Netflix remake of Journey To The West slammed for whitewashing

None of the cast for Netflix's 2018 Australia-New Zealand remake of classic Chinese tale Journey To The West are Chinese.
None of the cast for Netflix's 2018 Australia-New Zealand remake of classic Chinese tale Journey To The West are Chinese.PHOTO: NETFLIX

An upcoming Netflix series based on the classic Chinese story Journey To The West has been slammed for "whitewashing", after none of its main cast was revealed to be Chinese.

The Legend Of The Monkey, a Netflix collaboration with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand, features Australian-Thai actor Chai Hansen as Monkey, New Zealand actress Luciane Buchanan as Tripitaka, New Zealand actor Josh Thomson as Pigsy and Australian actress Emile Cocquerel as Sandy.

Production for the series, which is set to air with 10 half-hour episodes in 2018, has begun, reported last week.

Many versions of Journey To The West have been made, and Netflix's reboot is based on a live-action Japanese adaptation called Monkey, produced by Nippon Television and broadcast from 1978 to 1980.

Other than turning all the actors white, producers have made Tripitaka - a male monk also known as Tang Sanzang in the original novel by Wu Cheng En - female.

Online, Asians have responded with almost-tired exasperation at the whitewashing.

Facebook user Ivan Chew, who says he works at ABC, said the casting disappointed him.

He wrote: "I may work at the ABC and grew up with Monkey as a legend of a show, but you know what? I'm also a proud Australian Born Chinese and the casting for this story, which originated in China and was then adopted in Asian countries, has disappointed me."

Sharon PikaPika Ho wrote that "this is the worst time to be whitewashing the Chinese".

"You've seen what Asian influence can do to movies that we don't approve of," she wrote. "Do Ghost In The Shell and Great Wall show you nothing? The way they completely flopped in theatres with ratings lower than a comedy movie, all of that should have shown Netflix the consequences of whitewashing important pieces of Asian culture."

Ghost In The Shell stars American actress Scarlett Johansson as the originally Japanese lead, while Matt Damon infamously took centre place in show posters for Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall.