|You want this. Admit it.|
First let me explain why I'm bringing this up. November ends today, and with it, the Narrative's celebration of Ninja Assassin's 2nd Anniversary. Now, back when I first got hooked on the movie, I naturally read every blog post and news blurb I could find. And boy...did I find.
"For those who were hoping to see Rain delivering his lines in improved English, sorry to disappoint you, but the character Raizo is a murdering machine who, by nature, rarely exposes his emotions."See, here's the thing: I wasn't disappointed by Rain's English at all. Nothing about it needed to be "improved". His sentences were complete. His grammar was correct. And the fact that Rain actually paused to consider how a Japanese character would sound speaking English is the mark of a highly attentive actor, not to mention skilled since Rain himself is still learning English.
~ Wee Geun-woo, "[REVIEW] Ninja Assassin"
"At least his English has a believable Japanese accent, unlike the lazy casting of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” in which the Chinese leads spoke English with obvious Chinese accents."
~ Nikkei View, "Ninja Assassin updates the ninja image for the 21st century"
So why does the first quote bug me? Ninja Assassin takes place in Berlin, Germany. We hear LOTS of different accents. We hear plenty of German accents. We also hear Russian accents (the tragic Sabatins). British actor Ben Miles speaks his regular British accent. Naomie Harris, also a Brit, does an American accent (I don't know why she bothered, though). Rick Yune's American and speaks like an American. Sho Kosugi speaks in a Japanese accent (Rain probably spent a lot of time listening to him). Anna Sawai does...some kind of accent. Lee Joon's accent leans more towards Korean. And Rain makes a concerted effort to sound Japanese.
My point? No one bats an eyelash when the Western(ized) characters speak English, even if it's not their first language and they can't speak it perfectly (the Germans and Russians). But when the Asian guy speaks in complete, grammatically correct sentences, for some reason improvement is automatically expected.
And by improvement, "sounding Western" is implied.
Um...why? The accent Rain does is sexy, so very sexy. We should also note how he slightly changed his voice, fully immersing himself the dark persona of his role (Brandon Lee did the same thing in The Crow). Just because some folks don't notice these things, it doesn't mean they aren't there and/or don't matter.
Nikkei View goes on to add, "The excuse given by the producers of “Geisha” was that they just couldn’t find Japanese (or Japanese American) actresses with the box office draw. But they obviously didn’t try to coach their stars to speaking English with Japanese inflections. either. The message I got from the filmmakers was, “All Asians are alike and it doesn’t matter who we cast in what roles and how they sound.”"
My point exactly. As an African, I can totally relate, because whenever an American is cast as an African, they always do this generic, Nigerianish-sounding accent which makes me rub my temples. It doesn't matter if they're playing a Senegalese, Rwandan, or South African, the accents all sound the same. *clenches teeth* We don't all sound the same.
But when we "sound", we sound wonderful, and we don't need improving at all.
We need to get the point where Eastern accents aren't so easily dismissed. They're distinct, diverse, and utterly sexy. They're to be admired and enjoyed, rather than discouraged.
I Need to Clear the Air on Ninja Assassin