Normally, I don’t get into the whole whitewashing conversation of POC characters in western films because some asian films can be remade and adapted to a western audience. Also, most of the time I am wary about getting into rage-based identity politics but…
When I heard that ABC, TVNZ and Netflix were collaborating and doing a “remake” (I would call a tribute) of the 1970’s Japanese adaptation of the show ‘Monkey’, I was quite frankly, outraged.
Being Australian of the Asian variety, whilst I’m not fully chinese myself, I did grow up watching the multiple Chinese, Taiwanese and HK adaptations in Vietnamese dub.
Australian kids of East/South East Asian background are raised watching or at least knowing the story of ‘Journey to the West’. A chinese buddhist monk goes on a pilgrimage with his three disciples to collect the sacred scriptures from India.
When I saw the photo and the description of the ABC/TVNZ/Netflix adaptation, I didn’t see anything connecting to China. This story has some historical background. Xuansang is a real life 16th Century Monk who did go to India and collect scripture. Xuansang recorded his 17 year journey to India, which nine centuries later inspired Wu Cheng’en to write the ‘Journey to the West’ novel with supernatural elements.
If you can’t understand why Asians in the West (USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) are fucking angry over this, it’s because of the above, it has historical context.
I understand that this English Language ‘reboot’ series is not intended for an Eastern audience. In saying that, You would think the ABC and TVNZ take into account the outrage overseas with Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone being cast for asian characters. Do they realise that there are Asian communities across Australia and New Zealand? Also, Asians are under-represented on local television and movies. I find it difficult to swallow what they have fed us. When it was announced that they were adapting this story, as soon as I saw the pictures of the cast, I was disappointed and pissed off.
I still can’t get over it.