Tag Archives: Red Dawn

How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… 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 [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

tewaame

Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading

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The Black and White of American Sniper [No, This Isn’t About Race]

There were just so many angles from which to approach American Sniper. One of them is, of course, within the context of the Oscars, especially when set in stark contrast with the amount of nominations Selma received [or didn’t receive, as it were]. Another is as the whitewashing of both a man who took great joy in taking lives and the war he fought in. While both are important, the latter more so in my opinion, I will actually be focusing on neither.

As I so often do on this blog, I will instead be writing on and cataloguing a number of reactions to the film [which I haven’t personally seen], some of which you can see below-

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“Asian-Americans,” Admission, and Assimilation

As some of you know, I review the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls every Monday night. I do so mostly because The A.V. Club has dropped it from its reviewed shows, and partly because it brings in the hits. This past episode featured the following exchange between Korean diner owner [he’s Korean, the diner is not] Han Lee, played by Matthew Moy, and casting director Tom, played by Eddie Shin:

Before you ask, yes, I put the video together myself.

The reason this struck me is that it highlights a humorous turn of events that I’ve observed more than once. As I mentioned in my review, Shin’s character’s response echoes, almost word for word, that of Howling Commando Jim Morita, played by Kenneth Choi in Captain America: The First Avenger:

Yes, I put that clip together as well. Sorry for the out-of-sync sound. Continue reading

The Very Real Threat of Islamophobia

Today, I’d like to do something I’ve been wanting to for a while. We’re going to go through a list of recent quotes on Arabs and Islam and replace them with the words “Jew,” “Jews,” and “Jewish.”

Most quickly springing to mind is the latest line of tripe from Anne Coulter. While you are (unfortunately) probably already familiar with some of Coulter’s statements (see: “It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact.” or “[Canada] better hope the United States doesn’t roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.”), you may not have heard Coulter’s recent assertion that the wife of one of the Boston Bombers should ““Be jailed for wearing a hijab” (right after saying “I don’t care if she knew about this [bombing]”- just so you know it’s about religion, not justice).

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The Horror, The Horror

Today, I’m going to talk about horror.

Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.

Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.

So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.

Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.

Fear For Self

First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.

Fear Of Self

Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.

Fear Of No Self

Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.

Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.

So what do we fear as a society right now?

Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.

At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.

Re: Where I Try To Explain Red Dawn

I don’t normally get that angry about things. Disappointed, sure. Upset, often enough. But really, truly angry? That emotion is normally reserved for pure, undistilled racism.

Yesterday I wrote about the production history of Red Dawn, and mostly talked about how the plot was immensely improbable and how the film industry is all about money, et cetera. What I did not at all dwell on was the potential of the film to bring out racism in people, similar [but not at all comparable] to the abuse of Middle Eastern Americans after what happened on 9/11.

On Facebook Racebending.com directed me to Tumblr user manilaryce, who compiled a number or racist tweets by people who had just watched Red Dawn. I have embedded the image below and on the right.

The following are a few of the tweets that particularly stood out to me:

Kinda wanna kill some Asians right now and defend the homeland, thank you Red Dawn for sparking some patriotism in me

The only reason Im going to see red dawn is cause there’s sexy ass guys running around with guns killing Asians my type of movie;)!

I now hate all Chinese, Japanese, Asian, Korean people. Thanks. #reddawn #amazingmoviedoe

Red dawn was sickkk..just another reason why to hate asians.

This is like when racist Hunger Games fans tweeted about how the casting of a character as Black ruined the movie for them. The difference between that situation and this one is that I feel directly targeted.

One of the tweets, by @elysse223, reads “I usually love Asians, but in Red Dawn I found them terrifying.” After reading that I almost immediately felt worse, like both me and everyone else like me had been transformed into inhuman movie monsters.

The only consolation I can take in all this is that the film is being almost universally panned. Liam Lacey, reviewing the film for The Globe and Mail, says “Red Dawn panders to the worst kind of racist and jingoist impulses, though the movie is so preposterously insincere, it feels like those adjectives should be in air quotes.” Over at Indiewire Gabe Toro describes the film as “stitched together with scotch tape and falling apart at the seams, letting casual racism and misanthropy to spill out the sides.”

I honestly don’t have a lot to say except that I’m angry, hurt, and somewhat unsurprised that this is what audience members all over America are choosing to take away from this movie. I am Asian and I am not evil. I do not want to take over America. I do not want to ever feel like this:

Where I Try to Explain Red Dawn

I’ve begun seeing trailers on TV, and apparently it hit theatres two days ago, so I figure now’s as good a time to talk about Red Dawn as any.

For those of you who don’t know, Red Dawn is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. In the original the United States is invaded by both the Soviet Union and its Cuban allies. A group of plucky high schoolers bands together to form a guerrilla fighting force, named the Wolverines after their high school mascot.

In remaking the film the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), realized that they needed to modernize the invaders in light of the current political climate, and chose China. Keep in mind that in the original film that country was apparently America’s only ally, with the following exchange taking place:

“…Well, who is on our side?”
“Six hundred million screaming Chinamen.”
“Last I heard, there were a billion screaming Chinamen.”
There were.”

Production was going smoothly until the summer of 2010 when the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, got a hold of leaked excerpts of the script. This prompted such headlines as “U.S. reshoots Cold War movie to demonize China” and “American movie plants hostile seeds against China.” In early 2011 the LA Times reported that the film’s villains were changed from Chinese to North Korean to “[maintain] access to the Asian superpower’s lucrative box office.Continue reading