What’s in a name?
Suppose you have a comic who’s main character is named Tommy Zhou. Zhou is a martial artist and inventor and has created a device that combines both of his passions, wrist bands that can focus his chi energy to make solid weapons out of holograms. I’m thinking something like a Green Lantern ring except with chi weapons. Of course, your comic needs a villain so let us also suppose that there’s an ancient society known as Lin Kuei that is very interested in Zhou’s invention and would like to use it for its own ends.
Sounds like you have an action packed, martial arts, chop socky kind of comic. It also sounds like you have a very Chinese comic. Zhou happens to be the name of the longest reigning dynasty in China’s history. Also, when you mention the emperor of China on page 2 of your first issue, that further leads me to believe you have a very Chinese comic.
If you were going to make a movie of said comic, who would you cast as the main character? Let’s see, he’s Asian (specifically Chinese), he knows his chop socky, sounds like a job for Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Korean Pop Sensation Rain, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, or Russell Wong (seriously, he needs to be in more films). And that’s just off the top of the dome. I’m there are a shit ton more Asian action stars who would be perfect for the role of Tommy Zhou in The Weapon.
Who does Disney pick to play Tommy Zhou, our very Chinese hero with a very Chinese name and a very Chinese heritage who was raised in Honolulu’s Chinatown? This guy:
This is David Henrie, star of The Wizards of Waverly Place, a Disney tweeny boppy sit com show about a family of wizards trying to fit into a non-magical society.
Now I will say that a last name does not an Asian make. My wife and my sister-in-law both have my family’s last name, Noguchi. They are not Asian. At all. Not even close. So you could make the argument that just because the character’s last name is Zhou, that doesn’t mean he’s Asian.
However, in the context of the comic, Tommy Zhou is most assuredly Asian. His grandfather is Chinese, he was raised in Chinatown, he uses his Chinese heritage in his sales pitch at the trade show. I mean, you would actively have to go out of your way not to look at a cover image or actually read the thing to think that you could get away with casting a non-Asian as Tommy Zhou.
I really don’t get this. If they’re going to ignore the source material, why bother doing a movie “loosely” based on The Weapon? Reading through the thing, Tommy practically wears his Chinese heritage on his sleeve. It’s not even like this comic has a built-in fan base. I’ve never heard of the thing before this announcement. So why stick this Henrie kid in a franchise that doesn’t exist? Why not give him his own stupid MMA movie and give The Weapon to an Asian? This is just a dumb fuck move.
The shitty thing is that no matter how loud we shout about this blatant white washing of a character, Disney won’t give two fucks. They don’t care about diversity or integrity or ethnicity. They care about money. At the end of the day, they’re not selling The Weapon to us action movie fans. They’re selling it to the teeny bopping kiddies who made David Henrie a “star” in the first place. They think that tweeny audience doesn’t give a shit about diversity and so they’re passing this goofy fuck off as an action star. He’s made money for them on that Wizards show and he’s sure to make money for them in this. Even if the rest of us think it’s a pile of dog shit, that Wizards audience will almost guarantee decent box office sales.
Seems to me that Hollywood doesn’t believe a movie starring an Asian lead will perform well. Never mind that Slumdog Millionaire won 8 Oscars. That must have been a fluke. Until more Asian lead films win awards or destroy box offices with their feats of cashing in, Hollywood will pass over solid Asian actors in favor of mediocre white ones. Russell Wong, Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, any one of them would be perfect for Tommy Zhou. Any one of them can out act David Henrie on a bad day and kick his scrawny ass without breaking a sweat. But we won’t get to see them in The Weapon. And that makes me very sad.
Thanks to Angry Zen Minion Nathan Yuen and AZM Ally Jen Starling for sending this my way.
Source: Hollywood Reporter