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we saw wut u did thar, paramount
"Runaways" Movie Casting Breakdown 
5th-Aug-2010 10:24 am
The casting breakdown for Marvel's "Runaways" movie was released today. You can view the official casting website here and articles about the casting here and here.

The Runaways crew is pretty diverse as comic book teams go, at various points in the story there's African American and Japanese American team leaders, a girl who has a BMI above 20, a Latino Catholic, and lesbian and genderqueer characters.

Fans of the comics will be familiar with the characters to be used in the adaptation...

Alex Wilder
Boy 1: Very smart, natural leader, in need of a father figure
Male, African American, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Chase Stein
Boy 2: A rebel, ignores rules and authority, wounded inside
Male, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Nico Minoru
Girl 1: Uniquely beautiful, nurturing but guarded
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Gert Yorkes
Girl 2: Chubby oddball, smart and verbal
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Karolina Dean
Girl 3: Conventionally beautiful, with an unchecked ego
Female, must play 15-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Molly Hayes
Girl 4: An innocent, wide-eyed and overprotected
Female, must play 8-10
Must be at least 9 by January 2011

So these casting calls follow a lot of Hollywood conventions when it comes to breakdowns, namely the idea that characters who are white don't need ethnicity mentioned in the breakdown because it's taken for granted that white actors will submit (but a character who is black, like Alex, does require specification.)

What's particularly of concern is that the breakdown for Nico--who is explicitly featured in the comics as a several-generations Japanese American--does not mention that the character is Asian, or that Asian American actresses should submit. Nico is simply described as "uniquely beautiful" as opposed to the blonde Karolina's "conventionally beautiful" descriptor.

Although Runaways is an ensemble, Japanese American Goth Girl Nico Minoru was the series' predominant heroine, featured on the cover of the very first issue.

A Hollywood agent trawling casting breakdowns for an Asian American client would not likely stumble upon this role that is tailor-made for an Asian American breakout star. It certainly doesn't sound like Marvel is prioritizing actresses of color in this search. And readers of racebending.com know that just recently, unclear and biased casting calls for The Last Airbender led to the erasure of characters' ethnicities and reinforced Hollywood's glass ceilings for lead roles.

Racebending.com will absolutely follow up on this casting breakdown. This looks like an easily corrected oversight, so we will contact the right people at Marvel about this issue. If you have an anonymous tip on this situation or contact information for the higher ups, please email us at mlee@racebending.com
6th-Aug-2010 05:27 am (UTC)
Whenever I hear the phrase "unconventional beauty," I think of someone who, while very attractive, has a funny ears or a goofy smile or something.

I agree - I tend to think that it means the director/producer/whatever is looking for an actor that isn't from the same mold as the current "beautiful" actors in Hollywood. (Nothing against those actors - I think many of them are quite good looking, but Hollywood does have a bad habit of only giving leading roles to men and women that look a certain way) The "unconventionally beautiful" are the ones that have slightly quirky looks, or just stand out in some way.

Though, I don't doubt that in some cases, it DOES have to do with exoticism.
6th-Aug-2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I don't doubt that in some cases, it DOES have to do with exoticism.

This reminds me of the beautiful and talented actress Myrna Loy. She was born in Montana and her parents were of Scottish and Welsh ancestry. But because her almond-shaped eyes, she was generally cast as a "mysterious, exotic" non-European in her first several years in Hollywood. The ultimate example is her role in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), as the title villain's daughter. As a perfect example of double yellow-face, Fu Manchu in that film was played by Boris Karloff:
I guess it was due to the weird logic behind racist casting: if someone didn't look like the stereotypical American, he or she couldn't possibly be cast as one. But someone with European ancestry who looked vaguely Asian, or simply "unconventional," might be allowed to play Asians.
It wasn't until her comedic talents were recognized that she was able to get roles as an American woman. According to the TCM bio linked above, "Her popularity peaked in the late 30s, and when Gable was voted 'King of Hollywood' in a popularity poll, Myrna Loy was right beside him as elected 'Queen.'"
I won't say that the moral to this long rambling story is that those with talent will always be recognized, because that's manifestly not true. But I will say that those with talent should never give up, because they're needed.
7th-Aug-2010 12:40 am (UTC)
And I find it significant that a number of yellowface roles, such as Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre), Charlie Chan (Warner Oland), and Fu Manchu as well as Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff), went to actors otherwise known for appearances in horror movies--which carries a whole additional layer of Othering assumptions.
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