The Great Wall, released in South African cinemas today, is yet another film dealing with the controversy that comes with casting a white actor in an ostensibly Asian role.
This time, the story is of an elite force defending China along its famous border. The enemy? Dragons, of course.
Annoyed audience members took to Twitter to criticise what was viewed as a narrative with a white saviour complex. With the help of #ThankYouMattDamon, users tweeted about everything Matt Damon has done for Asia.
all of you asian kids who get red packets for lunar new year have matt damon to thank… he started the tradition #thankyoumattdamon
— tomi (@tamsagotchi) February 17, 2017
Matt Damon taught me the difference between Pho and Ramen. #thankyoumattdamon
— Jay Chen (@jfchen) February 17, 2017
Matt Damon makes my products for cheap #thankyoumattdamon
— Gabriel Olivier (@Abrielolive) February 17, 2017
— SJPaul (@JeakPaul) February 16, 2017
Every Chinese character tattoo actually says #ThankYouMattDamon
— J. Torres (@jtorrescomics) February 16, 2017
At a press conference last year, Damon was already dealing with these criticisms.
“To me whitewashing was when Chuck Connors played [Native American] Geronimo,” he said.
“There are far more nuanced versions of it and I do try to be sensitive to that, but [co-star] Pedro Pascal called me and goes, ‘Yeah, we are guilty of whitewashing. We all know only the Chinese defended the wall against the monster attack.’”
Annoyed audience members took to Twitter to criticise The Great Wall – another movie with a white saviour complex
While the fact that The Great Wall is an work of fiction could be used against white washing accusations, it does not change the white saviour aspect of the film.
In #ThankYouMattDamon, the audience highlights the trend of billing white characters as the heroes people of colour could never be. Other films that use the same structure include The Last Samurai, Freedom Writers and The Help.
The Great Wall has already earned US$224.5-million worldwide prior to its US release today. US$170-million of the profit has come from China.