MANAA recently heard that David Henrie, a white actor, had been cast in the film version of "The Weapon" as the Asian American hero Tommy Zhou (thanks, folks at Racebending!). It was frustrating to hear that yet another opportunity for an Asian American lead actor had disappeared, and we wondered what was to become of the strong elements of Asian American issues that had characterized the comic book. We are hoping that there is still a chance that the part will be given to an Asian American man, or that the Asian American elements of the story can still be heard.
October 2, 2009
Platinum Studios, Inc.
11400 West Olympic Blvd, 14th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dear Mr. Greenberg:
I’m writing on behalf of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) because we heard about the recent casting news for your film adaptation of “The Weapon.” We are a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating for balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. Since 1992, we have consulted with movie studios and met regularly with the top four TV networks to convey the importance of diversity. To the point, it was extremely disappointing to learn that Tommy Zhou, the Chinese American main character from “The Weapon,” is being made into a Caucasian lead for your movie, and we would like to request a meeting to talk about these concerns with you.
You might be familiar with the controversy over the movie casting for the live-action adaptation of Nick-elodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” While the original show was clearly inspired by Asian and Inuit influences and populated with Asian characters, Paramount cast three of the four main characters with Caucasian actors (initially it was all four). There has been a tremendous backlash from fans of the show, resulting in lost goodwill and support for the movie (e.g. www.racebending.com). Although The Last Airbender will not be in theaters until 2010, we’ve already seen one other movie tank at the box office after deviating from the source material and ethnic characters: Dragonball Evolution.
There have been signs of progress over the years. For example, Disney includes an Asian American character in the movie Up, and in various Disney Channel programs. Nevertheless, the Asian American community, as well as the movie-going public at large, are generally used to seeing Asian men depicted as villains. We rarely have the opportunity to see Asian American heroes we can celebrate.
We urge you to reconsider the decision to turn Tommy Zhou into a Caucasian character. Audiences do support diverse casting, as well as compelling stories of minority heroes like Tommy, whose Asian heritage is integral to the plot itself. You have the opportunity to break down barriers and do something historic. Platinum Studios can also avoid doing a disservice to the fans, as Paramount has done with Avatar.
We are more than glad to be a resource to you, and invite you to have a meeting with us. We would like to have a dialogue and help make The Weapon a movie that comic book and superhero fans will be excited to see.