Lilian Min
July 30, 2016 12:27 pm
Gabriel Olsen / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Hey, did you know that there’s a new Chinese-set, -financed, and -directed film coming out soon? Cool! It’s gonna be a monster movie, the most expensive production in Chinese film industry history. Whoa! The director at the helm is Zhang Yimou, who’s best known for other Chinese epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Awesome! And it’s starring… Matt Damon?

Universal Pictures

If you just heard a record scratch, me too. Though this not-hypothetical film The Great Wall is being defended by its studio and the industry for being one of those films that just *has* to have an American-known (and presumably, white) lead, film lovers have been pondering, is that so? And Constance Wu, who stars on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, is not having it.

In a message posted to her Twitter, Wu came at The Great Wall with “I’m kind of mad, and I’m definitely disappointed”:

Among the highlights of her message, which tackles the financing “reasoning” behind these casting decisions and the importance of having POC tell and be in their own stories:

Of course, one of the red flags in this production could come from the fact that out of all the writers credited for the script — Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz — none of them are Chinese or even East Asian, and all of them are men. Though Zhang Yimou is a capable and considerate filmmaker, if this is where he’s getting his material from, it’s not that much more of a surprise that a white character like Damon could exist not just in the script, but as a lead, and thus Damon could be cast in it.

Wu, for her part, is careful not to lay blame on the actual Chinese folks in the cast, or try to place the burden for representation on the specific parties at play for The Great Wall. Rather, the fight is to raise awareness about the tone deafness of these decisions in the first place, so they never get off the ground:

We applaud Wu for not just sticking to her guns, but also providing context and support for her argument. Actor representation is, at its core, a superficial means of counting up the quality and breadth of diversity that true representation entails, but it’s nonetheless powerful because of the visibility factor. Here’s hoping we have these kinds of conversations less and less, and that more folks within the industry like Wu make their voices and unique perspectives heard.

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