“The Great Wall,” which opens in theaters today (February 17), is the latest movie to face accusations of Whitewashing Asian characters. Critics lampooned the film and its White star Matt Damon (“The Martian”) yesterday (February 16) with the trending hashtag #ThankYouMattDamon.
According to the film’s IMDb page, Damon stars as one of several European mercenaries in turn-of-the-first-millennium China. Their search for gunpowder eventually pits them—and a Chinese military order—against extraterrestrial monsters. Despite “The Great Wall’s” predominantly Asian cast and Chinese director, Zhang Yimou (“Hero”), Damon receives top billing.
#ThankYouMattDamon satirizes the film’s representation of broader industry trends that prioritize White performers over Asian ones. Movies like “The Great Wall” position White characters as saviors of Asian people, while others like “Ghost in the Shell” star White actors as Asian characters. Damon’s fans have previously used the hashtag to praise his work, but Asian-American comedian Jenny Yang revived it early yesterday morning after attending a screening:
Matt Damon taught me how to use chopsticks. #thankyoumattdamon— Jenny Yang(@jennyyangtv) February 16, 2017
Here’s a sample of the other fake praises Asian Americans tweeted yesterday:
SJPaul (@JeakPaul) February 16, 2017
#thankyoumattdamon for finding the asian within yourself to save china, and represent our marginalized community :)— grace @gracejuice) February 17, 2017
Matt Damon helped me confront my internalized racism and learn to love the skin I’m in #ThankYouMattDamon— Mark Tseng Putterman (@tsengputterman) February 16, 2017
Damon said in an NBC News interview on Monday (February 13) that he thought much of the backlash came from a promotional poster that prominently featured his face and name. ”The last two movies I had come out were ‘The Martian’ and ‘Jason Bourne,’ and both of those posters were my face and my name, and they did really well,” he said. He also mentioned the movie’s “East-meets-West” narrative of humans joining to fight monsters, wondering if critics would have the same opinions after seeing it.
Let us know your favorite #ThankYouMattDamon tweets in the comments.
(H/t The Hollywood Reporter)