How Far West?

How did a telly series based on a Chinese classic end up not having a single Chinese actor?

Should we even be surprised at the casting decisions for Netflix’s The Legend of Monkey, which is based on the sixteenth century novel Journey to the West? Probably not, considering how Scarlett Johansen was given the role of Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tilda Swinton played the Ancient One in Dr Strange.

journey to the west
Sun Wukong and gang go West … to La La Land.

The book tells the story of Xuanzang, a Tang dynasty Buddhist monk who travels to the ‘West’, meaning Central Asia and India, in search of sacred texts. He is given three friends who function as helpers and body guards of sorts: Sun Wukong (the monkey king); Zhu Bajie (the Pig of Eight Prohibitions – a half-man, half-pig); and Sha Wujing (a hideous immortal).

emilieWhile you could argue that monsters and immortals could be any race, Xuanzang is definitely Chinese. However, there is no Buddhist monk in this version of the tale. Instead, there is a teenager called Sandy (this is confusing because Sha Wujing is called Friar Sandy or Sandy in English translations of the novel) and Emilie Cocquerel [left], the actor who plays her, is definitely white.

There is no further information about the series, like where it’s set and how the three companions of Xuanzang end up hanging out with a white girl instead – I don’t know if Sandy is even supposed to be white. I notice that she is shown bald and with a tan in the promo pic – perhaps in an attempt to give her a more ‘edgy’ appearance.

Anyway, the series is supposed to be release in 2018. I guess we’ll have to wait til then to see just how bad it is. Of course, it may be good in terms of script, direction, acting etc, but I feel it’s failed already due to its casting decisions.

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