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Old 03-28-2014, 04:05 PM   #1
Arach Knight
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Default Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

With all of the recent backlash that has come from the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, I figure that now is as good a time as any to discuss the portrayal of another popular comic book character that is having their racial identity transformed; The Shredder.

To preface this discussion, I would like to note that I am addressing what I see as a hypocrisy when it comes to social reactions to race changes in film. I am not too concerned with an argument about whether or not fictional characters should have their racial identities changed, but rather am focused on the double-standard that comes with the reactions to the practice altogether.

While there is no dearth of fury over "making Johnny Storm Black" or people accusing studios of being politically correct for changing Nick Fury and Heimdal into non-Whites, there seems to be little ruckus made when a traditionally non-White character is made into a White character. I've seen the range of arguments.

1) It is okay to change the race of minor characters, but you shouldn't change the "look" of major characters.

2) <insert established minority character> isn't popular enough, so changing them into a White person doesn't make a difference.

3) Changing how they look changes the portrayal of the character.

There are many many variations of the above arguments, but it all boils down to society accepting White people taking on the roles of characters that are traditionally POC, but loathing an inverted scenario in which POC take on the roles of traditionally White characters. When an Irish man and a French woman were cast in the roles of Saudi Arabian father and daughter (the Al Ghul family in The Dark Knight trilogy), the actors were given kudos for a brilliant performance. Yet when it is brought up how the characters are a whitewashed portrayal, the common defense is that all that matters is that the portrayal is well done. Yet, before Jordan is even seen in a trailer, he has been demonized as being ill-cast, not because of lack of ability, but because he doesn't "look like" Johnny Storm.

Now how does this all relate to TMNT? Shredder is a full fledged Caucasian male in this film. The Shredder, a rather well known Japanese supervillain in comic books, whom was Japanese in the original TMNT film trilogy and cartoons, is now being cast as a White male. Now is the actor in question of dubious ability? Hardly. The veteran actor, William Fichtner, is known for playing villains on film, and in terms of ability, is likely to serve the role well.

What is disturbing however is that the same people whom complain about "accuracy" and "legacy" when it comes to White characters being recast, are no where to be seen or heard now that a popular minority character has had their race changed to White.

So why is it that society holds this double standard? Are non-Whites truly seen as being that unimportant to this society? It does not seem that people are so attached to the idea of iconic characters being portrayed exactly as they are in literature, because these bouts of anger over race changes only seem to occur when the character is originally White, but rarely, when the character is originally non-White.

This makes me think of The Hunger Games and how people took to Twitter with racist banter about Rue, whom is Black in the book as well as the film, yet movie-goers were still irate because of the sympathetic nature of the character and their seeming inability to be sympathetic for the death of a Black child.

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Last edited by Arach Knight; 03-30-2014 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 03-28-2014, 04:17 PM   #2
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

This may be a case of finding the best actor to fit the role (ex. MCD as Kingpin).

or it could be a shallow attempt to broaden the audience by replacing an Asian role with a white one.

But it's hard to know for sure.

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Old 03-28-2014, 04:33 PM   #3
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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This may be a case of finding the best actor to fit the role (ex. MCD as Kingpin).

or it could be a shallow attempt to broaden the audience by replacing an Asian role with a white one.

But it's hard to know for sure.
That is the thing, I don't doubt the capability of the actor in the role. In other countries where populations are largely homogenous, arguments about the ethnic makeup of characters may make more sense, but America is a multi-racial society. Why is it that we are so quick to condemn casting that prioritizes acting ability over race?

Why do we so deeply associate the race of a character with actual characterization? It makes sense if ethnic affiliation is a huge part of the character (e.g. The Shredder, Black Panther, Colossus), but when a character's story can be told exactly the same regardless of race or appearance, why do we then as a society become fixated on the least important aspect of the character?

Worse, why is it that as a society, this concern only comes about when White characters are changed, but rarely when minority characters are changed?

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Old 03-28-2014, 04:44 PM   #4
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I'm pretty sure if they changed shredder to a black actor there would have been some sort of measurable outrage.

I'm not one to try and explain the ragings of the fan community for I don't think there is always rationality there. I do think there is an element here of simply not liking the 'change' until they have sat though the movie first. Like organic webs and even the new turtle origins.
Of course many will try and present this as some righteous cause for minorities or in the case of FF, for purity of source material. But I think it boils down to not liking change from what came before. That goes for superman killing as well.

If people could disguise their contempt for the turtles noses in such a righteous manner, I think they would. Change is worrisome to fans. That being said, you've definitely made a valid comparison. I would hope all the people that have a dog in either Jordan's casting or Fitchner's have at least tried to be consistent.

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Old 03-28-2014, 04:52 PM   #5
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

because it happens with side characters every 2000 years?

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Old 03-28-2014, 04:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I don't like the Johnny Storm change because it screams change for the sake of change.

I felt the same about Shredder until I saw William Fitchner's stoic portrayal and it didn't feel too bad.

I think if there's an accurate portrayal already done for a character (there has already been an Asian Shredder in a major motion picture) and it's not the lead character then changing the character in some way if far more acceptable in the future.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Given the last on screen portrayal of the shredder(tmnt2) was pretty goofy.
The 90's cartoon shredder was mad silly...
The nicktoons shredder and the 90's one both being voiced by black men(I didn't watch the 2k one).

Fans maybe shouldn't take it too seriously.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Unlike major comic book characters (Batman, Spider-man, Iron Man), I feel that Shredder is his armor. That's why it doesn't bother me.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Why discuss it? We know nothing of the story....there could be a reasonable explanation for why THIS Shredder is a white man

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post
Given the last on screen portrayal of the shredder(tmnt2) was pretty goofy.
The 90's cartoon shredder was mad silly...
The nicktoons shredder and the 90's one both being voiced by black men(I didn't watch the 2k one).

Fans maybe shouldn't take it too seriously.
It depends.

If you're a fan of something and waited much of your life to see it finally adapted you're going to have standards. You don't want to see Batman played by a midget wearing a tutu.

Why? Because the details that made you a hardcore fan have been disregarded pointlessly. I think it's reasonable to be critical in such cases.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:32 PM   #11
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I think that the Shredder, with his original name (Oroku Saki) should be asian (Japanese to be specific). I'm not going to make a long diatribe and list all the reasons why outside there needs to be more asian representation in movies, not less.

The more I see it, the more painfully obvious it becomes how generic and bland movies are when they miss an opportunity to cast some diversity.

Ironically, "best possible actor" is going to default white since there are so few asian actors given a chance to be the best possible.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:34 PM   #12
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

In this continuity there could have been MANY Shredders and this guy is the next in a long line

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:35 PM   #13
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Quote:
Originally Posted by OutOfBoose View Post
Unlike major comic book characters (Batman, Spider-man, Iron Man), I feel that Shredder is his armor. That's why it doesn't bother me.
This nearly epitomizes my concern.

1) You dismiss The Shredder as not being a major comic book character even though The Shredder is the most iconic TMNT supervillain, has been featured in every media incarnation of the franchise, and is the primary antagonist of three of the four original films (TMNT, Secret of the Ooze, III, TMNT 2007) as well as the reboot. The Shredder is a pop culture icon, just as the Ninja Turtles are.

2) You devalue the importance of the character's ethnicity because he is armor clad. Yet, we know that the character is named Oroku Saki and is a feared leader of an ancient Japanese clan of assassins. How can The Shredder be his armor when his armor is an extension of his heritage as a Japanese ninja?

Once again, the whitewashing of the character has been excused.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:36 PM   #14
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Because, looks matter. Lets assume for a second there would be for example a superman movie where the lead actor happens to be blonde. Unacceptable because Superman has a distinct look. Black hair, blue eyes, white. I would accept a blonde or ginger superman as much as I would a black superman, namely I wouldn't. The actor could be the best thespian in the world if he doesn't fit look wise it doesn't matter, he's not suited for that role.


Now as for Shredder. It's a shame they white washed the character and to me a sign this movie is going to be garbage. There are many many talented Japanese actors who could have made the role and IMHO. It is laughable how they try to “explain” his ethnicity in the movie. Erich Sachs? Being adopted, come on!


As for Johnny Storm, Yes I do have a problem with the actor that has been cast. Because of the implications that brings when it comes to the sibling status with him and Sue. I'd have preferred if they would have cast an Afro-American woman as Susan Storm too if they are so hung up on the idea of diversifying the FF. My personal preference would have been a black Reed Richards because it would have been nice to see a black team leader and brilliant scientist for once on the screen, alas we get the black guy in the role of the rowdy goofball punk. How predictable yawn


As for Ras and his daughter. Funny, I actually never thought he looked middle eastern in the comics. The name came off more like a title to me than anything else, though I haven't read much comics with him. Same goes for Talia, she always looked rather Caucasian to me. I always had the impression that Ras al Ghul was British and his connection to the league of shadows played out like a Lawrence of Arabia kinda thing.


As for Nick Fury or the Kingpin, strangely I really didn't care about those. Maybe because they weren't real personalities with a distinct background and more like role slots.


Though there would be a change of race I wouldn't mind... even prefer. That's Dr. Strange. I wouldn't love if he were played by an asian actor. It would fit so nicely with the whole eastern mysticism angle they have going with him.


Last edited by LaughingMage; 03-28-2014 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 03-28-2014, 05:38 PM   #15
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I can't believe this thread exists and we don't even know anything about Shredder....wait until you learn more about this Shredder before making a big fuss

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:42 PM   #16
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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In this continuity there could have been MANY Shredders and this guy is the next in a long line
Because film isn't already rife with White people taking over to lead non-Whites and some how excel at being a better warrior in a non-White culture than the non-Whites to whom the culture belongs. Just like Tom Cruise being the last samurai or Jake being the prophesied Na'vi to ride the most feared "dragon." So we have an ancient order of Japanese warriors and next in line isn't a Ken Saito or Dan Fukagawa, but an Eric Sachs?

Even if they change it so that Eric Sachs is a military general that leads a military black-ops unit called "The Foot," why is it that no one minds that sort of change, but get upset that Sue Storm will have a Black brother? Why can't Heimdal, a make-believe deity, be non-White without it being called a PC stunt? Yet some how, the entire back story for The Shredder can be changed and, "hey, why not. There could be lots of Shredders."

It just becomes a new excuse as to why it is okay for White people to be cast as characters that are traditionally minorities, whilst everyone becomes extremely pissed when a minority is cast as a character that is traditionally White.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:43 PM   #17
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I don't prefer it, but I don't mind it.

Plus, I don't think this is as clear cut as people believe it is.

There is definitely gonna be a twist to this.


Either with Eric Sachs' background, or with him not being the real Shredder.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:49 PM   #18
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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I can't believe this thread exists and we don't even know anything about Shredder....wait until you learn more about this Shredder before making a big fuss
Why not?

There are four options:

1.) They whitewashed the character, which is a pretty ****** thing to do.

2.) He's not Saki, in which case, why should a Fan care about this "new Shredder"?

3.) He's a Ras/Mandarin Decoy, which would be lame. Been there, done that and all.

4.) He's Krang in a body double, which would be so unbelievably stupid I don't even want to entertain the notion.

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:52 PM   #19
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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Why not?

There are four options:

1.) They whitewashed the character, which is a pretty ****** thing to do.

2.) He's not Saki, in which case, why should a Fan care about this "new Shredder"?

3.) He's a Ras/Mandarin Decoy, which would be lame. Been there, done that and all.

4.) He's Krang in a body double, which would be so unbelievably stupid I don't even want to entertain the notion.

Kingpin....I don't recall people making a big fuss over him

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:52 PM   #20
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Tom Cruise being the star of a movie called The Last Samurai was ridiculous.

You might as well call it "White People Don't Want To Watch Asian Leads The Movie".

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Old 03-28-2014, 05:57 PM   #21
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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Kingpin....I don't recall people making a big fuss over him
Replacing white characters is less of a big deal because they're a dime a dozen.

Minority characters are relatively rare so replacing them with a white actor is like killing an animal on the endangered species list.

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Old 03-28-2014, 06:03 PM   #22
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

I don't care. If he can play the character well I'm not going to sit here and bash. We know nothing about this movie really other than that short synopsis. I'm a wait and see kinda guy.

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Old 03-28-2014, 06:06 PM   #23
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

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Kingpin....I don't recall people making a big fuss over him
Yeah... first of all Daredevil isnít exactly the same league as the Ninja Turtles and the Kingpin himself ain't as widely known as the Shredder. That and the Kingpin character isn't really connected to any particular ethnicity by his whole modus operandi. He's a crime boss, that's it. Shredder is a Japanese Ninja clan leader. There is a big difference between the two, especially when one takes into consideration how reluctant Japanese clans are to even admit people into their ranks who are not Japanese.

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Old 03-28-2014, 06:10 PM   #24
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Default Re: Time to Discuss Race: The White Washing of The Shredder

Kingpin has been in more than a Daredevil movie. In his entire existence he has been a white man that is until the Daredevil movie came along. Any Marvel fan can tell you who Kingpin is. I had no problem with MCD playing Kingpin...I love his movies, he was a fantastic actor. I'm not ready to throw a ***** fit over a FICTIONAL CHARACTER that we have no idea of. Like I said, There COULD be an Oroku Saki and this guy takes over for him, OR he could be a reincarnated Oroku Saki. We don't know....lets wait and see before throwing a fit

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Old 03-28-2014, 06:12 PM   #25
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I don't care. If he can play the character well I'm not going to sit here and bash. We know nothing about this movie really other than that short synopsis. I'm a wait and see kinda guy.
But that's exactly the problem, isn't it? Can a caucasian play an asian character? Look wise, no he can't convincingly but I'd go even further and propose, that he can't because of cultural specifics as well. There is a huge difference between Japanese culture and American culture.

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