Category Archives: race

Running the Race on The Bachelor [One Year Later]

Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote a little about race and my latest obsession at the time, ABC’s The Bachelor. At that point we were in the middle of its 20th season, which had the very affable Ben Higgins as the pearl of great price 28 women were striving to attain.

While both that show and its spinoff, The Bachelorette, have never had stellar track records as far as racial diversity, things came to a head when Jubilee Sharpe, the final Black contestant remaining, was eliminated on the first day of February [AKA Black History Month]. Cue soundbites from higher-ups that “[they’re] doing a whole lot of tweaks”. Not that that’s anything new, as a lengthy interview that NPR conducted with host Chris Harrison back in 2015 reveals they’ve long been aware of the issue, and that they want to do something about it. Harrison also used the exact words “we really tried” after surmising that a previous previous star was “1/16th Cherokee Indian”, if that’s any indication of what we might expect.

Those of you who follow both shows will be well-aware of the events that took place at the beginning of this week, but before I get into that I want to fill in the gaps between that last post and this one.

So, What Happened After Ben’s Season?

The cyclical nature of franchise means that the The Bachelor premieres every January, with The Bachelorette following not too long afterwards in May. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, the man who hinted at the “tweaks” up above, also told reporters at the time that:

“I’d be very surprised if ‘The Bachelorette’ in the summer isn’t diverse. I think that’s likely”

He also made reference to something called the “farm team”, which sounds, at least to this writer, like a pretty degrading term for the contestants featured on each season of The Bachelor or The BacheloretteVariety notes that the norm is for the next Bacheloron [a gender neutral term for the star of either program that I took from an article I’ll link to later] to be from the previous season’s “farm team”. With that in mind both fans and critics of the franchise saw the 12th season of The Bachelorette as the perfect opportunity to make that much-needed change. Continue reading

Advertisements

Grading Obama

There’s a tendency in this country to speak of ex-presidents with the same generosity one would use to speak of the recently departed. A “funeral parlance” (if you’ll forgive the awful pun) that leads folks to look on the old administration with rose-tinted glasses. Considering the replacement, that’s going to be doubly true this year.

Not at Culture War Reporters, though.

Here’s our final grade for Obama,

Note: The issues selected here are based upon the principles we here at CWR seem to touch on most frequently. We hope to make this a regular tradition, provided the United States still exists in four years and that this writer will not have been imprisoned or sent to work on a lunar penal colony.

Economic Equality:

Advocates of the president will be swift to point out that the unemployment rate at the beginning of the president’s term was in the double digits, and has since fallen to about 4.9% after years of slow but steady recovery. And there absolutely should be credit where it’s due- the Obama administration has seen the recovery of the economy. Can I whine about it not being enough though? You bet I can.

While many Americans are finally back to work, the positions they find themselves in are often low-paying with little to no security. While that’s not entirely the president’s fault, the president himself has been agonizingly slow (and bafflingly conservative) in advocating a raise for the minimum wage. While the extremely wealthy are paying slightly more in taxes, taxes have also risen for folks making less than $250,000 a year (which is the overwhelming ****ing majority of us) with the majority of the president’s proposed reforms having ended in defeat. All in all the extremely rich continue to enjoy unrivalled luxury and unchallenged control of US politics and wealth.

tumblr_nhsh1hahfo1ra1mgno1_500

Final Grade: D+

Continue reading

The 2016 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As I say at the beginning of every year, you can look back at the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards in 2014 for a fuller description of my relationship with reading, which in turn led to their inception.

evanyeongliteraryawards2016While eventually I’ll run out of ways to write this, the purpose of the third installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards is to shine a spotlight on an artistic medium that has taken a bit of a back seat as screen media becomes increasingly more prevalent, calling attention to a select handful of books I read these past 12 months. In 2015 every pick was objectively a winner, but given the rocky year following it’s no surprise that these awards have their ups and downs.

In 2016 my resolution was, just as it will likely be every year moving forward until it becomes unfeasible, to read more than the year before. That said I was devastated to do the final count to see that I read exactly the same number as I did in 2015. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


waywardbus

wokest novel, PRE-2000’s

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Published 1947

Although it’s fallen out of fashion since the time of its coinage in 2015, “woke” is still the most concise way to say “aware of racism and social in justice”. Throughout a novel that could serve merely as a cautionary tale of public transportation Steinbeck communicates time and time again that even though he lived as a person of great privilege, during an era where those privileges were even greater than they are now, he wasn’t afraid to pen several scathing indictments against the very class he was a part of.

eleanorpark

most disappointing, though by no means awful

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published 2012

The fault with this YA novel can be laid at the feet of those who framed it as a solid example of an interracial relationship in the genre. Although the titular Park is half-Korean the fact is that this is not something he personally relates to as a character, and certainly isn’t a factor that others take into consideration when viewing him [save for Eleanor, who gushes over his features in a way that borders on the fetishistic]. Apart from that this book very competently portrays the familial issues that can plague teenagers, as well as the most authentic depiction of how intense young love can be that I’ve ever read. Continue reading

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


To directly quote my co-writer, “**** this year” has been an increasingly common sentiment as the days tick by, but even given the relentless, overwhelming flood of bad news that 2016 has embodied what’s particularly depressing to consider is how little some things have changed. It’s also telling that in spite of us collectively writing more blog posts than last year I’m left feeling like I wrote less, and that what was written is generally of a lower quality as well.

With that in mind and given the handful of bright spots I managed to find I decided to address this year and my coverage of it a little differently by using the “sandwich approach”. Instead of being presented in chronological order below are two positive aspects to 2016 that bookend what amounts to one singular, continuous problem, and one that I take very personally.

tf2overwatchThere’s something beautiful about the way a team can run like a well-oiled machine, each of its separate components working in unison to efficiently accomplish a shared goal. While not always my experience with Overwatch those moments, especially when with friends, have been highlights of my year.

With this post I took a closer look at Blizzard’s latest FPS that, since the time of this post being written, has grown the number of playable female characters to roughly 50%, and its place as part of a growing push in video games to expand beyond the male-only titles of the past.

kimmyasianUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a high point of 2015, a Netflix-exclusive sitcom with an unassailably positive young woman at its core. It even took up one of my slots in my last year in review post, where I praised them for including an Asian love interest while scrutinizing how much they truly valued the verisimilitude needed to portray them correctly.

One tragedy of 2016 is that I was never able to make it past the third episode of its second season, the reason being that Tina Fey et al. created twenty-some minutes of television that dragged those who value Asian American representation before running them over with a steamroller, and then putting it in reverse. Friends assure me that it gets better, but how could it not after falling to such great depths? Continue reading

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Gordon’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


I know it’s been said all over, but man…

**** this year.

I’m going to just go ahead and embrace the roiling darkness and present, for your consideration, my own chronicle of our downward spiral. Not counting the French war on religious freedom, American attacks on the 2nd Amendment, Don Lemon’s career, and a host of other blemishes we don’t have room for.

Did I mention **** this year?

Anyways, here’re the major casualties from this year’s culture wars:

thepresidentnotmypresident While I don’t think this was my finest writing by any means, I do think it’s one of the more important posts I wrote this year. And not just because I want my good name vindicated by future historians or alien archaeologists sifting through the ashy remains of the Western hemisphere.

In the face of a lot of folks trying to come to terms with the election of Donald Trump, I make the argument that they just don’t have to.

firstladyIn spite of my own frustration and anger at the results of the election, I nevertheless want to state for the record that voting-for-a-lesser-evil is not now, nor ever will be, the answer. In spite of what Mrs. Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders believe, democracy cannot be saved by us choosing not to practice it. Continue reading

The Swinton-Cho Letters, Part 2: Putting Down a Resurrected Argument or: When Isn’t Art Political?

I began the first installment of this two-parter making note of the long and ultimately wearying experience it has been, starting with Doctor Strange going into pre-production and continuing on to the recent exposure of the Swinton-Cho Letters. While I spent time describing the ups and downs of casting news what I neglected to mention, and what I’m going to focus on today, is the outset and ultimate resurgence of an argument in defence of whitewashing.

That’s right, an argument defending what Wikipedia helpfully defines as “a casting practice [. . .] in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles.” The very faint silver lining is that the justification here does not revolve around star power and A-list draw, or the idea that “the best person for the role” was hired, the latter of which rarely ever swings the other direction. In spite of not being deeply rooted in these ways of thinking, however, the argument is remains deeply flawed.

Before we get into that, however, we should probably get to its origin story.

Like I Said Last Time, “It’s Always Podcasts”

Having to hit all of this again it’s important to be thankful for small blessings, with one being that I don’t need to hear C. Robert Cargill’s voice again due to already having done the research for another post. The person in question was one of the screenwriters for Doctor Strange, and dropped in on the  Double Toasted podcast mid-April to answer a few questions about it.

Eventually, and and unsurprisingly, the issue of the Ancient One’s casting was brought up. Cargill’s response, as transcribed by CINEMABLEND’s “The Blunt, Yet Difficult Reason Doctor Strange’s Ancient One Isn’t Asian”, is as follows:

“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet [. . .] If you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”

In essence Cargill chalked the reasons for the casting decision up to politics and economics, implying that having the character played by a Tibetan would cause Marvel Studios to lose out on Chinese box office sales. He also suggests quite strongly that, conversely, having a Chinese actor play a Tibetan would cause a large amount of controversy. This was picked up by sites from IndieWire to ScreenRant to The Hollywood Reporter, with several using words like “reveal” in their headlines, as if a longstanding mystery had finally been solved.

The justifications he laid out were to become the go-to response for every commenter looking to defend the Swinton’s casting, and why not? After all, as one of the screenwriters of the film Cargill should be a direct and dependable source. The answer to that hypothetical starts with what happened a few short days later- Continue reading

The Swinton-Cho Letters, Part 1: What Went Down and How We’ve Responded

tiredaf

I’m just so tired.

I was tired when I wrote, last June, about how Tilda Swinton was in talks to play the Ancient One in the then-upcoming Doctor Strange, because it was just one of several announcements where a role that could have gone to an Asian person didn’t. And it made me weary to have to read comments like “if any young white woman can pull off an old Asian man, it’d be Tilda Swinton,” and “PLEASE TELL ME HES PLAYING WONG!” after it was revealed Martin Freeman would be appearing in Captain America: Civil War.

Swinton ultimately being cast as the Ancient One, a Tibetan man in the comics, was never far from my mind moving forward. I would inevitably bring it up when discussing whitewashing and racebending in The Martian that very same year, and in many ways it made Doctor Strange a film that loomed in the impending future, a comic book movie I would need to see for myself in order to determine whether or not they did right by the groups they were trying not to offend.

Just to be clear, I can’t honestly say that I was angry when finally watching the movie. Like the title of my write-up plainly states I was left feeling disappointed. It also notes that my expectations were never particularly high, and how could they be when the filmmakers rewrote the character of Wong back into Doctor Strange upon finding that casting Swinton left them without any prominent Asian roles [in a movie that is set in Asia roughly half the time].

It was over a year of waiting for a film whose creators touted the representation of an older White woman to offset what was, without argument, whitewashing. It’s a defence that implies that in some cases the choices are feminism/anti-ageism and racial diversity, and that the two are mutually exclusive. It was, to put it more strongly, exhausting. And it’s easy to say that I should just care about this less and not let it affect me so much, but Asian representation is an issue that directly affects me, and one that will affect my children if and when I have any.

I was already so tired of all of this, and was looking forward to being able to stop thinking about Tilda Swinton and Doctor Strange and enjoy the few moments before we get any closer to Ghost in the Shell being released [difficult as a teaser aired before the Marvel film being discussed]. And what should I find this past week but an email conversation between Tilda Swinton and Korean American comedian Margaret Cho, which I have dubbed the Swinton-Cho Letters, and the internet’s response to the whole thing.

When I first started putting my fingers to the keyboard this was meant to be a single blog post split into two parts, but over a thousand words in and I thought two separate posts might be more efficient. And what better way to end a horrible year than to devote so much time and effort towards such a truly draining topic?
Continue reading