With the summer 2010 release of Avatar The Last Airbender, the controversy over the white washed casting continues with director M. Night Shyamalan finally speaking out during recent press interviews… and seems to completely miss the point.
Granted, anyone is allowed to defend their project, especially if it’s a multi-million dollar feature film of an immensely popular animated series, but come on! At least try understand what fans were (and continue to be) in uproar about.
According to UGO.com, who was able to sit in a round table discussion with the director, Shyamalan dubbed the whole issue as “irony.”
Well, it is the most culturally diverse tent-pole movie ever made. And I’m proud of it. It’s part of what drew me to the material, to see the faces of our whole world in this new world. And only time will assuage everyone and give them peace. Maybe they didn’t see the faces that they wanted to see but, overall, it is more than they could have expected. We’re in the tent and it looks like the U.N. in there.
I’m still a bit confused over Shyamalan’s definition of irony. Is it ironic that despite the major roles going to mostly Caucasian people (aside from Zuko, which occurred after the protests against white-washing began), the majority of the cast — including extras — were diverse? Is he counting the crew in as there, as well? So despite the fact that three of the main characters are Caucasian (wearing Asian inspired costumes), it’s all good, because everyone who you’re not going to pay attention because they’re milling around in the background isn’t? What about the fact that the original casting call listed “Caucasian or any other ethnicity?” All I really know for sure is that Shyamalan’s irony made everyone on the 8A mailing list start belting out Alanis Morrisette (more on that later.)
The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point.
Interesting. I don’t quite agree with his statement about racial ambiguity in anime, and I know that itself is up to debate. I consider everyone in anime to be Japanese, even if they’ve got blue eyes and purple hair while having sex with a giant tentacle. Anime also often make it quite obvious when they’re depicting non-Japanese characters, whether it’s with over-exaggerated features and so forth.
But this isn’t about anime. This is about an American made cartoon series influenced by Asian culture. I don’t think the original creators of the series intended their characters to be racially ambiguous. They made it pretty clear, and so did the fans. As MANAA writes, he “truly doesn’t seem to take this critique seriously.”
And so the controversy continues. Shyamalan, would it have been hard to have outright said, “Listen — we cast white people in this because people in America are more likely to see a movie with Caucasians in them. Life sucks but money makes the world go round?” Yes? Alright then. I’ll shove this movie under the rug with The Happening and The Lady in the Water.
[Hat Tip: Marissa from RaceBending.com]
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As APIs, there are many of us who have been raised in families who would rather die than let family secrets out into the open. Invariably, extended family members somehow find out. The omnipresent veil of secrecy incites speculation instead of quashing it.
Within my own extended family there’s been gambling, theft arrests, abortions, forced adoptions from teenage pregnancy, homelessness, and drug use. Big deal. We all survived. I’d like to think that we took responsibility for our actions and moved on, or at least strove to. We never claimed to be perfect.
Korean singer and actor Choi Jin Young died by hanging yesterday in an apparent suicide. His famous sister, actress Choi Jin Shil, also committed suicide two years earlier. She was supposedly embroiled in a financial scandal with actor Ahn Jae-hwan, who killed himself a month before her suicide.
Some say rampant web rumors about the scandal drove Choi Jin Sil to kill herself while others accused her of being a loan shark who demanded repayment from Ahn for a $2 million dollar loan. Her pressure on Ahn, these net attacks claim, led to his suicide.
On the other hand, many of America’s big scandals of late seem to be shortly followed by all sides coming out with books and national event-interviews. They act quickly to dispel what they deem false truths from becoming part of the national fabric.
I’ve always thought that remaining silent tells volumes, and that while vicious lies are spread, the honorable stay mum. But with the onset of these events, I’m learning that silence seldom works for public consumption. As someone who is the focus of lies spread by a well-known community person, I can either strike back or let it eat away at me.
“Silence = Death” was the slogan for ACT UP, an AIDS advocacy and awareness group in the late 80s and mid-90s, and it still applies today. I’m not claiming to know or understand the intricate situation with the suicides of these three Korean celebrities, but I do know that keeping something welled inside can lead to disease and/or death.
Silence impacts more than the immediate. Ricky Martin just came out yesterday after years of speculation. Though Barbara Walters suggested that she destroyed his career by her interviews in which she pressed him about his sexuality, I wonder if it was actually his evasion to her questions. Similarly, Rosie O’Donnell came out just two months before ending her daytime TV show.
Imagine the dialogue that could have happened about the sexiest singer of the time being gay or the extremely liked, respected, rich, popular, generous woman who was also lesbian. That dialogue died with their silence. We can only wonder how many more could have been spoken out had they found inspiration by those in the public eye.
Ken Choy is an actor, writer, community organizer, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten-free.
The other day, I was flipping the channels to watch some NCAA March Madness highlights when I caught the tail end of this story on ESPN about Santa Anita Park, a horse racetrack in Arcadia, California. For six months, Santa Anita Park served as a temporary internment camp where nearly 20,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned prior to being shipped out to more permanent internment camps.
I wasn’t too sure why ESPN was running this segment at this particular time, but thought it was cool for those who follow horse racing that they learned a little bit about the history of the racetrack, which Kevin had blogged about a little last fall when the track opened an exhibit on its role in the Japanese-American internment. Kudos on bringing this story to a broader audience; the next time I am in Arcadia eating at Din Tai Fung, I’ll have to drop by the exhibit.
Wednesday’s panel will include City Councilman Yiaway Yeh and Palo Alto High School teacher Arne Lim, both of whom grew up in Palo Alto, and students from Paly and Gunn. Klausner, Palo Alto PTA member Sunny Dykwel and Board of Education member Dana Tom will moderate a discussion of issues related to the city’s growing Asian population. The event is “Growing Up Asian in Palo Alto,” a presentation by the Palo Alto PTA Council.
All people, regardless of race, are invited to attend and participate, according to the Council.
The panel discussion comes at a time when the school district’s demographics are rapidly changing. In the last decade, the Asian student population has grown by 1,500 children. The group now makes up about 30 percent of the district’s enrollment of more than 11,000 students, according to district figures. In some classrooms, students of Asian heritage are the majority
Organizers of Wednesday night’s panel hope it will be the first in a series of events that will spur more dialogue among the various Asian ethnic groups, including Korean, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese. A more unified Asian community could open up conversations and mutual understanding with other groups in the community, he said.
The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Translators will be available in Mandarin and Korean.
34 year old Philip Huang is a self-described performance artist out of Berkeley, California, described by the East Bay Express as having “a special talent for digesting life and creating spectacle.”
Yep, “creating spectacle” would be an accurate way to describe, as he goes on Telegraph Avenue – one of the main college drags for UC Berkeley students – and asks crowds of people who are more annoying: drunk White girls, or drunk Asian girls. The responses are pretty much the expected ones, considering we’re in the politically correct Bay Area – groups of girls get uncomfortable and refuse to answer the question; one girl flat out chews him out, Huang dismissing her as an “ethnic studies major.” To anyone viewing the video without context, it’s an award, epic fail of a guy trying to troll a bunch of co-eds and bouncers to incite a mini-race riot — a nice try, but no “money shot, er, quote,” to quote Koji. Now that I know Huang is a “performance artist”, he can shrug the results off. I still think the video clip is awkward to watch, though.
Asian American Theater Company’s world premiere of “Macho Bravado” by Alex Park. A Korean American soldier has returned from fighting in the Middle East to find a greater battle at home over his love, his identity and his masculinity. Confronted with questions of infidelity and self-doubt he and his wife struggle to maintain the macho bravado that defined their relationship before the war. This is a story that goes beyond the post-traumatic stress that a soldier and his wife experience, and ventures deep into their journey to forgive themselves and to forgive each other.
Previews: April 1-2, 2010 at 8pm
Opening Night: April 3, 2010 at 8pm
Performances: April 8-25, 2010 (Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 5pm)
As I continue work with the API community, red flags come up with certain people’s behavior — that too comfy-ness.
On Lost, the mysterious character Dogen speaks through a Japanese translator. When it is revealed that he speaks English, he says that he uses that method to separate himself from his followers. On Grey’s Anatomy, Derek is constantly bothered by requests for his time especially during lunch as the new police chief. The former chief advises him to always eat alone but with a companion; it makes interruption less likely.
For live events and theatrical plays, I’ve directed friends who ended up taking liberties they wouldn’t have with someone they didn’t know on a personal level; complain or make excuses about their inability to follow directions, be late, ignore the direction and say that they’re going to do it the opposite way, throw tantrums like an insolent child.
Are leaders only leaders, and can they only associate with leaders? Does this stratagem change with community-focused work? Can you be helpful and nice without being chummy? Or are people just going to bitch anyway, but behind your back instead?
Ken Choy is an actor, writer, community organizer, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten-free.
(Flickr photo credit: Jimmy McDonald)
“Dad, turn up the radio!”
said Number One Son. I did, and while I heard Iyaz, there was a woman singing too. “She’s from the Philippines,” added my son. It turns out the the woman was Filipino singer Charice Pempengco. As Christine pointed out here, she became famous when Ellen DeGeneres brought her on her show. Charice later signed with David Foster. In any case, I was happy that like Jay Sean, an Asian artist was getting mainstream radio airplay. I also thought it was interesting that one of my kids would notice her before I did. That confirms to me that she is really getting a wider audience.
According to her website, Charice’s album will be released on May 11, while “Pyramid” is available on iTunes now.
I was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). For those of you who don’t know, the SGV is east of Los Angeles. According to Wikipedia, “…the area is in general one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the country.” But I like it because it is full of other API folks. APIs made up more than 60% of my high school. But driving through San Marino, Alhambra, San Gabriel, and other nearby cities it can sometimes feel as though you’re driving through Asia. And I like that. I like the feeling of being with other people that are of my race. The only problem of course is when I venture outside of my small enclave and realize I’m a minority everywhere else.
One of the best things about living in the San Gabriel Valley is the good — read, authentic — food. I have three favorite restaurants that everyone who is in the Southern California area should try at least once. They are, in no particular order:
SGVers, what are your favorite places to eat in San Gabriel Valley?
(Flickr photo credit: Payton Chung)