White Shredder, Michal Bay, and A Ruined Childhood

30.8.13 ShaSha LaPerf 6 Comments

So I'm very much an 80s baby. As a kid I was big into She-Ra, He-Man, Transformers, and My Little Pony. I listened to Prince, Michael Jackson, and Run DMC. Ghostbusters was my favorite movie, I owned tons of Garbage Pail Kids cards, and I had dreams of being on Star Search. So needless to say I'm not very happy to see a lot of the things I loved so much in the 80s coming back in rather crappy ways. And one man has been pretty bent on adding to my anger.

Michael Bay.

Now I actually like some Michael Bay movies. I loved Bad Boys. I mean how many action moves do we get with two black leads? And I even liked Armageddon. I know the science in the movie makes no sense, but dammit if that scene where Bruce Willis saves the world doesn't make me cry when I see it. He's the king of big crazy explosions and I like big crazy explosions.

But recently his track record has been pretty shitty.

Let's start with the Transformers franchise. I was so excited to see the first movie. The idea of seeing a real Optimus Prime in all his awesomeness...was quickly dashed when I watched the rest of the movie. And it only got worst with the second and third movie. I'll talk about the fourth movie a little later.

Then we got to Nightmare on Elm Street. Now Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorite horror movies along with Poltergeist. The idea of a burnt man killing you in your dreams...that's some scary shit! After seeing what he did to Transformers, I was a bit skeptical when I found of Bay was taking part in the reboot. And again I was severely disappointed.

So when it heard the news that Bay was going to do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, I just decided that this man hated my childhood and was bent on ruining every part of it.

So let me give some details on the 2014 flick.

We have Meagan Fox, a woman who had some serious issues with Bay (and was fired from the third Transformers movie), playing the witty news reporter April O'Neil. Umm...okay?

Then we have the turtles, who Bay initially wanted to be aliens. Because you know a movie about Teenage MUTANT Ninja Turtles needs to have those turtles come from another planet. Umm...okay? (this idea was scrapped so they are mutants again).

And finally we get to Shredder.

Who will be played by this guy:




That's William Fitchner. He's been in movies like Crash and The Dark Knight, and played FBI agent Mahone on the Fox show Prison Break. He's going to play Shredder. Now I can't knock the guys talent, he is a good actor. And he has worked in a few Bay films like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. But there's a major is here.


He's fucking white.


Let me give you some details on Shredder courtesy of Turtlepedia (yes this is a thing):

"Long ago in Japan, Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi were both members of the Foot Clan. Jealous of Yoshi, Saki made his move the day the Shidoshi arrived at the Foot school. He pinned the back of Yoshi's kimono with a knife, which would prevent him from bowing to show respect for the Shidoshi, which everyone considered an insult. When Yoshi found the knife and pulled it out, they considered it a plot to kill the Shidoshi, so Yoshi was kicked out of the clan. From then on, Saki took over and took the once noble Foot Clan and turned it into an army of crime. Not content with having banished Yoshi from the Foot, he followed him to New York. We assume this is when Saki somehow met up with Krang, the alien warlord from Dimension X, arming him with all sorts of technology ranging from robotic Foot Soldiers to the colossal Technodrome. Wearing steel bladed armor, he was now the Shredder."

Shredder is Japanese. In the comics he's Japanese, in the cartoon he's Japanese, hell even in the original live action version he's Japanese. He's fucking Japanese. 

So what the heck with white Fitchner playing Shredder?

Well it's been decided that Shredder will no longer be Japanese. He'll be some dude named Eric Sachs. Right now his complete background hasn't been given. Rumor has it Sachs was supposedly raised by a Japanese ninja family and later becomes Shredder. Other sources say the entire Japanese theme will be removed and that the foot clan and Shredder will be American military type characters.

Needless to say this is not going over well with most people. TMNT is hugely nostalgic for most 80s babies. The series has been rebooted a few times in animated form and Shredder (and Splinter) for that matter remained Japanese. This is a very clear case of white-washing a character. They aren't even going half-Japanese a la half-Chinese Chun Li in the recent Street Fighter movie (which is a whole other rant). Recently Buzzfeed posted an article about Asian male actors that needed more screentime--LOL which I'm sure most of you have checked out already--and here we have a role that literally has Asian man written all over it. Now it's just another white guy.

Some others of course don't think it's a big deal often citing the fact that none of the animated versions of Shredder were Asian. It's common knowledge that James Avery a.k.a. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince was the first actor to play Shredder in the 80s animated series. In the 2012 series, another black voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson has played the role. And what men like Jim Cummings have played Shredder as well. In the early live action version of the TMNT movies, Shredder in costume was Asian; James Saito--an actual man of Japanese descent--played the role in the first movie. Francois Chau took on the role of Shredder. However in both movies Shredder was voices by non-Asian men. It's been the same case with Splinter as well, and the reboot will also have a white actor play Splinter though we most likely will just see Splinter in his rat form.

The major fallacy with the "non-Asians have been the voice of Shredder" reasoning is that despite the voice behind Shredder, he was still Japanese. He was Oroku Saki. In this version Saki no longer exists and Shredder as we know it know longer exists. And even his ass is still labeled as Japanese!

What's even more mind-boggling about the Shredder change is that there was a lot of effort put into hiring Asian actors for the upcoming Transformers movie. Actor Han Geng  and actress Li Bingbing were cast in the movie. There was an open casting call for Chinese extras in Michigan while they filmed in their fake China in Detroit. Hell there was even a reality show to find more Chinese actors for the movie! I know that the majority of adding these actors is to pander to China because we own them a shit load of money and they like to spent money on big Hollywood flicks. But seriously you can put this effort into finding several actors to have parts in a movie, but put no thought or effort into finding one Asian actor to take the role of Shredder? Then again, Transformers are based off Japanese toys, yet there is no mention of Japan itself any Transformers movie, despite the characters going to different countries and American cities. So I supposed I shouldn't be that shocked that Japan is being erased from this film.

So I did all this talking about the role of Shredder, so what about any other actors of color in the film? Whoopi Goldberg will have a role in the film playing Bernadette Thompson. Now what's interesting about this is that Thompson in the early versions of the TMNT world is actually a male character who works with April O'Neil. This gender switch has gotten a lot less press than the Shredder change, I'm assuming because Goldberg will not have as large of a role. So far she's the only person of color I've seen attached to this movie. Hopefully Goldberg's character won't be treated like Jazz in the first Transformers movie or Skids and Mudflap in the second Transformers movie or be as obnoxious as Anthony Anderson in the first movie. Still adding a black woman in what's a less major role doesn't really change the fact that one of the movies major characters and most memorable 80s cartoon villains has been white-washed.

The TMNT movie is set to come out in 2014 though there have been delays most likely due to Meagan Fox's current pregnant. But Michael Bay...I'm done with you. You didn't just aim a gun at my childhood, you chopped it up into little pieces, loaded it with explosives and set made it go boom with yet another shitty movie. I have no plans to see this movie and after watching the disastrous previous Transformers movie, I have no plans to see that either.

Ugh, here's to hoping so that some much better movies come out next year...



6 comments:

  1. The interesting thing about the protests regarding the Caucasian playing the Japanese part in Bay's TMNT is that if you look back in history, the comic/concept was originally heavily criticized for over reliance on racial/ethnic stereotypes (ie. "Italian turtles loving Pizza, martial arts therefore Japanese, etc.").

    TMNT is a 100% American invention created by people who er, were neither Japanese nor Italian. TMNT was such a commercial non-success in Japan, btw, that Japanese distributors declined to license/option anything after the first movie and the first two seasons of the cartoon series.

    The Japanese who actually know what TMNT is seem totally cool with a white guy (William Fichtner) playing Oroku Saki aka "Shredder" in the upcoming Michael Bay remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I admit it might be a different issue for Japanese-Americans or Asian-Americans though.

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    1. I thought the turtles love for pizza was based more off them being teenagers than Italian? They also love skateboarding, watching TV, video games, speak current slang, things that people considered to stuff teens did. So them liking pizza or junk food seems to fit into that as well. Granted their names are based off famous painters, but as far as I've seen there has been very little references to any Italian in the show itself. So it's definitely debatable that what we're seeing are teenage stereotypes (though the show is aimed at teens and kids), but I think it's a bit of a stretch to point out Italian stereotypes. Apparently the original TMNT was heavily influenced by several comics most notably Daredevil, and a lot of the ninja references are parodies of parts of that comic series.

      But the main issue people have is the white-washing. In the broader sense, it really doesn't matter that it's happening to Shredder, people are just mad that it's happening period. And Hollywood thinks it's okay. Many Asian-Americans have posted their annoyances with this idea as have many other people of color, and whites for that matter. A lot of people are tired of the lack of roles for people of color and it certainly doesn't help when a character who already is a person of color is changed into a white person.

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  2. Not gonna lie; the new TMNT cartoon is pretty good. I was watching an episode with my nephew the other day, and I actually found myself really enjoying it. Writing is fairly solid, and the 3D animation is actually decent (which I find is rare for T.V shows just do to budget, I'm sure).

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    1. Shen and I have watched a few episodes, but tend to forget when it's on. LOL although Shen doesn't watch the new series that much he's started a collection of toys from the show.

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  3. I was thinking about the recent remake of the Lone Ranger. This movie didn't do well as the producers had hoped. It didn't surprise me for a couple of reasons for one,since Johnny Depp was going to star on the movie, the hoped that he would being the Pirates of Of The Caribbean effect on there.Secondly, some Native Americans thought that the movie was perprtrating stereotypes of their people and lastly, Johnny Depp isn't a full NA.

    Movie exec may not think much about putting racial insinuations in the movies/TV series but people do.As a kid ,my mom bought me a bible that focus on the POCs in it because she wanted me to learn the truth about them.When you look at TV depictions of the Bible like The Ten Commandments, most of the peopkr in it are White. Supposedly, the setting of the movie (As with the realism of the Bible) is on the mid-east, Africa and the Mediterranean. The chances of those people being fully European should be almost null, yet you see 99 percent White. Even in churches, unless the church is Black,I have never heard of them discuss Moses's wife Zipporah,being a Black/Cushite woman but she is and I don't think that people will because they don't want to think that a man of Moses stature would marry a black person.

    Its stuff like this is why people get disgusted about pictures like TMNT.People want to see people matched accurately with what it supposed to represent.It would also make the picture seem more be genuine. What angers me more about this is while White characters can easily be featured as POCs or White in movies, we can't. They had a hissy fit over the idea of Iris Elba being casted as Thor. They'll argue that he (Thor) was White and that is true but they don't think about themselves when it comes to portraying us.White producers never think that sometimes Black/POCs want more reality in playing themselves.

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    1. I think it should be noted that Elba was in the Thor movie, but did not play Thor. :) And yes he did get a lot of crap for it even though his character's role was very small. There was a whole lot of "well there were no black Norse Gods" and "what about the ACCURACY!?"

      I think it's funny how when a white actor takes on a role that was original a POC, it's okay because "they're the best actor for the role." But when the reverse happens it's "to fill quotas" or "not really accurate."

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