Anna Akana Accuses Disney of Being Racist for Not Allowing Her to Audition for Mulan

A couple of months ago a YouTube channel named CorridorCast, who hosts regular podcasts, posted this video of a highlight of their podcast featuring Anna Akana as their guest.

To preface, Anna Akana is an Asian-American YouTuber most famous for her short films and anecdotal videos. She was even given her own YouTube Red Series called Youth and Consequences. Anna has been a YouTube presence for nearly half a decade. Recently, she has shifted her content and her style of storytelling to include fun and interesting graphics.

In this controversial interview, Anna documents her experience attempting to audition for a role in the upcoming live-action reboot of Mulan. TL;DR, Disney tells her that she was not allowed to audition because she was not Chinese. Anna then accuses Disney of being racist for not allowing her to audition and further marginalizing the Japanese-American population: "I wasn’t allowed to audition for Mulan because I’m not Chinese. And I thought that was racist… you’re going to further marginalize an Asian group? But I had a friend who was Korean who fully supported the decision and was like “No we should give the Chinese actors… like Chinese American actors the chance to go for this”.

Anna then continues to point out that the Asian population is already so small in America. She then goes on to give an anecdote about her friend who tried to audition for a part in Aladdin but was told that he wasn’t the “right kind of middle-eastern”. She then continues this argument saying that “if you can tell me what kind of Middle-Eastern I am, then don’t have me audition… but you don’t know”.

When I was listening to this podcast, I was very upset and hurt by what Anna was insinuating with her argument. There are a lot of problematic statements that I picked up right off the bat with her reasoning.

Firstly, she is of Japanese-American descent, and Mulan is of full Chinese descent. It is not “ambiguous” as she claims it is like in the example of her friend auditioning for Aladdin. Straight off the bat, Mulan establishes that they are set in China; the whole movie is about the war between Mongolia and China. Hence, it makes sense that Disney would be looking exclusively for actors who are of Chinese or Mongolian heritage. It’s not “racist” if they accurately want to portray Chinese culture with genuine Chinese actresses.

Secondly, calling an organization “racist” is a hefty accusation. Calling someone racist is not something that is taken lightly. Racism is a large problem in our world today and accusing people of being racist actually holds some ground today. It undermines real forms of racism when you falsely or haphazardly accuse someone of racism.

Thirdly, she is contradicting herself greatly - if she acknowledges and advocates for the accurate portrayal of Asians in films and is against white-washing in the media, how come she is okay with (as a Japanese-American) taking roles away from the Chinese-American population? In a way, it is sort of racist for her to assume that she, a Japanese-American, can accurately portray a Chinese character. This mindset Anna has is basically what mainstream media is doing to the Asian-American population; thinking all Asians look the same, so it “doesn’t matter which one they pick, as long as they pick one”.

Anna’s mindset is very dangerous and hurtful to the Asian population as a whole, as it further melts us together as a singular cultural identity. We are not just “Asian”, there are many forms of Asian. There are: Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, and various cultural identities that are under the “Asian” umbrella. Each culture is unique, and we are not all the same.

All in all, I was quite upset and disappointed with Anna, especially because she is always speaking out against white-washing in the media. In a way, this is taking a step back to “traditional” media. It seems that she does not understand the implications of a Japanese-American portraying clearly Chinese characters. I hope that Disney is able to find actors and actresses who can accurately portray these roles in the upcoming Mulan reboot.

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