The Annihilator

The Annihilator

In reporting on the U.S.-China Film Summit presented by the Asia Society, I mentioned that a topic of discussion was Hollywood’s failure to gauge the interest of the Chinese moviegoing audience.

Needless to say, there wasn’t enough mention in that discussion of the notion of making movies that starred or even included Asian Americans.

Recently there has been a flurry of reporting on projects that seem to be pandering to the Chinese and Chinese Americans, with either movie revitalizations of television series that had a semblance of a Chinese aspect to it (Kung Fu, Hong Kong Phooey) or projects that attempts to blend the Chinese historical film with the Hollywood blockbuster.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee

Comic book legend Stan Lee (creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, The X-Men, etc.) is the latest to try to break into the Chinese market with The Annihilator, a superhero movie featuring “a young Chinese man who returns to his homeland as a superhero to mete out justice.”

While it’s perhaps commendable that a superhero be Asian, all monetary strategy aside, the project still posits the character as non-American.  While the word “homeland’ can suggest where your ethnic roots lie, it generally refers to the nativity of a person.  As a Chinese American man, my homeland is America.

If this positioning of the lead as a China-born character is true, it does nothing to aid the state of Asian American actors, nor does it help elucidate the truth that not all Asians in America are foreigners.  Hollywood seems to perpetuate just the opposite image.  And if the lead is cast with a non-American actor, it’s more likely the project is all about financial pandering.

Aren’t we so over things being stamped revolutionary just because they involve non-whites?  The first African American Miss America; the first Asian American mayor; the first Latino American Idol.  Stan Lee — not Asian — says that his character is “the most incredibly original and unique superhero I’ve created in a long time.”

Sounds like just another small-town-hero-does-good movie to me.

I’m hearing all those who quoteth, “I’ll reserve my comments,” taking a wait-and-see attitude.  But with the historical reality of the repeated casting of white actors in obviously Asian roles, even when they’re actual human beings and not comic book sketches, I’m comfortable making a preemptive strike.


–Ken Choy

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