While accusations of racism in modern film certainly aren't new by any stretch, Cloud Atlas may be the most complex.
So we all know that a major thrust of this film is that the actors are playing multiple parts throughout history. Well, the other half of the equation is that those actors are also playing characters who live all over the globe. Which means peoples of Caucasian descent will be wearing the high-tech modern version of blackface.
That's not exactly the controversy, though. There seems to be, for the most part, an acceptance of the film's conceit. The issue is more to do with the overwhelming lack of Asian stars in American cinema in general. The Media Action Network for Asian Americans released a scathing statement concerning that fact.
Said MANAA's founding president, Guy Aoki, "Cloud Atlas missed a great opportunity. The Korea story's protagonist is an Asian man—an action hero who defies the odds and holds off armies of attackers. It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren't allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often."
But that's not the only gripe MANAA has with Cloud Atlas. The other issue comes from the makeup design itself. The accusation is that more time and consideration are being given toward making people look black or Caucasian. In the case of, Xun Zhou, MANAA feels great pains were taken to make her "look white," while the same could not be said of the reverse.
"The message the movie sends is, it takes a lot of work to get Asians to look Caucasian, but you can easily turn Caucasians into Asians by just changing the shape of their eyes."
It's a complex issue, to be sure. We've given you the facts, now you tell us—is Cloud Atlas racist toward peoples of Asian descent?
(via The Hollywood Reporter)