For those unaware, “The Great Wall” is a recent Chinese Blockbuster starring Matt Damon in the leading role, and featuring Game of Throne’s Pedro Pascal as the main supporting actor. This description alone should be enough to peak anybody’s interest.
It is a Chinese movie, as directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), but it stars a Caucasian actor as the protagonist, the matter of which is commonly referred to as “Whitewashing”.
The term refers to non-caucasian parts being given to white actors. This happens with the objective of raising interest for what constitutes the majority of viewers in places such as the US or Europe.
Most interestingly, instead of this criticism being aimed at an American production, as it often is, it is being raised at a Chinese one – meaning that the team behind the movie willfully made the choice of introducing a foreign actor as the leading man. It might sound bizarre at first, that the first step for China to compete in the spotlight be overshadowed by the choice of a familiar face in the worldwide market, but allow me to give you some perspective on this particular case.
Hollywood has dominated the movie business for a very long time by now, for years it has exported its own vision to every corner of the world. Now that’s not to say the movie studios in Hollywood are the only culprits of spreading a very limited view, but they have played a big part in why every action hero is a muscled, 30-something white guy, and every love interest is a blonde, lean, white woman. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with those definitions, people who have grown up in different countries, with different realities, have always consumed this specific vision of “the world”. The real world, the one sold by movies and TV, and not the one they lived in. For instance, “The Last Samurai”, a movie spent mostly in feudal Japan, chose to star Tom Cruise as the leading actor, which could certainly be seen by natives as insulting to their own History.
So, why is “The Great Wall” important? The movie itself might be a typical action flick, but the story behind it is nothing if a sign of a deep-rooted mentality that is still, to this day, very ingrained in the movie business.
However, movie franchises such as “Star Wars” or “The Avengers” are moving towards including a larger diversity amongst their cast and crew members. Something ironic, because movies from other countries that want to “make it big” in Hollywood perceive that they need some very restrictive limitations in order to sell and appeal to the movie-going demographic. But, the truth is, even with the star appeal going for it, “The Great Wall” has failed to meet expectations. It has been losing Money hand-over-fist ever since its release. In an age of ever-growing globalization, where new trends are taking the market by storm, the older traditions are swimming against the current. International cinema and innovative music are seen as hallmarks of a reinvigorated industry. Diversity has blossomed from the barren fields of a saturated market, and the older giants of the Industry no longer carry the same weight.
So, the question arises, of whether the audience has seen through this. Do we still need the “typical action hero” to make movies appealing? Or even, have we ever needed it?
Make sure you add food for thought in the comment section.
If you loved it, share it!