Tag Archives: Japan

All Asian Americans Are Asian, But Not All Asians Are Asian American

Just to start with, I honestly don’t think anyone expected to see Scarlett Johansson mercilessly gunning down Asians in two separate movies:

Lucy (2014) – “You speak English?” *BLAM*

Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Well, at least they’re armed this time.

That’s a bit of a tangent, but still relevant as this was sparked by the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, which premiered in theatres across the country today. It’s also worth starting things out with a diversion, if only because I didn’t want you to get into a breakdown of the title a split second after reading it.

FACT: All Asian Americans are Asian by definition, but not all Asians are Asian Americans. The truth is that most Asians aren’t. While they may share an ethnic heritage, as well as many cultural similarities, Asian people who were born and raised in and reside in an Asian country have vastly different wants and needs and priorities than those who were born and raised in and reside in North America [and other non-Asian countries].

For the purposes of clarity I will be referring to the former as “Asians”, and the latter as “Asian Americans”.

With all of that being said, it should be obvious that Asians and Asian Americans also have very different views when it comes to their shared representation in Western media. Continue reading

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My Problem With Ghost in the Shell (In A Nutshell)

I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s unfamiliar with the term “whitewashing” at this point.

It’s been a frequent topic of conversation here on Culture War Reporters, and while certainly not a new issue, it has been gaining wider and wider attention in recent years…


Most recently, the problem reared its ugly head in the form of Scarlett Johannson being cast in the live-action remake of anime classic Ghost In A Shell. Once again we’re seeing a traditionally non-white (in this specific case, Japanese) role being given to a white actor out of fear that audiences won’t watch movies with non-white leads. And if that were the only issue, I might have stuck with my usually political tirades and left this topic alone. But in the past few days, a shocking development has emerged in the story. Allegations have surfaced that the remake’s producers (and I quote) “Tested Visual Effects That Would Make White Actors Appear Asian“.

Or, as my best friend and this blog’s editor recently put it on Facebook:

“We think so little of you that we’d consider changing a White person’s appearance before entertaining the thought of casting an actual Asian.”

So yeah, I’m feeling compelled to write about this…

tthpnha

And let me tell you what really convinced me to submit the following rant. Continue reading

Rowling’s Wizarding World: Just As Small As Ours, Unfortunately

I like the Harry Potter books. I just can’t say I love them [my favourite YA series of novels is Percy Jackson & the Olympians], and after having finished all seven and catching the last few movies in theatres haven’t thought about them much. Certainly not enough to give the Pottermore website, created by Rowling to give HP fans what they continue to jones for, even a cursory visit.

On that same note I haven’t really been following Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel and spin-off to the film franchise, aside from perking up at the idea that protagonist Newt Scamander might be something other than White. I briefly mentioned it back in 2013 when covering the inherent problem with assuming that White is the norm, but ultimately stopped paying attention after it was officially announced last June that Eddie Redmayne had been cast in the role.

That said, fantasy worlds and the worldbuilding involved in their creation have always interested me, and I didn’t hesitate to click on a link a friend had shared on Facebook stating that Rowling had “[revealed] four wizarding schools, including one in the United States“, with the latter being one of the settings in the upcoming film. After all, if one of the aforementioned magical places of learning was to be in North America chances were that the other three were located elsewhere. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had always been my favourite of the series, with one of the many reasons being that it featured the two other wizarding schools and characters from them, expanding the universe beyond the borders of Great Britain. Continue reading

The 50/50 Fallacy [Yes, It’s Another Big Hero 6 Post]

So, as I said I probably would, I did end up seeing Big Hero 6 this past Tuesday. While I ended up enjoying it a fair amount the problem, if I can call it that and which the post I just linked to addresses, was in the back of my head the entire time. To reiterate it here, the idea that both a city and almost the entire cast of superhero team had to be altered to make it more relatable, presumably to a Western [read: American] audience.

As mentioned I did like it, but during and after the film I was struck by the fact that a balance, if that’s what the creators were truly going for, was never really attained. To start with, San Fransokyo.

Based off of the name one would assume that this would be equal parts American and Japanese city, a blend that encapsulated the best of both worlds. The actual design approach is laid bare when considering the words co-director Don Hall used when describing the setting [emphasis added]:

an alternate version of San Francisco.

“I love the Painted ladies. We gave them a Japanese makeover; we put a cafe on the bottom of one. They live above a coffee shop.”

“Where Hiro lives, it feels like the Haight. When you get to the downtown area, that’s when you get the most Tokyo-fied, that pure, layered, dense kind of feeling of the commercial district there. When you get out of there, it becomes more San Francisco with the Japanese aesthetic.”

To put this in more musical terms, this isn’t so much a mashup as it is a remix. The former is a blend of two or more parts with both being displayed prominently, the latter is a modified version of something, the original of which is typically easily identifiable. Continue reading

Order Up: A Parable About Asian Viewers and Big Hero 6

INT. YOUR STEREOTYPICAL AMERICANA-STYLE DINER – DAY

Two young men sit at a booth, the same one they sit at each and every single day. On the left is EVAN, a Filipino-Chinese blogger extraordinaire. Facing him is someone we’re going to call CODY, a White acquaintance/peer/friend. Both enjoy sharing a meal in the diner together and each other’s company.

A WAITRESS approaches their booth to take their orders.

CODY
I’ll have the hamburger.

EVAN
The roast chicken for me, please.

Pan up to the clock on the wall. Fifteen minutes rapidly elapse and the WAITRESS returns and places their food in front of them.

Both EVAN and CODY
Thank you.

bergerSitting in front of CORY is a hamburger. EVAN stares down at his plate, which holds the exact same thing.

EVAN
(not angrily but wearily)
Every time, man. Every single time.

CODY
(with forced sympathy, as he’s heard this more than once before)
Aw, really, again?

EVAN
You were sitting right there when I ordered. I very, very clearly asked for roast chicken. I always order roast chicken.

CODY
Well, at least it’s good though, right?

EVAN picks up his hamburger and takes a bite. He chews it slowly.

EVAN
(sighing)
Yeah, it’s pretty good. I mean, it always is.

CODY
(brightly)
So let’s just enjoy this meal together, huh? Continue reading

Shame Day: Hollywood’s Attempts to Remake Akira

If you know nothing else about the Japanese animated film Akira you should know this: it’s worth every bit of praise it’s ever received. If you want to add another jot of information to that knowledge you should also be aware that it is beautiful.

It’s some of the most gorgeous animation that I’ve ever laid eyes on, and the gif above is only the smallest sliver of the visuals the movie contains. Even if you want to throw aside its mountain of accolades there’s the unquestionable fact that nearly every character skidding their motorcycle to a halt owes a debt to this film-

Continue reading

The Context and Cultural Appropriation of Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” Music Video

To begin with, I’m not the most unbiased person to be writing about this. “Sk8ter Boi” came out when I was attending a Canadian public school for the first time, and it had a fairly indelible effect on me. My being a fan of Avril Lavigne extended out into high school, and I can still remembering a friend getting me Let Go for my fourteenth birthday. As far as I’m concerned, some of her stuff continues to hold up.

Like most people I liked Under My Skin a fair amount, but wasn’t a huge fan of The Best Damn Thing. Watching the punk-pop star cavort around to the infectious beat felt wrong, like this was some sort of betrayal of who she started as. Of course, people change, and I eventually came around to tracks like “Hot” and “What the Hell”.

Years passed, and eventually she fell off my radar. I noted when she and Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 got a divorce and gawked at her marriage to the widely reviled Chad Kroeger of Nickelback. They recorded a song together and I thought not much of it.

Then I woke up one morning and signed online to a barrage of accusations leveled against her with “racist!” being the common denominator among them. Being fairly invested in this entire thing [as a lapsed Avril Lavigne fan and a person in staunch opposition to racism in any form] I of course had to check out the “Hello Kitty” music video post-haste. I do want to inform you all that I’ve had to watch it several times for the writing of this post and have not enjoyed it once.


Continue reading