Tag Archives: race

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part I)

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].

I wanted to start out with that quote for two reasons.

First, because it’s stolen from my co-writer’s post last Friday, which was a really good post you should read.

Second, because I think it does a good job of establishing the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable nuance that goes into addressing identity politics. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today and in the weeks to follow.

More specifically, we’re gonna be talking about White people.

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We’ll probably cover my use of this specific gif sometime later…

Before we dive in, I just wanna make something clear.

Race is a social construct – a series of categories that we’ve made up and ones we’ve made up only very recently in the scope of history. The fact of the matter is that there’s no actual place you can draw a dividing line when it comes to human beings and there’s no good reason you’d want to.

Not that it’s ever stopped us.

For better or worse, we have divided the world up into so many arbitrary categories, and those divisions have played and continue to play a major role in today’s culture. In spite of what some folks might suggest, ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away, and if we want to end the unspeakable hassle that is identity politics, we’re going to need to start by actually addressing them.

And here at Culture War Reporters, I think we’ve done a decent job. Continue reading

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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

The K’un-Lun of Netflix’s Iron Fist [Within the Larger Context]

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.

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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

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 a) I recently found out is sports terminology and has nothing to do with animals or actual farms and b) is the 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

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.


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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.

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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

For Your Consideration: Ned Leeds/Ganke in the Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer

Welcome to another installment of “For Your Consideration”, every one of which thus far has covered comic book and video game movies [and this week’s is no exception]. The point of this particular feature was to present just the facts, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions, as well as to cobble together a short post due to a lack of time to devote to a longer piece. The latter is less applicable this time around as this required a lot of research and was not at all published in a timely manner.

Thursday night marked the premiere of the first ever trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as well as the international trailer online. What caught my eye watching it, and what I’m going to detailing below, is the appearance of Ned Leeds, played by actor Jacob Batalon. Below I’ve compiled a timeline that tracks the history of that character, another character named Ganke from the comics, as well as the film franchise’s track record with diversity.


asm18November 1964Ned Leeds debuts in Amazing Spider-Man [Vol. 1] #18. His character is a field reporter at the Daily Bugle, where he meets Peter Parker and Betty Brant, the titular hero’s ex-girlfriend who he will one day marry. In later years Leeds went on to become the villain Hobgoblin for a spell, and was later killed [though you know what they say about death in comic books].

Ned Leeds is, as so many comic book characters at the time, a White man with brown hair and blue eyes.

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Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man  (Vol. 2). Written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Sara Pichelli.

November 2011: Ganke Lee debuts in Ultimate  Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man [Vol. 2] #2. His character is the best friend of Miles Morales, a half-Black/half-Latino teenager and the new hero headlining the title.

As pictured on the left, Ganke is of Korean descent and a larger kid. The character is also shown to be a fan of LEGO blocks, or whatever non-copyright-infringing alternative can be found in the Marvel universe.

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April 30th, 2014
:
 IndieWire former chief creative officer for Marvel entertainment and founder of Marvel Studios Avi Arad is interviewed by Indiewire. When asked if “Spider-Man in the cinematic realm [would] always be Peter Parker” [in reference to Morales ever taking the role] he responded: “Absolutely.” I further covered his comments a week later.

February 9th, 2015: After a two failed Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield it’s announced that Sony Pictures would be partnering with Marvel Studios to produce a new film for the character that takes place within the latter’s cinematic universe. President of Sony Entertainment Motion Picture Group Doug Belgrad cements which iteration of the superhero will be webslinging across the silver screen, saying [emphasis added]:

“This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future.”

barbieriJune 6th, 2016: It’s revealed that fourteen-year-old actor Michael Barbieri has been cast in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming.
ComicBook.com reveals that, according to its sources, Barbieri’s character will be new, and “based off the Ultimate Spider-Man character Ganke.”

As seen on the left, Barbieri is currently not particularly heavyset, and is also not Korean or of Asian descent at all. It’s also worth noting that Peter Parker and Ganke Lee do not currently have any kind of relationship within the Marvel universe as the latter is a stalwart part of Miles Morales’ supporting cast.

June 15th, 2016Likely in response to an article making the rounds that directly states “Marvel Casts Michael Barbieri as Ganke in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'” director Jon Watts goes on record to deny claims of whitewashing in a couple of tweets:

July 25th, 2016: At Marvel Studio’s film panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego this year three cast members are confirmed for Spider-Man: Homecoming. One of the three is Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds. The actor describes the role he’s playing as being Peter Parker’s “best buddy.”


EthniCelebs
, while likely not the most reliable of sources, notes that Batalon was born in Hawaii and lists his ethnicity as “Filipino, possibly other”.

November 15th, 2016: In addition to the Comic-Con announcement made several months earlier, Batalon reveals on KHON 2 News, a Hawaiian program, that he will be playing Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He reiterates that Leeds is “Peter Parker’s best friend in the film.”

December 8th, 2016: As mentioned,  the first Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer premieres on Jimmy Kimmel Live!; the international trailer likewise makes its way onto YouTube.

December 8th, 2016: A number of top comments in a thread dedicated to the newly released trailer on /r/comicbooks focus on Leeds’ similarities to Ganke.

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“So Ned Leeds is basically Ganke?”

December 9th, 2016: Comic Book Resources publishes an article titled “No, That’s Not Ganke In The Spider-man: Homecoming Trailer”. The second paragraph reads:

“Admittedly it’s a very easy mistake to make. As we see in the trailer, Batalon plays Spider-Man’s best friend and one of the only people to learn his Spider-secret. Ganke Lee, a supporting character introduced in 2011’s “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #2, is also the best friend of a Spider-Man and also knows his secret identity. And yeah, both Batalon and Ganke are of Asian descent (Batalon is Filipino American and Ganke is Korean American). To be honest, maybe Batalon should be playing Ganke. But he’s not — he’s playing Ned Leeds.”

The final line hammers that point home, with columnist Brett White writing, “So right now, Spidey’s best friend looks and sounds a lot like Ganke — but he’s not Ganke. He’s Ned Leeds.”

December 9th, 2016: Inverse, the website responsible for the article Watts was likely responding to back in June, publishes another titled “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Appears to Have Jacked a Miles Story”. Their coverage includes tweets from comic book fans who find the inclusion of Ned Leeds as he appears particularly damning, with one noting:

The article also highlights a moment within the trailer, drawing comparison between it and a moment in the comic books.

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Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man (Vol. 1). Written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by David Marquez.


To summarize, Jacob Batalon will be appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Ned Leeds, Peter Parker’s best friend. He bears a very heavy [no pun intended] resemblance to Ganke Lee, Miles Morales’ best friend in the comics. While the appearance of an Asian character in a major role certainly backs up Watts’ desire for the Queens depicted to reflect being “one of—if not the—most diverse places in the world” what may need to be addressed, by Watts or whoever else, are some fans’ concerns about poaching a POC character from another POC character’s story.

Miles Morales ever making an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has yet to be confirmed, but the question many have been asking since Thursday’s trailer dropped was if Ganke showing up is even possible now that this Ned Leeds exists onscreen.

Our Fascist Overlords (So Far…)

There’s an old Arab quote that roughly translates to “Don’t tell me about a man, tell me about his friends.” i.e, you are the company you keep. In spite of the present efforts for a recount in certain key states, we are still very much bracing for a Trump presidency, and perhaps worse yet, a Trump cabinet. Let’s get to meet our new fascist overlords:

2Ambassador to the United Nations: Nikki Haley

Born to Sikh Indian parents, Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley earned acclaim for her decision to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds. While maintaining a number of hardline positions- especially in terms of immigration- Haley again made headlines with her early criticism of then-candidate Trump. Criticism that earned her calls to be deported.

Deported to exactly where remains a mystery, as Haley was born in America. But as plenty of Trump supporters imagine America to be an inherently white country, they showed no qualms about reminding Haley (and people of color) that their presence in this nation is merely tolerated

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Image retrieved via Policy.Mic

Which makes Trump’s decision to offer her UN ambassadorship surprising, and Haley’s acceptance even more so. But perhaps that’s just to show how much the Republican party has chugged the Kool-Aid. A woman who, simply because of her first name and her skin tone, received calls for her “deportation” is now the international face of the same “siren call of the angriest voices.” Certainly it’s a chilling picture of what’s to come, and enough to silence anyone claiming that the house and senate will somehow act as a counterbalance to Trump’s Fourth Reich. Continue reading