are plenty of movies (I’m not talking about the first half of the 20th Century, before we knew better, I’m talking into the 21st) where non-Caucasians of the original true story or fictional book are cast as white (“Argo” with Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez is another VERY recent example, at least the CHARACTER stayed Latino.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Homig/766667960 Robert Homig

            Have you even read the book? Do you even understand the context of the part in the book that takes place in a consumerist future in what is assumed but not outright said to be Korea as it exists today? “Facescaping” is a theme repeatedly mentioned in that story in the book where people routinely change their entire face. It’s an exaggeration of exactly what people do today with little bits of plastic surgery. Consider that Asians today routinely have surgery on their eyelids to look more white, whiten their skin, wear colored contact lenses and bleach their hair. Some even go to the extreme of having their legs lengthened. The author takes all of that ridiculous behaviour and exaggerates it into facescaping and considering that so many Asians attempt to “whiten” themselves it is in no way a racist notion that in the future that would be the goal of that facescaping. The people creating this movie made exactly that same leap. Ergo… If you really want to know who is to blame…

          • happyappa

            Wth, are you blaming asians for the filmmakers choices to do yellowface? If you think asians want to “whiten” themselves, then I’d say that is an EFFECT of racism, like what is going on IN THIS MOVIE. No wonder there are so-called “white beauty standards”. This shitty movie reinforces it by casting white people instead of asians to play asians.

            By the way, double eyelids, long legs, various colored eyes, light skin, and light hair are not limited to white people.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Homig/766667960 Robert Homig

            happyappa – I meant the author of the novel is to blame for writing that part of the story not Koreans for falling victim to “white beauty standards”. In these comments people often are blaming the filmmakers but they were just being true to the what is in the novel.

          • happyappa

            What in the novel is interpreted as Koreans wanting to “whiten” themselves? No the filmmakers aren’t being true to the novel. Are there white people with their eyes taped up to be Asian in the book?

          • Chloe

            Asians are not necessarily victims of white beauty standards and to suggest that that is what is to blame for the surge of westernizing plastic surgery in Korea is to show that you don’t understand much about the culture in Korea and throughout much of Asia. Many Asian cultures, my own included, glorify lighter skin for instance because it’s culturally indicative of a higher class of people due to it’s suggestion that you aren’t a laborer. Colored contacts are obviously a different story, but surgeries to adjust eyelids, lower cheekbones, etc have as much to do with our attempts to look less like the lower class (in our cultural perception).

            Also, you blame the previous poster for suggesting that asians are victims of the “white beauty standard” then suggest in your final sentence that “double eyelids, long legs, various colored eyes, light skin, and light hair are not limited to white people”, so are you saying that he’s right to suggest that we Asians are victims of this inherent racism to look whiter or are you suggesting that we are having all this plastic surgery to look like other people that have double eyelids, long legs, colored eyes, light skin, etc?

          • happyappa

            Yeah you don’t have to lecture me and say I don’t know anything about my own culture.

            Did you even read my post and Robert Homig’s? HIS POST states that asians get surgery to look more white (“whiten” themselves). He then goes on to essentially blame asians for yellowface going on in the movie. Hence my quotations…

            And I mentioned the last paragraph – just because an asian person gets double-eyelid surgery doesn’t mean they want to look white. I’m not sure what you mean by “other people” but asians can have naturally light colored hair, and naturally blue eyes also.

            And there ARE standards in society/Hollywood media where it’s all white, white, white, which is quite obvious when you look at movies, tv, magazines (see Vanity Fair’s Young Hollywood cover). Didn’t I say that the proof is in this crappy movie? Why cast white people as asians, when you can cast asians.

            How you even interpreted my post as the complete opposite of what I was saying is beyond me.

          • David

            While I did think it odd at first to see what looked like a white guy
            in what you are calling “yellowface” in that timeline, my perception of
            the meaning was altered later when I believe I saw what was intended to
            be a black person in the same “yellowface”. I did not read the book,
            but while watching, I got the distinct impression that people in the
            futuristic era of this movie had their faces redone or had been
            genetically altered for generations, showing their higher caste in that
            society. I acknowledge that this use of makeup make be offensive to
            some people, but I think it is doing this movie a disservice to compare
            it to the obviously offensive racial caricatures of the 50′s. If a
            person insists on perceiving or inferring a slight when none is
            intended, I would have to say that in most circumstances, that is their
            problem. To be clear, I would hold the creators of this film
            responsible for what they meant to convey, whether explicitly or
            implicitly. I believe the movie was meant to convey the idea that we
            are all more alike than different, no matter how we look, and that we
            must all fight together against the particular injustices of our time,
            regardless of whether or not we will be alive for a final victory.
            Those in power always want you to believe that your own life is the most
            important thing, because it serves to keep you from banding together to
            fight greater injustices. As Sonmi-451 stated, “Our lives are not our
            own (dual meaning). From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and
            present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” To
            be blunt, there are always evils in our present, attempting to take
            power over us, a little bit at a time, purposefully from the shadows in
            an effort to reach the day when they can control our lives from womb to
            tomb without having to put so much effort into disguising the cage. We
            cannot choose when and where we are born, but we can choose to stand up
            to the injustices of our time or sit idly by on the sidelines. While
            racism continues to be an important issue of our time, I think to
            complain so loudly about it in this context is to use racism as a
            smokescreen, obscuring a much greater message that is actually implied
            in a very purposeful manner in most of the films by the Watchowski
            Bros. The danger in this movie is that it suggests that while an
            eternal struggle against the worse part of our nature, however it is
            personified in a given age, may be fruitless in the span of one
            lifetime, the struggle must be engaged in nevertheless, because it is
            only in our collective surrender that the darkness prevails. It disturbs me to see so little discussion of these issues in regards to this movie on the internet.

          • happyappa

            [While I did think it odd at first to see what looked like a white guy
            in what you are calling "yellowface"]

            Yellowface is actually a thing you know.

            [ I acknowledge that this use of makeup make be offensive to
            some people]

            Ah there’s the good old “Why are you offended/you are too sensitive” comment.

            [ I believe the movie was meant to convey the idea that we
            are all more alike than different, no matter how we look, and that we
            must all fight together against the particular injustices of our time]

            So let’s show how white people are like asian people by putting the white people in yellowface. Us asians must fight with the people in yellowface against the racism in hollywood because that is the only way it can be done. Asians will be friends with the people in yellowface (who will take all the asian roles wearing their $10 scotch tape) because after all we are all the same underneath. We will all hold hands and sing about our similarities and this isn’t really a racist movie, there is no such thing as racism. That was sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.

          • happyappa

            “First of all, the Asian make-up is very bad they simply “slanted” the white actors’ eyes and called it a day,”

            I just want to make clear that like your example of Marlon Brando, the offensiveness has nothing to do with if the makeup is “good” or bad. It’s the fact that it’s yellowface.

          • http://www.facebook.com/matt.conte.37 Matt Conte

            Casting more Asians would mean doing the most racebending/-facing because there was only one story set primarily in an Asian world. If they cast Asians and changed them for other stories, it would be five stories of whitefaced Asians, instead of one storied of yellowfaced Caucasians. This isn’t an argument for yellowfacing and whitefacing being the same or equal in any way, just logistical.

          • happyappa

            Cast more Asians to actually play Asians. This doesn’t require racebending. And also yellowface is not equal to whiteface.

          • Chloe

            How is yellowface not equal to whiteface.

          • happyappa

            “How is yellowface not equal to whiteface.”

            I’m not sure if you’re just curious or you actually think they are equal,
            but when in history has “whiteface” ever been used to oppress white people? And stop them from having opportunities in media? When has it ever been used as something racist against white people? And a poc bullying a white person doesn’t count.

            Yellowface is constantly (and to this day) used in movies to deny roles to asians. Asians are also denied roles that are non-race specific, and can’t even play roles written FOR ASIANS (see Dragon Ball Z, Last Airbender, Cloud Atlas) So to say that whiteface and any “color”face are equal is false.

          • Chloe

            Seriously. Racism is racism and I don’t care if you get butt hurt about it when Asians don’t get roles or blacks don’t get roles or whites for whatever reason don’t. For instance, how it is pointed out in other article’s comments here that casting Lucy Liu in what is definitely a white guy’s role as John Watson is termed non-traditional casting. It’s six of one half dozen of the other. None of us in this forum have any right to act like we as Asians are somehow this massively oppressed group. Just because a few idiots in Hollywood do stupid crap like what happened with Dragonball Z and Airbemder, etc doesn’t mean that we are allowed to dip into the deep well of historical oppression.

            And you are wrong. We Koreans do have plastic surgery for two main reasons… To differentiate ourselves from what is considered in our culture to be a lower labor class of society and to look more western. Some of the people in this forum act like we aren’t just as damn racist as a whole as much as whitey in America is. Seriously, that’s just patently ridiculous.

          • Anonymous

            THANK YOU. You are the first Korean person in this entire conversation to make sense. My Korean friends at church “an all Korean church mind you…I live in Koreantown” and I talk about this stuff all the time and you just summed up exactly what I couldn’t believe anybody had the balls to say yet. Again, THANK YOU.

          • happyappa

            Are you sure you weren’t just imagining those koreans? “Well I’ve got this korean friend see. I make some great points because I have this friend who is korean, did I say that. Oh did I also say I live in koreantown. That means I do not discriminate against asians. Oh and I have a pet that is a 3 headed dragon”

          • Anonymous

            Nor is yellowcake equal to blackface. Not even close.

          • happyappa

            The more I read your comments the more I am coming the conclusion that you either 1) don’t have a korean girlfriend 2) have a korean girlfriend but only see her as “an exception”, 3) don’t have a japanese grandmother 4) everything you said relating to asians was a lie 5) discriminate/are racist against asians 6) practically all of the above

            It’s yellowface, NOT YELLOWCAKE. In case you didn’t see your misspelling, yellowcake is Not Even Close.

          • DC79

            Looking at the makeup, I would say most of the time each actor looks natural only once or twice. Its not bad, but its not perfect. Most look odd even when the character is the same race as the actor. So if they’re going to look weird four or five times out of six, why not go the other way?

          • http://www.facebook.com/nichola.frances Nichola F J Frances

            True; however, I think that Sturgess’s myriad roles should have been given to an Asian actor. That would have done a lot to balance things out, imho – Daniel Dae Kim, or John Cho or Parry Chen or Harry Shum Jr or SOMEBODY; Hae-Joo Chang is a more pivotal role than Ewing, so I can’t see the point of casting a white guy for those roles.

        • Brandi

          uh Halle and tom make 20 mill….

    • Anonymous

      I agree that yellowface and whitewashing hurts, and am against it.

      So why am I okay with making an exception for it in this instance?

      The novel Cloud Atlas spans several interconnected short stories starring a cast that is repeatedly reincarnated to different settings. Despite the differences in names, races, and genders (Could this be a personal allusion to Larry Wachowsk’s transformation to Lana?)
      they are still essentially the same characters.

      In a live action movie, to switch up the cast every few minutes for what it boils down to the same roles will cause great confusion to the audience and fail to develop any emotional attachment to the characters.

      I’ve seen two movies that attempted this before 1967′s Casino Royale, and 2009′s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and both were convoluted messes.

      You threw out the idea that to remedy this contentious issue the movie could have been all CGI or cel shaded movie? Do you have any idea how much that costs? Animated movies are the most expensive and time consuming to produce. Factor in the adult subject matter and complicated themes of the story, and you have a surefire box office bomb considering that no adult geared animated movie has ever been successful.

      Cloud Atlas is the MOST EXPENSIVE independent movie ever made. It’s source material was unconsidered unadaptable and the screenplay considered unfilmable. No studio wanted to touch it. It barely made it through as a live action project, so turning it into an animated project starring the most massive ensemble cast, would NEVER have happened.

      So unfortunately at the heart of this is the money, but unfortunately the world runs on it.

      • Venom

        You’re wrong about several things
        -Casting different actors as the same character has worked in a number of instances. I’m Not There, Palindromes, etc.
        -Adult-geared animated films have been successful like South Park and A Scanner Darkly
        -Why would it have “the most massive ensemble cast” if it’s animated? An actor can voice more than one character.
        -Most importantly, the drawbacks of animation and need for live action IN NO WAY justifies yellowface. It makes absolutely no sense to use the same actors because a reincarnated form would look nothing like the previous. Heck reincarnation (according to those who believe in it) can happen across different species. What’s their plan for someone reincarnated as a dog, a guy in a costume like Wifred?

        • happyappa

          Wait for it, someone will come and say that dogs are racially white, or for reincarnation, must be played by (white) people in dog costumes.

          I also want to add something to your list that’s been said on here before: “Financially motivated racism is still racism” – whether it’s to make money or for lack of money in production, etc…

          • Pot vs Kettle

            Of course the person playing the dog would be white…if it were a person of color you same people would be here complaining that the director/producer/whomever thinks that people of color are no better than dogs and forced them to play such….nothing will ever be fair. Get over it.

          • happyappa

            Actually, I meant that people would say dogs are racially white, because white is commonly seen as the “default race”.

            “nothing will ever be fair. Get over it.”

            lol how easy for you to say that. Think about WHY putting a POC as a dog would get that reaction vs a white person. Why, in 2012, it would still get that reaction. Hmm. Now look at Cloud Atlas. In 2012. Yeah, I’m not going to sit back and not say anything about the (color)face in the movie, because things “will never be fair”. You must not feel discrimination or something.

          • drytoad

            The US is a majority white. Majority of the money in the US comes from white. Most American movie studios are run by white. Most of the money spent on movies is by white.

            China is a majority Chinese. Majority of the money in China comes from Chinese. Most Chinese movie studios are run by Chinese. Most of the money
            spent on movies is by Chinese.

            Nah! It can’t be that simple. Must be racism.

          • happyappa

            “The US is a majority white. Majority of the money in the US comes from
            white. Most American movie studios are run by white. Most of the money
            spent on movies is by white.”

            And because white people (specifically white americans) have privilege in society they can just make as many movies about themselves as they want, ignore every other non-white american, and act as non-white characters… Thanks for pointing the racism out!

          • Brandi

            actually the u.s. is not majority white. white people have the power and representation, but you are not the majority.

          • Double Cross

            Considering white people are not the majority in the US or the original people of the area, then yes, racism is involved. The country only exists because of racism, can only run on racism, and only has its global standing because of racism.

        • Anonymous

          1. “I’m Not There” was a low budget arthouse film that received mixed reviews (That I personally hated.)
          2. The actors weren’t playing necessarily the same role, but instead were playing different and symbolic facets of Bob Dylan. Despite their strong performances, this was incredibly pretentious. (Oh the feminine side of Bob Dylan, the black child side. The white man encompasses all of this.)

          3. You’ve pretty much proved my point with the statement on animation. No SERIOUS ADULT oriented animation has been successful in the Western market. Only Juvenile humor such as “South Park” is able to make it with a niche audience. Other animated films that went the route of a mature and contemplative tone didn’t do well financially (Such as A Scanner Darkly)
          4. According to Wired Magazine and Box Office Mojo “A Scanner Darkly” had a production budget of $8.7 million (that does not include advertising, distribution, and copying costs) and took in a worldwide box office total of $7,659,918. Again, that’s not successful. (Still nice to watch after a few tokes though.)

          You’re right that it shouldn’t need such a massive ensemble cast for an animated movie. (Although as someone who can’t tolerate dubbed Anime unless Disney was involved I say HIRE a massive ensemble cast, if you have many characters.) I actually wanted to write something along the lines of “No studio wanted to touch it. It barely made it through as a live action project with such a massive ensemble cast, so turning it into an animated project with such risky themes, would NEVER have happened.” But I failed to proofread it before clicking on the post button.

          • Venom

            It was a limited release. So yes, that amount is successful when no one had the chance to see it. And it did get mostly favorable reviews.

      • DC79

        I know an animated movie would be expensive, but I had been thinking previous to that post how much I would love to see an animated movie like Cloud Atlas. Or the Fountain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlie.ly.5 Charlie Ly

    All of the main male leads in this movie who reincarnate are played by white men. The women actors who reincarnate vary in ethnicity. That bothers me.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/5ZXIEGCAFZ4F7LBI6QTTN3YJCY Ashe

      Oh god, I noticed this too.

      I guess women of color are just fun little flavors in the grand scheme of things, but white men are too ~*~fantastic~*~ to vary.

    • KZ

      Similar to the recent debacle at La Jolla Playhouse’s workshop of “The Nightengale” which took place in mythical China and had a cast of 6 white males, 3 black females, 2 white females, 1 Japanese female, and a Phillipino/Hispanic girl playing the title character. Imagine, the emperor of China being played by a white man. (2 in fact)

    • Andrew Slaughter

      Ugh David Gyasi and Keith David both play multiple roles and are pivotal to the story.
      I don’t even know why I am still discussing this with people.
      Anyone who claims this film as racist simply didn’t see it.

      • Guest

        Thank you. Through multiple perspective Cloud Atlas explores the problem of racism and inequality! I would also like to add that the actors, both male and female, also play roles of the opposite sex.

        • Brandi

          exploring racism by being racist. perfect!

      • Brandi

        why would you have to see a 3 hour movie when you notice there’s yellowface

      • Anonymous

        I actually completely agree with you on this point. There was a bit of white men/ethnic women going on without anything in the reverse order happening, but aside from that I agree with you. The film was making a far grander point that is being missed on all those who simply made rash judge,nets off of trailers

    • http://jadedhippy.blogspot.com/ whatsername

      There is a Black man who is an integral character but was not in the trailers who reincarnates several times. Including as a mixed race Black/Asian leader of a resistance movement in the future storyline. He’s definitely not a main male lead, but he’s close. That doesn’t really take away from your point though, what the movie centers around is white manhood, in the end. And Black and Asian womanhood. There is most definitely something troubling about that dynamic.

      • Anonymous

        I definitely agree with this point, although as u said, one of the male quasi leads was black. This point is much more solid than his other in this particular argument.

        • happyappa

          “one of the male quasi leads was black”

          ONE of them was black.. and not a main lead… out of countless white leads … wow what a revolution

    • tired of finger pointing

      A black woman plays a white woman – I am offended…. NOT. When Jackie Chan is replaced in Asian cinema by chuck Norris or Hugh Jackman does a Bollywood film THEN there will be equality in cinema worldwide. Why point fingers at hollywood – just because they are the biggest?

      • happyappa

        “When Jackie Chan is replaced in Asian cinema by chuck Norris or Hugh Jackman does a Bollywood film THEN there will be equality in cinema worldwide.”

        No, there will be MORE INequality in cinema worldwide. How is replacing more pocs with white guys going to make things equal? Funny, pocs are more likely to be represented in the media when they are outside of Hollywood/US. Well, not even in the UK, in the play Orphan of Zhao, where asian people play dogs and chinese people are played by whites. So, you’re saying that if more of this happens outside of Hollywood, there will be equality?

        White actors get the roles meant for pocs, and pocs get the token stuff or nothing at all. Explain to me how having more white representation in the media balances everything out. There is nothing wrong with pointing fingers, since Hollywood likes Tom Cruise to play a Japanese or the last white samurai or some other crap.

      • Venom

        Because they’re the ones with the power to influence how the entire world thinks. And BTW both Chuck Norris and Hugh Jackson have starred in Chinese films.

      • Brandi

        yep white women are so discriminated against

    • http://twitter.com/atomicsink Ryan Pierce

      What doesn’t bother you?

  • Terri

    I think this is a film for a post racial age. If we were living in a place where race didn’t play such a pivotal role in our society, this could have been a really moving story without all this subtext. I can’t speak for Asians, but seeing to the goal of the piece can make some things that seem awful make sense. RDJ in Tropic Thunder springs to mind (as an example of blackface). We could have just had a gut/Amos and Andy flashback reaction, but looking at the performance and the place that it had in that movie, and it made sense, and most people were even able to laugh about it.

    This sounds cliche, but thinking about what purpose something like this will serve to the story (the characters are supposed to meet across different times and places), and how it serves the story make this method make sense. But when minorities have been burned so many times, we tend to get on the defensive right away. I think the movies that will really hurt the depiction of minorities in the media are the ones we should be focusing on.

    • Dr. Nope

      Amen.

  • Silver

    Ever since I’ve read this post I’ve made an effort to do
    some digging. I’ve just finished reading the screenplay, and I would like to
    dissect certain elements of the story in the next few paragraphs. If you don’t
    want me from spoiling the movie, please stop reading now. Well actually, after
    re-watching the trailer several times, I’ve noticed that there were some
    differences from the script. I do believe the script I have is a legitimate
    copy, as there are scenes and lines that are much more similar than different
    from the trailer. I imagine there were revisions and role changes implemented
    during the production and post-production of the film. I say all this not only
    to evade certain naysayers, but also to point out one revision that made me
    heavily annoyed, (surprisingly, it was something different than the use of
    yellow-face.)

    Firstly, I must point out that there is a handful of
    speaking Asian characters in the script. I can’t say how many Asians or Asian
    Americans won those roles, as we all know now that certain white cis male
    actors were apparently better for some of these roles. Checking the IMDB page,
    I noticed two other Asian names that weren’t Doona Bae or Xun Zhou. I was sad
    to find out that neither of them were Asian American. A movie that is supposed
    to surpass gender, race, cultures, and genre, where is a single Asian American?
    A joint production between the Americans and Germans did result in at least one
    Asian, representing their adopted country; sadly he did not hail from our
    glorious nation. I guess, Charley Yoon, the Korean German is better than
    nothing…

    Obviously, all these characters only appear in the
    Sonmi-451’s storyline, which takes place in futuristic Korea, so perhaps an
    actor with an Asian-ish accent was preferred, but than why in the world is Jim
    Sturgess speaking in a flawless English accent? If authenticity were the case,
    I would rather see that whole story in Korean than in English.

    Surprisingly, however, the writers decided to put Fay Li in
    the script. If you read the book you will remember her as the strong Chinese
    female American in Louisa Rey’s story. Well, in the script, they downplayed her
    machinations, as they obviously wanted Bill Smoke to be the sole embodiment of
    evil. However diminished her role, I was just happy to see another Asian face
    in a different story that wasn’t specifically set in Asia. For a moment in
    time, I daydreamed that Doona Bae or Xun Zhou—portraying her. (I would have
    said Asian American, but at this point, whom am I kidding.)

    Remember I told you that there was something I saw in the
    trailer that bugged me? If you watch the trailer again there is scene where
    Louisa Rey (Halle Barry) introduces herself to Alberto Grimaldi (Hugh Grant);
    well in that scene, my friends, was scripted with Louisa Rey introducing
    herself to Fay Li. I doubt she remains anywhere in the story, because in that
    same scene there is white woman right behind Hugh Grant that looks like an
    awful substitute for Grimaldi’s real right hand woman. Perhaps I made a
    grievous mistake, and when we see the movie we will Fay Li. Somewhere. How
    idiotic I must sound, for the removal of a secondary character that borders on
    tertiary.

    Now let me nitpick certain directions the writers decided to
    go with Sonmi-451. Remember how Sonmi-451 had the final laugh in the book; well
    it doesn’t happen like that in the script. Hae-Joo is never revealed as a pawn
    of Unanimity, and actually dies for her in the movie. Sonmi-451 infatuation
    with Hae-Joo has now become an all-encompassing love for him. This love borders
    on needy. After saving her life, (a second time) the screen direction reads,
    “Without thinking about it, she throws her arms around him, clinging as a child
    might cling to a returned parent.” If this line doesn’t sum up her role in their
    relationship, I don’t know what does.

    Does anyone remember Adam Ewing’s story? Remember Autua?
    Well, his role screams white guilt all over it. Oh Adam Ewing, our sweet
    abolitionist, and wealthy Christian American lawyer. He is so noble that he
    would risk both his status and health for his best friend—who happens to be
    black slave. Adam Ewing, are you real, or another attempt of the Western media,
    trying to make amends with another plastic gesture of empathy? To be honest, he
    was an honorable man in the book, but the script just beats you over the head
    with this message, “Adam Ewing, like America, is not a racist; I mean for god’s
    sakes, he has black friends!”

    Lastly, I like to address the directors’ use of yellow-face
    and white-face for the film. Their use of this mechanic does not annoy me
    because it hurts certain old wounds, but because Asian and Asian Americans lose
    another opportunity to portray themselves on the silver screen. True Hailey
    Berry portrays a white woman named Jocasta and Doona Bae portrays Adam Ewing
    wife Tilda, but these two characters are secondary and tertiary characters. For
    god’s sakes, Tilda doesn’t even have a single line! The quantity and quality of
    these roles are abysmal compared to the roles won by Jim Sturgess, Hugo
    Weaving, and Tom Hanks. Why does Tom Hanks have to play Zachry Bailey? His race
    is never mentioned in the book, but his story takes place in post-apocalyptic
    Hawaii, which is, if you don’t already know, has an approximate Asian
    population of 45%; the biggest Asian population in this whole country.

    I believe the directors’ decisions to cast cross-racial
    roles, were to a degree, well intended, but I doubt it is successful when most
    of these characters are still played by white actors. If anyone knows the
    artist Ping Chong, he implements a similar degree of cross-racial roles in his
    plays, but he implements a level of equality that future films should endeavor.
    Only in his works can you see a black Brazilian portray a Chinese emperor or an
    Asian American portray White American soldier. Did I not mention none of these
    roles uses make-up to hide their obvious racial differences? This is how you
    truly add social commentary to a piece of work, because there is no way a
    simple layer of make-up and prosthetics can hide one’s true identity and
    integrity.

  • Eddie

    Is this satire? Are people actually upset over this? That’s really sad.

    • happyappa

      Is this sarcasm? Are people actually not upset over this? That’s really sad.

  • Mr. Nope

    There will never be equality in cinema as long as ignorant fools are writing this kind of red scare nonsense. The author of this article should be ashamed. This is in the same vein as the propaganda on Fox News. Boogeymen around every corner. Run!

    Vilifying a movie or an actor for giving a respectful* performance of another race is laughable in its own right. Vilifying a movie over a trailer, a leaked script, and a few screenshots, without taking the context of the film into consideration or even watching it first, is just downright childish.

    *Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans is a perfect example of a respectful performance. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a perfect example of a disrespectful performance. Context is everything.

    • happyappa

      “without taking the context of the film into consideration”
      Why don’t you understand that we are looking at context. Did you read the 2 comments at the top? How are you interpreting this movie?

      “*Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans is a perfect example of a respectful performance.”
      Are you kidding me? The book that the movie is based on is an entire “Mighty Whitey” trope to begin with, in the same way The Last Samurai was. A white guy learns the culture, and ends up being stronger, better, smarter than actual Native Americans (LotM) or Japanese (TLS).

      “Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a perfect example of a disrespectful performance.”
      Racism does not have to be outright obvious, as in buck teeth and “Ah so!” Oh dear, why don’t you just join the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and celebrate how respectful you think yellowface is.

  • Mr. Nope
    • happyappa

      Because Halle Berry is doing whiteface, it does not make other -face acceptable. Whiteface =/= (color)face to begin with. When was there a history of whiteface oppressing white actors?

      Are you going to cry “reverse racism” now? You remind me of Thomas Jane.

    • Mike Le

      It’s baffling to me, because I directly address this very defense in my post. White performers have ample access to roles. There is no history of black or Asian or other performers systematically taking white roles.

      Absent context, anything can be made to appear ridiculous. It’s like looking at the 1960s and asking why a bunch of black people choosing to walk miles to work instead of taking the bus. Why can’t they be like white people and just take the bus?

  • Shunan Zhao

    It’s ridiculous, I think, how easily people are offended. I’m Asian and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. To me, no action is inherently or blatantly racist. It’s all about the context and intention. For instance, Birth of a Nation is racist because the movie portrays African Americans in a demeaning and hateful way. The Good Earth is not inherently racist, per se, but the way they went about making the movie is. Casting white actors in Asian roles is unnecessary and serves no purpose. On the other hand, even though the movie Pulp Fiction uses the word “nigger” like 50 times, sometimes uttered by White characters, there is no racist intention behind the movie.

    In Cloud Atlas, in order to reinforce the theme or reincarnation, it’s important that the same actor plays different characters in different time periods. This is not so much of an issue in the novel since you are left with your own imagination. In a movie, it’s different. Either you are going to have White actors playing Asians or Asians playing Whites. In this case, both happens. There is no hateful intention in casting Whites to play Asians.
    This movie isn’t going to all of a sudden have large cinematic implications. Movies aren’t going to all of a sudden start having White actors portray Asian characters because this movie does. Most of the time, it’s stupid and just not necessary. Why have a White person play an Asian when there are perfectly fine Asian actors? They don’t even look very Asian in this movie.
    I know that there is a history of yellowface and blackface and whatnot. But, people need to move past that, and people eventually will. Nowadays, what do people think if a male plays a female role in a movie, like in White Chicks? They just think it’s stupid or funny. I doubt many people will find offence with it. But, we seem to forget that during Shakespeare’s time, all his female roles when to male actors because women weren’t allowed to act. The important thing to keep in mind if there was any hateful or racist intentions behind the choice and this case, there really isn’t.
    Also, some of the points this article makes is just ridiculous. Luise Rainer played a subservient and quiet role in The Good Earth, not because the movie is racist or wanted to promulgate racist stereotypes, but because during Qing China, women were subservient. It’s the truth. Foot-binding is the very epitome of that. Any other portrayal would have been inaccurate.

    • happyappa

      1) You could be lying about being Asian. This is the internet.

      2) When you say you are Asian, that does not mean you automatically speak for all Asians.

      What these two things do is try to invalidate other people’s arguments.

      “Either you are going to have White actors playing Asians or Asians playing Whites. ”

      No, you have Asian playing Asians, or Whites playing Whites. Do the
      filmmakers really think the audience is so stupid that they need a White
      guy in yellowface playing an Asian, to show that the White guy is
      reincarnated as an Asian? It’s a soul that we are talking about, not a
      white guy.

      “Also, some of the points this article makes is just ridiculous. Luise
      Rainer played a subservient and quiet role in The Good Earth, not
      because the movie is racist or wanted to promulgate racist stereotypes,
      but because during Qing China, women were subservient. It’s the truth.”

      Were Chinese people White in Qing China too?

      “This movie isn’t going to all of a sudden have large cinematic
      implications. Movies aren’t going to all of a sudden start having White
      actors portray Asian characters because this movie does.”

      Well, movies have been using yellowface for almost a century and will
      continue to use yellowface, especially if movies like this are made.
      Oh, so you think this is just “one more movie” that will have no effect
      on others? Lol, let’s just say that for every -face and whitewashing
      movie that comes out.

      “But, we seem to forget that during Shakespeare’s time, all his female
      roles when to male actors because women weren’t allowed to act.”

      This is about race. And this is 2012…?

      “But, people need to move past that, and people eventually will.”
      Yeah, let’s ignore racism, that’ll make it go away for sure. If you ignore clogged arteries, that makes it go away too.

      “Why have a White person play an Asian when there are perfectly fine
      Asian actors? They don’t even look very Asian in this movie.”
      Are you arguing for or against the yellowface, because you’re giving mixed signals here.

      • Shunan Zhao

        You’re right. I could be lying about being Asian, but that’s irrelevant. I don’t know why you even decided to mention that point. Just for the sake of it, let’s suppose I’m lying and that I’m actually an alien from Mars.

        “When you say you are Asian, that does not mean you automatically speak for all Asians.”

        You are right, I’m not speaking for all Asians, nor did I ever claim I was. I believe one is perfectly allowed to voice one’s opinions on an issue without the burden of having to represent an entire group of people.

        “No, you have Asian playing Asians, or Whites playing Whites. Do the
        filmmakers really think the audience is so stupid that they need a White
        guy in yellowface playing an Asian, to show that the White guy is
        reincarnated as an Asian? It’s a soul that we are talking about, not a
        white guy.”
        Actually, audiences are much more stupid than you think. I doubt there are many who are going to make that connection based on just the actions of the characters alone, or based on small subtle details. Using the same actors makes the connection obvious. We can’t visually identify a soul, but it is easy to visually identify an actor.
        “Were Chinese people White in Qing China too?”
        You are entirely missing the point, by a mile. I believe I even said: “The Good Earth is not inherently racist, per se, but the way they went about making the movie is. Casting white actors in Asian roles is unnecessary and serves no purpose.” I criticize the way they went about casting the characters in the movie, i.e. using White actors, but I do not believe that the portrayal of the characters themselves is racist, as this blog entry claims. The fact that the female lead is subservient is not racist, but rather it is simply portraying the way people acted during that time period.
        “Well, movies have been using yellowface for almost a century and will
        continue to use yellowface, especially if movies like this are made.
        Oh, so you think this is just “one more movie” that will have no effect
        on others? Lol, let’s just say that for every -face and whitewashing
        movie that comes out.”
        Let’s not kid ourselves here. The use of yellowface in movies has decreased dramatically over the years. Not that I agree with its use, in general. However, there are exceptions and I believe this movie is an exception due the very nature of the stories. What I see more common these days is “whitewashing” of characters in movies, e.g. 21. This is not exactly yellowface since now, the characters themselves are white even though they are based on Asians, but it’s in the same vein and equally deplorable. However, this is a different issue.
        “This is about race. And this is 2012…?”
        Yes, and I was making an analogy. The idea is the same. In the past, female roles were given to males (dressed up as females). Yet, we don’t hear feminists complaining about it if there are female characters played by males, at least not today. Hence, I believe that eventually, people will move past this as well.
        “Yeah, let’s ignore racism, that’ll make it go away for sure. If you ignore clogged arteries, that makes it go away too.”
        Here is where we differ. I don’t think this is racism. How exactly is this racist? Cloud Atlas does not in any way demean the Asian race. Asians are not portrayed negatively in the movie. Yes, they use white characters to portray Asians, but it serves a specific purpose. They are not trying to claim that Asian actors are incompetent, nor are they trying to claim that a Western audience would not be interested in Asians. Actually, if I remember correctly, only 3 white actors end up playing Asians. They even use African Americans and Asians to portray white people.
        “Are you arguing for or against the yellowface, because you’re giving mixed signals here.”
        You see, very rarely are things black and white. Very rarely are actions entirely right or entirely wrong. That is the point I was trying to make. For the most part, yellowface is wrong. Especially during the times of The Good Earth, it was wrong. However, I make exceptions and in this case, I think it deserves an exception. Here is another example that I think deserves an exception. Robert Downing Jr., in Tropic Thunder, portrays a method actor that would go so far as to even surgically darken his skin tone for a role. As such, RDJ had to apply blackface for the role. Now, they could have done this differently. They could have, for instance, gotten a black actor that has a similar physique to RDJ to play those sequences where the characters is black. Or, they could have rewritten the character entirely. But they didn’t and guess what? The NAACP even reacted positively to RDJ’s portrayal and the character. Just as there has been a long history of yellowface, there’s also been a long history of blackface, arguably even longer. The point is, the blackface in the movie serves a purpose. There is no racist intention behind their use of blackface, just as there is no racist intention behind the use of yellowface in Cloud Atlas. Racism is not a simple matter of going “Oh, you do blah blah blah? That’s racist!” You have to look at the intention.

        • happyappa

          I mention it, because it is a common derailing tactic.

          “We can’t visually identify a
          soul, but it is easy to visually identify an actor.” Yes, you can. You can use an Asian person (instead of Sturgess in yellowface) with a birthmark (and use it on the white character too), like in the book, to show the reincarnation. This is no excuse for yellowface.

        • happyappa

          Sorry, I submitted too early.

          “Let’s not kid ourselves here. The use of yellowface in movies has decreased dramatically over the years.”
          It has decreased, but it’s not gone. Don’t say “it will eventually go away” – it won’t go away if you ignore it. I wonder if it has been decreasing because of the anti-racebending movement and people are making sure their voices are heard.

          “Cloud Atlas does not in any way demean the Asian race. Asians are not portrayed negatively in the movie. Yes, they use white characters to portray Asians, but it serves a specific purpose. They are not trying to claim that Asian actors are incompetent, nor are they trying to claim that a Western audience would not be interested in Asians.”
          But you could use this same “not in away way demeaning” excuse for the Good Earth. You said that the character in that movie was not portrayed negatively, but the yellowface was wrong. How is this different?

          “Asians are not portrayed negatively in the movie.”
          The Asians are for the most part portrayed by White guys. It’s yellowface. This is no exception. And it is not acceptable.

          “They are not trying to claim that Asian actors are incompetent,”
          It is a white guy with his eyes taped back to look asian. How does that make sense? They could have easily cast an Asian guy, and in other comments, I and other people already explained about birthmarks.

          “Actually, if I remember correctly, only 3 white actors end up playing Asians. They even use African Americans and Asians to portray white people.”
          That’s 3 too many.

          As was mentioned in other comments, the white actor to poc actor ratio is basically 3:1 or even worse, with more white actors in -face. And like I wrote in other comments, you can’t compare pocs doing whiteface to white people doing colorface, because it has been used by white people to oppress others like black and asians.

          “Robert Downing Jr., in Tropic Thunder, portrays a method actor that would go so far as to even surgically darken his skin tone for a role.”
          It was a satirical way to comment on the ridiculousness of blackface. Cloud Atlas is not doing that.

        • truth_speaker

          reading your non-sensical rationalizations, it’s clearly obvious you haven’t read or seen “the Good Earth”

        • http://www.facebook.com/KevinWendt.CMT Kevin Wendt

          Smartest take on this very dumb & misplaced debate.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDICKBONRNKMR46Q6GEWPQUD64 edc_74

      I love how someone automatically expects credibility when they are part of group that is historically discriminated against but don’t feel discrimination. I also love this obviously, uninformed statement you made

      “Why have a White person play an Asian when there are perfectly fine Asian actors?”

      There’s quite a long history of White actors playing Asian roles and justifying it by simply changing their names. Or in the case of Akira, not. The short of it is there is segment of people that are hurt by this and in my opinion they have every right to be. Just because you’re alright with it doesn’t mean it is. You’ve given no compelling argument as to why this is ok.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5ZXIEGCAFZ4F7LBI6QTTN3YJCY Ashe

    B-But if there are too many people of color it’ll ALIENATE people*! That’s bad for marketing, y’know!

    *racists

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  • hana

    I simply can’t believe that anyone would actually think this is a good idea. What’s even more troubling is the fact that there are two Asian production companies (Media Asia Group and Asencion Pictures) who invested in this movie. How could anyone involved allow this to happen? I just don’t understand.

    • Mike Le

      Asians raised in Asian countries don’t have the same shared experience as Asian Americans. They experience themselves as the majority and see Asian faces portrayed in their mainstream media all the time.

      In contrast, Americans of Asian descent knowingly suffer from a lack of representation, and carry a shared history (and present) of discrimination and prejudice.

      For an Asian company, run in Asia, the depiction of Asian faces isn’t a priority because it’s absolutely ubiquitous where they are.

      For Americans like us, we are keenly aware of our lack of representation. We don’t always agree about the course of action, but it’s on our radar. That’s the difference.

      • http://twitter.com/francessoong Frances

        I had to look up more information about this and found this interview with Cloud Atlas’s Hong Kong film producer Philip Lee: http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2012/09/12/the-challenges-of-making-cloud-atlas/. Read another interview more focused on himself here: http://www.filmthreat.com/interviews/958/.

        Honestly, I think it’s a brilliant film marketing tactic. To intentionally rouse up the issues around race and representation in film and media by so blatantly using whiteface, blackface, brownface, yellowface to tell the story of reincarnation. Then making a trailer that so prominently showcases the yellowface stereotypes. It’s simply brilliant. Brilliant marketing through brilliant controversy.

        And it’s working.

        The trailer has shocked Mike Le to the point of writing this article, which has pretty much gone viral. Led people like me here to look up more information about the movie, which I didn’t know existed before. And now, I want to read the original book. I want to remember when it’s coming out and I want to find out what the final message the released movie will make about race and its representation in media.

        • Mike Le

          Frances, I strongly suspect you’re giving the filmmakers too much credit. I don’t think they’re going out of their way to be controversial or to make any particular statement about race.

          Rather, it seems they had a story device they very much wanted to use, and deployed it. It’s an excellent demonstration of how no malice can be involved and a work can still end up being hugely problematic.

          It’s nice that you were interested in this issue, but I think you’re vastly overestimating how much the American public peruses blogs like ours. The race discussion hasn’t entered into 95%+ of the reviews of the film so far. It’s a non-factor, though we’re aiming to change that.

          • http://twitter.com/francessoong Frances

            Very late reply. But you’re likely right my giving the filmmakers too much credit in my original gushing post. Though I have to say that I personally know people involved in the Entertainment, production, and web industries whose jobs are to engage interest in blogs like yours. And then other people who curate content from blogs just like this for social media exposure, which ALOT of people peruse and is also how I came across this discussion in the first place.

            From my observation, the depiction of race—particularly more of the commonly-known “model-minority”, is becoming an increasingly trending discussion. If feedback on Avatar: the Last Airbender (on this website particularly), college admission policies, posters I see on bus stops likes this one: http://spaces.ucsd.edu/candlelight/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/model-minority-flyer.png are any indication…

        • Frances Haole

          And you are a not-so-bright apologist, Frances. I’m sure you’ll be the first fan the producers would welcome among the myriad tokens they will need to save face with. And bring your fan–they’ll insist that you blink rapidly and giggle behind it.

          • http://twitter.com/francessoong Frances

            I never went to watch the movie in the end. Though, other Frances, if you did, I hope you found it as singularly hateful as you need it to be.

            I don’t apologize for my comments. Nor for racism.

  • Eliot

    I am so beyond angry. I absolutely cannot believe they would do this. i am white and I am as offended by this as anyone could possibly be. I seriously wish I could do something to stop this from happening. I wished I lived in LA so I could protest this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.gilchrist Todd Gilchrist

    Having actually seen the film, I disagree with your assessment, but I’m not suggesting you’re wrong if you believe this is an offensive or inappropriate portrayal of Asian characters or actors. But I have two small points to make — which if you’re determined to be outraged pre-emptively then I can’t and won’t try to dissuade you:

    1. As many have noted, these characters are effectively reincarnated at different time and in different places, and as the deliberate throughline of the film is the reinvention of the body with the same soul, it is appropriate thematically and visually to have the same actor play their character at various times and yes, in various ethnicities. It’s not a matter of “blending,” it’s one of these characters’ souls continuing through a different physical form (such as something more immediately relevant to the wachowskis, like, say, lana’s gender reassignment surgery) but in a larger, science-fiction context.

    2. This article while thorough, well-written and insightful, seems to be pre-emptively outraged at what the film is trying to say and do. Short of seeing a clip in which Jim Sturgess bows and says “ah-so!” it seems like you would have more ammunition/ information to build your argument if you actually waited until the film came out and then dissected it as a whole. Because what you’re doing with this article unfortunately is the opposite of what you claimed in the opening paragraphs — you’re examining the intention rather than the outcome, because clearly you haven’t yet seen the outcome.

    Again, I respect your analysis of the trailer, but I respectfully disagree with it. But unless it’s considered simply anathema for any non-Asian person to play
    an Asian role under any and all circumstances, regardless how sincerely
    or respectfully (or pointedly) it’s done, I look forward to your analysis when the film comes out as I suspect you may have a different perspective on it as a whole piece.

    • happyappa

      Wow, so you’ve seen the movie and you still don’t get it.

      “the reinvention of the body with the same soul, it is appropriate
      thematically and visually to have the same actor play their character”
      Once again, using art as an excuse for yellowface.

      “if you’re determined to be outraged pre-emptively”
      There is a real reason why we are upset, it is not a sensitivity or “jumping the gun”.

      “But unless it’s considered simply anathema for any non-Asian person to play
      an Asian role under any and all circumstances, regardless how sincerely
      or respectfully (or pointedly) it’s done,”

      When is yellowface RESPECTFUL? You’re like that other person who thought Day-Lewis in LoTM was respectful. Why is it that whenever people are pro (color)face, they come up with these nonsensical circumstances as justifications?

      • Anonymous

        Not relevant to the main point, but Daniel Day-Lewis was playing Hawkeye, who is a white man raised by Native parents. Hawkeye as written by James Fenimore Cooper never had Native blood, so the character’s ethnicity was not changed.

        • happyappa

          Yes, I said that in another comment somewhere, who knows where it is now – another person was under the impression that it was redface, though it’s not, and they were still trying to justify it.

  • BlackActor

    Alright… I’m jumping in. First of all I am a Black American. And I am from a very racist small town in Kentucky. I am also a working actor/model in NYC and I deal with Caucasian casting directors and producers on a daily basis. With all of that compounded I have had my fair share of experiences. I agree with arguments that I have read on both sides. And I will offer my opinion on some of these based on the experiences that I’ve had in both my professional and personal life.
    Here goes: Firstly white people are, for the most part, are extremely ignorant as in regard to racial concerns of minorities bc they have never had to deal with it. This particularly holds true in reference to white men. (At least white woman can empathize and understand what it is like to be demeaned and excluded) I completely understand the argument of a lack of Asian Americans being cast. But let me tell you that white people do not see the difference. They simply don’t. They honestly believe that casting an Asian period is fine. The same as they think “casting a black person is casting a black person” They aren’t going to differentiate between what country she/he is from and they rarely consider appropriately casting in regard to the source text. For example they will cast a famous black actor from England in a role that is about an American Slave. Or the way Chinese actors were cast for “Memoirs of a Geisha”. They just can’t wrap their heads around the difference. I don’t know how to fix that. Perhaps there should be some law in regard to hiring a casting consultant.
    I must say that this is a “special” film. And agree with the guy that argues in favor of intent. They knew what they were doing and they were doing it for a visual/ artistic purpose. Which has been well stated- the theme of reincarnation that pervades the book. They wanted you to look at the film and wonder “wait? is that Halle Berry? Is that Hugo Weaving? Oh wow… thats Doona Bae… etc.” This is for no other reason than to add a layer to the movie going experience. They wanted you to say “Wow or Cool” hopefully it works. They knew exactly what they were doing/getting into. So it’s not like they were purposefully excluding actors of certain races due to ignorance or hatred/dislike of that particular race. Remember that this was a very huge undertaking and ambitious film to create. Also I must piggyback on the statement that someone else said about audiences being stupid. Well, they are. Most people are not clever or free thinking. Most people can’t even get through these discussions. And that includes EVERY race. I think the issue is kind of leaning a bit toward the fact that they didn’t have to do the “same actor thing” . This is true. They could have simply connected the characters via the comet shaped birthmark and the perhaps similar characteristics and or lines throughout the script. I personally thought it was kind of cool. Their are plenty of times that I get offended on a daily basis by breakdowns I read for roles and parts I go up for in movies commercials and plays. I just shot a commercial 2 days ago where, once again, i was the token black guy. No lines…nothing to really do but just be there and smile. A promise I can make to you: It will NOT be changed from the outside folks. The people making the decisions are white men for the most part and they are going to continue to make decisions that are compelling to them and that have worked/ been lucrative in the past. Until more minorities get inside of the business and start directing, producing, writing and casting it will, for the most part be the same. Sure there will be spurts of change here and there…but it will always come back to what people know and are comfortable with. Gotta run for now but invite any constructive criticisms or praise for my thoughts. Always up to learn what people think. Thanks

    • Venom

      I really don’t think more minorities behind the camera is going to help. A lot of the whitewashing is coming from minority directors. M Night Shyamalan, James Wong, and now even Spike Lee. And whites CAN make works that star people of color. Mike and Bryan with Avatar, George Lucas with Red Tails, Danny Boyle wirh Slumdog Millionaire etc.

    • http://twitter.com/MangoHeed Isolavalentine

      ” For example they will cast a famous black actor from England in a role that is about an American Slave.”

      Ummm you *do* know that a lot of us Black people in the UK are descendants of slaves, right? Also the character that that actor portrays isn’t American or even Afrian he is from the Chatham Islands… near New Zealand. Meaning he is Polynesian.

      • Brandi

        but the point is Hollywood would rather have foreign black actors.

        • http://twitter.com/MangoHeid Isolavalentine

          You don’t really believe that do you? Just a few seconds browsing imdb could disprove that.

          It’s just because there is less opportunity in Europe (or the UK since that’s my reference point) for black actors so they are doing what white actors have been doing for years and giving Hollywood a try.

    • Brandi

      there is no listening to both sides. one side is racist.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDICKBONRNKMR46Q6GEWPQUD64 edc_74

    Oh wait. That’s supposed to be Asian? I thought that dude was a Romulan or Vulcan

    • http://twitter.com/francessoong Frances

      LOL. Also your comments below are also PERFECTLY on point.

      “I love how someone automatically expects credibility when they are part of group that is historically discriminated against but don’t feel discrimination.”
      THIS is something I felt for so long but have never been able to properly communicate.

    • Alicia Kistner

      Immediately I thought Zachary Quinto as Spock. Not a human being.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDICKBONRNKMR46Q6GEWPQUD64 edc_74

    What exactly is ‘taken out of context’? There simply is no justification to it. You can read the book or watch the film 100X it still will not make any sense. Even the whole concept of reincarnation into a doppelganger is an interpretation (albeit contemporary) of the belief. In short this is an artistic failure with racial implications

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amos-Smith/1661593683 Amos Smith

    So…if Asians think they can do a better job, why don’t they? Instead of running to mommy and daddy whenever something you don’t like happens without your permission, how about you put your money where you mouth is make your own goddamn blockbuster movie?

    Oh, wait! Because you’re all too pussy to take a chance and want someone else to do it!

    Asian Americans, put up the cash to make your own blockbuster movie or shut up and enjoy the movie white people made for their personal enjoyment, and you’re just along because you’ve got nothing else better to do, besides going to Racebending.com and bitching.

    • happyappa

      LOL, are you seriously BLAMING THE VICTIMS?

    • Mike Le

      Asian Americans have a growing and proud tradition of funding our own independent films. We will definitely continue to fight for our representation by producing our own work and controlling our own imagery.

      That being said, activism doesn’t have to come from any one angle. As much as it’s important for us to produce our own work, it’s also important for us to stand up to inequality in Hollywood.

      As consumers, we are tasked with choosing what films to support with our hard-earned cash. This is our loudest way of speaking, and my post is about why we should exercise our right to reject offensive imagery like this. This is why I won’t be spending a single penny on Cloud Atlas.

      And I choose to exercise my right to free speech and share my fervent desire that others reject Cloud Atlas, and yellowface.

      These are the same tools the African American community has used to such success in the past, in creating an effective “cultural ban” on blackface. Nothing’s written down, but we all have a shared understanding that blackface is offensive and wrong, which is why it’s almost never depicted now – excepting cases where the audience is “in” on the knowledge that the very act is offensive.

      There’s no such self-awareness with yellowface and we’ll never achieve it without speaking out on it. We follow in the footsteps of civil rights activists who have come before us, in trying to change that.

      • Ian Cormac

        So you won’t go and see it and make a balanced decision? You remind of an anecdote from David Chase, creator of The Soprano’s – he decided to meet with Italian-American anti-defamation league to discuss their complaints. Turns out none of the members IAADL had even seen a single minute of footage of The Sopranos, it had simply been summarised to them.

    • Ashe

      Mmm, the ‘make your own blockbuster movies or stop complaining’ argument.

      So easily overturned and dissected.

      Like the fact that bringing light to the issue and discussing it and protesting it IS a form of action, not mindless complaining. Amongst other things. Like, you probably wouldn’t tell a sick person to fund their own clinic if they got screwed over by their insurance company.

      That’s an assumption, anyway. You don’t seem the considerate type.

    • DC79

      Last time I checked, filmmakers, including ones of Asian descent have to ask for money to get movies made, via either private investors or the studio system. Neither are under any obligation to say “Yes.” It’s hard enough to get Asians cast as Asian characters in movies based on true stories.

  • The Dude

    I was looking forward to this film especially after i saw there were going to be Tom Hanks and asian actors in it. now… eh, not so muchee…

  • Oppressive Ignorant White Guy

    Couple of points:

    1) European + American moviemakers = dipping into a vastly white actor pool

    They simply weren’t going to expend the resources to find enough Asian actors in key roles to make everyone happy. They had a hard enough time getting the movie into production. The Wachowskis bringing back Hugo Weaving from The Matrix as their villain should be a clue. This happens all the time in situations with no racial implications.

    The real issue there is the apparent lack of opportunity for Asian actors to penetrate the ranks of Hollywood and command bigger or more consistent roles. Who knows how many Asian males even got to the point where they tried out for roles in Cloud Atlas? There’s an honest chance that NONE did, which would make the 2 Asian female leads pretty significant, or else there could have been an entirely white/black cast despite the Orison of Sonmi-451 chapter.

    2) Between the author and many commenters, people REALLY need to ease off the double standards. For example, how can anyone command respect when they dismiss the “whiteface” aspect of the film due to a lack of historical context? Since when does racism demand historical context? Saying “I hate blacks because they steal things” has ZERO historical context (or any context), but is terribly racist, ignorant, and offensive. The existence of historical context for something is not an exclusivity. I could find plenty of reasons to be offended by “whiteface” based on the logic (or lack thereof) being used here.

    I also see phrases like “people of color” (really?! Is this the 1950s?) and that “white people don’t get it”. All of this is racism, alive and well. And the fact that even the supposedly offended people don’t see what they’re doing just tells me racism will never die.

    • happyappa

      1) “Who knows how many Asian males even got to the point where they tried out for roles in Cloud Atlas?”
      Oh, like all those other things casting says as an excuse. “But we couldn’t find any talented Asian actors! But none even bothered to audition!”

      2) Double standards and offensiveness of whiteface? Derailing alert!

      3) People of color as opposed to “minorities”. Look up what it means

    • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

      People of color is a term coined through solidarity of different racial groups. Colored is a term created by white people to oppress anyone who wasn’t white, especially blacks.

      Basically, a term that WE came up with to refer to ourselves, versus a slur created by the oppressive group in order to oppress us. I’d say that’s a huge difference.

      Historical context is necessary for any form of oppression. If we don’t remember where it came from, its roots, how it manifests and changes over periods of time, we’re doomed to repeat it. You must’ve fallen asleep in history class.

      Whiteface was never used to oppress white people or keep them from getting movie roles. Good god. You probably glanced right over the informative articles on this site, huh? It had statistics and color pictures, too!

      Yeah, white people don’t get it. The fact you think being called a racist is worse than actually being racist just solidifies your beautiful and very accurate screenname.

      Bye, Oppressive Ignorant White Guy!

  • Pingback: Is there going to be Yellowface in the forthcoming movie #CloudAtlas? |

  • Guest

    Sorry, no, no, no. You’re missing the point. The Wachowskis are trying to say your concepts of identity and race are outmoded. Anyone can be anything. If Donna Bae wants to be caucasian, she can be caucasian, and if a black woman wants to play Caucasian or from the Indian subcontinent, that’s great, and if a white guy wants to be Korean, he can be Korean. The point is to make sure there’s an egalitarian equality of opportunity for everyone. There are multitudes of Asians playing Asians, African-Americans playing African-Americans – no one was denied anything. No one was excluded from anything.

    These are the guys, who, when they made the Matrix, cast women and people as color as a higher percentage of the cast than virtually any Hollywood film ever made. They believe in liberation, just as they’ve taken flack for liberating and redefining their own identities. They believe in: you are who you want to be. We’re done with the horseshit repression of the past. Who you are is fluid; your soul is the crucial component of your existence, not your decaying covering. Yes, they’re going to rip the scab off old wounds, because they’re tired of what those wounds represent. They want to be the new order that dispenses with the old order.

    That’s not to say that gross inequities don’t still exist, but these guys are revolutionaries and they live what they preach. Women face so much inequality in this society, but Lana Wachowski said, I don’t care – I NEED TO BE A WOMAN. IT’S WHO I AM. Understand what they’re doing from that perspective.

    Screw your old world of hate and repression and why something can’t be done. We say: I am better than the past. We are going to create opportunities for everyone. We are going to walk in each other’s skin. We’re going to understand the other side of the mirror. Race liberates.

    • Mike Le

      I absolutely admire Lana’s courage in stepping forward as a transgender woman. Unfortunately, her transgender identity doesn’t give her special insight into the struggles of other minorities.

      Shyamalan, who is of South Asian descent, committed a tremendous act of whitewashing and exclusion in Airbender. Being brown or LGBT isn’t the same as having a deep grasp of social inequities, or the wisdom to act fairly. No one has that power, really. We all just do our best.

      I envy your view of a perfect, egalitarian world. My world is a little different, however. The world I see has a lot of talk about “colorblindness,” but precious little action.

      There’s absolutely nothing new about yellowface or blackface or other kinds of “color” face. As I explained in my post, these practices have deep historical roots as tools to oppress, disseminate stereotype, and essentially control public perceptions of minorities. And they’re not just HISTORICAL tools, they’re used today, in popular Hollywood films.

      So this isn’t new. We’re not in some new, post-racial era. We’re just in an era where everyone wants to repeat acts of exclusion and discrimination while claiming we’re post-racial. That’s not progress.

      Show me a film where John Cho plays George Washington. Show me Donald Glover as Spider-Man. Show me a transgender woman playing the romantic female lead across Tom Hanks. Then we can talk about a beautiful egalitarian present as a reality, instead of a desire we both share.

      • phosphor

        I agree that everything points to the fact that the filmmakers appear to be committed to these ideals of harmony amid flux. The source material seems to be an interesting canvas to explore them. This project seems so precarious. So WHY didn’t they go for broke and do something truly radical (relative to the current climate ofc)–all kinds of cool ways to make that happen. Any investors who threw in for this project might throw in for that one (dubious, but one can hope) because the themes would be intact and expressed through the entire ethos of the production.

        But I don’t agree that creative makeup to give an actor the appearance of another ethnicity or gender or age (that’s exactly what I mean, no more and no less) cannot ever again be repurposed and recontextualized, suggesting it is incapable of healing and ameliorating injustices it created in the past. I want to see it sensitively used in dramatic contexts, not just enlightened irony ontop of oblivious satire type contexts. If Cloud Atlas made more of an effort toward what you suggested and I repeated in first paragraph, would the makeup be more sensitive? I don’t know.

        One more small point. Tom Hanks as Zachry is him using his star power + being a well-respected actor to assume the pivotal lead at the crux of the story. If Donald Glover were up for Zachry and say Lee Si-yeon (had to look her up) were playing Meronym, Hanks still would’ve kicked his ass to the curb. So would Denzel Washington. Or Keanu Reeves. Or Meryl Streep (ok this one is stretching it a bit much).

        • phosphor

          Here’s one way that both of those strategies might have worked, and the makeup + casting could’ve added to the subtext in a progressive way. Those characters who are deceptive and cruel, who “make the same mistakes over and over again” through the ages are the only ones who “grow” makeup, each iteration more grotesque, outlandish, and desperate to smack you over the head that the character is essentially unchanged underneath. The manifestations of the protagonist, that get more courageous, enlightened, and compassionate over the stories are all the underrepresented cosmeticless inserts against type connected by tells and mannerisms, said gap in suspension of disbelief wider each time–each actor has to work harder and harder force you to see in a new way, not merely convince you, which might be better for the story’s themes anyway. Could it be facile and stagey? Not any more than the movie already is, plus I cooked this up in 5 minutes.

          • happyappa

            I’m not sure I understand your thinking. Is makeup what you mean as (color)-face? Do you have to bend over backwards that far just to attempt to justify using it? Just don’t use it, it’s not that complicated.

          • phosphor

            The dynamics of opression ensure that any attempt at the possibility I posited is truly sinister because the context of *face is inescapable. Moreover, a truly enlightened society would understand that and put it away forevermore. Would you say that I accurately assessed the ideological timbre of things here?

            Then don’t tell me I’m performing mental gymnastics to justify anything. It was an honest hope + a (half-baked) idea put forth in a constructive spirit by a non-artist without rancor.

            Judging by your name, I’d wager you’ve been here at least since the Avatar movie came out 2 years ago. Flippant dismissal is the most foolishly transparent kind there is. I hope you haven’t argued in this manner the entire time.

          • happyappa

            “Flippant dismissal”? I guess if you call flippant dismissal being against someone trying to make yellowface “work”, then yeah, that’s flippant dismissal.
            btw, making a movie for an enlightened society, postracial, whatever you want to call it, isn’t going to work, because we don’t live in one.

        • happyappa

          “Tom Hanks as Zachry is him using his star power + being a well-respected
          actor to assume the pivotal lead at the crux of the story.”
          Well, instead of Tom Hanks, why not a POC with star power who is also a well-respected actor… oh wait… I forgot, main actor has to be white male to make the movie universal lol

      • Fivec

        You didn’t really speak to the point he was making, which is that the Wachowskis are explicitly taking an egalitarian stance on the nature of race with their use of racebending in this film. His point isn’t that Lana possesses some sort of get out of jail free card because she’s LGBT, but that her intent lies at the polar opposite end of the result that you’re accusing her of inflicting.

        It’s almost as if you could not have chosen a less appropriate target for your outrage than the Wachowskis.

    • Venom

      They’re also the ones who whitewashed Speed Racer.

      • Fivec

        What? Speed Racer is a cartoon populated with characters who are in no way distinctly Asian. You might as well accuse the producers of The Flintstones live-action adaptation of whitewashing.

        • happyappa

          Speed Racer’s real name is Gou Mifune. Yeah, that’s totally “in no way distinctly Asian.” I’m pretty sure all of the characters are Japanese. The movie is whitewashed, and the American-ized anime version seems to be whitewashed too.

          • Fivec

            The Americanized anime version is whitewashed only in the sense that it is Americanized, and the Americanized Speed Racer is the anime that was being adapted! That’s the Speed Racer that the intended primary audience of the movie grew up with.

            That Speed Racer is absolutely in no way distinctly Asian, which is why it’s completely absurd to suggest that the movie was whitewashed. Like, really dumb.

          • happyappa

            The movie is based on the whitewashed anime, therefore the movie is whitewashed. Still, being called Speed Racer automatically defaults to white, because only white guys are named Speed Racer? That’s a whole other problem.

          • Fivec

            So you’re blaming the Wachowskis for whitewashing an anime that was already whitewashed? That literally makes no sense. And now you’re criticizing the casting of Emile Hirsch for a race-neutral part because why? You might as well condemn every major motion picture coming out of Hollywood for not casting an Asian-American in a race-neutral leading role.

            I’m not saying that Mike Le’s complaints are coming from an invalid perspective on race preference in Hollywood, but this line of reasoning is just absurd. Pick your battles. You can’t afford to rage indiscriminately if you want to be taken seriously.

          • happyappa

            You don’t know what “raging indiscriminately” means, so how can I even take you seriously?

            All they had to do was make the characters Japanese like the original source. Don’t give excuses like, well they just chose that American one that happened to be whitewashed. They had a choice and they chose to whitewash it.

            “And now you’re criticizing the casting of Emile Hirsch for a race-neutral part because why?”
            Uhh because every other movie about “race-neutral” characters goes to white actors. Just look at Hunger Games – book characters were written with no specific race and yet movies called for “Caucasian” actors in lead parts.

          • Fivec

            In what world is that an excuse? They adapted the Americanized anime because that was the anime they grew up with, that was the anime that inspired them, shitty, fast-talking dub and all. The fact that you’re blaming them for not titling their movie “Mach Go Go Go” staring Go Mifune, his dad Daisuke, etc. is nothing if not a clear indication of how warped your perspective has become on this issue.

            And yes, the Wachowskis could have cast an Asian-American for the part of Speed Racer, but there’s no reason to suspect nefarious intent on their part for not doing so and accuse them, specifically, of discrimination. Yes, Asians are underrepresented in Hollywood for all kinds of reasons, including racism, but you can’t cast stones at every director who doesn’t cast an Asian-American in a race-neutral leading role. Unless you want to rage indiscriminately, that is.

          • happyappa

            “The fact that you’re blaming them for not titling their movie “Mach Go
            Go Go” staring Go Mifune, his dad Daisuke, etc. is nothing if not a
            clear indication of how warped your perspective has become on this
            issue.”

            When did I say that? You’re implying that asians only belong in asian titled movies? Huh. They could have kept it as “Speed Racer” and still cast Asian/s, instead of taking a “race-neutral” character and cast practically all white people in lead and non-lead roles. I’m not saying you should cast asians just to do it, but they can’t even cast asians where there SHOULD be. If this is supposed to be an Americanized version, where are all the non-white people?

          • Fivec

            First of all, there were actually several Asian actors cast in Speed Racer, including two with prominent billing, so you’re mischaracterizing the casting. Secondly, you’re making two different arguments here, whether you realize it or not.

            1) Speed Racer (the movie) has been whitewashed.

            I’ve explained why this is wrong. Speed Racer the movie was based on the Americanized Speed Racer anime, which is (mostly) race-neutral. You responded that they should have adapted the original, Japanese anime, which is a silly stance to take, especially since you have to concede this point in order to argue the next point you’re trying to make…

            2) Given that Speed Racer is (mostly) race-neutral, the Wachowskis should have cast Asians in some of the leading roles (the Racer family, Trixie, and/or Racer X).

            There’s nothing wrong with arguing that Asians deserve more representation in Hollywood, but this is a broad argument that fails when applied indiscriminately to any director who doesn’t cast an Asian in a lead role for their movie. It makes no sense to accuse the Wachowskis of discrimination because there’s no basis for it in this case. Maybe the Wachowskis thought Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, and John Goodman (all distinguished actors) were the best fits for the roles. Or, maybe they’re just racist against Asians. You can’t make a bullet-proof argument either way.

            I tend to think the Wachowskis are some of the least likely suspects for discrimination, especially considering that the cast for the Matrix trilogy is leagues above your typical action franchise in terms of gender and race diversity.

          • happyappa

            No, I said that the movie was whitewashed (and based off the whitewashed version of the anime).

            Then you went on to say that the anime they grew up with is “Americanized”, therefore the casting is justified. You also implied the movie should be given the Japanese title for Asians to be in it. This is problematic, therefore I am commenting on it.

            Oh, the lead actors were just best fit for the roles, like I haven’t heard that one before.

            You’re dismissing the fact that the MAIN actors are white. Where are the other races if this is America and the characters in the Americanized version are “race neutral”.
            Speed Racer – Emile Hirsch
            Spritle Racer – Paulie Litt
            Pops Racer – John Goodman
            Mom Racer – Susan Sarandon
            Racer X – Matthew Fox
            Trixie – Christina Ricci
            Sparky – Kick Gurry
            and a monkey, which is about as diverse as the main cast gets.

            We aren’t talking about The Matrix. We are talking about Speed Racer. This isn’t really about the Wachowskis, it’s about problematic casting in general.

          • Fivec

            Ugh. I said that you said the movie was whitewashed (in the very last post, no less). This is wrong. Hence, this entire argument.

            Also, I did not imply that the movie should be titled “Mach Go Go Go” in order for there to be a legitimate reason to cast Asians in lead roles. This is you misunderstanding my argument, which is kind of a theme with you.

            I think I’m done here.

          • happyappa

            I *just* said that in my last post, that I said the movie was whitewashed, did I not?

            And now you didn’t even address the lead actors being white as being
            problematic in an “Americanized” movie. Out of the 8 most prominent, not one poc. You certainly said that this casting was justified. Yeah, I think I’m done here.

  • Mike Le

    Ms. Wachowski’s identity as a transgender woman does not give her license to exclude, nor does it grant her special insight into the struggles of minorities. The same is true of M. Night Shyamalan’s South Asian identity.

    Our minority status doesn’t grant us any magic powers regarding race, orientation, prejudice, etc.

    I’ll take Tim Wise’s view of people of color and social justice over M. Night Shyamalan’s any day.

    • Publius

      > As with these other films, we see that white creators and performers are permitted to determine what it means to be Asian.

      Your statement here seems to imply that it would only be okay for Asian creators and performers to determine what it means to be Asian. But if your minority status doesn’t grant you any magic powers regarding race, orientation, prejudice, etc., what’s the benefit to having Asian creators and performers? What if Asian creators and performers made this exact same product? (I assume that you assume that they wouldn’t.) Or what if white creators (with Asian performers as you deem necessary) made a product you didn’t find offensive?

  • RoloTomassi

    Why should “outcome” matter more than “intent”? Racism, sexism, and ageism will only ever lie in “intent,” not outcomes. Take rape jokes, for instance: Some jokes can make something funny out of something terrible without being offensive or hurtful. However, some rape jokes are just blatantly sexist statements DISGUISED as jokes. The outcomes are the same (i.e. rape jokes), but the intents vary. It is always intent that defines whether something is prejudice –that is what prejudice means. How can you think that this film will support racial stereotypes, when they are in complete opposition to the main theme? The film is about the unity of humanity among races, about the sameness of us all. How can that ever be compared to the minstrelsy of broad, degrading yellow-face stereotypes?
    Now I can see how people would be hurt seeing it, as it can flare up old feelings of discrimination and exclusion. Being a victim of rape, I can’t listen to rape jokes without being hurt and reminded. But that doesn’t necessarily make the joke offensive. It is only the intent of the joke that can be offensive. Although I personally don’t want to hear them, I would never want to ban all rape jokes because that produces exactly the kind of “taboo, walking-on-eggshells” stigma that inhibits social progress. When you start laying restrictions on people, making distinctions and rehashing old wrongs, resentfulness and bitterness festers on either side and further alienates both parties.
    Now with such films as the Last Air-Bender or Flower-Drum Song (in which Natalie Wood plays yellow-face for no reason), a question of intent can be put into play. Why did they white-wash what was supposed to be an all-asian cast? Why did you think taping Natalie Wood’s eyes was better than hiring an actual Asian actress? Those are questions that deserve answers and those answers deserve to be criticized.
    The case is not the same with Cloud Atlas. We all know the reason for the yellow-face, and the polynesian-face, and jewish-face, and the white-face, and it is not a racist one. Many people have said that they believe the directors to be “well-intended.” That is ultimately what matters. This film has no racist designs. Would it be better if there were more Asian actors? Of course, it is always better to see a diversity of ethnicities represented on screen. But there is only one story that takes place in Asia, all the others feature settings with white and black people, so it’s only practical that the majority of the cast be white and black. The couple, Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae, white and Asian, is reincarnated once as white and next as Asian. Then they are polynesian, white, Jewish, Indian. The entire story is MEANT TO BE COLOR-BLIND. To me, it is more progressive than regressive. Bringing up unrelated past grievances that encourages the social stigma around race.
    If the vision of seeing a white man in Asian make up saddens you and brings back bad memories of genuine racism, that is perfectly understandable and okay. But that doesn’t make this racist.

    • happyappa

      “The film is about the unity of humanity among races, about the sameness of us all.”
      Yes, the sameness of Asians as clones, and the unity of humanity done by white people in -face. So UNITED.

      Racism does not have to be obvious like Mickey Rooney with buck teeth. And also, stop bringing up whiteface as an excuse for other -face. That’s been explained a billion times over.

      “Intent”. Jeeze, so I guess Karl Lagerfeld’s intent of celebrating yellowface was a positive one. I mean, he was showing how respectful it was and all, so I guess that’s not racist, since the intent was “good”.

      “Of course, it is always better to see a diversity of ethnicities represented on screen.”
      White people + token poc/s = diversity

      “But there is only one story that takes place in Asia, all the others
      feature settings with white and black people, so it’s only practical
      that the majority of the cast be white and black.”
      Uh, except the white guys are playing Asians, when Asians should have been played by Asians. If white people are in “settings with white people” ?? according to your logic, if it takes place in Asia, there should be ASIANS and not people in YELLOWFACE.

      Colorblindness rarely ever works in favor of POCs, which is why white actors are the majority in the movie, and they’re doing -face. It’s racist.

      • RoloTomassi

        You completely missed the point. The coherent theme they were going for in order to link stories was USING THE SAME ACTORS. That was their directive decision to show visually how the souls are being reincarnated. AND guess what? MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WHITE. THEREFORE, white actors shift in and out of different story lines and characters more flexibly, BECAUSE MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WHITE. There is ONLY ONE asian story. The narrator and main character of that story is played by an excellent Asian actress. Like her romantic counterpart, she plays white with him in a white-centric story, as he plays korean with her in their korean-centric story. Meronym and Luisa de Rey are both dark-skinned women, so they cast Halle Berry, a dark-skinned woman. But they also cast her as a jewish, white woman. Because she’s ethnically and culturally equipped to play such a part? NO, BECAUSE THEY ARE USING THE SAME ACTORS for their theme. And I would hardly call Luisa de Rey, Meronym, and Somni “token POCs.” They are three of the six main narratives.

        And are you remotely serious about the “sameness of asians as clones” thing? Have you even read the book? BTW, this was something that was going on across the world at this point, so there were also white clones, and black clones, etc. etc. etc. That story just HAPPENED to take place in Asia.

        Like I said, I consider Airbender, 21 and Breakfast to be racist in their decisions, certainly. However, THIS movie is obviously NOT REMOTELY RACIST. I don’t know anything about Karl Lagerfeld or his intent, but I know the intent of this book and movie because I read it: Mitchell tries to show that the soul is the same, the shell of the body is irrelevant to the person inside. It’s PROGRESSIVE and anything but racist.

        What you’re doing is very dangerous. You’re trying to ban an action, as opposed to actual racism. While yellowface has been associated with and fueled by racism in the past, in this case it is quite the opposite. You are placing a taboo where there doesn’t need to be one. If you start banning yellowface and saying things like whiteface are okay, you are just further aggravating the issue and worsening it.

        Again I’ll use my example with rape jokes. It is not good to say rape jokes about women should be banned when rape jokes about men are okay JUST BECAUSE WOMEN, LIKE ME, HAVE A TERRIBLE HISTORY WITH IT. That just deepens the differences and animosity on both sides. BECAUSE NO RAPE JOKES ARE INHERENTLY BAD; Some are bizarre and benign and inoffensive. It is sexism or cruelty that make them bad –> it is always the details and the context behind the rape jokes that matters, not the fact that it is “a rape joke”.

        The same goes for yellowface. Any “-face” IS NOT INHERENTLY RACIST. NOTHING IS INHERENTLY RACIST. It is the intention, the context that makes it so. Airbender, 21, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s have that racist context and intention in their casting decisions and are rightfully scrutinized.

        Cloud Atlas does not.

        • happyappa

          Lol, they just ~happened~ to have the story take place in Asia, hence the Asian clones.

          “If you start banning yellowface and saying things like whiteface are
          okay, you are just further aggravating the issue and worsening it. ”

          Wait, did you just imply that whiteface aggravates racism (against white people)? And that yellowface and whiteface are like on the same level? ROFL I shouldn’t ban the yellowface, because it’s an “action” and not “actual racism”……..

          Gee, now I see why you’re missing the point…….

          • RoloTomassi

            Very coherent and logical responses to my points. Oh, wait, you actually just repeated everything I wrote with commas and question marks. Ladies and gentlemen, debating at its finest. I’m convinced.

          • happyappa

            Are you serious? I actually commented on what you wrote, if you even bothered to read it. Especially the fact that you are dangerously equating whiteface to yellowface, and that you think whiteface aggravates racism against white people.

            Oh, wait, you’re trying to derail my response by telling me I have issues debating.

            Lol, classic!

          • RoloTomassi

            No, I don’t think whiteface has the same cultural history of abuse as blackface and yellowface, obviously it doesn’t. What is dangerous and unhelpful is justifying whiteface as okay or “lesser” somehow, while saying yellowface is always more grave. When you start making distinctions like that, it just further separates the races as opposed to making efforts to unite them and find more common ground. By saying that whiteface is somehow not offensive, like it is some throwaway side-note, you are being unfair and just further “aggravating” the wound between races. In certain contexts, both yellowface and whiteface can be racist and offensive. That needs to be acknowledged for there ever to be any growth.

            As far as intention and context, YES IT MATTERS. Yellowface and blackface are usually offensive BUT NOT ALWAYS. The NAACP whole-heartedly approved of RDJ’s blackface in Tropic Thunder. BECAUSE OF THE CONTEXT OF THE FILM. The action of blackface itself is not necessarily racist or offensive, it is the context and the intent that is offensive and racist.

          • happyappa

            Why are you even talking about racism against white people right now?

            Whiteface is not and never was a problem – you are saying that whiteface and yellowface are both offensive, like equally the way you’re arguing about it — “what is dangerous/unhelpful… is justifying whiteface as okay or “lesser” somehow, while saying yellowface is always more grave.”

            Lol, WHAT

            You know what needs to be acknowledged? Exclusions of POCs, and how “color”face is racist and not respectful.

            btw, this is NOT Tropic Thunder. This is not a guy in yellowface (in this case) showing how ridiculous and stupid yellowface is. Jeeze, people, stop using this one movie as an excuse for colorface

          • RoloTomassi

            I’m talking about whiteface because you asked: “are you implying yellowface and whiteface are on the same level?” They are. They are the same thing. What Cloud Atlas is doing to Asians it is also doing to white people. Does yellowface have a more abusive, degrading history? Of course! There are numerous examples of disgusting racism through yellowface, as well as exclusion of POCs in movies, which is something I was also enraged by, like I said :”21, Breakfast@Tiffany’s, Airbender.” Yellowface is certainly more common and normalized, like the rape of women is more common and normalized, but that doesn’t make the rape of men any less horrible. Do you see what I’m saying? If you don’t think Cloud Atlas has the context to justify the use of -face, you should be enraged by all of it –the Polynesian-face, the Jewish-face, the white-face, and the yellow-face, not just one.

            And you say this movie is not Tropic Thunder, the equivalent of “a guy in yellowface showing how ridiculous and stupid yellowface is.” Actually Cloud Atlas goes a step further: it is a guy in yellowface showing how ridiculous and stupid ANY FORM OF RACISM is. Because underneath we are all the same people.

            Look: I know how frustrating it can be on the disenfranchised end of the spectrum, how stupid so much of the world is for not realizing how mis- and under-represented a portion of the population is time and time again. Racism is real and among us, especially in our media, but I honestly see this film as an exception that aims to quell racism, not encourage it. So far as reading the book and watching the trailer, what they have done makes sense to me. I believe in almost all cases -face is disrespectful and racist, but I just don’t see it in this case.

          • happyappa

            “it is a guy in yellowface showing how ridiculous and stupid ANY FORM OF
            RACISM is. Because underneath we are all the same people. ”
            LOL, no. When you say that, and that we are all alike, and we should all be colorblind, you are ignoring race and racism. We live in a world where POCs are marginalized and white people have power in society. You are saying that doing colorface will somehow make everyone equal and “unite races”. That makes no freaking sense.

            Don’t tell me to be enraged by whiteface, I don’t have to be. When have white people ever been oppressed by whiteface? I don’t care about it. I asked why you were talking about racism against white people, because this is a site about representation of underrepresented groups. Why are you even using white people problems as your defense?

            And don’t try to say I’m frustrated therefore I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s another form of derailment.

          • RoloTomassi

            I never said you were frustrated and didn’t know what you were talking about, nor was I trying to “derail” you. I was saying how “I” felt so that we may be able to relate and reach some common ground; That way we may both get something out of this discussion.

            It’s obvious you didn’t read the book. It does not ignore race and racism, actually the book is ABOUT racism between peoples: And it’s existence as such is made all the more pointless because underneath they are all the same souls, just reincarnating into separate sides. So yeah, it does “make freaking sense.” If people only knew what they did about Tropic Thunder through the trailer, all they would see was the offensive blackface too. But the context made it palatable. You don’t know the context, didn’t bother to learn it before casting judgement, so it doesn’t surprise me that you are saying what you are.

            By your definition isn’t any form of race impersonation offensive? So an example of whiteface oppression would be this movie, by your standards, because you think the Cloud Atlas yellowface is oppressive and they have done the same thing. And why are you not enraged by the Jewface? That has persisted throughout our culture in degrading ways as well, and most Jewish people are considered white. Is it because a black woman is playing Jewish and that is somehow less offensive? Is it because most Jews are, in fact, white?

            By not acknowledging the severity of all -face, you are exhibiting racial prejudice and that just depletes your credibility. It doesn’t do much for the noble POC cause because you just come across as a white-hater.

          • happyappa

            LOL, yes you are derailing. Calling me racist for pointing out racism. Saying that I am “as bad as -the side I am against-”.

            No, it doesn’t make sense that POCs are not represented in the media and are excluded. That white actors actually have so many options and take away roles meant for POCs. When it is SO easy to just cast an Asian as an Asian, and you are defending white people playing other races? Oh no, you think it’s okay cuz Halle Berry’s in whiteface and it balances everything out lol.

            I see to you, it doesn’t become racist unless whiteface is involved. Seriously?

            [It's obvious you didn't read the book. It does not ignore race and racism.]
            Um, did they actually do yellowface IN THE BOOK?

            And also you are ignoring race/racism, because you agree with what they’re doing in the movie. It doesn’t surprise me that you are saying what you are.

          • RoloTomassi

            Last time I checked, discrimination against certain races is called “racism.” You think it’s offensive unless it is against white people? That’s racism. That’s not “derailment” and neither was what I said before.

            Racist means discrimination, treating races DIFFERENTLY because of their race. But in Cloud Atlas, all the races, including white and Asian, are treated THE SAME.

            The only one discriminating is you by saying that Asians alone have the right to be offended, whereas whites and Jews don’t.

            “Did they do yellowface in the book?”

            Well, an old white guy dies and is born into the body of an Asian girl. That’s the closest you can probably get to a literary version of yellowface.

            And it is not “so easy” to cast all Asians for the Asian story in this case because it goes against the main theme. They give continuity and cohesiveness to the stories by using the same actors, which they do. They use Doona Bae multiple times in other ethnicities. But you think they should abandon continuity in the Asian-based story because, even though Cloud Atlas is not racist, there have been racist Asian depictions in the past?

            But not the Jews or Aboriginals? Why? Why would you sacrifice the entire cohesive theme, thereby severing the Asian story from all the others? Then the Asian story would stand out as it’s own entity with no relation to the greater saga. And you would do this because Asians have a more prominent history of discrimination?

            Give me a break. That would be exactly the kind of discrimination and partial treatment that only serves to further divide races! Don’t you want everyone to be treated the same? The fact that Cloud Atlas is doing THE SAME EXACT THING TO ALL OF THE RACES proves that they are all being treated the same! It’s not racist.

          • happyappa

            I am against COLORFACE, NOT WHITEFACE.

            “Well, an old white guy dies and is born into the body of an Asian girl.
            That’s the closest you can probably get to a literary version of
            yellowface.” LOL! You think that’s yellowface? So if I get reincarnated into a black person, am I going to have shoe polish all over my body? Eyes taped back doesn’t happen if you’re reincarnated into an Asian. In fact, it doesn’t happen ever, unless you are doing yellowface, which is WRONG. The same goes for blackface, redface, brownface, and other pocs.

            Seriously, educate yourself. It’s not my responsibility to:

            http://korraisnottan.tumblr.com/post/31934215907/vasundharaa-this-is-a-resource-post-for-all-the#notes

            http://www.nathanielturner.com/whiteantiracistsopenletter.htm

            http://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/how-to-argue-like-a-white-racist/ (you are doing at least 3 on there, I’m sure there’s more)

          • etacarinae

            for hours now i’ve read (yet again) through articles and comments on this site and on numerous occasions i felt i had to say something but actually didn’t bother because the whole discussion seemed to be going nowhere :(

            but at this point i just have to…

            first of all, i’m aware of the existence of racism (what i would actually sort under fascism with the distinction that it’s practically impossible to disguise yourself in a fascist environment of a different race) and am deeply concerned about all our future if it doesn’t stop SOON (along with exhaustingly many other things going wrong as well)

            But I also thinks cloud atlas is doing a good job (with exception of their makeup-artist and casting at least one of the “yellowface” actors asian).

            color-face in my opinion is always racist if used to intentionally undermine opportunities for actors of a certain (or not a certain) race…

            other than that there is no distinction between color-face and white-face because both are meant to let an actor of one race play a character of another…so technically, logically and thematically there is no difference…the difference is how it is done and seen by viewers.

            Now Viewers tend to be very subjective in general…that’s why we have so many problems including and besides racism in the world…

            A showcase for that you find right here in the comments… Some people hate it, others don’t and seemingly both sides are multiracial

            (is that a word? I would prefer to stop after “others don’t” but it seems race is an issue here as whites just can’t understand it because they never were in that particular position…oh with one exception if i remember correctly…was that white guilt or genuine? Who knows theese days?)

            I agree with rolo here that if you want to stop racism you have to treat all races (genders, sexualities, religions …) as equals and therefore everything that bothers you, you should condemn to be done to others!

            But what initially wanted to write about was your last link…How to Argue… is in some parts just sad (not saying racists don’t use those arguments but “bend” them to their needs…like lobbyists)

            in particular:

            3. ad hominem – question a commenter’s intelligence, character, age or motives.
            (sadly that’s fairly common in any discussion about anything between anyone as soon as it becomes clear they don’t understand each other…as we clearly believe to understand our own statements it is hard to grasp why someone else wouldn’t…no sign of racism but hybris)

            4. Whites are individuals – so you cannot make general statements about whites. Besides, that would be racist.
            (yeah, whites are individuals as is anybody else is…except maybe for lobbyists ;-P or by extension many who consider themselves as part of a group smaller than humanity itself ;)

            7.“I am offended” – how dare they call you a racist! You do not see a person’s colour – they could be purple for all you care!
            (er…so what…colorblind people just don’t exist?)

            11. Talk down to them…
            (of course not…you should NEVER EVER talk down to anyone…but that’s a small line to walk in a heated discussion…it happens to anyone at some point…no matter to whom (or what race, religion, gender???) someone is talking to…)

            16. Demand proof…
            (well that’s a little hard…actually that is not a racist argument but a sceptics one…and it is only asked if the sceptic should believe something he can’t without it… i’m not sure what that has to do with racism…)

            17. Make it about the past – and point out that your family never owned slaves. When are they going to stop living in the past?
            (well…the past is one thing we shouldn’t forget…but also even if my family was into slavery in the 19th century that doesn’t make me racist or by simply being of german descend or still living there makes me antisemitic.)

            well simply by pointing that out…am i a racist now? or would you need to know my race to answer that question? But maybe you already deduced it by the way i am obviously thinking or arguing… but even that would actually be a racist kind of thinking and i believe that is what rolo was pointing out…you don’t need to be racist to fall for that kind of thinking in some of your judgements…sometimes you just have to forget or diminish one aspect while focusing heavy on another one. That doesn’t make you racist but it diminishes your objectivity and therefore credibility

            I want to add that i used YOU but meant SOMEONE, it just doesn’t read that well. I don’t want to attack you but really have a need for objectivity besides still appropriate and needed subjectivity in such matters. The Point simply is not the colorface here but the way it was (and might in many cases still be) used to undermine minorities opportunities or portray them in a certain way to further aggravate racial distress. If it were a problem in itself no such technique (like whiteface) would be ok!
            But I wouldn’t wish for anything to be out of bounds to be used in arts… actually seeing someone playing a colorface of any kind teaches me something about how that actor or by extension the regisseur thinks about others or sometimes how they are perceived by others…it is a similar (but very different) matter with actors playing particular historical personalities…they also have the choice to give them dignity or in the contrary…make fun of them…that can be a very personal praise or a deeply personal insult as well…

            so…i wish this site will eventually gain the power to level the playing field but also i would wish for working also towards better understanding each other without the need to differentiate between what some people are allowed to do while others aren’t. That, and only that is the base of racism(fascism) and everything has to be measured by that…

            Oh and yes i guess it would have been better to write this article after seeing the whole movie because i believe it can damage your cause not to make sure the movie has the tone the trailer suggests (what by the way might have been also intended…after all, who likes to be told what to do and how…especially when it comes to artists ;))

            i hope i could make myself reasonably clear because i’m not writing in my native language and if it weren’t for those wonderful (mostly hollywood) movies and tv-series i sadly would have forgotten everything i’ve learned in school…which was considerably less than i needed today ;)

          • happyappa

            I am against COLORFACE, dont care about WHITEFACE. Stop making exceptions about every flipping thing to justify your racism and derail my response.

            “Well, an old white guy dies and is born into the body of an Asian girl. That’s the closest you can probably get to a literary version of
            yellowface.”
            LOL! You think that’s yellowface? And when did I say there was yellowface in the book? I asked if there was, since you keep ridiculously using the book as a justification for the yellowface in the movie.

            So if I get reincarnated into a black person, am I going to have shoe polish all over my body? Eyes taped back doesn’t happen if you’re reincarnated into an Asian. In fact, it doesn’t happen ever, unless you are doing yellowface, which is WRONG.
            The same goes for blackface, redface, brownface, and other pocs.

            Seriously, educate yourself. It’s not my responsibility to:

            http://korraisnottan.tumblr.com/post/31934215907/vasundharaa-this-is-a-resource-post-for-all-the#notes

            http://www.nathanielturner.com/whiteantiracistsopenletter.htm

            http://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/how-to-argue-like-a-white-racist/ (you are doing at least 3 on there, I’m sure there’s more)

          • RoloTomassi

            In addition to the question “is there any yellow face in the book?”

            Well David Mitchell is a white author, who writes in the first person of an Asian female. That is a white man thinking he knows what it means to be Asian and portraying that as Asian. Isn’t that what you consider yellowface? So do you think any author writing in another ethnicity is racist? Because millions of authors do that, as well as writing other genders.

            David Mitchell is lauded for his well-researched and thorough understanding and fascination with Asian culture, as it is the setting and topic of many of his books. But does the fact he presumes to know the Asian experience as a white man make him and his novels racist?

          • happyappa

            Well, Avatar the cartoon was written by 2 white guys and they did an incredibly great job. Asian characters RESPECTFULLY represented. Not about white guys in an asian land or white guys in yellowface. This movie on the other hand, no. They could have done birthmarking in the movie, like the book, keeping black actors for black characters, asians for asians, etc.

            You are nothing but an apologist for racism. You are ultimately equating colorface to whiteface, and yes, you’re pretending we somehow live in a post-racial society where all races are equal, and therefore whiteface = colorface.

            What you’re arguing is like saying “Well, the people who did some of the voices on Avatar TLA are white, so that makes the show racist.” lol… and a human person did a voice for flying lemur, your point?

            Look at what I linked you, the end.

          • http://twitter.com/eshowoman Friday Foster-ABWW

            I am Caribbean American of black and South Asian ancestry. I am also a film scholar. The NAACP did not heartily approve of Tropic Thunder. Stop making up nonsense to bolster your flaccid rhetoric. I knew that Tropic Thunder would open the door to these racist portrayal’s resurgence. Blackface, Yellowface, Brownface, Redface is always insulting. Taking on another race’s characteristics at the very least conveys that the purveyor of the practice has power and authority to speak for another group of people and that is deeply insulting. Hugo Weaving looks grotesque in that makeup. When a soul is reincarnated it does not come back in racially disfigured version of the former self. The whole premise is garbage. If we do not stand up against this now this practice will become commonplace again.

          • happyappa

            Oh, I kind of assumed you read the above article, but let me copy and paste this part for you.

            “The equivalent use of “whiteface” cannot compare to the act because there is no history of white exclusion from the American mainstream.”

            So, yeah, whiteface isn’t going to aggravate racism against white people or whatever. I don’t expect you to understand this, because you think yellowface is progressive.

        • happyappa

          “AND guess what? MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WHITE. THEREFORE, white actors shift in and out of different story lines and characters more flexibly, BECAUSE MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WHITE. There is ONLY ONE
          asian story.”

          What you’re doing is very dangerous (see what I did there?) Since MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WHITE, let them play asians since there is ONLY ONE asian story? Dang, only one asian story and they couldn’t even find actual asians for the characters.

          Taping your eyes back to look Asian is NOT respectful.

          I’m not Native American, but lemme get a headdress and some bronzer. I just love Native Americans, so I’m gonna go dress up as one. RESPECT!

          Give me a break.

  • Pingback: Why You Possibly Shouldn’t Watch “Cloud Atlas” « sauce

  • SD

    I saw this movie yesterday at TIFF, and just wanted to add a little bit to the discussion after seeing more than the trailer…

    Hae-Joo Im (Jim Sturgess) did NOT have to be played by a white actor to preserve congruity in the story line, or to see that the souls were the “same”. Autua is played by David Gyasi who doesn’t play any other character but is a pretty important role in terms of the overall cruelty/kindness arc. Hae-Joo has a pretty similar role, and could easily have been played by an Asian or Asian American actor. If they wanted to preserve the congruity, then they could have had an Asian or Asian American (or biracial Asian or Asian-American) actor play both Hae-Joo Im AND Adam Ewing. I vote for Daniel Henney (or even Julien Kang).

    The other white actors played an Archivist, and a bad guy who has a handful of lines. There roles were so minor (to me), that I didn’t see at all why they couldn’t have been played by different actors altogether.

    As a side note, Doona Bae did have a few lines as Tilda. I didn’t even realize Hae Joo Im and Adam Ewing were the same soul/actor (I’m dumb, I know!!) until she appeared as Tilda. She’s not credited as Tilda on imdb, which made me second guess whether she played her or not. Weird. I loved her performance; I would watch a whole movie just about Sonmi.

  • dickwad

    Basically what you’re saying is that actors should only portray characters of their own nationality, right? Why isn’t offensive that Robert Downey Jr. plays Sherlock Holmes, a British character, when RDJ is American? Why did Warner Brothers have to take away a job from some very capable British actors and give it to an American who has to fake an accent? Is it because both Brits and Americans have white skin? Asians have white skin, too.

    • Anonymous

      You have no idea what you are talking about. You show your ignorance about the racial dynamics in the USA, and your own privilege.

  • NEMO

    I didn’t think Hugo Weaving is in Yellowface. I thought it was a future race after many generations of reproductive variety with MANY races and ethnicities.

    And why stop with race? How about gender? Or sex? A gay man can’t play a straight
    man and vice-versa. Otherwise they are buying into stereotypes.

    Or profession? Only REAL cold blooded killers can portray cold blooded killers.
    And whores, well… you get the point.

    Or only real writers can write about REAL issues instead of bs-nonsense activism over hurt feelings. Whah.

    Take me, I’m a fish. What’s up with my roles being given to computer pixels and
    CGI modeling.

    • happyappa

      Wow. How to derail a conversation about racism. Talk about gender, profession, and fish. FISH, wth.

    • Ashe

      Uh, yeah, why don’t we stop with race? Because that’s the topic at the moment, after all. Interchanging other forms of oppression and erasure isn’t clever, or new. Gender and sexuality are whole ‘nother ballparks.

      I mean, the fish thing, it’s cute, but we already have an overpaid douchebag using yogurt flavors as a way to laugh at racism. We’re full up on callous disregard.

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    • Anonymous

      Gender is a social construct, and sexuality is fluid and complex. You can’t look at someone on the street and just guess their sexuality. And there are many male-born people who enjoy dressing as females or actually are female, and vice versa, female born people who enjoy dressing as males or actually are male. These are things that don’t actually create a problem, with casting. And in the case of sexuality, because it’s invisible, it doesn’t matter if you cast a straight person to play gay, because it’s not as if gay people can’t and don’r play straight. With race, it’s not something that is changed or hidden. A black person or an Asian person cannot “not” be their race, they can’t take off the features that make them look like their race. It’s a huge problem, for actors of color, that there aren’t enough roles, and the roles that are available are stereotyped and are usually not leads. Beyond it being insensitive, it’s also messing with so many actor’s livelihoods. The reason people don’t complain about a man in drag is because it’s a man in drag. You don’t see men dressed as women playing serious female roles. The reason people don’t complain about “straight” people playing “gay” people is because sexuality is fluid, complex, and a lot of times, personal. And since it’s invisible, and at it’s core, about love, there isn’t a particular way to play a gay person. The only time you hear arguments against it is when a straight person plays a gay person as some horrible stereotype (or for that matter when a gay person plays a gay person as a horrible stereotype.) But, no, you don’t complain when Brad Pitt kisses Jude Law in a movie, because homosexuality (bisexuality, pansexuality, etc) at it’s core is about the feelings between two people, just like heterosexuality. These two things are pretty stupid to compare to yellowface or blackface, simply because it’s not the same thing at all. It’s almost like using “why use an angry person to play a happy person.” Or “why use an only child to play a person with many siblings.” Those are non-offensive things that don’t have social issues attached to them. The fact is that people of color do not get cast in films and television as often, and when they do, are often relegated to stereotypical roles. In my opinion, in a place where they could’ve just cast actors of color, they should’ve. I saw Cloud Atlas last night, and the addition of horrible prosthetic make-up to create the Asian citizens of Neo Seoul was jarring, odd, and disappointing. Especially when the directors (the Wachowskis) are friends with people like Rain, and have connection to other Asian actors like Sung Kang, from their other films. It still could’ve made sense that he was Jim Sturgess’ character reincarnated, and it still could’ve been understood. The make-up in this film looks like the type of horrible Asian yellowface from Hollywood yesteryear, and it actually horrified me a little bit. And while I enjoyed the movie, that part bothered me a lot. The only way it remotely makes sense is if the people are supposed to be some new future race, since not only the white actors had the eyes, but also the black actors (Keith David, still with brown skin, but with that horrible eye thing.) But even then, they would’ve been better off using mixed-ethnicity Asian actors, so that the look was more natural, and less… jarring. And trust me, there are enough mixed-ethnicity Asian actors to fill those few roles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/KevinWendt.CMT Kevin Wendt

      Excellent & spot on analogies, Nemo
      Cloud Atlas is a breathtaking film.

  • Guest

    Why does the artical above not give a clear context of the actors playing the same character across different stories/races/sexualities/genders/languages etc? I mean it completely misses this context out, maybe because it undermines the point the artical is trying to make.

  • Maddin

    I really think you should read the book and understand why … from the storypoint of view, this was necessary. It will become much clearer once you see the movie or have read the book. Honestly I think it’s really dangerous to shout “prejudice” and “yellowface” semantics without having properly researched the subject on hand. Which is a movie based on a book that’s tells the story of reincarnation of the same soul in different bodies. And some of those bodies happen to have a different race.

    • happyappa

      Oh really? So would you say the same thing for the Airbender movie? Because that racist movie was based on a cartoon that actually knew what it was doing.
      Is there a guy doing yellowface in the Cloud Atlas book? What about blackface in the book?

      “And some of those bodies happen to have a different race. ”
      Well yeah, so why not cast asian people as asians…. instead of taping a white guys eyes back to pretend to be asian
      Key words DIFFERENT RACES.

  • McQ

    Great article.

    On a tangent, I think there’s a doublestandard at play in regards to Halle Berry. I’ve read several times on multiple sites that she’s appearing in ‘white face’ to play a white character, but why is it that Berry is identified by audiences as African-American when she herself has a white mother? If she can play ‘black’ characters without any question from audiences then shouldn’t she be able to equally play ‘white’ characters as well?

    And at what point does it become important what an actor’s ethnicity is? Arnold Schwarzenegger frequently played characters without any mention made to his thick Austrian accent (the implication being that he was sometimes playing American-born Americans). How often is Halle Berry playing characters that are identified in the script as African-American and how often is she simply playing a character that doesn’t have any specifically scripted ethnicity? How often is her character’s race left entirely to the audience’s interpretation (which often seems to determine that she is playing black characters, hence the curiosity over her insertion into a European story that apparently doesn’t have room for people of her skintone).

    Am I making sense?

    • Ian Cormac

      You’re sort of making sense but you seem to be making a judgement without fully understanding story. Halle Berry isn’t simply inserted ‘into a European story that apparently doesn’t have room for people of her skintone’ – the character she’s playing is specifically a white woman, it’s in the novel and I’m sure it’s in the script.

  • sh09un

    im not easily offended cause most of the time i really just dont care, but i do have to say as an asian male im kinda offended that they would go this far. i mean for decades asians have been shunned from the acting community cause the only thing difference about them is there eyes (cause lets be honest, height has nothing to do with it look at tom cruise) so they cant play the lead role, unless he spends 90% of the movie kicking and punching. and now when there’s a big budget movie that calls for asians, they do yellowface? thats insane to me, whats even more insane is that they cast an asian female but no asian males? you look at movies and tv shows, you hardly ever see asians.. even if its an extra walking by on the street or sitting on a bench. does hollywood think asians dont exist in the real world? guess what people, THERE ARE MORE ASIANS IN THE WORLD THEN ANY OTHER RACE NOW!!! thankfully its gotten better in the past 5 years or so, we have asian musicians, actors in tv and movies, hell we even have asian pornstars now. people are starting to realize that we do have something to offer, and yes were more then walking calculators.

  • Ian Cormac

    I can understand the issues of ‘yellowface’ and the make up doesn’t look very good from what I’ve seen, but some of these scenes are in the future – the people in the setting are products of racial mixing. I also take exception to the picture comment ‘In a scene from the trailer, a white male character monologues about a dream where all the (Asian) waitresses had the same face.’ – yes they all have the same face – they’re clones!! I’ve read the novel – racism, slavery, man’s inhumanity to man etc is a common theme. I’m not an American and look at the liberal v conservative wars in USA with interest. Isn’t the common criticism Liberals have towards Conservatives is that Cons make impulsive judgements without having the full facts at hand? Seems to me a lot of liberals are doing just that before even watching the movie or reading the novel.

  • Pingback: Yellowface in “Cloud Atlas” | Sarcasmia

  • It’s not racism.

    Hugo Weaving also shows up in Cloud Atlas as a woman for one of the sequences. Guess that took jobs away from actresses… too bad.

  • smmoulder

    As a mixed Asian-Caucasian, I expected to read and agree with the perspective here. I vividly remember how frustrated I was that two Chinese actresses were cast in the lead roles in Memoir of a Geisha.

    But in this case, I strongly believe you have missed the point here. And in so doing, trivialized a real issue.

    Cloud Atlas is not about any specific race – it is about all races. It is about connections across race, gender and time. Casting the same actors and actresses throughout the six stories is a critical piece of connective tissue that in no way is saying anything about the appropriateness of yellow-face, black-face (or cross-dressing for that matter which also happens in the film).

    It’s clear you have only seen the trailer and then made assumptions about the movie that over reach because you haven’t seen it. Nor did you read the book, which would probably have helped you avoid some basic errors. For example, you say:

    “where the “all-look-same” vision of Asianness is directly translated into racks of identical, interchangeable Asian “fabricant” clones”

    The point of this particular story has nothing to with “all-look-same” – it is about what it is to be human and how humanity seems bent on de-humanizing people so that it can justify enslavement and abuse. Which is so wrong that it ultimately results in the collapse of civilization. It is a message that you would embrace if you had actually waited to see the movie or read the book.

    As I said earlier, I think your larger concern about yellow-face (or more broadly, insensitive and ignorant casting) is quite valid. Ask a Native American about this – they have been sinned against far more than anyone else thanks to the popularity of Westerns for so many years. But when your vision is distorted by this issue to the point that you can’t see what is really happening, you risk crying “wolf”. And when that happens often enough, you (and the issue) are dismissed out of hand.

    So please, just consider actually watching the movie and then re-addressing this. You may not change your opinion. But at least it will be more fully informed.

    P.S. I don’t know what carne asada fries are, but they do sound awesome and I’m now on a mission to find some.

    • happyappa

      1) Who cares what race you say you are, this is the internet.

      2) “Casting the same actors and actresses throughout the six stories is a
      critical piece of connective tissue that in no way is saying anything
      about the appropriateness of yellow-face, black-face ”

      Right, it’s not saying anything when they cast white guys and put them in Asian makeup. So let’s just shut down any conversation about the racism in the movie, by saying that it’s just for artistic value and fun.

      3) How can you compare cross-dressing to color-face? These are two different things

    • Courtney Ellis

      I must say I read this and I was moved, however I just think that someone like Daniel Dae Kim or may have benefited from that role and did some stereotype busting. I mean this was a great film and I will take nothing away from the skills of the actors in it, but remember we still have a problem in our country and try not to be fooled by the fact that our president is black…….and we got carne aside fries here in San Antonio at Los Roberto’s!!!! Oh here is the recipe for them as well:

      Serves 4-6

      Ingredients

      1 bunch cilantro (no stems) chopped

      3 large cloves of garlic, minced

      1 tablespoon cumin

      1 teaspoon each Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

      1/3 cup olive oil

      Zest & juice of one lime

      One flank steak – about 1.5 pounds

      1-28 ounce bag frozen French fries

      About 2 cups shredded Colby/jack cheese

      Guacamole, and sour cream for garnish

      Steps

      Combine cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt & pepper, olive oil, lime juice and zest – mix well

      Put flank and marinade into a large Ziploc bag, zip shut and squish around to make sure flank is well covered

      Refrigerate 1-4 hours

      Heat grill to high and grill flank about 5 minutes each side

      Meanwhile, cook French fries according to package directions

      Slice flank into thins strips then rough chop into smaller pieces

      Put on top of cooked fries and top with cheese

      Microwave 30-60 seconds or until cheese melts

      Garnish with guacamole and sour cream

      Courtesy of http://www.thesamlivecast.com/portfolio/carne-asada-fries

  • chibisuzaku

    OK, honestly? As an Asian-American woman, I think this is a matter of unfounded rage at a white guy getting both the “Asian hero guy/romantic lead” part. I’m dating a white guy, and there have definitely been moments when Asian guy friends look askance at us, or complain that “we always want to date white guys.” Jim Sturgess’s character really doesn’t look convincingly Asian, and has a weird prosthetic forehead that I assume is some sort of futuristic genetically-engineered thing, and despite the accusation of “yellowface,” his character isn’t Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Long Duck Dong. He’s a selfless and dignified character. Doona Bae dressing up as a freckled white girl in a different part of the movie isn’t “whiteface” (by the way, she really didn’t look convincingly white either), but Jim Sturgess is “yellowface” because he’s a white guy who not only gets the romantic lead, but is dressed up as an Asian while doing it (how dare he!). Never mind that the setup of the ENTIRE MOVIE revolves around the same actors dressing up as different characters of ethnicities, this to Asian guys is somehow unacceptable. Please … don’t be a stereotype. Just let this (really quite nice) movie be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/KevinWendt.CMT Kevin Wendt

      Another sincere and logical response. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tfaust Timothy Faust

    Hugo Weaving also plays a woman in one of the stories. Is that supposed to upsetting too?

    Normally, I would agree with the point of this article, but all I can say is that the author obviously is completely unfamiliar with the book.

    The book follows several characters for over 500 years as they are reincarnated as different races and genders. Using the same actor for each of the six reincarnations isn’t racist, it’s brilliant.

    • happyappa

      Well gee is there color-face in the book? And why are you bringing up gender, this is about race.

      • BMO

        This is about bigotry and prejudice, it doesn’t matter if it is concerning the color of your skin, gender, or sexual orientation.

        There wasn’t “color-face” in the book but that is because as prose we get pages upon pages about the characters inner thoughts and exposition to flesh out the story. In the movie we need visual queues and camera work to do that for us, It’s called filmmaking.

        Does that make it inherently okay, you ask. No but if you put it into context you will see that it was done in poor taste but done to tell a story about how exactly your division on gender and race prejudices is a moot point, prejudice is prejudice.

        • happyappa

          “This is about bigotry and prejudice, it doesn’t matter if it is concerning the color of your skin, gender, or sexual orientation. ”
          The topic of this article is about racism, specifically concerning yellowface.

          “it was done in poor taste but done to tell a story about how exactly
          your division on gender and race prejudices is a moot point”

          And a square is pointy because it’s a circle? There’s no need for a movie that makes “division on race prejudices” even worse in our real, actual society. In fact, it also reflects the crappy treatment of pocs because of all the crappy yellowface and blackface in this movie. And artistic license doesn’t excuse racism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tfaust Timothy Faust

        My point is that this article was pretty one sided. It is solely about whites playing Asians. The author is not upset about men playing women, or asians playing white characters.

        Doona Bae plays two white characters in the film. And no one seems upset by that.

        One of the book and film’s main topics is that souls are reincarnated over time as different genders and races. It would not make sense if the characters were played by different actors over the course of the film.

        • happyappa

          And why should the author be upset that a poc is playing a white person? The problem with your argument is that whiteface is not equal to yellowface. Yellowface has been used to oppress asians, deny them roles, etc. It is racist. Whiteface is not.

          Reincarnation does not entail taping a white guy’s eyes back to play an asian. It is the SOUL that reincarnates as you state, so yes it would make sense if characters were played by different actors. Especially having an EAST ASIAN actor playing an EAST ASIAN character. But wait, asians don’t even get to play non-reincarnated asians. How about the Nightingale play? (I believe that was this year) Cuz apparently white guys can be Chinese emperors too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614180353 Anton Wilson-Shim

    Arguing about this is pointless. Ever since Obama, many people of a certain background think racism is now magically over. This hurts no one. This is not really racism. Etc Etc. If it’s not affecting them, they don’t know how to empathise with people who have to go through a completely different experience from them. If they don’t feel the pain, I guess it doesn’t exist…right?

    • Courtney Ellis

      AMEN!!

    • Michael Brown

      Doing something in poor taste is not racism. Look up the definition of the word please…

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Way to miss the entire point and judge a book by its cover… er.. trailer. I instantly got the impression that they purpose used makeup and effects to create trans-racial and trans-gender casting of characters. I dunno if in the end it’s about reincarnation or souls traveling through time, but the directors conscious had actors transcending race and gender roles in the cast over time. Heck, one of the directors is transgender him/herself. (The issues of that.. are a whole other bag of worms.) And as the directors showed in The Matrix, they are big fans of gnostic theology and transcending physical reality. Also, I’m pretty sure that the scene with all the waitresses looking the same is because.. well.. THEY ARE. They’re either clones or robots of the same model. And it also gets into generic engineering and class warfare like the Wachowskits are oft to do. And that Asian actress plays a dark skinned future human too. As well as Halle Berry playing a white woman in the past.. well.. a more white woman. She is about half and half herself.

    All these other movies of the past just had whites playing characters of other races for no reason in the film or story. It was just Hollywood not wanting to hire minority actors. In Cloud Atlas… it’s a major damn plot and thematic point of the films that actors are cast across racial and gender lines. It’s not just Hollywood’s regular racist casting. It’s a conscious decision by the artists making the film and ties into the themes of the piece.

    Get off your high horse. There are awful racist castings by Hollywood still today. Last Airbender obviously being a major one. I don’t see how you can compare Cloud Atlas to even that fiasco, never mind all these garbage racist castings of old Hollywood.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen the film, but I’ve read the novel and I don’t think you understand the context of the story. Race and power dynamics constitute one of the strongest themes in the entire novel. The central character, such as it is, is represented by a wide variety of races and sexual identities. My feeling is that the film was trying to adapt this theme and underscore it by using the same actors as different races or even sexes (as I understand Hugo Weaving even plays a female character at one point in the film — I know which one it is, and it sounds kind of like a briliant casting choice). In particular, your criticism of the Korea storyline is way, way off-base. Broadbent’s character thinks all the waitresses look like because they do — they’re genetically identical replicants. That particular story is about a replicant (the 451st copy of that particular model, the Pap Song’s waitress Sonmi) who breaks away from her destiny to become first a political figure, and then later, an almost godlike myth to people around the world. I guess I’m saying the Korea story is the exact opposite of what you are suggesting it is. The fact that other non-Asian actors appear in the Korea portion is something that is not explicitly based in the book, but it makes some sense given the books meditation on race and identity (i.e., the other icarnations of Sonmi throughout the century are certainly not Asian). Finally, I’d also suggest that, before you level charges like racism at Cloud Atlas, you should read up on who write the novel. David Mitchell (who also approved the screenplay) has lived in worked in Japan much of his life, and has a great respect and admiriation for Asian culture — so much so that this is not his only novel where a significant part of the action takes place in Asia. I think he would be very distressed to hear you compare Cloud Atlas to birth of a nation, and I know he would probably be able to defend himself better than I am doing right now.

  • kate

    and i always wonder, what if it’s the other way around? let’s have four asian actresses in a movie like “The Little Women” see how white folks will like that! (Don’t think it’d be a much of a blockbuster though)

    • yosafbridge

      I think that would be pretty awesome actually. No, it wouldn’t be much of a blockbuster, but neither would a straightforward adaptation of Little Woman.

      Plenty of Asian films are adaptations of white stories. Shakespeare in particular. Akira Kurosawa has adapted a lot of very famous, well respected films (even to a Western audience) that star Asians in roles that were written for white actors.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Homig/766667960 Robert Homig

    This had nothing to do with the reincarnation part of the novel. It had everything to do with the exaggeration of plastic surgery in the future that the author extends to what he calls “facescaping”. Considering that the part of the book this occurs in is supposedly a consumerist future Korea and that Koreans top the list of people having plastic surgery and that the majority of those surgeries are geared toward looking more Caucasian(eyelid surgery, skin bleaching, nose and cheek restructuring) it becomes apparent that the author didn’t make that great of a leap and that indeed in the future, given the current direction, a Asian-Caucasian hybrid looking individual would be highly likely. It is my guess that that is exactly what the book and the movie makers had in mind. I suggest reading the book before commenting on this.

    • Anonymous

      But there are biracial people who are already Asian and white, that are actors. Why go through putting make-up on a white guy’s face, when you could just hire Daniel Henney?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Homig/766667960 Robert Homig

        The absolute point is the exaggeration of the ridiculous look not to find someone that is biracial. That point is exactly what Racebending.com doesn’t understand and 99% of the commenters here don’t understand either because they didn’t read the book. I am in complete agreement on other articles on this site, but they are way off base on this one.

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  • ben

    After seeing the movie I personally feel that its actually highly egalitarian, yes, yes, Hugo Weaving plays a role in yellow face, as do others, but Bae Doona plays a role in “white” face and many actors and actresses of color are given roles in this film as many different kinds of people. Certainly if one looks hard enough one can find offence with this movie, but this movie is actually a light in the darkness of hollywood bigotry pointing the way to a brighter direction.

    • http://twitter.com/Ducky8abug Roz B

      Three of the four actors were given wide range of ethnicities and genders to play.

      a. Keith David played an Asian leader of a revolution (“yellowface”).
      b. Halle Berry played an Asian elderly male doctor (“yellowface”), a 1930s socialite (“whiteface”).
      c. Doona Bae played (aurgh, forgot the name of the character the doctor was married to) “whiteface” and an Asian male.

      The only actor who didn’t cross the enthnicy and gender line was David Gyasi. He played a black man in every reincarnation. Apparently, being any other ethnicity or gender was not going to do it for this couragous and brave soul. So, he kept the melanin (and his balls) and marched on…apparently…shrug…but I really loved this movie.

  • Andrew Slaughter

    Doona Bae plays a Mexican woman, a white woman, and is Korean.
    Tom Hanks plays only a white male.
    Hugo Weaving plays every race and gender.
    Jim Sturgess is a Korean male and a white male.
    Ben Whishaw is a white man, and a white woman.
    Halle Berry plays every race and gender.
    I’ve seen the film twice now. Doona Bae gives, arguably, the best performance out of everyone. And that’s not just me that’s a majority opinion.
    Why don’t you go out and support her career instead of slamming “racism” that doesn’t even exist.
    Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae’s romance transcends time throughout the film. Their characters keep finding each other and falling in love. It is poetic and beautiful and creates one of the greatest moments of the film near the end.
    The film is stunning and a remarkable achievement in every way.
    I feel sorry for anyone who won’t see it because they are too quick to judge it.

  • JingoFresh

    I’m yet to see an argument why yellowface is harmful. The filmmakers have the right to choose a certain actor for a role, and if they think an actor of one race playing a character of a different race is the best way, then so be it. It is not negatively discrimination against anyone, and so I don’t see the racist element. Maybe someone can enlighten me where the racism is or why this is an issue?

    The only valid argument I can see is that it is taking work away from asian actors, although that is a separate issue and as they have made it clear they want to use the same actors, it probably applies better to a different movie.

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  • http://twitter.com/Ducky8abug Roz B

    This past Saturday, I bought a movie ticket to the 3:40 showing of “Cloud Atlas”, and if I could put into a phrase that aptly describes the experience, I’d say it was jaw-dropping beauty.

    Although I understand why many have taken offense to Hugo Weaving, James D’Arcy, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant dawning the offensive “yellowface”, I have to admit (much to my chagrin) that I did not recognize Jim Sturgess as Neo So Corpus and was shocked upon learning that Halle Berry had played the elderly “doctor” who removed Doona Bae’s deadly “necklace”. I do think it would’ve been a nice change for the directors to hire asian actors to play asian roles.

    However, it also would’ve been nice to watch David Gyasi and Keith David to play roles that went across the “ethnicity” line. You know! I guess it’s more believable (for some of these filmakers and make-up artist) to transform a Cauasian actor into any ethnicity or gender one can think of but completely implausible to do the same for one with a little more melanin; and going off track a bit, I thought Gyasi and Sturgess’ chemistry was really interesting and wanted to see how that could’ve been explored. By the by, Doona Bae and Ben Winshaw’s stories were the heart and soul of the movie, and I still felt more could have been done with David Gyasi’s part if the story had focused on his desires, his past and the experiences that drove him. Anyway, I thought it was a beautiful movie.

    But I do think if they needed Asian actors to play Asian roles, they could’ve found plenty of talent just waiting to be discovered.

  • http://twitter.com/Ducky8abug Roz B

    Omg, I just remembered that Keith David played an Asian dude. He was the leader of the revolutionary movement that wanted to stop the corporations enslavement of the fabricated clones. Wow! Okay, now I have to figure out what other ethnicity David Gyasi played.

  • Anonymous

    I just had an idea that I’m surprised didn’t happen in regards to the casting of a yellowfaced character in Cloud Atlas.

    The filmmakers were in a Catch 22 because they would have one individual character who is European at one point and East Asian in another. So they had to either white-face or yellow-face right?

    Wait? Why not cast an Eurasian actor?

    But where are we going to find a young marketable Eurasian actor with prestige that we know?

    KEANU REEVES!

    A movie by the Waschowskis that stars Hugo Weaving and involves a “character” that is part of the time Asian and part of the time European? I thought that would’ve been a no brainer, and would have drawn in the Matrix crowd for a Matrix reunion.

    • camille

      he’s too old now to play this character, sadly. it’s also sad that there’s hardly any new generation of asian/eurasian male actors who is as famous as he was/is.

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  • phosphor

    Happyappa, Mike

    I’ve seen the film and I’ve changed my opinion; sorry if I was belligerent before. Seeing it, it becomes viscerally apparent that the only throughline that isn’t subverted through makeup or casting is white males. For a movie ostensibly about powerbrokerage, leverage, and subversion that’s a massive (and sad) oversight. In fact, as much as it is a playground for everyone else, it is mostly a playground for white males. I still believe that makeup has its place, but they missed an opportunity to have an equal amount of creative casting. Blockbusters are slowly coming around (because profit margins are sensitive to these things) but hey, when the results are the same I won’t argue. But so-called “message movies” need to lead the way. This movie needed to check its privilege; first time I can say that without irony.

  • http://www.facebook.com/binyamin.khan Binyamin Khan

    Alot of the discussion I’ve read is either naiive or overtly racist. Nothing is essentially and forever racist and individual cultural products do have a limited agency in the wider culture, not fully determined by the wider culture. And, black, asian and caucasion races do not scientifically exist, we all have mixed heritage; races do not exist. Can someone be essentially and purely black or white? And actors always play people they are not, sometimes putting on a fake accent or elderly wrinkles. For a proper critique we cannot rely so much on simplistic formula of what is offensive. I think this film is a step in the right direction even though it still has problems.

    • happyappa

      Having white people play pocs is a step in the right direction? It’s denying pocs even more roles. When you say that race does not exist, you are ignoring the issues with it – like RACISM. But lol tell me about how you say that something is “overtly racist” and then claim that “races do not exist”.

      And fake accents and elderly wrinkles are equivalent to racebending or yellowface, brownface… yeah right…

      • Courtney Ellis

        Exactly, but it has been done for years and still society attempts to justify it……Amazing!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/binyamin.khan Binyamin Khan

    It seems that if I were to have a ‘mixed-race’ child, much like the characters in this film are supposed to be in futuristic Korea, then I can expect that child to be told they are either offensive to asian people or white people.

    • happyappa

      Are you implying Sturges is supposed to be a “mixed-race Futuristic Korean”? Even if he was supposed to be, you can sure as hell bet it’s offensive if by “mixed-race” you mean a white person pretending to be half asian with shitty racist makeup to boot.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/luke.barnhart.7 Luke Barnhart

    This is bullshit, that film was incredible, and not in the least offensive to Asians. Over lokking into films with foreign actors you can always find such stereotypes like all Asians look alike if you morph it into something as ridiculous as saying any Asian clone portray that, and the reason it was high tech wasn’t because they were Asian, it was because they were in the FUTURE! This overanalyzing is a witch hunt, and in the years to come when this movie is seen as a classic it will be viewed as such.

  • DysatisfunctionaLuke

    I got onto this via the comments section of “Jim Sturgess is a Tool” where you said you’d address the fact that Bae Doona is cast as a white woman. How can you credibly call this ‘tokenism’ when it’s so rife throughout the film? Bae Doona also plays a Mexican, Halle Berry plays a man and a white woman, Susan Sarandon plays a man (she told media she looked like “Chris Walken’s cousin”).

    Most of your counterargument cites the casting evils throughout the film industry, and many people including myself would completely agree with you, but it doesn’t address the complaint in Cloud Atlas, because here is clearly a film that uses gender- and race-bending casting as a cinematic and thematic device. It’s completely different to something like casting David Carradine in Kung Fu, or casting in The Last Airbender,
    Dragonball Z etc which are always disappointing.

    I agree the intention is not as important as the effect, but the effect of such wide-ranging and shocking casting decisions is to underpin the film’s themes, even though I agree the make-up is sometimes just ok and sometimes laughable.

    At least asking why an Asian man couldn’t be cast for Sturgess’ roles acknowledges the device of the film, and is the only standing criticism of race in this film that holds any merit. On that note your comments about gender and race have far more credibility than this other knee-jerk rubbish. You’re otherwise picking the wrong battle here, and discrediting the movement for racial equity in media representation.

  • Anonymous

    This is 100% all that needs to be said. My exact thoughts and thank you for writing them out as I am on my iPad lol.

  • happyappa

    Taping a white guy’s eyes back to make him asian isn’t exactly shared humanity. And bringing in straight/gay, male/female is not the point, as the topic here is racism and ‘color’face.

    You mention the comet birthmark, so really they should have done that, with all actors of different races playing their actual race.

    This is racist as hell, stop sugar coating it with your opinions about artistic license; and being content when “it could be better”. And you wrote another comment about how Sturgess’ role should have gone to an Asian. These 2 posts contradict each other.

  • Courtney Ellis

    Okay so are we out of male Asian actors, you don’t have o use the same actors; even if you are keeping integrity to the film. Wake the hell up and stop being…..what’s the point you people go for anything!! It’s okay to be “color blind or whatever you call yourselves, but damn come on now!!

  • Maricruz Villalobos Zamora

    Something I’ve been wondering: If Cloud Atlas had had a mostly POC cast changing from one ethnicity to the other (including white) would that had been better?

    • JLP

      In my experience on this site, NOTHING you do can satisfy them.

  • Larry Navarro

    As a half Asian I slowly grew a cold chill of shock when I finally realized the the white and Afro-American actors were supposed to be Asian and not some sort of Futuristic Alien race!! Hell, and I thought that sort of thing died with Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto!

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  • Michael Brown

    I just finally watched the movie and although I thought it was in poor taste to do “yellowface”, it is not technically racist. People obviously forgot what racist means.

  • yosafbridge

    Look, the casting for this film was based on the POV characters. Each of the POV protagonists of each individual story gets to remain their correct age, race and gender while the cast changes around them.

    THIS is the reason that Jim Sturgess was cast as a white man and then played Asian later in the film as opposed to casting an Asian man and racebending him into a white man. This is the same reason why Luisa Rey was played by Halle Berry and not a white actress in order to play the white Jocasta in an earlier storyline. Or why Sonmi is played by an Asian lady and not by a ginger woman cast to play Tilda. Or, hell, why Frobisher was played by a male actor despite his character later turning up as a woman.

    All of the actors bent races, genders, accents and ages when playing side characters in the story that they weren’t the star of . The only consistent characters were the six leads who were each played by the race, gender and age that the character is MEANT to be in the context of the story.

    Casting an Asian man to play Adam Ewing would be inconsistent.

  • Monte

    It’s a movie made by two white men. They have every right to decide what actors they want in it. If Asians want to make a movie with Asians cast as white characters,, go right ahead… Both have every right to do as they please without being called racist. This whole argument that two white directors are racist because they cast white actors as Asians is completely absurd and pathetic. I thought it was an excellent film, and was very disappointed it didn’t win any awards.

    • stevenapplebaum

      The directors were a man and a woman, unless you were referencing the producers.