Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle Of Dogs’ Animated Film Accused Of Whitewashing Asian Roles

Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
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Wes Anderson is being accused of whitewashing his upcoming movie “Isle of Dogs” because it’s set in Japan and stars white actors in prominent voice roles. It’s worth noting that none of the characters speak in Japanese accents — stereotypical or otherwise.

Best known for his unique visual style, Anderson’s 2018 film is made entirely of stop-motion animation and features the vocal talents of some of the director’s usual pool of actors, including Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Scarlett Johansson. They voice the dogs.

The setting of the movie, which is about a boy searching for his missing dog, has prompted progressives to express their outrage and indignation. Covering the movie’s first trailer in an article today, feminist vertical The Mary Sue called Isle of Dogs a “whitewashing mess.”

Writing for the site, Vivian Kane complains that the film’s Japanese cast are billed far below their white counterparts. Japanese talents like Akira Ito, Yoko Ono and Mari Natsuki are billed at the bottom on both the IMDb page and on the official poster.

Kane complains that “a number of those actors have been central figures in the current whitewashing conversation, — by which she means Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson, who were accused of “stealing” roles from Asian women in Doctor Strange, and Ghost in the Shell, respectively. The writer muses that the actresses “didn’t learn any lessons from being at the center of the debate over Hollywood’s exclusion of people of color. That or they don’t care, I suppose.”

The writer also highlights veteran actor Fisher Stevens, who played the role of an Indian man in the ’90s film “Short Circuit 2,” which she calls “brownface.” Blackface from the 1950s was done to caricaturize black people, whereas Stevens’ role as an Indian in “Short Circuit 2” was not intentionally racist.

The feminist publication wasn’t the only one to make a fuss about the movie. On social media, GQ Magazine’s Kevin Nguyen complained about the film on April 26. The tweet is now making the rounds again because of the trailer’s release.

The English-speaking movie is intended for American audiences, and beyond that, the characters are not Japanese people — they’re talking dogs.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.