‘Slanted Eyes’ in Chinese Indie Film ‘I Am What I Am’ Sparks Backlash

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For some, however, the cartoons don’t represent the Chinese so much as racist stereotypes about them. Viewers took to social media to condemn the film. “This is how the Chinese were portrayed in an exaggerated way during the colonial period. We have been discriminated against for so long that it doesn’t seem so strange to some people,” reads a comment from a Weibo user (as translated by Rays). Another Chinese wrote an essay arguing that “cross-eyed” eyes are a greater offense to a Chinese person than portraying a black person eating watermelon and fried chicken in the United States.

Big eyes are very common in chinese cg movies. For Zhang, this reflects an assimilation of foreign ideas, not the little eyes that his film contains. world times keep on going:

The response to the character’s “slanted eyes” shows that we lack aesthetic confidence and that our aesthetic view of animation has been homogenized given the huge influence of Japanese and American animation, Zhang said, adding that the selecting such an ordinary boy perfectly portrays his spirit of strength and resistance to life.

I am what I am is popular with those who have seen it, earning user scores of 8.3 and 9.5 respectively on the Douban and Maoyan film review platforms. It screened at Animation Is Film in Los Angeles earlier this year, and its Chinese revenue to date is 164.6 million yuan ($25.9 million), according to Entgroup.

The issue of racism aside, this controversy shows how approaches to character design can become entrenched in the industry, to the point that even a subtle deviation makes headlines. Hollywood animation is not to be outdone: the drawings are so homogeneous here that when a film like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse dare to do something a little different, everyone notices. We dream of a day, as we’re sure many artists and industry fans do too, when this kind of experimentation will be the norm.

Poster for “I Am That I Am”:

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