Tag Archives: minority

“You Might as Well Have [insert character here] Be [insert 2-4 minority types here]!”

One of the most common adages on the internet is “don’t read the comments”. While this global network that we’re all currently using [unless you somehow managed to snag a printout of this post] has given us all the ability to share and discuss everything under the sun, the unfortunate truth is that a lot of that conversation amounts to hot garbage. You could scroll down past an article to see what people are saying about it, but chances are that it won’t be a particularly uplifting experience.

As someone who spends much of his time online reading about entertainment there’s a type of comment that I’ve seen crop up time and time again. It’s existence ties directly into a lot of the recent trends in comic books, television, and film, the push towards inclusivity and the people who are actively working to make that happen. A perfect example [of a handful I’ll be referencing throughout this article] is:

brandonallen

“disabled, multiracial trans women with disfiguring facial scars” – posted on “There are more (white) women starring in movies than ever before”

I’ve been compiling these for the past few months, originally with the intent of putting together another “For Your Consideration” and allowing readers to look them over and come to their own conclusions. A general [and accurate] takeaway would be to note them as being typical of inane online comments and move on, but I’d like to spend a little time breaking down the idiocy they represent.

They Perpetuate the Default

The default person, in case you needed to be informed of who generally holds the most power and screentime across the board, is a straight able-bodied cisgendered White man. I’m painfully aware that simply listing those words in successive order like that marks me as being one of the SJWs [my thoughts on that term here], but every one is important to take note of.

Take the following:

mikehuff

“black Asian gay lesbian transgender Spider-man” – posted on “Dear HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: May We Have a Word About ‘Cultural Appropriation’?”

To look at the list and mark it against the checklist of what makes a default human being, in the eyes of at least a few, we have:

  • straight  ≠ “gay lesbian”
  • cisgendered  ≠ “transgender”
  • White  ≠ “black Asian”

Other comments I’ll be including later on will add examples that include disabled people, but the general gist of every one capitalizes on the absurdity of a person who doesn’t match the standard cutout. A  straight able-bodied cisgendered White woman? Not a terrible strain of the imagination. Once you start to tick off more items that don’t coincide with the norm, however, things apparently get a lot shakier.

I don’t even think that many of these commenters are aware of the implicit message behind the words they type. By listing these adjectives and identifiers they end up with a person who most of them share absolutely nothing in common with, which exposes the very reason we need diversity at all. Everyone should be able to relate to entertainment, and for too long the industry has catered to an audience that gets smaller every day. Continue reading

Advertisements

Asian Iron Fist: Point, Counterpoint, and My Two Cents

hi-yahhYesterday Entertainment Weekly revealed that Marvel had finally found their next star in Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones. The character he’ll be playing is Daniel Rand, AKA Iron Fist, the face of their fourth Netflix-exclusive series [following DaredevilJessica Jones, and the upcoming Luke Cage]. I could sum up who he is, but EW did a pretty good job with that in their coverage already:

“…Iron Fist is Daniel Rand, who at age of 9 travels with his family from New York to a lost mystical city called K’un-L’un. After some tragic twists of fate, Rand is adopted by the city’s ruler and taught advanced martial arts and the mystical power of the Iron Fist. As an adult, Rand returns to his native New York and begins a career as a superhero.”

In the comic books Danny is, much like his silver screen compatriots Captain America and Thor, White, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed. Ever since it was announced that he would be headlining his own show there has been a discussion over what race he should be, with Keith Chow over at Nerds of Color making his stance clear with his article “Marvel, Please Cast An Asian American Iron Fist“. As soon as the news hit my tumblr feed was flooded with like-minded individuals, with one post in particular that caught my eye, presenting the following two tweets-

-labeled “Point” and “Counterpoint”, respectively.

Now I have no intention of dedicating a large portion of this post to Liefeld, known in many comic book circles as being a man incapable of drawing feet [though now probably vastly more famous for co-creating Deadpool]. He also had just the two words to share, as opposed to a full article that Wheeler penned on the subject, so instead I’ve chosen to have Albert Ching of Comic Book Resources take his stead. Continue reading

In The Force Awakens White Women get Representation, but Black Women get CGI

I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I loved it so much that the first thing I thought about doing when I walked out of the theatre was hash out everything that this Star Wars reboot had done right.

Like including legitimately humorous dialogue rather than slapstick CGI sidekicks.

Unfortunately, everyone on the blogosphere had already come to the same conclusion long before I was back from my Christmas break. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, or reading articles about it. So I’ve decided to write about one of the few things that bothered me about the film, rather than many aspects of the film that I loved.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you probably already know that we at CWR were excited to hear about the diversity of casting in The Force Awakens.

I was especially excited when I heard that Lupita Nyong’o had been cast. Ever since she won best supporting actress for 12 Years a Slave and was declared the most beautiful person of 2014 by People magazine, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for Nyong’o. After witnessing her sudden rise to fame, I was curious to see if she would continue to find roles in major films, or if she would slowly be pushed out of Hollywood because of her dark skin. As Gregg Kilday explains in his article about Nyong’o, few black actresses have ever managed to secure a spot as a permanent Hollywood heavyweight:

While the stage would appear to be set for [Nyong’o] to ascend to the A-list — just as Jennifer Lawrence did after her best actress win for Silver Linings Playbook last year — it’s not that simple. For while there have been a handful of African-American actors, from Sidney Poitier to Eddie MurphyDenzel Washington and Will Smith, who have reached that status, there’s never been a black actress who has become the equivalent of a Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie. Whoopi Goldberg came closest, following her best actress Oscar nomination for 1985’s The Color Purple and supporting actress win for 1990’s Ghost, but despite an occasional hit like 1992’s Sister Act, she didn’t maintain that momentum. Hollywood also flirted with Angela Bassett, Thandie Newton, Halle Berry and, most recently, Mandela‘s Naomie Harris, without ushering any of them into its very top tier.

It seems like a habit for major blockbuster films to tick off their diversity checklist by casting a white woman and/or a black man. Meanwhile, actors from other minority groups, especially women of colour, get overlooked because all the non-white, male roles have already been taken. As Evan pointed out in his post about the Martian and racebending, this seems to be the impulse, even when it means casting a white women to play a Korean- American character and a black man to play an Asian- Indian character. Continue reading

Putting The Martian On Blast – Racebending, Whitewashing, and the Last Straw

The Martian is Guilty of Whitewashing

Last Thursday the Media Action Network For Asian-Americans [MANAA] issued a statement criticizing director Ridley Scott for the whitewashing of Asian roles in his film The Martian. Their judgements are twofold, namely citing that:

  • NASA’s director of Mars operations Dr. Venkat Kapoor as an Asian-Indian character who identifies religiously as being “a Hindu.” The group pointed out that in Scott’s film, his name is changed to Vincent Kapoor, and he’s played by British black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who says his father was “a Hindu” but that his mother was “Baptist.”
  • Mindy Park, described by Weir as Korean-American, is played in the movie by Mackenzie Davis, a white, blonde actress.

Now I wish I could proceed on to the rest of this blog post, but people have asked the question as to whether or not this is, technically, whitewashing. It’s going to take a few paragraphs, but let’s get that out of the way-

Okay, The Martian is Guilty of Racebending/Whitewashing

Let’s start from the very, very, very top. The Wikipedia entry for this can actually be found under “racebending”, with “whitewashing” cited as being [citation needed] a more archaic term. Their definition of this practice is:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

The reason people have been asking the question as to whether or not this did in fact take place is that The Martian is a film adaptation of a novel by author Andy Weir. As such the source material is devoid of any visual aids in regards to the explicit ethnicities of its characters. Weir himself had a number of things to say about this with MTV News at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film debuted [the interview occurred before MANAA’s statement]:

In regards to writing and describing his characters’ ethnicities-

“So unless a physical description is somehow relevant to the plot, OK, you know he’s missing a leg — something like that, but unless it’s like really important to the plot then I don’t physically describe my characters at all.”

“You can imagine them however you like. Like, for instance, the ethnicity of Mark, I never told you.”

In response to criticisms of Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as Vincent Kapoor-

“He’s an American. Americans come from lots of different sources! You can be Venkat Kapoor and black.”

In response to criticism of Mackenzie Davis being cast as Mindy Park-

“Whatever ethnicity she has, she’s an American and her family has been in America forever, which is why her first name is just Mindy, but her last name is Park. But Park is also a British surname so the casting people [could have] thought Mackenzie Davis looks like someone descended from Brits. And she did a great job! I’m certainly not complaining about anything related to casting.”

mindyparkWhile not a direct quote, MTV News also shares how Weir envisioned Park while writing the novel:

“He did admit that he’d always pictured Mindy Park as of Korean lineage, but emphasized again that he had never actually explicitly written her as Korean.”

This is all well and good, but problematic in that it doesn’t jive with an interview that took place in May of this year with the blog domesoph. When asked by blogger Sophie Milam about how he approached writing his extensive cast, Weir responded [emphasis added]:

“I didn’t set out to deliberately balance the crew. For the most part, I just wanted them each to be unique enough for the reader to tell them apart without prompting. It’s a real problem in written fiction. You don’t have the face on-screen or voice being heard to remind the audience who’s who. They need to know it immediately from the name.
So there are no two people on Hermes who are the same demographic. There’s one white American guy (Beck), one Hispanic guy (Martinez), and one German guy (Vogel). There are two women of undefined ethnicity (presumably white) but one of them is the Commander, so you won’t get them confused either. Especially since they all call her ‘Commander’.
So it wasn’t any deliberate attempt at diversity. It was really just a shortcut to making sure the reader knew who was who. You’ll find I pulled the same trick with the NASA characters: Teddy (white guy who is in charge), Mitch (white guy who isn’t in charge), Venkat (Indian), Annie (white woman), Mindy Park (Korean woman), Rich Purnell (African American).”

Now I want to be fair and admit that not every author is [or can be] Alan Moore, who has very publicly denounced all film adaptations of his own work. Weir is currently working on his sophomore novel, with The Martian making up the entirety of his current bibliography. As an author with his first-ever book being adapted by Hollwood, and with the film rumoured to be nabbing an Oscar, there are more reasons against than for when it comes to rocking the boat. So let’s discard what Weir has to say, separate from his novel, completely.

All art is open to interpretation regardless of the creator’s intent, so without Weir’s opinions here’s what we know about the characters:

That being said I’m willing to make the concession that free of Weir’s intentions Mindy Park certainly could have been either White or East Asian. When it comes to Venkat Kapoor, on the other hand, most signs point towards him being South Asian, more specifically East Indian. Let’s pull up the definition for “racebending” again:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

vincentkapoor

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an Academy Award winning actor. He’s also a Nigerian English man, part of a demographic that has not struggled in Hollywood compared to many others. Comparatively speaking I would run out of American films headlining East Indian talent before I ran out of fingers. Are Black men more profitable than Indian men? Everything I know about North America answers a resounding yes. So this is what we’re left with:

Venkat Kapoor was racebent for The Martian.

Mindy Park [given the author’s intent] was whitewashed for The Martian.

To be fair [and I think I have been thus far], East Indian actor Irrfan Khan had been in talks to play Kapoor but had to decline due to another commitment. It’s worth noting that the role had been intended for Khan, and it’s also commendable that- Continue reading

Ms. Marvel, #15: A Comic Book Review

msmarvel15So ends the three-issue story arc “Crushed” and any semblance of a relationship that Kamala Khan and family friend [not cousin/blood relative] Kamran once had, not with a bang but with a helping hand. Let me backtrack a little-

Really, this plot in this issue is fairly simple. As I mentioned pretty explicitly in my last review the newest character to be introduced is bad news, his closeness with our heroine seemingly acting as a way for him to more easily serve his master, Lineage. That’s where things get a little less simple, so I suppose I should backtrack yet again and try to explain what’s been happening outside of Jersey City for those of you who are only reading this book out of Marvel’s many, many titles.

To start with, on the recap page you may have noticed the final line: “These events take place between Inhuman #14 and the Inhuman Annual.” Continue reading

Ms. Marvel, #14: A Comic Book Review

msmarvel14Before we really delve into this review, can we please pause for a moment and gush over its cover? Jake Wyatt returns after providing art duties for issues 6 and 7 last year, reminding us that if he wasn’t doing his own thing with his creator-owned Necropolis we would fully welcome him back with open arms. No offence to Alphona, of course, but Wyatt’s about as great a fill-in artist as you can get for whenever the Canadian needs to take a break.

Which of course isn’t to deride current artist Takeshi Miyazawa, because he is likewise killing it. We’ll get there when we get there, though, because this latest arc, “Crushed” is a ride.

Yes, the very handsome Kamran is very much still a factor, and yes, he is also an Inhuman. Just in case it wasn’t a big enough deal that he is also a nerdy Pakistani-American it just so happens that he too was given powers by the Terrigen Mist that gave Kamala the ability to embiggen, etc. How his story intersects with our heroine’s and proceeds is fairly straightforward, so I thought I would draw your attention to two parts of the narrative that can be told given who Ms. Marvel is, specifically. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel, #13: A Comic Book Review

msmarvel13Look, I know I was tough on Ms. Marvel last month. It was a so-so issue, a fact that surprised me greatly considering it guest starred the Norse god of trickery. The thing is, even then I wasn’t worried that it was some sort of herald of less-great things to come, and the latest installment of Kamala Khan’s adventures is one of the best yet.

Everything that was missing from the Valentine’s issue is present here. Inhumans? Check. Genuine hero vs. villain throwdowns? Check. An exploration of the life hyphenated-American youth live, AKA the cornerstone of immigrant literature? Ch-ch-ch-check.

That last point is what truly made me love this comic, because the rest of the Khans get some quality pagetime after being out of the spotlight for so long. Take the following panel-

notdecent

It takes place after we see Kamala training in the Inhuman version of the X-Men’s Danger Room, and while seeing Medusa worry about her subject [she is queen of the Inhumans, after all] is intriguing all I could think of was: “older Pakistani people would probably not be down with the skin-tight leggings she has on.” Lo and behold we have her ammi chiding her for her indecency. Continue reading