Ken Watanabe responds to 'white savior' criticism of Tom Cruise role in 'The Last Samurai'
Though the 2003 film The Last Samurai had previously come under fire for allegedly perpetuating the "white savior" trope, its star, Ken Watanabe, recently revealed he doesn't see it that way.
The Last Samurai follows the exploits of an American military officer, played by Tom Cruise, who is hired to train the Japanese army in modern warfare, which puts him in direct contact with their samurai leader, Katsumoto, played by Watanabe.
When the film first hit theaters, it was criticized for allegedly portraying the film's main character, played by Tom Cruise, as a "white savior" rescuing non-white characters from a position of superiority.
Watanabe reflected on the backlash and the film's legacy in a recent interview with The Guardian.
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"It wasn't what I had in mind," Watanabe told The Guardian, "I just thought we had an opportunity to represent Japan in a way we've never been able to before. So we thought we'd do something special."
The Japanese actor also underscored the film's role in changing the narrative of how Asians are portrayed in the film, breaking with stereotypes set by performances such as Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's .
"Before The Last Samurai, there was this stereotype of Asian guys with glasses, buck teeth and a camera," Watanabe continued. "It was stupid, but after ['The Last Samurai'] came out, Hollywood tried to be more authentic when it came to Asian stories."
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After appearing in The Last Samurai, Watanabe went on to have supporting roles in big-budget blockbusters like Batman Begins and Inception. He stars in the HBO Max crime drama series Tokyo Vice.
Featured image via The Last Samurai
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