Executive producer of Daredevil, the Netflix show, and Marvel Comics writer Steven S. DeKnight announced that he will no longer write for Marvel until C.B. Cebulski, the publication’s editor-in-chief, resigns.
In 2017, Cebulski revealed in an interview with Bleeding Cool that he used to write under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida from 2004 to 2006 while an associate editor at Marvel so that he would get more work. While Cebulski was a massive fan of Japanese culture, had family and Japan and had been living in Japan on and off since he was 20 years old, he simply wasn’t Japanese, like he was pretending to be.
“Yoshida” was hired to bring “authentic” Japanese voices to Marvel comics, including Elektra: The Hand, Kitty Pryde Shadow and Flame, Thor: Son of Asgard, Wolverine Soultaker, X-Men / Fantastic Four, and the relaunched X-Men: Age of Apocalypse.
While it is not a crime for someone to be an expert in a different culture, lying about such a thing is not acceptable. There is a reason that expert doctors are brought in for shows like Grey’s Anatomy to authenticate the medicine and real-life lawyers are used to justify some of the cases in productions like How To Get Away With Murder. Yes, for some of them, there has to be an element of disbelief and not all the medicine and law cases could actually happen in real life, but all the same, those experts aren’t claiming to be something they’re not!
There is a reason that Mulan, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and now Eternals are all under a certain amount of backlash and upset from China. Sensitivity and tact have to be applied when people write about cultures that are not their own or reference happenings in other countries. If I, as a Malaysia, pretended to be an Asian-American in order to write about the Asian-American experience, say, growing up as an Asian in the US, how would Asian-Americans feel? That is not to say that I cannot write about the Asian-American experience, but pretending to be one or pretending to have lived an experience I did not is not acceptable.
Why Marvel Has To Right This Wrong
Although it has been almost four years since the reveal that Cebulski faked being Japanese, going far beyond merely creating a pseudonym, in order to get more work in Marvel, DeKnight only just discovered the truth and has since announced via Twitter that he will no longer work for Marvel unless Cebulski resigns.
If Marvel continues to let Cebulski work for them, it is a literal slap in the face to everyone who gets hired through honesty and integrity, but especially to Asians who already find work limited for them. For example, actress Chloe Bennet, who plays Daisy Johnson/Quake on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. found it challenging to get hired with her birth name, Chloe Wang, and had to resort to using her father’s first name of Bennet as her surname to get hired. The difference: the parameters of her job were not that she be Caucasian, unlike what Cebulski was doing by pretending to be Japanese.
There is a big difference between the job description intending and wanting to hire someone who could bring an “authentic” Japanese voice to comics and changing your identity to put yourself on the same level playing field with other actors and actresses. In Chloe Bennet’s case, she was and is not taking opportunities away from others; she is trying to give herself the same chance that others have.
Another example of how Asians have been discriminated against would be Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park reportedly quitting Hawaii Five-0 due to the producers refusing to increase their salaries to match those of their Caucasian co-stars. Cebulski getting extra work due to him claiming to be Asian is not only lying about his ethnicity, but also taking away the opportunity from actual Asians, who already have less representation in Hollywood.
More people need to stand up for what they think is right, like DeKnight! Doing nothing is condoning and allowing such awful behavior; silence is complicity.