The ‘Suicide Squad’ actress will once again be speechless, and that’s a problem.
Adaptations have always been tricky to master when no creator can please all fans of any given source material when translating works from page to screen. But what should the protocol be when storytellers also have to grapple with a source text’s inherently problematic characteristics?
Deadline announced that Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad) has been cast in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s upcoming comic book adaptation, The Boys. The show comes in the footsteps of their successful adaptation of Preacher and follows an eponymous group of vigilantes who teach corrupt superheroes some painful, violent lessons. Fukuhara will play the sole female member of The Boys, and although these vigilantes don’t generally have superpowers, she evidently does. Her character, only known as the Female, is a mute assassin who is vicious and mysterious at first, but “learns what it means to be human” through a strong bond with another member of the gang, the Frenchman (who is yet to be cast).
There’s no need to speculate that the Female will be as much of a badass as the rest of The Boys when they take down the bad good guys (maybe her superpowers even give her more of an edge). But there is cause to remain wary when writing her very “name” feels like an uncomfortably objectifying experience that is amplified by the fact that silence is one of her core qualities. The original comic does posit some reasons for the Female’s muteness; it could be self-imposed. But whether an eight-episode web series is going to adequately cover any of that information is debatable, especially with so many other characters involved.
Like other mainstream media before it, The Boys has inevitably landed itself in an ethical conundrum between staying faithful to a source material’s stereotypical depictions or possibly changing them to be socially relevant. When considering portrayals of Asian characters or culture specifically, Doctor Strange tried to dodge the bullet of indulging in stereotypes by rewriting a canonically Tibetan villain into a Celtic character. However, this preemptive measure begs the question of whether the writers of the film even considered creating a fully fleshed-out Asian villain in the first place.
Meanwhile, both Netflix’s Iron Fist and Altered Carbon faced accusations of whitewashing their protagonists, despite these characters being canonically white, and such concerns are not unfounded. Danny Rand and Takeshi Kovacs have connections to Chinese and Japanese cultures respectively and would have been good, meaty leading roles for Asian actors regardless of what the source material dictated about these characters’ appearance. In being “truer” adaptations, Iron Fist and Altered Carbon prove to be extraordinarily conventional in a frustrating way.
Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and Altered Carbon all add up to several missed opportunities when it comes to delivering on Hollywood’s promise of inclusivity, and this is a trend that constantly hits the Asian community hard. If The Boys isn’t careful with how it portrays the Female, it’ll be yet another show to add to that list. Fukuhara has already played the mostly-silent badass fighter character in Suicide Squad. There are a number of Asian characters out there who aren’t protagonists and barely get any lines — most of the Asian women in the X-Men franchise come to mind.
The lack of initiative towards creatively conceiving Asian roles in film and television comes across as increasingly irritating than offensive these days, because it feels both half-assed and dated. The Boys has a huge opportunity to make a great statement about really caring for Asian representation should they treat the Female right.
It’s definitely not enough to just see an Asian actor on screen and call that diversity. Here’s hoping that in The Boys‘ quest to bring big-headed superheroes down to earth, it doesn’t forget about the very characters in its crew.