'Raya and the Last Dragon' stirs Asian representation debate
Posted January 27, 2021 11:01 a.m. EST
CNN — All people of Asian heritage are not the same.
That's the rather self-evident message from some who have dived into a debate about the forthcoming Disney film, "Raya and the Last Dragon."
The animated movie is about a young woman named Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, or KMT) on a quest to find the Last Dragon in order to unite a people.
It features stars of Asian ethnicity, also including Golden Globe-winning actress Sandra Oh, Awkwafina and Gemma Chan.
But the casting has sparked conversation, given that the story in the film has a Southeast Asian origin and many of the actors cast are of East Asian ancestry.
"A friendly reminder that actual South-East Asians are not thrilled for Raya and the Last Dragon," one person tweeted. "They basically put the whole region in a blender and hired so little south-east Asian actors for the roles. It sucks, it feels like Disney didn't care to respect us."
Another tweeted, "I am actually very conflicted about the new Raya and the Last Dragon casting. I love all those cast members. But basically everyone, except KMT is East Asian. Imagine how big it would be they actually casted Southeast Asian actors. SE Asian actors are sorely lacking in Hollywood."
CNN has reached out to Disney for comment.
Representation in Hollywood has been a hot topic for years, and there was excitement in 2018 when "Crazy Rich Asians" became the first major studio movie since "The Joy Luck Club" decades prior to feature a predominantly Asian cast.
That same year, Tran wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times after she was harassed online and the target of racist comments.
"You might know me as Kelly. I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a 'Star Wars' movie," she wrote. "I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started."
"Raya and the Last Dragon" is set to premiere March 5 on Disney+.