Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality
On Tuesday, March 29th, Racebending.com and several Asian American community organizations voiced concerns about the casting process for AKIRA and other upcoming Warner Bros. productions including adaptations of Death Note and All You Need is Kill. The organizations are requesting a meeting with the studio and these productions.
Last week, the Asian American community was appalled to see entertainment media outlets report that all of the actors currently being considered for lead roles in AKIRA are white.
A letter Racebending.com sent to Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov was signed with support from several Asian American community organizations:
In addition, the following organizations recently voiced their support of their letter:
A similar letter was also sent to the office of Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures.
The letter points out that in the United States, Asian Americans represent over 15 million media consumers and that the community will have an spending power of $700 billion by AKIRA’s projected release date in 2013. Warner Bros. has reached out to the Asian American community and has cast Asian Americans in supporting roles in films, and will be releasing the third installment of New Line Cinema’s Harold and Kumar series, a franchise created before New Line Cinema’s merger with Warner Bros. in 2008. Even so, over the past decade, Warner Bros. has rarely produced films starring American actors of Asian descent in a first-billed roles.
Because Asian Americans are present in every major city in the United States, there is no need to change the ethnicity of the main characters while resetting this story to Manhattan. One out of ten Manhattan residents are Asian American and at 41% of the population, Asian Americans are the largest racial group in Lower Manhattan. Casting white actors for Asian lead characters will reinforce a glass ceiling and reduce opportunities for Asian American actors. [Click here to read the full letter]
“Actors like Robert Pattison and Andrew Garfield have the privilege of playing iconic white characters that Asian American actors would never be considered for,” said Racebending.com co-founder Marissa Lee. “When white actors are also asked to play iconic Asian characters, Asian American actors lose their shot at starring in anything.”
Comprised of thousands of supporters from over 50 countries worldwide, Racebending.com was founded to protest discriminatory casting in the film The Last Airbender. The organization continues to follow film and television productions in order to promote diverse and fair casting opportunities. The organization has presented at academic conferences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, and will host a table and panel at WonderCon 2011 this weekend.
We hope to hear back from Warner Bros. soon, in order to schedule a meeting in April.
Update: In July 2011, Racebending.com and representatives from the Asian American community met with five executives at Warner Bros. to begin what we hope will grow into a fruitful dialogue between our organization, the greater Asian American community, and Hollywood studios.