Ruh-roh: Wes Anderson’s new film is set in Japan & it has a really white cast

10th RFF - 'Meeting with the Audience' - Arrivals

True story: I love most Wes Anderson movies. I absolutely ADORED The Grand Budapest Hotel and I thought Ralph Fiennes should have been nominated for everything for that role. I have a deep love for The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom is an unexpected gem. Wes Anderson’s whole deal is that he’s a quirky hipster genius and his films are mostly populated by white people, although there’s usually one or two actors of color, usually doing a hokey accent. I don’t really believe Wes Anderson is racist, but yeah, I would say that he’s probably not the most woke dude when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

So, Wes Anderson has a new film called Isle of Dogs. It’s set in Japan and it’s stop-motion animation, at least that’s what the internet says right now. The trailer isn’t out yet, but the poster came out yesterday. Look at this:

Royal start for the London Marathon 2017

Wow, that’s a white cast. A whole lotta white people for a film set in Japan. Hilariously, the cast includes Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, two white actresses who have been in the news over the past year for playing Asian characters. Tilda got well-deserved flack for her role in Doctor Strange, and ScarJo flat-out lied her ass off about playing a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell. And now both Scarlett and Tilda get to be in a movie/do voice work for a film set in Japan! To be fair, Tilda and ScarJo are absolutely our most respected Asian actresses.

Premiere of 'Ghost in the Shell' - Arrivals

The cast of 'Doctor Strange' promoting their movie

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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97 Responses to “Ruh-roh: Wes Anderson’s new film is set in Japan & it has a really white cast”

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  1. Runcmc says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous. But to be honest…I’m kind of tired of being outraged by everything. Make your stupid movie I won’t watch, and I’ll just be over here dealing with real-life issues :-/

  2. Ashley.Nate says:

    This is pure trolling by Wes Anderson

  3. jinni says:

    There also seems to be a decent number of Japanese actors and at least one black actor in the bunch, so it looks diverse. Idk, I am holding off condemning or praising the cast until further info is released. Though I understand side eyeing the inclusion of Tilda and Scarjo.

    • Megan says:

      At this point, we know nothing about the plot of the movie. I am not going to get my knickers in a twist until I know more.

    • Nicole says:

      Considering how far down the list they are on the poster I’m going to guess they aren’t major players. And the fact that Wes Anderson wouldn’t know diversity if it hit him on the head.

  4. KJA says:

    I saw the poster last night on Twitter and legit thought it was a joke when I saw Tilda and Scarlett’s names

  5. Anon says:

    Oh my god who cares. Also it looks like there’s around seven Asian names, which is quite a bit. The outrage about every little thing is becoming quite annoying.

    • Elle says:

      Plus one

    • AreYouForReal? says:

      Plus 2. I see a number of diverse names (not just Asian). And for not knowing anything about the plot, it seems ridiculous to get on the outrage wagon at this point.

    • Myrto says:

      Right. There appears to be 6 Japanese actors in the cast. Also apparently white people can’t go to Japan or something? Why is it outrageous that white people would be in a movie set in Japan? There are tons of stories of Americans being in parts of the world where people don’t even speak English and nobody complains.

      • Susan says:

        I’m more confused on what the movie is. Is it live action or animated? If so, are these folks voice actors?

      • It's All About Meeeee! says:

        Yes let’s seek out and manufacture fake drama to be victimized yet again by them!

        Lord I would not want to be a white man anymore. I used to but How exhausting to be picked apart constantly for imagined slights

    • Sam says:

      I’m not seeing the outrage here either. Of course things could change once more details about the film come out. Like I understood the outrage about Matt Damon, Scarjo, Emma Stone and Tilda before but I’m really not getting it here.

      • Becks says:

        completely agree!

      • Madailein says:

        Agree absolutely! Isn’t this automatic, instant, knee jerk outrage kind of dumb? I mean, it’s almost as if people are ADDICTED to self righteous indignation…

    • SaddleTramp says:

      Plus 3. Cosign this whole thread.

    • aenflex says:

      Yes, I agree. It must be exhausting to be in a constant, acute state of being offended!
      These are actors playing characters. Demanding that actors only play characters of their own color and gender is ludicrous. Demanding that characters are played only by actors who fit the color and gender of the written character is ridiculous.
      I’m a long time fan of the James Bond series, and I would love to see a person of color, or even a woman, play him. I also love the Gunslinger series, and I love Idris Elba and I’m so happy he’s playing Roland, despite not being white, thin, sun-faded or gangly.
      Wes Anderson makes great films. RTs changed my life.

    • TwistBarbie says:

      Commenting on how apparently tone deaf something is does not equal outrage.

  6. RussianBlueCat says:

    I never knew Yoko Ono could act?

  7. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    Don’t forget about noted Asian actor Fisher Stevens. Don’t ever forget about Fisher Stevens.

    If you don’t know about him, google “Fisher Stevens brown face”.

  8. ell says:

    i love wes anderson as well, his movies are some of my absolute favs. he does usually go for a mostly white cast, but it’s hard to tell with this one because i don’t know anything about it. maybe those characters are meant to be white? or dogs?

  9. Incognita says:

    My uncle used to sell Wes Anderson weed back when he was in college. Says he’s exactly like you’d think he would be. So, yeah, I imagine his life is spent surrounded by a haze of weed, and his work life seems to bear this out.

    Not saying there’s anything wrong with that and I must admit I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums, but I’m thinking maybe he should sober up while making casting decisions. He’s clearly choosing to live in a bubble on purpose, what with the Johansson and Swinton castings.

    • Sonia says:

      you mean the castings he had nothing to do with because they were not his films? yeah right lol

  10. slowsnow says:

    I LOVE Wes Anderson films and loved The Grand Budapest Hotel, dedicated to the great Stephan Zweig and to an idea of Europe that probably never existed in other minds than Zweig’s, Walter Benjamin’s and other beautiful thinkers. It was in this film, I find, that Anderson dealt with the tendency of all of his films, to have a rampant nostalgia of a childish – in the litteral sense – idea of the past. Thus, also, its “whiteittude” I guess.

    There are 7 Asian actors and 12 western mainly actors (Tilda is Scottish I think). I’d love to see the trailer and find out more.

  11. QQ says:

    Oh Baybuh what is you doing!!?!! 😲 Another double toilet roll future nominee

  12. aang says:

    Maybe the western actors are playing westerners? And the asians are playing asians. It’s not like white people never visit Japan. But I know nothing about this movie so maybe I’m wrong.

    • slowsnow says:

      Yes, I thought it might be a more inclusive Lost in Translation?
      But then the title… Hmmm.

      • Megan says:

        Since Lost in Translation is about being a stranger in a strange land it would have been weird if the lead actors were Japanese. Context it everything, you know?

  13. JCZ says:

    You know what’s more than a little ridiculous celebitchy! Used to really like reading here and for a gossip site had some good film talk now I visit here very infrequently . Why does everything have to be a racial or political issue here ?! Sometimes they have a point but not always , get a grip. It’s entertainment and this site is supposed to dwell on that .

    • slowsnow says:

      Your comment makes me think of a friend who posted “is feminism the new black??” on Facebook. He’s the nicest guy I know, but we all went for it… And we all agreed that even if the museums (I’m a curator) are now feeling forced to “push the feminist agenda” – talk about a stretch, as if there was such attention as to garner an agenda… – because it is a trend, so be it! We need these discussions.
      I am Portuguese and the scene in Love Actually with the Portuguese woman, and the Portuguese family still infuriates me. What a stupid cliché!
      We live in a global world and we keep perpetuating an imperialist use of what is only “location” for the film crew but is also a culture for those who live there.
      I am not saying it is the case here, but if film critique is used also for these conversations, I find it interesting.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      1. Kaiser has actually held off on the judgment but yeah, this looks bad at first glance. We’ll have to wait for the trailer.

      2. Political issues exist. Yes, it’s exhausting but maybe be mad at the people who cause them instead of the people who point them out.

  14. Giulia says:

    It’s animation and voice work, so doesn’t qualify for outrage to me
    Mixed cast so doesn’t qualify for outrage to me
    Don’t know the plot, so doesn’t qualify for outrage to me
    Any reason to hear/see Yoko is good enough for me

  15. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    You wrote stop motion animation. Doesn’t that mean the English speaking actors are there to provide voices in the English language for the characters? It makes sense to me not to have Japanese actors doing that (they’d do voices for a Japanese version). Or what am I missing here? I mean, the characters (or some of them) are literally dogs.

  16. Jenni says:

    Come on ScarJo and Tilda are ALMOST Asians at this point. Everybody knows that.

  17. TeamAwesome says:

    It’s about a little boy looking for a lost dog on an island of dogs. It’s stop motion animation like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Since he kills off or injures the dog in every. freaking. film, I don’t know if I can deal with a movie full of them.

  18. Lindy says:

    I feel like I just don’t get anything he does. My ex loved all his films so I sat through them all. It felt like slow, painful torture. I think I’d rather be scrubbing grout with bleach and a toothbrush than watch anything else Anderson makes. The fact that the latest is tone-deaf in this way (voiced or acted, doesn’t matter) is tired and kind of gross.

    • TwistBarbie says:

      He’s embarrassing. His movies are the pumpkin spice lattes of the film world.

      • ParlerBleu says:

        Best. Comment. Ever. <3

      • KLO says:

        Haha, TwistBarbie, the pumpkin spice latte comment is so right. But STILL watch those movies and love them 😛
        I think I have seen both Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums at least 10 times.

  19. Lightpurple says:

    It’s a cartoon. About dogs. Most of them will be voicing dogs.

    • MellyMel says:

      Exactly! It’s not live action. I don’t see the big deal. Plus Jeff Goldblum and Courtney B. Vance!!!

    • M.A.F. says:

      I’m sure people will complain about that as well if there are too many European dogs on the island.

    • Susan says:

      Thank you Lightpurple. Since this article said stop action animation I had expected the writer to at least analyze it from that perspective. Now we know it’s dogs? The outrage is ridiculous.

  20. Jaqen says:

    If this were a live action film set in Japan with mostly white actors, I would be annoyed. If you’re going to depict Japan onscreen, stop focusing on white people and let the actual Asians see themselves being the major focus on screen for once.

    However, this is an animated movie made by an American company for an English speaking audience. The characters will not be speaking Japanese and there will be no physical people onscreen so I don’t see the issue with getting Americans / Europeans of any race to voice characters in English. We don’t know if the characters in the movie will even be human so you can’t accuse of whitewashing. They may be animals à la Fantastic Mr. Fox.

  21. slowsnow says:

    Some names seem to be written (translated) in Japanese and others in Chinese? And if it’s an animation, why is it set in a Japanese island?
    Curiouser and curiouser.
    I’m really intrigued.

    • MoonEyes says:

      Japanese people often use Chinese characters in their language (aka Kanji). Their names usually are composed completely of Chinese characters as well.

      Aside from Yoko Ono, those without Chinese characters are basically non-Japanese actors.

    • Susan says:

      I don’t get the question about animation set on a “Japanese island” . What types of islands is animation permitted on exactly?

    • fiorucci says:

      The Japanese ones are phonetic, easy to translate anything into those sounds. Choosing a kanji name for someone wouldn’t be done without their blessing. In Chinese class we chose Chinese names based on our names or interests with our teacher. If your English name is Jennifer for example you’d have tons of kanji/Chinese characters to choose from that sound like jen so you’d choose the combo of 2-3 characters that best suit you and also go together, according to someone literate in Chinese or Japanese. In Japan they use kanji and the smaller symbols(sorry you can look up what they’re called I’ve forgotten).

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      I took 4 semesters of Japanese in college. Like others have said, the characters that look Chinese are kanji. Most Japanese names (along with most Japanese words) can be written using kanji. Japan also uses hiragana characters to phonetically spell out Japanese words that don’t have kanji. And Japan ALSO has katakana characters to phonetically spell out foreign words. So in short, they basically have 3 alphabets — kanji that looks like Chinese, hiragana (phonetically), and katakana (phonetically for foreign or made-up words). The names of the American actors are written in katakana.

  22. ZGB says:

    Movies are no longer allowed to be made in foreign locations with Whites been the main cast? Unless we’re talking about a different poster, I’m seeing some Japanese names there. So my tin foil hat contribution for day goes like this: PUBLICITY STUNT!!!!!

    Or it could be that a small section of the internet is outraged and not as huge as is being reported. You know, this would have been easier to defend if Hollywood had a better track record. *shrugs*

  23. JCZ says:

    Celebitchy needs to only watch movies with minorities in them , then because that seems to be the complaint no matter what. If the majority of Americans are Caucasian and the directors are it would make some sense that most of their movies will be about their life experiences . Now if it’s supposed to be a Japanese story or whatever that is silly to cast anyone else . Hollywood is a business though making movies for what they think will bring out most people .

    • goofpuff says:

      majority of americans are not caucasian so no, would not want to watch all white movies representing America.

      • KLO says:

        They arent? what are the numbers then? I am actually intrigued

        edit: I read now on Wiki that 73% of the USA population are from european ancestry. So…to me that seems to be caucasian.

        But your definition of caucasian could be different?

  24. Eveil says:

    I’ll wait for the trailer to pass judgment but I’ll be keeping a wary eye on it. Hollywood lives in its own bubble so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they did whitewash it. But I’ll be a cautious optimist and hope that they didn’t do the usual racist bs.

    Nothing like watching another American film where the stars are all white and spend the entire time in a foreign location where the foreigners are nothing more than stereotypes and a pretty background to the film stars angst.

    • KLO says:

      I just had a thought – why not the japanese make movies about the Japanese experience and the Americans make movies about the Americans. I do not see anyone demanding the Japanese film industry to include people from more races in their movies. In Japanese and Korean movies the characters are 99% asian. Those racists!

  25. delafield says:

    lost in translation was an all white cast set in japan yet everyone loved it because the plot was about being out of your element and it made sense. the reasonable thing to do is to hold off on the outrage until we figure out the plot but what else can we expect from this shrill inducing site

    • Eveil says:

      Not everyone who watched it, loved it. The fact that you found nothing racist about Lost in Translation tells me everything I need to know about you.

    • Adrien says:

      The movie made fun of Japan’s culture. They mocked its kawaii-ness without knowing the painful history behind it. The Japanese actors in the movie played stereotypical roles.

      • KLO says:

        I am Eastern European and to me it seemed very clear that the film in large part portrayed the American main characters ignorance about the Japanese culture.

        I found the movie to be making fun of the Americans, not the Japanese. The main characters were basically tourists that saw and did what tourists see and do.

        I think even the title “Lost in Translation” implies that they saw stuff but did not really “understand”. And in the end they just left to continue with their lives. Like tourists do.

  26. Ann says:

    Let’s all scream, be outraged and offended without knowing absolutely anything about the movie and what it’s all about. Wes Anderson is WORSE THAN HITLER! # whiteprivilege#culturalappropriation#ineedtogetalife

  27. Marty says:

    Eh….it’s a Wes Anderson film, I never expect much from him in the way of diversity anyways.

  28. mazzie says:

    Wes Anderson whites with the whitest in his movies. Meh, not using one of my f*cks over this.

  29. Irulan says:

    wow I see 7 or 8 Asian actors along with African American Actors as well … I guess it shouldn’t have any white people at all in the film cause its Japan and only Asian people are in Japan? Do we even know the plot? What it is all about but no it so so much better to lash out and attack for your “repression” of what exactly. There are so many things to get offended by that are legitimate offenses but ya lets all attack a movie we don’t know anything about and get ourselves all wound up and our panties in a bunch and then we are upset when we as women, as POC are dismissed.

  30. khaveman says:

    Hey, let’s all jump to conclusions!! I’ll wait until I see the movie.

  31. Skylark says:

    Not enough eyerolls for the truly bizarre and borderline hysterical and seriously off-putting direction this site has taken over the last 6 months or so. It’s not a good thing and it’s the reason I now read/comment so sparingly.

    Anyway, I love and admire Wes Anderson, love and appreciate his vision and very much look forward to seeing this.

  32. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Minorities have a right to be mad. When a character’s race is not specified or not relevant to the plot, Hollywood will invariable cast white actors, more so than their percentage of the general population in American. That’s racism.

    However, when a character’s race is specified or apparent from the setting of the movie, and that race is not white . . . Hollywood will STILL invariable cast white actors. That’s racism.

    For this movie that is set in Japan (about a boy searching for his dog), less than 1/3 of the actors named on the poster are asian. And I’ll bet money the majority of main or primary actors are not asian. That’s racism.

    Hollywood needs to change, and saying “I’ll wait until I actually buy a ticket to the movie to make any judgments” will not help change to happen.

  33. SK says:

    ” usually one or two actors of color, usually doing a hokey accent”
    I have seen all Wes Anderson’s films and have not noticed anything but genuine accents. For example, Kumar Pallana was in several of Andersons films and spoke with his natural accent (he was born in India) in all of them

  34. Adrien says:

    The movie hired a lot of pocs, a huge step for Wesley. Fantastic Mr. Fox was such an underrated gem so I am hyped for this. I don’t know the plot so no outrage for me yet.

  35. lightpurple says:

    Love it when twitter folk are outraged. Really hope that all the actors with Asian sounding names turn out to be WASPs. Twitter imploded.