This is regarding the December 2017 A-pop column.
The Kanji that appears in the movie Blade Runner 2049 could be Japanese, as the writer assumes — though being that Kanji means “Chinese characters,” it could also be from China, the most populous nation in the history of the planet — if the writer of the article wishes to imply that the use of Chinese characters means a future without Asians, it’s a bit of a stretch.
I have not seen the sequel except for the trailer and in the trailer, the only writing that appears is in Korean (not Japanese, not English.) Does that imply a future without Asians? I am not so sure of that. In fact, the vision of Ridley Scott in the first Blade Runner was of a very multiethnic Los Angeles, where even the language being used in the city had become an amalgamation of different languages (hence the character played by James Edward Olmos speaks in “CitySpeak,” a blend of different languages). Furthermore, the women appearing on the blimps in the original Blade Runner were clearly not Japanese, but looked Chinese, including their outfits and the Kanji used was not accompanied by anything clearly Japanese Hiragana or Katakana — it could have been either Japanese or Chinese. One doesn’t need to know that to write for the Northwest Asian Weekly, but one shouldn’t write about what one doesn’t really understand, nor make bold conjectures without any basis.
I don’t even know if the article would be an appropriate Facebook post, as one might have Japanese or Chinese friends who would clearly understand the problems with such assertions. In fact, if anything, the use of Chinese characters implies that the future will not be all-white — though sadly the casting department doesn’t quite follow along with that.
(The opportunity to cast Harrison Ford in the original was not surprising though — he was in the middle of the original Star Wars films and was immensely popular. Hollywood, like a lot of things, operates on what is popular — what will draw in profits — and at that time, Ford was a good bet. The role of Olmos — no, not an Asian, but neither is he white — was a classic. He was highly memorable, as well the Chinese eye doctor’s role. No, they weren’t the stars of the film, not every film is a perfect rainbow coalition of ethnicities – but neither is it as deserving of critique as say Matt Damon in Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall. It is what it is, and the writer might have plenty to critique if the actors were in fact Asian — as the actors are playing the role of non-humans pretending to be human — the “replicants” that dominate the film. In fact, all of the main cast in the first one, it could be argued, are replicants and not real humans. More films with Asian actors are needed, but it shouldn’t be a requirement that each and every film have an Asian actor. It is an industry problem not specific to this film, nor does this film seem to be particularly offensive, as say the racist portrayals and superficial treatment of Asians in the Scarlett Johansson film ‘Lucy,’ where they are expendable stereotype cut-outs.)
Finally, it is a fictional movie, at best a prediction of the future (a bleak prediction, not a hopeful one… a bleak vision where progressive politics has not won out — it is a vision of dystopia, not utopia). An argument that there is not enough Asian actors in Hollywood is not only an accurate one, but an important one. This review, unfortunately, is all over the place and does not make a whole lot of sense — it reads as a rambling diatribe full of holes and also reeks of a first draft with not a lot of thought put into it, nor much background knowledge on the part of the author. In fact, the author seems to be practicing exactly what she is attempting to criticize — a superficial uninformed view of what is and isn’t Asian.
All apologies, but if we want to improve the dialogue… we need to improve the dialogue.
— George Cooke
Former resident of South Korea (1 year) and Japan (4 years) and the International District (on and off for 20 years).