Mighty Whitey to the Rescue!

So I’m going to respond to this histrionic mental breakdown currently taking place on my Facebook feed. Okay, that’s a bit too harsh. I’ll tell you what it’s about first. Lots of my friends have been sharing this post by The Love Life of An Asian Guy about a horror movie called The Forest.

From the looks of the trailer, The Forest is about a woman who travels to Japan after finding out that her twin sister went to go commit suicide in Aokigahara Forest, also known as the Sea of Trees. It is one of the world’s most common suicide locations and was thought by Japanese mythology to be haunted by demons even before it gained the reputation of a suicide hotspot. And this is a movie set there.

I really like horror movies. They’re one of my favorite genres when done well and one of my most hated genres when done poorly (which is usually the case). Seeing as how The Forest is a horror movie being released in early January, the dumping ground for horror movies not good enough to be released in October, I’ve got a feeling it sucks and is just another run-of-the-mill jump scare fests trying to pass itself off as scary. So don’t think I’m emotionally invested in this film or anything. I probably won’t even watch it, and if I do watch it, it’ll only be because Aokigahara is a weirdly underutilized locale for horror that I think could be done very interestingly.

So what do people have to say about it?

**This Is So Much Worse Than Whitewashing**
*Why I’m Boycotting Hollywood’s Newest Movie “The Forest”*

It’s a January-release horror movie. You don’t have to boycott it, it’s going to get shit reviews and poor turnouts on its own. Also, how is it whitewashing anything? Because there are white people in Japan? Oh no, that never happens.

As an Asian-American, I am no stranger to seeing my people whitewashed on the silver screen. It happened in “The Conqueror” when John Wayne played Genghis Khan and it’s scheduled to repeat in 2017 when Scarlett Johannson stars as as Major Motoko Kusanagi in “Ghost in the Shell.”

Asians are underrepresented in Western media, I get it. Only not really seeing as how anime exists and is very popular in the West, but whatever. This kind of happens with everyone (look at all the Italians who’ve played Mexicans in the past). This is dumb studio exec. logic. They’d rather put a familiar face in a leading role than an accurate-yet-unfamiliar face. I’m sorry, but there just aren’t any Japanese actresses who have big enough names in America to be cast in the lead role in Ghost in the Shell. There just aren’t. No studio is going to risk putting an actress with no star power in the lead role in a major motion picture. Same goes for The Conqueror. It makes no sense, and if you want to change it, fine, but change it because it’s inaccurate, not because it offends your identity.

I’d also like to point out that being underrepresented in live-action American films doesn’t mean you’re underrepresented all the time. There are shit-tons of Asian-American voice actors, and also the entire half of the world that makes movies with nothing but Asian people. What is with this weird solipsistic idea that America is the only place that does anything worth noting? You know that America imports movies from Asia, right? And the internet exists. If you want a movie staring people that look like you, it’s stupidly easy to achieve that goal. Also, no talk about how the Attack on Titan movie was horribly miscast, because those characters should have been white. But it’s okay when they do it for reasons.

 But NONE of these films compares to the whitewashing in Hollywood’s newest movie “The Forest.” This is by far the most sickening, low-class piece of shit I have EVER seen. Before I talk about why this is possibly the worst whitewashed Asian movie in history, you NEED to understand the context of this story and what “Forest” this movie is referring to.

Dude, you’ve seen the trailer. I’m sorry this is a pet-peeve of mine: You do not get to judge a movie’s quality based on its trailer. The people who make the movie don’t even have anything to do with the trailer or how the film is marketed. The content of the actual film is rarely captured by the trailer. For all I know, the forest could be in this movie for ten minutes with the rest of the runtime taking place in America. That’s how marketing works. Movies have been ruined by being marketed wrong (think Sweeney Todd, which was cleverly marketed as something that wasn’t a musical), and they’ve also been helped by marketing (Cabin in the Woods, anyone?). The one very apparent thing with this trailer is that it emphasizes that the movie is full of scary ghosts and takes place in a scary location, because that will put asses in seats. I think the movie is going to be mediocre because of the month it’s being released, but dude, you’ve seen the trailer. Calm down. You know nothing about this movie. For all you know, you could be getting pissed off at a movie that doesn’t even exist.

This is also not an Asian movie. Just saying.

Here’s the scoop.

West of Tokyo, Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji is a stretch of forest called Aokigahara. Aokigahara is known for its lush and green foliage that remains fertile all year long. Walk along the trails and you’ll see petite trees that ebb and flow with the wind and a ground painted with a thick layer of furry moss. But underneath this excessive life, woven between the leaves and bushes, is the exact opposite of life: death.

This is very over-dramatic. I’ve actually visited Aokigahara before since one of my cross-cultural interests is bringing a better mental health care system to Japan. Yeah, America overmedicates people, which is wrong, but it also has psychological resources available. The same cannot be said for Japan. The overwhelming culture of Japan is that you don’t really talk about your problems because it disrupts the harmony of the home or the workplace, and that, combined with its shame culture, leads to many people not knowing how to deal with things like depression. It’s gotten to the point where people tell teenagers to learn English with a Western tutor because a gaijin will actually listen to their problems unlike everyone else. So there’s an issue there. Combine that with the fact that everyone thought the Blue Forest was haunted to begin with, and Aokigahara turns into a super-creepy place.

For 30 years, residents of Japan have come to the Aokigahara forest to commit suicide. Most hang themselves, others overdose on medication, and a select few hide deep in the woods and force themselves into dehydration and starvation. Rotting corpses hang from the branches and skeletons with the clothes intact are scattered all around.

You forgot to mention that many foreigners also go there to commit suicide. It’s one of the world’s most popular suicide spots for a reason.

In Japan, suicide is a national crisis. While America ranks 50th in yearly suicide rates, Japan is at a chilling 17th place with an estimated 70 suicides per day. Some are pressured into suicide by the stress of Japan’s overwhelming work culture while others do it because of unemployment. One major factor that isn’t as highly recognized due to Japanese social stigma is depression and mental health.

I’ve said this already. Although, I’m fairly sure depression and mental health tie into the other factors. If you’re already prone to episodes of depression, losing your job (which is pretty much a social death sentence due to how difficult it is for older people to start working somewhere else) can’t help matters.

Japan’s rigorous culture of conformity heavily stigmatizes those with mental health issues. Many Japanese have grown content with suicide and see it as a “reasonable” solution. In reality, suicide is an epidemic and is the second leading cause of death in the country.

I agree that this is messed up. What does this have to do with this movie? As far as you know (You have seen the trailer!), this movie is a glowing social commentary on mental issues that unearths many unsaid questions in a very nuanced fashion that makes the audience truly think about suicide and what can lead to it. Maybe it’ll be like The Babadook and turn into a well-done commentary on grief and depression, even though it was marketed as a straight monster-movie. You don’t know.

*Why “The Forest” Is Worse Than Regular Whitewashed Hollywood Films*

“The Forest,” a HORROR movie which stars a BLONDE WHITE GIRL, takes place in Aokigahara.

If she was a brunette white girl would it be okay? How about a blonde black girl? That’s a popular style nowadays. So . . . what exactly is wrong with this? Inherently? You’re acting like there’s just some internal, inevitable wrongness that can’t be changed here, and I don’t really understand why. This isn’t an argument. You might as well have just said, “They cast an American to play the main role in An American Werewolf in London!” The Grudge takes place in Tokyo, it has a mainly white cast. And it was made by a Japanese director with a Japanese casting agency, so you can’t even get mad at that one. Lots of American J-Horror inspired movies put Americans in Japan, the more I think about it. It adds a layer of isolation and aloneness to a movie that otherwise wouldn’t have that. And I was actually kind of annoyed by The Grudge because it had so many white characters that the whole “isolation” idea didn’t work because there sure as hell seems to be enough Americans for you guys to meet up and feel less lonely. But this trope of going overseas to a scary place is used to make something scarier to a Western audience, and having a Western audience isn’t bad. Once again, for all I know this movie could do the “stranger in an unfamiliar land” motif perfectly. I’m not going to complain, because I don’t know yet.

You’re essentially getting mad that an American horror movie has dared to have a different setting than usual. That different setting being *gasp* Japanese isn’t wrong. I actually frequently wonder why American horror films don’t put the action in more diverse settings just because there are so many places in the world that would make for great horror movie settings that are underutilized. Come on guys, New Orleans is right there and there are like two movies that take advantage of it. I would actually really appreciate a horror movie set in Akiogahara that was done well because that place is ripe for good, scary stories that could be told.

So not only did they whitewash a movie and sidestep the opportunity to cast an Asian actress, they COMPLETELY DISRESPECTED the fact that Suicide Forest IS A REAL FUCKING PLACE where the Japanese go to end their life. And it’s not like these suicides happened 400 years ago. This is happening RIGHT. NOW. Over one hundred bodies are found in Aokigahara every single year.

They didn’t whitewash anything. It’s explicitly said that these people are Westerns going to Japan. Doesn’t “whitewashing” entail white people being there for no good reason even though they logically shouldn’t, like in The Last Airbender movie? There’s a perfectly good reason here, as far as I can see. They’re flying to Japan because her sister flew to Japan, which lots of people do, by the way. They’re right outside Tokyo, a tourist hub, firstly, and secondly, many foreigners go to that forest to commit suicide as well. This situation isn’t out of the question.

And maybe they did miss the chance to cast an Asian actress–there could have been a subplot about cultural heritage and an American feeling like a stranger in the land of her ancestors. It could have been cool. But this could also be cool for other reasons involving social isolation and confusion. It’s not like you’re giving something up and getting zero in return–it’s a tradeoff.

Also . . . Do you not know how horror movies work? This just seems like a touchy subject for you, and if it is, I’m sorry. This movie definitely isn’t for you. And you can make an argument for it being in poor taste, if it’s done badly (which you, once again, don’t know yet). But people make movies about real places all the time. They make movies about real tragedies all the time. They come up with supernatural explanations for real tragedies all the time. Hell, a cornerstone of Japanese cinema is movies about the after effects of nuclear explosions. It’s actually very common in Japanese horror movies to come up with supernatural explanations for modern and current tragedies. Ring was originally inspired by a string of teen deaths and that no one could explain in much the same way that Nightmare on Elm Street was. There’s even a Japanese horror movie about the suicide epidemic in Japan that blames the epidemic on ghosts. It’s called Pulse–there’s a shitty American remake.

So, yeah. The idea that this is so offensive because it takes place in a real place with real issues kind of falls flat. Horror movies are more often than not inspired by real events that sparked the imagination. They’re inspired by real massacres, real serial killers, real rampages, real epidemics, real disappearances, real fears. That’s what makes them scary (when they’re done well, once again, which is rare, once again). If you’re going to be pissed off at this, you might as well get pissed off at every topical, ripped-from-the-headlines episode of Law and Order.

To put this into perspective, imagine if a white-skinned Italian film director made a movie about police brutality and anti-Black violence in America, filmed the movie in America, but cast non-Black Italian actors.

This is a false equivalency. You’re acting like the movie The Forest is about the suicide epidemic in Japan, which it is not. It is about a woman going to Japan to look for her suicidal sister who happened to choose that spot of the world to go die. Its background is just that. Its background. A more accurate analogy would be: A white-skinned foreign director making a movie that happens to be set in America that is about a white character who is explicitly not American becoming a victim of police brutality. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as America is just a setting, and its history of police violence serves as a backdrop for the story being told but is ultimately not the focus of the story. The focus is the particular character we are following. So this complaint makes no sense. Also, I would love to see that movie you proposed–it sounds like it would be delightfully pretentious.

The ABSOLUTE WORST thing about this film is the erasure of mental health issues among Asians worldwide. The model minority myth doesn’t just assume that Asians are universally intelligent or rich, it also assumes that we’re able-bodied and don’t suffer from mental illness.

This is a January-release horror movie about ghosts in the woods. Seeing as how it’s set in a place explicitly stated to be the place where lots of Japanese people commit suicide, it’s not like they’re acting like only Americans are dying. It’s apparently inspired by Japanese mythology and demons, not Western ghosts. You are judging this movie that you haven’t seen and know hardly anything about based off of what you think it isn’t. You’re not judging it based off of what it is.

1.) That model minority statement came out of nowhere. 2.) I seriously doubt that the director went into this movie wanting to make deep social commentary about suicide in Japan. That is not the purpose of this film. This is the equivalent of me going into Trasformers 7 (or whatever number it’s on) and getting mad that it’s not an insightful commentary on the state of America’s war effort in the Middle East. It’s not supposed to be an insightful commentary. I still hate those movies because what they’re supposed to be is fun action movies and they fucking fail at that.

So The Forest doesn’t look like it is what you want it to be. That is your entire argument. “This isn’t what I want from a movie set in this place.” And, fine. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be disappointed by the seemingly inevitable mediocrity of this movie. It could be a good horror movie. A good horror movie. You are bitching about a movie that doesn’t hit your personal mark for what you think it should be, even though it’s actual, intended mark was on a different target entirely. So it never would have hit your mark anyway, no matter how good it was by the rubric it actually set for itself. Pacific Rim hit its Action Adventure mark right in the bullseye, but it was a few yards shy of the Oscar Bait target, so let’s just judge it by that standard and see how much it sucks.

I’m all for complaining about what something could have been, but that cannot be the only facet of your argument for why it’s bad. Because at that point, you’re not reviewing the actual film, you’re reviewing some weird ghost of a film that you wished you had seen more of.

NO ONE talks about mental health among Asians. NO ONE talks about disabled Asians. Why? Because everyone believes that we’re rich and smart enough to access healthcare.

Newflash: WE AREN’T

Where is this coming from?! You are talking about a movie about a girl committing suicide that happens to be set in Japan, presumably because the writers thought the mythology of that area was cool. It is not some random horror movie’s job to bring this shit up. You’re acting like it is. You’re acting like this movie is morally obligated to do XZY things just because it’s set in a place with problems, and your argument falls flat. It’s not obligated to talk about any of these things. And not talking about any of these things is not an inherent star taken off of its final grade.

This movie was never meant to be a commentary on Japanese mental health. It wasn’t. If you want that movie, go fund someone who can make it, because this movie is not it. And judging by the standards of some ghost of a film you wished existed doesn’t help anything. This would be like me getting mad at Fight Club because it’s set in the murder capital of America but never talks about it. Someone else can make the movie about America’s murder capital and the epidemic of violent crime, because that’s not what Fight Club was.

“The Forest” had an opportunity to address an issue that is LITERALLY killing Japanese citizens by the thousands. An issue that would have hit home with many Asian-Americans who also suffer from mental illness and depression. But instead of reaching out and confronting a problem that exists and is on-going, Hollywood turned it into a horror movie and whitewashed its cast, thus dehumanizing not only Asians around the globe affected by mental health, but those who have already committed suicide.

How is this dehumanizing anyone? Because it’s not about you? Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that people had to make things to cater to you and you specifically otherwise they’re in the wrong. Using your own logic, you are dehumanizing people of every other race who committed suicide there (of which there are many) by only wanting to focus on the Japanese ones even though it’s not a movie about Japanese characters. It’s not like suicide is a universal thing, with overarching themes and emotions tying it together no matter what your cultural background is. Since it’s set in Japan, it has to be about Japanese suicides, which are so much different in every conceivable way that there’s just no relation to be had if someone tells a story about suicide that focuses on someone who isn’t Asian. Now, let me guess, you’re going to start complaining about how stories with Asian people aren’t seen as universally relatable, right?

Words cannot describe my level of disgust. Hollywood can dehumanize me all it wants. It can cast me as the Asian side-kick in every movie, emasculate me with characters who never get the girl, and erase my history by whitewashing Bruce Lee or Sesue Hayakawa. But why this? Why erase mental health among Asians? Why stab an already invisible community that is suffering in silence?

Dude, don’t watch movies. You take them far too personally. God, you’d think the director of this movie knocked on this guy’s door and punched him in the face before taking all his money. Random people who do things you find distasteful and insulting aren’t out to get you and you specifically, dude. They’re aren’t dehumanizing you, they aren’t putting you in a side role, emasculating you, or anything else. You are not involved in this at all, apparently. But you’ve connected your entire identity to being Asian, apparently, so there’s no way to get out of the egotistical group-think that everything slightly questionable done to some Asian somewhere is an affront against you specifically.

I don’t understand this. Using the critical race theory logic that I can only assume this guy subscribes to, white supremacy is so pervasive in this society that white people are not only consciously/subconsciously fine with Orientalism when it happens, but they either consciously or subconsciously aren’t inclined to change it because it benefits them. By virtue of this director being a white guy, he should be effected by this overwhelming apathy to your problems caused by white supremacy. So, using your own logic, you are getting mad at a director for not doing something that you never expected him to do in the first place. It would be like me getting mad at my cat for not barking loud enough to alert me of intruders. Yeah, I know cats don’t do that and I have no reason to think my cat will, but this one fucking should!

Also, why is it the West’s job to address Eastern conceptions of health care? I thought you didn’t like White Saviors, but you’re pissed off that the director of some shitty horror movie isn’t busting in and tackling all of your problems the way only a White Man can? You are a strong race that don’t need no white man’s help, but as soon as the white man doesn’t help you in a situation where he’s in no way obligated to do so, how dare he not step in? Something tells me that if he did try to make the movie you want, you’d be busting his chops for taking this directing experience away from an Asian who is “closer to the problem.”

FUCK this movie.
FUCK whoever this shitty actress is for taking on the role.
And FUCK FUCK FUCK Hollywood for SHITTING ON those affected by mental health

Yeah, fuck this movie that you’ve only seen the trailer for. Fuck that woman who did nothing wrong and who is only doing the job that she was hired to do. Fuck Hollywood for shitting on the mental health of Asians, ’cause it’s not like they get that shit wrong for anyone else, right?

God, I hate when SJWs talk about movies.




2 thoughts on “Mighty Whitey to the Rescue!

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