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Protest begins over the all-white short list for AKIRA

In 2009 they protested the casting for The Last Airbender and now Racebending.com has started an online petition to protest the “whitewashing” of Warner Bros.’ live-action remake of Akira. Earlier this week, the shortlist was announced for the iconic Japanese animated film with only Caucasian actors in the running for the lead roles of Kaneda and Tetsuo.  showed that the studio is only considering actors ten years older than the originally teenaged characters, but that’s an issue for another day — we already knew it wouldn’t exactly be a faithful adaptation.) 

Racebending.com went as far as coordinating protests, letter-writing campaigns, and petitions against the film’s choice of actors for Airbender. Since then they have remained active by pointing out both good and bad race-related casting decisions. Their most recent petition criticizing the Akira shortlist comes from the groups Facebook page:

On March 21st, 2011, Deadline.com reported that eight actors have been solicited for the roles of Tetsuo and Kaneda in AKIRA. All of the actors solicited were white. If not in a film called Akira, for characters named Kaneda and Tetsuo, when will Asian Americans get to star in a Warner Bros film?

Please virtually “attend” this petition event to show your support! It will provide us with a headcount so we know how many people feel strongly about this issue.

We would like to present the numbers from this petition to the studio to show them that all media consumers–not just Akira fans and not just Asian Americans–support keeping casting Asian Americans in the lead roles in AKIRA.

As a reminder, the Warner Bros. remake takes place in “neo-Manhattan,” so it is a lot better than using a Japanese setting with white actors. For a full description of the script click here. A survey conducted by Racebending.com found that out of 241 Warner Bros. pictures released between 2000 and 2009, “only 2% had an Asian first-billed lead”; Asians make up 4.5% of the U.S. population at large and 10% of the population of present-day Manhattan.

It would make sense to at least have an Asian actor in a lead role of some sort. On the flip side, it makes more sense to have well known actors in lead roles from the studio's perspective. In addition, it does take place in "neo-Manhattan", as mentioned above. I am having trouble thinking of Asian actors that are well known to American audiences that would be a good fit. To me, race should never be the deciding factor when casting.

What are your thoughts?

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