Several days ago, I got an audition for an internet ad campaign called “The Journey” where they needed Korean men. At first, I was extremely excited and also because the gig paid $300 a day. But then when I looked closer, I realized that the internet ad campaign was for the upcoming video game Homefront.
Homefront, we meet again. The last time I saw you was several months ago, when I was a North Korean marching soldier for the E3 2010 convention promoting your game. The story of Homefront takes place in the near future, in a world where North Korea takes over South Korea and all of Asia, then proceeds to invade America. It’s basically the premise of the Red Dawn remake that’s coming out next year but loftier (and written by the original Red Dawn scribe John Milius).
Even before its release, this Internet ad campaign and the game itself will bring incredibly troubling depictions of East Asians, especially Koreans, for the mainstream video gamer consumption. Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man was awesome enough to cover this story when I first gave it to him on the condition of the source being anonymous. After much consideration however, I asked myself why I was afraid of revealing myself. Am I afraid of being blacklisted? Am I afraid of being that “critical Asian?” Not really. I strive to tell the truth as it is, with no hidden alibi, to the public masses and share my own honest opinions and thoughts.
Therefore, I want to make it public because there is something that I want to contribute with my own thoughts, especially to all the East Asian actors here in Los Angeles who got called for this. Down below is an audition slide for the Captain role I was called for. The second side after that is another side I found that gives you a good idea what kind of game Homefront is (WARNING: strong language ahead):
This surburbia has gone to rot with overgrown lawns, garbage and decay. A large army truck is in the background and a ragtag group of AMERICANS are getting on it, carrying ratty suitcases. KOREAN SOLDIERS oversee the operation.
It’s evident that the camera is hidden and recording from an unseen vantage point.
The camera shifts and zooms in as two KOREAN SOLDIERS are pulling a dirty HOMEOWNER out of his broken down house.
I’m staying! This is my house. I paid for it! Get your fucking hands off me.
The soldiers pull the man into the street and then hold him as a KOREAN CAPTAIN runs up to the altercation.
CAPTAIN (IN KOREAN)
What is the problem, soldier?
KOREAN SOLDIER 1 (IN KOREAN)
He refuses to leave his home.
CAPTAIN (IN ENGLISH)
American comrade, you are being relocated to a better place where you will have food and shelter.
Fuck you, I ain’t no comrade! This is my home. This is America. I can live where I want!
The homeowner spits on the Captain and struggles against the soldiers holding him. The Captain wipes the spit from his face, calmly pulls a pistol from his belt and shoots the American in the head.
The soldiers walk back to the truck as the body bleeds out.
—- Here’s the other side —–
The Korean hostage sits against a concrete wall between two masked American resistance members. He wears a Korean army uniform that is dirty and torn and has bruises on his face.
His left arm lies broken in a dirty sling. When he speaks he is emotionless, almost as if he’s reading from a script.
My name is Lee Yang and I am a solider of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. My blood type is A+. I was captured five days ago by brave American freedom fighters.
What was your personal mission?
I was sent to Montana to make sure that the Americans who lived here did as they were told. It was also my personal duty to help oversee and supervise the loading of train cars filled with minerals for shipment to San Diego.
What do you think now?
I know what Korea is doing is wrong. I understand that I was a bad person, a bad soldier. I wish nothing more now than to help the Americans by telling them everything I know about army movements and what we are doing in the area. Long live America.
RESISTANCE FIGHTER (TO CAMERA)
America is fighting back. This will be the fate of any Koreans who try to stop us. We will take as many hostages as we can. Save yourself. Get out of our country. Long Live America!
I looked at the sides over and over again to try to see if I can make a three-dimensional human out of the Captain. I just couldn’t and after several hours of mulling, I sent an email to the casting director that I would be “out of town.” It was a hard choice, even though the casting range is way beyond my awkward goofy quirky casting that I nail completely. The Captain role pays $300 per day and in this economy, money is no joke. This role would’ve paid a good portion of my rent. At this point in my life though, I know I’m not a starving artist because I have a job that helps with paying the rent and food so I have the luxury of turning this role down.
I know that where I am in how I see myself, I choose how I want to be seen and if it means turning down a role that makes me feel sick to my stomach, I will uphold that integrity. I am aware of that fortune that I have, a fortune that cannot be shared with many actors here in Los Angeles. There will be Korean actors, East Asian actors, who will take these roles even if they know they will be the face of xenophobia simply because they want to have a paycheck and to be able to eat and pay for their electricity bill. I cannot judge them for that because in this cut-throat business, you do what you got to do in order to stay alive and move ahead.
But in my personal opinion, to be in this Internet ad campaign is like having a huge banner sign over your head saying that all Koreans and Asians are not to be trusted and that in the end, you are a dangerous foreign yellow menace. From these audition sides and intention of this game, I am reminded of WWII propaganda where the American government posted flyers of Japanese people as inscrutable dangerous beings and in turn was one of the major reasons why over 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.
And that’s what this game reeks of. Propaganda to promote American superiority doused with fear and paranoia of the Asian foreign menace (whether it be North Korea or Muslims). People may brush this aside and say that I’m being too negative and pessimistic over a game. Relax, they say, it’s just a video game. But in this day and age, you cannot underestimate the influence of video games and, more importantly, the power of human stupidity. Media depictions of minorities, especially violent ones, often paved way to hate crimes as people are unable to differentiate between fiction and reality. If the media says so, then it must be true.
To all the East Asian actors in LA who are struggling to make ends meet and have been called in to audition for this Internet ad campaign, the choice is yours. You do what you believe is right and nobody, let alone a dude blogging about protesting over an internet ad campaign for a video game, can stop you.
But ask yourself, is it worth it to be the face of xenophobia?