Saturday, November 26

Chinese or Japanese

I hadn't realized that Pat Morita had a role in Mulan. I thought it was silly enough that Ming-Na Wen 溫明娜 Wēn Míngnà did the heroine's voice. (She says Wen was her father's surname, but her mother remarried and she belatedly felt it was strange that the other family members had taken her stepfather's name, so she finally dropped her surname and now goes by Ming-Na.) People will say that they're Asian (or East Asian) so that's all right. And perhaps in many animated movies, the voice-overs have increasingly been done by actors who are associated with their animated roles. From Fred Topel's interview with Pat Morita:

What did it mean to you as an Asian actor to be in Mulan? Well, I was very pleased to see that so many involved were peers, colleagues....

Is it a problem in Hollywood that they don’t see the differences between Asian cultures? It was at one time, maybe a decade or two ago. There was a whole big thing in Hollywood in terms of casting people of Japanese descent for Chinese roles and vice versa, and you couldn’t play Koreans or whatever. But I’ve learned that if you’re a worthy enough actor, they overlook that.

But plenty of the roles in Mulan are played by non-Asians. And what is one to make of Eddie Murphy as a dragon? Or in another movie, as an ass?

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