After a surprisingly not-awesome time at The Wolverine, the latest in Hugh Jackman’s series of inspirational workout videos, we got in touch with our friend Phoenix Tso, who recently wrote about fightin’ with strangers. And who is more strange than a mutant from the Marvel universe? There will be spoilers.
Nicole – So, essentially, I love comic book movies, and they never bother me, because things are always shiny and silly and over-the-top. And so I got a babysitter so my husband and I could go this movie on a Saturday morning at 9:30am, because OLD PEOPLE. And the first twenty minutes were okay. And then it went to shit. And I almost left, because it was incredibly offensive, and that almost never happens to me with movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with being offended by movies, I’m just pretty lalala about them. And I wanted to write about it, but what do I know, so I begged you to see it and talk to me about it. And here you are! Please tell our readers your thoughts.
Phoenix – Okay, I had the same thought as you. Like the first half hour, I thought this movie could be fun. And when the first Japanese character appeared, i thought she was a bit manic pixie dream girl-ish (to overuse that phrase) but at least seemed capable. But then, I don’t know, the rest of the movie was just offensive on so many levels.
Nicole – Yeah, I said to myself: “I see those stockings. I get where you’re headed, but okay.”
Phoenix – Like the people who wrote the movie hate women right? Just in general, not just Asian women.
Nicole – Yes, it’s clear. The Viper, man.
Phoenix – It also bothered me that when she was introduced, Logan just looked at her and said: “good job.”
Nicole – I did not foresee the romantic plot, Phoenix. We honestly thought he was not going to make out with her.
Phoenix – Right, because he still loves Jean Grey!
Nicole – YES. And, because, I don’t know, he and her GRANDFATHER survived Nagasaki together, too.
Phoenix – Oh, right. Creepy.
Nicole – That character is not just young, she is a baby. We thought he was legit just saving her from things 24/7 because she is a toddler. I didn’t even think “I’m a very sexy baby,” like she is portrayed as being so childlike I was utterly unconcerned that they were going to hump.
Phoenix – And so submissive Asian woman stereotypical.
Phoenix – The way they treated the grandfather at the end made me livid too.
Nicole – HE PUSHED HIM OUT OF A BUILDING TO HIS DEATH AND SAID: “SAYONARA.” That happened!
Phoenix – I know! and nobody was upset!
Nicole – In 2013!
Phoenix – They ruined Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine portrayal with that movie. Among the other terrible things, I sort of wonder if he read that script and was like, “really?”
Nicole – Part of me honestly wonders if he deliberately went this weird, unpleasant route because his sexuality is so frequently questioned.
Phoenix – Oh that makes me sad.
Nicole – Yes. This is not how to establish straight dude street cred.
Phoenix – Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t blame him since actors don’t have the clout usually.
Nicole – He’s a very successful actor, though, he has choices. And I LOVE Hugh Jackman, and literally any time someone has met or brushed past him or been on a film crew with him, they are wildly positive about him.
Phoenix – Okay, so, the grandfather, during the movie, I was the most invested in him. Like when he started crying after climbing out of the hole, it sort of got to me, so I was so upset at what they made him do at the end.
Nicole – It was grotesque.
Phoenix – Although maybe I could’ve understood it if there was any character development from then on.
Nicole – Nope, Logan just perkily kills him. There’s no sorrow. No regret.
Phoenix – Ugh! So gross!
Nicole – Not even “oh, what a sad thing.” Just…”sayonara!”
Phoenix – Right, he didn’t even feel guilty about denying the grandfather the first time, which is more understandable, but actually killing him like that just solidified Wolverine as some kind of death machine.
nothing more, nothing less
Nicole – I also found it so curious that this is now two movies in a row where Wolverine loves an “exotic” woman (the First Nations woman in the last movie, and the granddaughter here) who soothes him by telling him magical stories about “her people.” I mean, Kayla Silver Fox is not “real,” right, she’s been sent to be his perfect helpmeet-y person, but why does his perfect helpmeet have to be someone in the woods making him soup and being mystical? WHEN JEAN GREY IS SO DIFFERENT.
Phoenix – Maybe these Wolverine-focused movies are like the SATC movies, just fucking with the mythology in incredibly racist/sexist ways.
Nicole – I literally cannot think about the second SATC movie.
Phoenix – I refused to watch it. So, yeah, the “mystical people” helping a white guy trope. The scene where Mariko is like “chopsticks standing up are a bad omen” and then “everything has a meaning.”
Nicole – godddd
Phoenix – I just want everybody to know that Asian people don’t actually think and talk like that.
Nicole – It was so Orientalist. I literally turned to Steve and said: “I am so glad Edward Said did not live to see this.”
Phoenix – Haha, he’s probably turning over in his grave though.
Nicole – Or his fucking adamantium robot suit.
Phoenix – But yeah, we don’t actually go about our day thinking about whether moving some coffee cup to the right is gonna upset the spirits or something.
Nicole – I mean, probably some people do, but there are weird hippies of all races. At no point did I think Asian people were involved with this movie.
Phoenix – Definitely, and I don’t claim to know a lot about Japanese culture or everything, it’s just that classic “how Asian people act” bullshit. Oh, except those poor actors who wanted to break into Hollywood roles.
Nicole – And had to act out this ridiculous reactionary theater.
Phoenix – Oh, totally. I hope the actress who played Mariko sabotaged her performance as some kind of protest.
Nicole – The way she occasionally karate-chopped someone, and the rest of the time just got dragged away by her upper arm, flailing lightly. And literally all we see her do is magically make a delicious looking soup and then later put on a business outfit.
Phoenix – That was my favorite! My FAVORITE shot!
Nicole – Totally. “I’m gonna run this company now.” And the soup.
Phoenix – Yeah, I liked (read: did not like) how they let her exhibit some spunk, but really focused on the fact that she was submissive and weak, and thus attractive enough to Wolverine’s protector shit.
Nicole – This soft little person who is just literally almost dying constantly, and needing to be saved. Like just sits there on a bullet train WITH HER EARBUDS IN, waiting for the yakuza to kill her. JAPANESE THINGS!
Phoenix – Well, this movie was set in Japan, so of course the yakuza have to be involved, as well as some nonsense about Japanese family-owned companies.
Nicole – Oh, God, sons and stuff. (makes hand-job gesture)
Phoenix – These white writers sure know how to pack in, like, every stereotype.
Nicole – YUP. OH LOOK, an old-looking painting on the wall. Let’s throw arrows at it.
Phoenix – I liked how Mariko’s foil, Yukio, could definitely take care of herself but still had to be saved from the father, and who has nothing better to do but be Wolverine’s bodyguard.
Nicole – Yeah, like, give HER the company, or something. She’s just buying colorful socks and stuff.
Phoenix – Ha, such wasted potential.
Phoenix – I guess she’s not interesting enough, unless she’s being slapped around or rescued by the men in her life. Oh yeah, the Viper seemed pretty pointless here.
Nicole – I mean, cool green outfits. That’s nice. GOD, THEY GOT A LOVE HOTEL IN THERE SOMEHOW. (checks box marked “love hotel”) Did you have the Keanu trailer first?
Phoenix – YES.
Nicole – WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?
Phoenix – Ugh, Hollywood.
Nicole – WHAT IS WRONG.
Phoenix – Like I don’t think America as a whole is exactly enlightened about race, but Hollywood always seems decades behind. That’s sort of why i don’t go to the movies anymore.
Nicole – I’m looking at the reviews. People are not noticing this. There’s some “oh, cheesy movie,” but no one is saying, “oh, wait, this is literally like a WWII era poster about Japanese people.”
Phoenix – Okay, so the reviews have been bad, though?
Nicole – Not even. It’s at like 69% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Phoenix – AHHHH.
Nicole – People like it better than the last one.
Phoenix – Oh, so they’re grading on a curve.
Nicole – The last one was not exactly Citizen Kane, but it was coherent and not super-racist. I guess I liked when he poisoned the hunter. That was fun. And then from there, it was like “I like how his hospital bed helps him sit up, that looks cool.”
Phoenix – Haha, yeah, that whole Alaskan part had potential. And he was sort of rescued by Yukio in that bar! Then it turned into a different, super-hateful movie.
Nicole – It seemed hateful, right? Like, it’s not flattering. It’s not hamfisted attempts to be flattering.
Phoenix – Yeah, it seems like everybody involved hates Japanese people and women, and that Japanese men are all abusive, and that Japanese men having sex with white women is gross. Somebody should do an academic study on this movie or something, or like a thinkpiece linking this to anxiety over Asia’s rise or something like that. Like that’s the only explanation that i can think of that begins to explain the hostility. Or maybe people are just super unreflective about how stuff like that comes off?
Phoenix – Right. I can definitely see people watching this and conflating it with China’s rise.
Nicole – It was depressing. The experience was depressing. People laughed and cheered at “sayonara!”
Phoenix – Really?
Nicole – Yeah.
Phoenix – Oh my God, that didn’t happen in my theater. Oof.
Nicole – LOEWS ON 34TH ST. NYC.
Phoenix – Man. People in my theater were mostly silent, I think I was the one who yelled out at the “sayonara” part. Oh, also, I did end up paying for the movie, even though you told me not to.
Nicole – NO I AM A MONSTER! How did I let that happen? (shakes fist!)
Phoenix – No, it’s not your fault! I bought a ticket to 2 Guns, and then realized that theater was on the other side at a different entrance.
Nicole – Oh, crap.
Phoenix – It’s really AMC Boston Commons’ fault, for having such a dumb set up.
Nicole – Yeah, thanks, BOSTON.
Phoenix – Haha, seriously.
Nicole – I will not torment you forever, but this was really helpful. Thank you so much.
Phoenix – No problem! I had fun discussing this with you!
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.