ursamajor: The Boulder can snap you like a twig (the boulder is ready to bury racism)
OOH! Look, everyone, Joe Jonas can pull chink-eyes too.



Just like dear Miley. Just what I wanted to find out in catching up on feed-reading, that Joe Jonas does racist things. Oh, wait, except for the part where the only reason I've even heard of him is because people on my friends-of-friends list write Jonas Brothers fic. Wanna do me a favor? Write Disney-teen-stars fic where somehow, OVERPRIVILEGED RICH WHITE PEOPLE AREN'T SHOWING THEIR GLOWING RACIST BUTTS? That'd be a lovely AU, thank you very much.

In other news, filming of The Last Airbender started in Greenland this week. I know I've been guilty of focusing more on the lack of Asian leads in the live-action adaptation; [livejournal.com profile] aang_aint_white reminded me of that yesterday with their post on Inuit Culture in The Last Airbender. The production designers are doing an amazing job duplicating Inuit skin tents and other cultural artifacts reflected in the Polar Water Tribes of the original Avatar series. Go read. It breaks my heart and punches me in the gut all over again.

And because of this, the accuracy the set and prop people exhibit and the care they took to get it right, their careful hewing to authenticity? Makes the casting of white movie stars in the roles of Sokka and Katara all the more incongruous, and emphasizes the cultural appropriation starkly: "Paramount is appropriating Inuit culture and populating it with Caucasian faces." This.

How timely that this morning, XKCD posted Well. The Well in question happens to be a well of "Uncomfortable Truths." The first of the uncomfortable truths is: "For a universe that's supposed to be half-Chinese, Firefly sure doesn't have any Asians." I know Firefly and Serenity, as Joss Whedon products, have a higher-profile than a cartoon that started out on Nick that's getting made into a movie trilogy. But god, just how baldly do we have to rephrase it until the casting people for The Last Airbender get it? "For a universe that's supposed to be Asian and Inuit, The Last Airbender sure has a lot of white heroes and Indian villains?" Will that work?

Edit: Cultural appropriation isn't just a fandom and media thing: a Danish designer's spring line is being protested against by Greenlanders because they feel their culture is being exploited. Compare Jensen's boots to traditional Greenlandic kaviks (though I don't think the author's attitude there is particularly helpful, none of the other links I've found so far do the direct visual comparison).

Apparently there have been death threats? Which I don't condone, but I understand the emotion behind; Peter Jensen wasn't the first person to exploit/be inspired by another culture, and he certainly won't be the last.

It brings up interesting thoughts in parallel with copyright and intellectual property. When Matthew Williams upset Ethiopians last year by basing his collection on their traditional dress, the head of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office said:

These are the dresses of our mothers and grandmothers. They symbolise our identity, faith and national pride. Nobody has the right to claim these designs as their own.


So where does the border fall between inspiration, appropriation, and exploitation? We talk about musical mashups and vidding, copyright and Creative Commons and GNU licensing, the melting pot; what about fashion? Some Greenlanders approved of Jensen's collection because they wanted to buy them - is Jensen doing Greenlanders a good turn by featuring his interpretation of their traditional boots, or is it more likely that people will buy his boots instead of the kamiks created by Greenland artisans?

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
ursamajor: The Boulder can snap you like a twig (the boulder is ready to bury racism)
Right now, in Philadelphia, people are at a casting session for The Last Airbender, protesting the lack of care taken to cast Asian actors in a movie that is based in an Asian world and being directed by an Asian man. Jesse McCartney (white) dropping out in the last week to be replaced by Dev Patel (Indian-British) is one thing. But the end result is a mere token gesture at Asian casting, a complete afterthought, especially since Patel will be playing Zuko, the primary villain who doesn't reform until the third movie. Great, does this mean all the non-white extras get to play Fire Nation baddies to match skintone?

And casting Inuit Katara and Sokka as white? Casting Chinese Toph Bei Fong as white? Casting Tibetan Aang as white? Jackson Rathbone says about his casting as Sokka: "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan." And it sounds like the rest of the casting process is about as racially sensitive as can be expected based on Rathbone's statements. Go, casting director DeeDee Rickets.

"But this is just one movie, hon!" you might say. "One set of incidents of racefail!"

Sure! Except when I logged into LJ this morning, hoping to find some information about said previously-mentioned Avatar protest, I am instead greeted with a (locked but angry) post about Miley Cyrus pulling ching-chong-Chinaman eyes.



Before about an hour ago, I couldn't have picked Miley Cyrus out of a crowd. I know she's a Disney teen superstar and has catchy pop songs and is Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter, and that was the sum of my knowledge about her. Now, I know that she's that young, ignorant, powerful, rich white chick who just got caught being racist. (For those of you who wouldn't recognize her, like me? She's the one in the center.)

Apparently, she is ignorant and privileged enough that she didn't have to learn this lesson earlier from the Spanish basketball team at the Olympics, caught doing the very same thing.



And it must be okay because Rosie O'Donnell did something similar!



Edit: [livejournal.com profile] kazulrw alerted me that in the same vein, Amy Sedaris considers herself a funny little artiste, and autographed a book for one of her Chinese-American fans in the following way:



Small preview pic is small; click through to see her buck-toothed caricature, her "so glad you couldn't be here," and her cheerful little "ching chong!" Ugh. Worse yet, this appears to be her running gag, and that autograph is in fact repeated elsewhere? I have not seen Strangers with Candy, nor read Sedaris' books, but [livejournal.com profile] hyounpark says she is apparently one of those comics whose shtick is to offend, so I wouldn't like her anyway.

So Miley Cyrus did something wrong. Did she apologize for it? HAH. MTV quotes extensively from her blog:

"I've also been told there are some people upset about some pictures taken of me with friends making goofy faces! Well, I'm sorry if those people looked at those pics and took them wrong and out of context!" she said on her official fan site, MileyWorld, reports Perez Hilton, adding, "In no way was I making fun of any ethnicity! I was simply making a goofy face. When did that become newsworthy?

"It seems someone is trying to make something out of nothing to me. If that would have been anyone else, it would have been overlooked! I definitely feel like the press is trying to make me out as the new 'bad girl'!"

I feel like now that Britney is back on top of her game again, they need someone to pick on! Lucky me! Haha," she wrote. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know what is in my heart. You guys know me and have been by my side every step of the way!"

"You guys know my heart and know the most important things to me are my friends, family, fans and God! In no way do I want to disappoint any of you! But when I have made mistakes in the past, I feel like I've owned up to them and apologized."


I tried to locate this post on her official page at MileyWorld, but it crashed my browser; if anyone is able to provide a direct link to the post where she wrote this, or a screencap, I'd appreciate it. Update: looks like I have to pay her $30/year for the privilege of seeing her blog. She made $25 million last year; despite my reputation as an infovore, I'm hardly motivated to pay her for this particular "privilege."

Let's knock it off, point by point:

Paragraph 1. "I'm sorry you misinterpreted." Not an apology.
Paragraphs 2 and 3. Britney can show her privates to the public all she wants, and the only person she's hurting is herself. Miley doing racist things hurts her fans.
Paragraph 4. "I've apologized in the past when I've done wrong; I don't think I did wrong here." Not an apology.

Congratulations, Miley, you've made it all about you and *your* butthurt.

And it's not like she's lacking for defenders, either; Melora Hardin, her costar in the Hannah Montana movie, is one of them:

"When you're 15 and you're in the spotlight, who wouldn't court some controversy?" [Hardin] told MTV News at the screening of "He's Just Not That Into You." "I would have if I had been in the spotlight at 15." The "Office" star added that sometimes when you're a teenager, these things just happen. "Weren't we all doing naughty things? I hope we were ... at least somewhat naughty, not too naughty," she laughed. "A little naughty is good!"


Great, Melora, you're white, Miley's white, let's all be white galpals all around and defend white rich privileged chicks from the mean offended Asian fan hordes. Let's dismiss racist acts as being "a little naughty."

A couple of weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] kita0610 created a vid on racism against Asians in the media, titled No, She Will Not Love You Long Time. (That links to the post with higher quality video; she's also got some background at her original post.) It's the kind of thing that I wish every one of my friends would sit down and watch and think about and remember. The fact that Target sold "Asian Yellow" dishes this holiday season? Just shows how insidiously embedded this all is. The fact that DeeDee Rickets can "advise prospective extras to 'dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire. … If you're Korean, wear a kimono. If you're from Belgium, wear lederhosen" and respond to a black woman's question about not coming in traditional attire with "It doesn't mean you're at a disadvantage if you didn't come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you'll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever." Just.
ursamajor: The Boulder can snap you like a twig (the boulder is ready to bury racism)
Via [livejournal.com profile] deadbrowalking: http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/12/10/first-look-the-cast-of-the-last-airbender/ .

Oh, look, it's Earthsea all over again. Pertinent quote from Ursula K. Leguin on the matter, for those of you unaware of the controversy: "My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the [Sci-Fi Channel] film, he's a petulant white kid."

Looks like Avatar's getting the same treatment - being whitewashed to hell and back. What, casting directors, you having a hard time finding little Asian(-American) kids who want to act? Or actors with less-than-lily-white skintone? In LOS ANGELES? Come now! Walk down the street into a dojo, there's a good place to get started.

SOKKA AND KATARA ARE BROWN.

ZUKO DOES NOT HAVE BLOND HAIR.

(and i need a Pissed Off As F*ck Katara icon. She's scarier even than the Boulder when she's mad!)

But look, they got the *eye colors* to match! Clearly that's an indication they're trying really really hard to be faithful to the story and its world, right? :P

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