“Legend of the Monkey” is an Australian-New Zealand co-production based on the 16th century Chinese novel “Journey to the West” and attributed to Wu Cheng’en. It tells of the pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang to obtain sacred texts, aided by three disciples from folklore: Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Zhu Bajie also known as Pigsy, and Sha Wujing, aka Sandy. The tale has been told many times on screen before under various names. Japan had a TV adaptation called “Monkey Magic,” and Stephen Chow released a “Journey to the West” film in 2013 with a sequel in 2017.
In Netflix’s new 10-part series, however, not one of the four main characters appears to be played by an Asian, much less a Chinese actor, according to a Care2 petition. Luciane Buchanan will play a teenage girl who is accompanied by three powerful fallen gods: Monkey (Chai Hansen), Pigsy (Josh Thomson) and Sandy (Emilie Cocquerel).
‘You can’t embrace an identity that you always see represented as the perpetual Other,” Asian-American Lucy Linai, who created the petition, 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.”
Check out the petition here.