Sony’s Choice for a White Director in ‘Mulan’ Sparks Outrage

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 11:11 am, October 28, 2016
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Disney isn’t the only studio that’s in hot water over “whitewashing,” and they aren’t the only ones making a live action Mulan — nor do they have a license over the Chinese myth. Sony Pictures announced last week that it is also developing a live-action take on the story of the young female warrior, intended for grown-ups.

Earlier this month, a social justice blogger who goes by the moniker of Angry Asian Man voiced his rage over an early iteration of the Disney’s live-action “The Legend of Mulan” script that starred a white man as its lead. Although the piece was debunked as nothing more than a spec script for use as a jumping-off point to develop the upcoming film, which has an entirely Chinese leading cast, Angry Asian Man took credit on social media for the change.

The studio was previously criticized after outrage mongers were unhappy over how its new series, Elena of Avalor, did not depict the horrors of colonialism.

When Sony Pictures revealed that Game of Thrones director Alex Graves, was to helm the historical piece, there was an instant backlash. Being a white man and all, news of his role didn’t go down well with perennially outraged social justice warriors, who are now throwing a tantrum on social media. It should be noted that despite hiring Graves to helm the project, Sony’s Mulan will be a Chinese co-production and feature Chinese leads.

The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato was among the first to share her hot-take on the issue.

Megan Kearns, the self-described “feminist vegan blogger” of BitchFlicks, was among the many angry people who took the news like a baby refusing her cereal.

Her complaints were echoed by many others.

Speaking to Newsweek, Asian-American director Judy Lei expressed her exasperation at the lack of opportunity given to Asian-Americans in Hollywood. It’s certainly a valid complaint that many Asian-American actors and filmmakers have about the industry. With regards to Graves’ appointment, she said that the stars, and not the director, matter more to the production.

“The most important part is the writing and the actress on screen,” said Lei. “If they do it right and the director is willing to learn the story behind Mulan, that is still okay. But it would have been amazing to have an all-Asian team doing this.”

There’s no reason why any director, regardless of gender or ethnicity, should have any bearing whatsoever on the direction of the film. It’d be one thing to cast a white person in a role more suited to a Chinese actor, but the quality of movie shouldn’t be impacted by the racial origins of the person directing it.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken game critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.