A remake of the 1970s and 80s television cult classic
, made in New Zealand and featuring two Kiwi actors, has been labelled a whitewash and a petition organiser is urging viewers to boycott it.
The Legend Of Monkey, a Netflix collaboration with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand, features Australian-Thai actor Chai Hansen as Monkey, New Zealand actress Luciane Buchanan as Tripitaka, New Zealand actor Josh Thomson as Pigsy and Australian actress Emile Cocquerel as Sandy.
Petition author Lucy Linaj, a 23-year-old Asian-American, is calling for a boycott of the show because none of the cast is Chinese.
The 10-part series, being filmed in Auckland, is based on the famous Chinese fable Journey to the West and in the late 1970s Monkey was made into a kitsch Japanese show with martial arts feats centred around the legend of the Monkey King and three fallen Gods.
TVNZ general manager of acquisitions, commissioning and production Andrew Shaw told 1NewsNow last week the show was "an extraordinary project to be involved with and we can't wait to be the first to bring it to New Zealand audiences".
"It's a tremendous tale, visually imaginative and made by talented people. Kids are going to love it," he said.
But Linaj's petition,
had already attracted 7615 signatures by lunchtime today.
"You can't embrace an identity that you always see represented as the perpetual other," Linaj said.
"Media producers who replace Asian characters with white actors reinforce the idea that 'whiteness' is the standard and European features are the epitome of beauty, thereby convincing non-white children to loathe their own appearances and develop self-hate.
"Distributors like Netflix need to hold producers accountable so we can end the practice of whitewashing."
Other petitions that have pushed back on Hollywood whitewashing include:
• One signed by more than 105,000 people demanding DreamWorks Studios reconsider the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell.
• A call to boycott Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, a made-for-TV film that would have starred English actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson. At 21,000 signatures, the show was dropped.
• One aimed at Oscar-winning screenwriter and producer David Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown over their plan to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi instead of a Middle Eastern actor.
• More than 96,000 people signed a petition lambasting Warner Bros. for casting white actress Rooney Mara as Tiger Lilly, a Native American character, in 2015's Pan.
The latest petition comes just days after controversial Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, about a teenage suicide, was reclassified in New Zealand following and outcry from mental health charities.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification created a new category for the series, RP18, meaning teenagers aged under 18 could only watch the show with a parent.