Technically my posts are supposed to go up on Friday. As loyal readers may have noticed, and much to my chagrin, my tendency as of late has been to put them up on Saturday, and sometimes even Sunday. This is one of those very rare instances where I’m glad I took some time to get to a particular topic.
See, this Thursday I came across the Comic Book Resources headline “Finn Jones On Iron Fist Criticism: ‘Danny Is Not A White Savior’”, which I ended up clicking on against my better judgement.
The actor begins by empathizing with those who might be upset about Netflix’s latest upcoming Marvel project, saying:
“I understand where this frustration comes from. I understand the need for more diversity in television and films, especially for Asian actors. I understand that frustration. I agree with it, and I stand in solidarity with that voice.”
I filled my lifetime quota for Well-Meaning White Person™ responses with Tilda Swinton last year, though, so there’s only so much Jones’ attempts at allyship could do to affect me. What really riled me up, to the point where I was going to lean hard into the style of my co-writer Gordon’s profanity-laden rage posts, was what he mentioned a little later on:
“People from all over the world, all different cultures come from K’un-Lun, so it isn’t just this Asian-specific culture. You have people from Brazil there, you have people from Europe there. It’s a multicultural intergalactic alternate dimension.”
Fortunately I’ve since been able to calm down, so let’s take a few steps back and start from the top. Continue reading
Posted in Asia, comics, film, media, race, television
Tagged alternate dimension, Asia, asian, Big Hero 6, casting, China, Chinese, Danny Rand, Doctor Strange, Finn Jones, fish out of water, Iron Fist, K'un-Lun, Kamar-Taj, Kunlun, Marvel, multicultural, netflix, race, representation, San Fransokyo, White Savior, white saviour
Even though I wrote a little over a thousand words last week on my experiences with Doctor Strange [required reading for this blog post] there were a couple of additional criticisms I wanted to level against both that specific film and the industry as a whole. While I covered pretty thoroughly how Asians were poorly represented in Marvel Studio’s latest offering, what I didn’t really touch on was why.
When Diversity Means Painting With All the Colour of the Wind
In the months leading up to the release of Doctor Strange the conversation about the Ancient One’s casting began heating up. With mainstream news outlets picking up on the controversy there were many waiting to hear from the creators themselves, which brings us to the episode of the Double Toasted podcast that guest starred screenwriter C. Robert Cargill.
While his explanations regarding the character have since been championed by those defending the casting decision, even after his rescinding all comments made, and in spite of them being refuted by others, in particular by Shaun of the No, Totally! podcast, what I want to focus on are what he says right after that:
Now if you don’t want to actually listen to him, which I find perfectly understandable, I’ve also transcribed the relevant quote [emphasis added]:
“But when you start to see this film you’ll see that what we were able to do with Kamar-Taj, we made one of the most multicultural films most people have seen in years. Like this film is [. . .] I’m not certain that there’s a single major race that isn’t represented with a speaking role in this film. It allowed us to bring in, even as small characters to build upon later, a lot of characters from the Doctor Strange universe who come from all over the world. We were able to play with a lot of things and it gave us a lot to work with.”
Posted in Asia, film, race, television, writing
Tagged accessible, Ancient One, Asia, asian, authentic, Big Hero 6, black, C. Robert Cargill, casting, Cheo Hodari Coker, Danny Rand, diversity, Doctor Strange, film, Finn Jones, Iron Fist, Japanese, K'un-Lun, Kamar-Taj, Luke Cage, netflix, race, representation, San Fransokyo, Scott Derrickson, screenwriter, showrunner, stereotyping, television, TV, writer, writers' room, writing
Readers, I want you to picture me.
It’s 10:30 on a Monday, a metric ****-ton past my deadline for this post. I’m weary from a hard day of work (plus overtime). I’m mentally wiped after my past three attempts at creating a post have resulted in thousand word essays, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And in these times, I turn to the near-infinite bounty of the internet for inspiration, and lo and behold readers the internet hath provided:
Image retrieved from Imgur, fair use
That’s right- it’s a picture of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, from the upcoming Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Because they’re doing that.
Yeah, I’m going nuts here too.
Now I enjoyed the hell out of the books, which were impeccably written (“impeccably written” being a Danish term meaning “the best thing ever”). I thought the 2004 movie adaptation was fascinating, funny, and as faithful a take as could be done in the space of two hours.
There are two kinds of people in the world. People who will say that they want this house, and liars.
That said, I am pumped for the series, and absolutely loving the idea of finally seeing NHP as a villain (yeah, I saw Gone Girl, but I’m not counting that one). And did I mention that the voice of Lemony Snickett will be conveyed to us in the dulcet tones of Patrick Warburton?
Well that’s happening too.
Posted in bizarreness, celebrity, film, literature, television
Tagged 2004, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Aasif Mandvi, adaptation, Count Olaf, Daniel Handler, Lemony Snickett, literature, movie, Neil Patrick Harris, netflix, NPH, Patrick Warburton, Uncle Monty
The culture war is a conversation.
While it is ultimately a conflict, more often than not this takes the form of ideas and criticism being slung back and forth across the trenches. To be heard is a minor success, but to be actually understood is victory.
Within this conversation it’s undoubtedly artists, especially those who have garnered celebrity status, who have the most powerful voices.
In 2014 the eponymous host of The Colbert Report featured a segment on his show about “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. Given his popularity it reached far and wide, and was eventually viewed by a Twitter activist who created the hashtag #CancelColbert in response.
As it was meant to call attention to and ridicule the outrageous fact that a national sports team is named after an ethnic slur the response was out of line. It was a classic case of [obvious] satire being taken the wrong way, but by inadvertently contributing to what has been dubbed “a fake year of outrage’ this person’s misstep resulted in others who campaign for better representation and the like being worse than silenced, which is to say, ignored.
Despite calling out from what is ostensibly the same side, the misstep of a single loud voice meant that others were unheard.
The exchange between artist and critic is rarely ever an even one, and only becomes more difficult given the sensitivity surrounding such personal creative endeavours.
Lena Dunham is the star and creator of HBO’s Girls, and received enough disapproval about the lack of diversity in a show set in New York City that she was asked about it by NPR. She responded that “[she takes] that criticism very seriously,” and that very same year had Donald Glover playing Hannah’s Black boyfriend on the show.
While the presence of Sandy on the dramedy was a beneficial one, with arguments between the two capturing the tension that can be present in interracial relationships [including such exchanges as: “I never thought about the fact that you were black once.” / “That’s insane. You should, because that’s what I am.”], Glover’s character faltered in that he was very much a response to criticism. Continue reading
Posted in art, celebrity, Comedy, communication, race, television, writing
Tagged #CancelColbert, activist, apology, art, asian, Asian-American, comedy, conversation, criticism, critics, Culture War, Ghost In The Shell, Girls, Kimmy Goes to a Play!, Kimono You Didn't, Lena Dunham, netflix, offence, outrage, race, racism, rape, Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment, Scarlett Johannson, Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, voice, whitewashing, yellowface
So right off the bat, I want to say that Arthur Chu of Jeopardy-winning fame has already done much of the groundwork for me with his [spoiler-filled] article “Not Your Asian Ninja: How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Failing Asian-Americans“. In it he recounts his primary disappointment with the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, namely that the Asians presented in that show are generally villains across the board.
Not only are they of an evil persuasion, they’re also, as the title of his piece implies, mostly ninjas. In terms of sheer volume the vast majority of Asians seen on screen during the season’s 13 episodes are that particular brand of martial artist. The rest are, in terms of representation, gangsters, white collar criminals, and crime lords. It is, as Chu says, “Not a good look.”
He picks the Kitchen Irish, a gang of an obvious ethnic background, as his primary example of the show using nuance with a people group. Matthew Murdock, the titular crimefighter himself, is of Irish descent, and another character nicknamed “Grotto” is a former member of the mob who elicits sympathy from both the show’s cast and its audience. While I understand that Irish heritage is unique and distinct from many others, and that people of Irish descent suffered extreme racism in early American history, what shouldn’t be ignored is the fact that on the surface they are White. As are the members of fellow gang the Dogs of Hell. As are Murdock’s friends Karen Page and Foggy Nelson. As is Frank Castle, the Punisher, as well as newspaper editor Mitchell Ellison. Television is full of White people, and with Daredevil being no exception simply stating that there are varied roles within even one subgroup feels like a given.
Unfortunately, Asians fail even when stacked up against other racial minorities. Continue reading
Posted in Asia, comics, crime, race, television, writing
Tagged Arthur Chu, asian, black, Daniel Yang, Daredevil, Dilton, inscrubtable, irish, martial arts, netflix, Ninja, race, racism, Reggie, representation, Riverdale, Ross Butler, stereotype, token, villain, white
Yesterday 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 Daredevil, Jessica 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
Posted in Asia, comics, media, race, television
Tagged Albert Ching, Andrew Wheeler, asian, Asian-American, casting, Comic Book Resources, ComicsAlliance, cultural appropriation, Daniel Rand, Danny Rand, diversity, Entertainment Weekly, Finn Jones, Iron Fist, K'un-Lun, martial arts, Marvel, Mighty Whitey, minority, netflix, outsider, race, representation, Shang-Chi, stereotype, white, White Savior