"Last Samurai" Premiere After-Party Launches Racism and Exotification

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Thanks to Mike Murase

CASTING CALL: Casting beautiful Asian women for Warner Bros.' The Last Samurai Premiere After-party to be held in Westwood on Dec 1st. Women will be dressed as village women from the film's wardrobe department and mingle 'in character' through the party, helping to create the ambience of ancient Japan, circa 1870's. There is no pay, but a chance to be part of this year's biggest Hollywood premiere with a guest list including Tom Cruise and the rest of The Last Samurai's fantastic cast!! If interested please forward a picture and information ASAP to: Cheryl Rave Entertainment Producer Warner Bros. Special Events (818)954-3549 phone (818)954-3011 fax Cheryl.Rave@Warnerbros.com

Response #1

by Wyn Ngo

"Last Samurai" Whore Recruiting Miss Cheryl,

If you were promoting a film that depicted historical African slavery would you dare consider luring in black people who'd be "in character" as the party's "negro servants." Perhaps you might do the same with a film about Jews where the after-party would have starved Nazi camp prisoners celebrating themselves "in character". Would you dare walk that ground amongst the blacks & Jews in Hollywood? (But Asians are always fair game? IF YOU THINK THIS, THEN YOU'RE WALKING A VERY DATED PATH SOON TO BE PAVED.) You are playing upon WHITE MEN'S racist novelty / fetish for ASIAN WOMEN as docile import sex-furniture. (How convenient that you'd exclude ASIAN MEN as a COCK-BLOCKING presence amongst the white men at the party who rule Hollywood. Really hard for white fat-cats to leisurely hit on Asian "Geisha servants" when the ASIAN MALE "WARRIORS" ironically depicted in your film would stare them down during the party.) AN INSULT AT TODAY'S ASIAN-AMERICANS LIVING NEXT DOOR TO YOU: (Particularly for Japanese Americans.)

The recklessness of your advertisement reflects the very dynamic of racial power differential you practice in bias for white-dominated Hollywood. (Where Asians and only the chosen "subservient" women are for the good ol' boys of the white country club to smack on the ass.) WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Are you this culturally stupid despite your formal education which I imagine is culturally bias to white social power differential. Learn how to live in California amongst TODAY'S Asian Americans who will be the future employers of your white children (spawned from your white male husband) after they go to college with them. Bare in mind that TODAY'S Asian American showbiz executives and creative authorities are on the rise in Hollywood. WE WILL NOT FORGET THE PEOPLE WHO STEPPED ON US ALONG OUR WAY UP THE LADDER. So if you do not respect us out of deeper intelligence then perhaps you ought to apply your business sense.

TODAY'S Asian AMERICANS are a proactive force in America with a higher education mixed with sophisticated social awareness of a dual cultural identity. This includes life experiences of RACIAL tension inherent with the American upbringing. As new incoming generations of AMERICANS WHO ARE ASIAN enter the higher status of the American society they bring with them a vigilant pride fed by their multi- cultural sensibility. So be careful that if not just for yourself your children will not keep up with us. They may inherited from you a dated sense of racial social perspective that elevated their parents' social position "back in the day" but now serves only to alienate them in the racial future of America. PAY ATTENTION TO WHO WE REALLY ARE. As we are paying close attention to HOW YOU PORTRAY "WHO WE ARE".

Response #2

by Sarah Park

posted 12/1/03

Dear Ms. Rave,

I am writing this letter in opposition to the casting call you recently sent out on UCLA's listserv. I have seen the preview for The Last Samurai and was incredibly disturbed by the romance between Tom Cruise and the female Asian woman. Granted, I have not yet seen the movie so I don't know how the relationship arose and how/if it ended at the conclusion of the movie, but the very idea of a white man going into an Asian country and sleeping with an Asian women is sufficient to spark my anger.

Historically in America, Asian women have been depicted as sex toys, commodified, exoticized, and hypersexualized in film, literature, and other mediums of art. Historically, white men have invaded Asian countries (such as Korea) with the facade that they are "helping" that country rise out of its third/second world status. Instead, white men have raped Asian women and robbed them of their dignity and honor. Hollywood is following suit by depicting Asians and Asian Americans as objects of commodification and hyper- or hyposexualization. Our women are too sexy and our men are not sexy enough.

Our cultures are trivial and can be lumped together. One example is when Pierce Brosnan [had sex] in a Buddhist temple in 007. If the producers of that film had done their research properly, they would have known that any type of profanity or indecency in a Buddhist temple is completely unacceptable and downright appalling in Asian cultures. Another example is in Mulan. Apparently she was a Chinese girl, yet she was wearing a traditional Japanese kimono. This reflects the little regard that Hollywood producers have for Asian cultures. Hollywood clumps us all together and it does not matter whether we are wearing kimonos or hanboks or saris. Each Asian country is a distinct country with its own history, cultures, values, food, and honor system. However, that is not to say that when one Asian community is attacked, the other Asian communities do not rise to their defense.

Having seen the preview for The Last Samurai, I fear that again Japanese women will be depicted as sex objects for white men - Tom Cruise sleeps with a Japanese woman. Regardless of how that relationship arose, the perpetuation of sexual imperialism by white man to Asian women is absolutely unacceptable. Your casting call requested "beautiful Asian women." Again, apparently we all look alike too, correct? During World War II and Japanese Internment, Korean and Chinese Americans had to wear pins that said "Korean, Not Japanese" so that the police officers - white people - could differentiate between who to take and who not to take to camp. In this case, you don't care. Any beautiful Asian will do. Any Asian woman can dress up in village clothing to scamper about among Hollywood's toughest white men. I wonder why your casting call did not call for handsome Asian men? Are they not also part of the scenery in an 1870s traditional Japanese village? It is my understanding that Asian women (oooh, forgive me if I make generalizations, but as long as you're doing it, why can't I?) were not allowed outside their homes. It was considered indecent for women to be outdoors among society. So if you really wanted to recreate a traditional Japanese village, you may want to change your casting call for ONLY men instead.

I also oppose the fact that you called the 1870s "ancient Japan." In the 1870s in America, Reconstruction was in full swing. The 17th and 18th centuries England saw the continual rise of the Industrial Revolution. Is that your definition of "ancient"? Asian countries are responsible for many renovative inventions; for example, the printing press was invented in Korea long before Guttenberg. Asian countries are NOT backwards, are NOT primitive, are NOT "ancient." (I added this after I sent it to her)

The fact that you asked for "beautiful" women also raises questions. Whose definition of "beautiful" are you using? Your western one or my Asian one? What purpose would the women serve? Were you also going to ask them to speak in "Ching chong cho" language to really get into character? Should they bat their eyes and appear docile, demure, servile and submissive? Would you like them to shuffle their feet? According to the character in your film, should the Asian women who respond to your casting call also sleep with Tom Cruise and the other white men who will be at the party?

You sold us the "American Dream" and we took the bait. We came to America. We built your damn railroads. We did your damn laundry. We sold you cigarettes in liquor stores. We fed you Chinese noodles and sushi. We grew your damn sugar and pineapples. We cleaned your houses while you worked in a real white collar job. We slept with you because you told us America and American men were better. You did not offer any pay for this job of dressing up and mingling with Hollywood's finest. Apparently you consider it a privilege to participate in this party. You think we do not have anything better to do than get dressed up in costume to meet Tom Cruise. Think again. Did you not see Asians rallying against Proposition 54 in the election last month? Do you not see Asians with the highest enrollment in top-notch universities? We're your doctors. We're your lawyers. We're your judges and police officers and governors and politicians. We're your teachers and your librarians and your Hollywood filmmakers and producers. We're your classmates and neighbors and friends. We are NOT free labor. We are NOT your servants. We are NOT objects of commodification or exotification or oppression. We are NOT your sex toys. So in response to your casting call... NO, we are NOT interested in the role to play "beautiful Asian women." And get it right: Asian AMERICAN women.

Response #3

by Mike Murase

Dear Ms. Rave

I read the "casting call" for the premiere of "The Last Samurai." I also read Mr. Wyn Ngo's letter castigating your advertisement. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Ngo's criticisms of your action. However, since I do not know who you are, what type of person you are, what kind of political and cultural sensitivities you may possess, or how open you would be to feedback from Asian Americans, I don't know what I could say to you that would be persuasive and meaningful. Are you the type of person who would read the letter . . .

a) and immediately realize the serious mistake you made and acknowledge how insensitive it was

b) or try to cut the losses and issue an "apology" even though you don't mean it and deep down think people are being too thin-skinned,

c) or say, "Tough shit. This is Hollywood and I'm a Tinseltown hack. I need to make the party FUN for the guests,"

d) or you couldn't give a shit about Asian Americans because you don't like slant-eyed slopes anyway. "So, call me racist. I'm proud to be one!"

Whatever your response, I think you ought to make it clear, unequivocal, immediate and widespread. I can assure you your casting call and Mr. Ngo's letter are already circulating broadly through the world wide web, and across the country. Already, in the eyes of MOST in the Asian American communities, Cheryl Rave joins the ranks of Senator Trent Lott, Rep. Howard Coble, baseball executive Bill Singer, baseball player John Rocker, golfer Jan Stephenson, Al Campanis, Jimmy the Greek, and on and on. In deed, not good company! Most of them were dismissed or forced to resign from their jobs and/or became interminable targets of protest and embarrassment. I hope you have the courage and the wisdom to see the error of your ways, take it to heart and do something to correct the immediate situation and to do good for human kind in the long run.

Apology
Dear Mike Murase:  

Thank you for your message and please allow me to apologize for the incredible insensitivity of my posting. I am truly sorry for offending you and the Asian-American community. Believe me this was not my intent. I was looking for an opportunity to get some students involved without considering the implications of my posting. It was a very poor judgment. As a freelancer, I posted this on my own initiative and it certainly does not reflect the views of the studio. They had no idea of this posting. We will be going in a different direction that celebrates cross-cultural understanding and spotlights the incredible talents of the Japanese culture.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Rave

Freelance Coordinator Producers Program