Pandering and the Default

So, in the midst of the continued fall out from Weistein, the accusations against Kevin Spacey increasing by the day as more come forward to tell of his predatory nature, Twitter continuing to not do a thing about Nazis but erasing bisexuals, this bit of criticism about Jeph Jacque’s Questionable Content from a fan, and Jeph’s subsequent response, came across my feed.

Now, in the picture provided in the link here, there’s a lot to unpack about what the fan has to say to Jeph, especially the subtle bit of transphobia by saying Marten isn’t in a hetero relationship. The bit not said is that since Claire is a transgender woman, she’s not a REAL woman, and so Marten is in a gay relationship.

That is some TERF Laci Green level of logic right there.

However, I want to focus on the Pandering bit of the statement, that in having so many characters who are LGBTQIA, Jeph Jacques is somehow pandering to people who identify as such, and that this is somehow a bad thing.

It is, as my friend Tim Yang, the producer behind the podcasts All Comics Considered and Race Invaders, said on his Facebook page in discussing this, “It’s code for “why aren’t you pandering to me?!”

This is hardly a lone example in the past few years of people angry that changes are being made to something they like, and it says a lot that the people who are angry are straight, white, cisgender, able bodied men.

Game Critic and article writer Tauriq Fousa was the recipient of mass harassment on Twitter and elsewhere for his article being critical of The Witcher 3 for having a predominantly white cast.

Leslie Jones was the target of a mass harassment campaign simply for staring in the remake of Ghostbusters that had an all female cast.

Marvel Comics came under fire for having a female Thor, a black Spider-Man, a Muslim superhero in Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel, and accusations of becoming overrun by SJWs.

The fallout from the new Doctor being a woman? Same thing.

When straight white, cisgender able bodied men like me complain about these things, and other showings of diversity in our movies, comic books, video games, and books, it comes from a place of insecurity, I feel. For so long, in Western society, a lot of what we enjoyed was made for us by us, and so many of us were so used to this for so long that to see even the smallest increase in diversity of any kind is, on some level, a threat to our very existence. It is something worth going to war for, as evidenced by the Gamergate Hate Movement against women and diversity in games.

In a way, the straight white dudes who complain about creators pandering to people not like them come off as Dudley Dursley, face twisted up in rage as he receives one less present than the previous year for his birthday, decrying the injustice of it all and demanding recompense for this mild slight against him.

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They can’t possibly understand WHY others wish to see themselves in the games they play, the books they read, and the movies they watch. After all, we grew up seeing so many white men inhabiting all sorts of roles, and if they can’t relate to them, then that’s their problem, not ours.

It’s not FAIR! They had Winston in Ghostbusters, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why make Spider-man black!? Women had She-Ra and Xena, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why have Thor be a feeeemalllee…? Or Valkyrie be a black woman in the new Thor movie?! Or the new Doctor?! It makes no sense for a time traveling alien who regenerates into different bodies to avoid death to change his gender!

What guys like that don’t understand is that for as much diversity as we are seeing, people of colour, LGBTQIA people, basically people who aren’t straight, white, cisgender, male and able bodied are still woefully under represented in our various forms of media.

Part of the problem that lies within was explained perfectly by Rebecca Kuang when discussing the diversity panel she’d been a part of at a recent convention, in this wonderful thread I’d highly recommend you check out.

When you have unfair, heightened standards for a movie, a book, a game to succeed when the lead is not a straight white cisgender man, you are setting it up to fail.

It was a problem with superhero movies as lead by women, wherein movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra were not given as good a treatment in terms of production, writing, promotion etc as their male counterparts. It becomes, in effect, a self fulfilling prophecy that other gatekeepers can then point to as evidence that, hey, people just don’t like female lead superhero movies.

It was something that Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter did, without even taking into account how many male superhero movies bomb, either critically or financially, such as Ghost Rider, Amazing Spider-Man, Batman Vs Superman, Green Lantern, and Daredevil to name a few.

So lets see about rebooting Spider-man and Batman for the millionith time, eh?

Until Wonder Woman arrived on the scene, that is.

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She’s arguably, single handedly saved the DC movieverse with its success of over 800 million dollars world wide, making it the highest grossing superhero origin movie to date. Who did it beat out? One of Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man from 2002, directed by Sam Raimi.

The truth of the matter is that as we continue progressing forward, the default of the Straight, White, Cisgender, Able Bodied Male is becoming less the gold standard for an assured success, and more a sign of the gatekeeping that merely thinks that people only want to see straight, white, cisgender able bodied men.

And that they will ignore all evidence to the contrary. One only need look at the poor performances of The Great Wall, The Last Airbender, and Iron Fist to see that people don’t want to see all white people all the time, and still studios will try to hamfist white people into roles not meant for them, such as Scarlet Johansson’s leading role in Ghost in the Shell, because the people who make the decisions still believe that audiences only want to see white people in leading roles.

The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies come from this line of thinking as well, believing that science fiction and fantasy should not pander to people not like them (straight white cisgender dudes) and tried to influence the votes of the Hugo Awards.

That they failed should be seen as a sign that people want more diversity and not the outdated views of bigots and racists, although their very presence should also be taken with caution that said people will not go quietly into the night.

There’s a great deal of progress yet to be made, especially where hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite continue to garner incredible traction, across all forms of entertainment, and that barriers to the success of creators who ‘pander’ to people like them need to be dismantled.

This feels especially important in the light of Trump becoming president of the US last year, where there was an incredibly vocal and violent pushback against people who didn’t have it so great in the good old days of the distant 50s Americana.

Pop Culture is more than just a means of entertainment and escapism for us. It can educate us about social issues important to us, as Star Trek did when it first started, and can show us a better, brighter future that we can work towards.

To remain rooted in the out dated way of thinking in terms of representation is a failure on the part of fans who want nothing different and the people in charge who see money only in the faces of people who look like them.

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Ghost in the Shell And The Continuation Of Whitewashing In Hollywood

So, today the trailer for the Ghost in the Shell Live  Action movie trailer dropped, along with an introduction from Scarlet Johannson herself.

You can check it out here.

Throughout the trailer, about the only thought I had on my mind was that they still had a white woman in the lead roll of the majour, who is a Japanese woman who works for Section 6, a kind of top tier police force that answers to the Japanese government.

Sadly, this whitewashing of Asian characters is nothing new, and is a sad, long tradition in Hollywood that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Heck, merely typing whitewashing movies into Google brings you the following result, and numerous links about the many, MANY examples of whitewashing in Hollywood.

However, here are a few examples, and of ones wherein white actors were cast in the role of Asian characters:

Justin Chatwin as Goku in Dragonball Evolution.

Emma Stone as Captain Allison Ng in Aloha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Dr. Strange.

The leading cast of 21, based of a true account of 6 Asian MIT students who beat Las Vegas at their own game, making off with millions.

Elizabeth Banks Rita Repulsa in the new Power Rangers Movie.

And now, recently, Scarlet Johannson as the Majour in Ghost in the Shell.

It’s frustrating and tiring to see diversity brushed aside for various reasons, despite the fact that many of the films who whitewash their leading characters more often than not become huge, box office failures. Despite disasters such as the box office receipts for *Aloha (Domestic total gross of 21 million with a production cost of  37 million) and The Last Airbender (domestic total gross of 131 million with a production cost of 151 million), Hollywood seems bound and determined to stick by its reasons for casting white actors in the roles of Asian characters.

However, one point about the casting choice of Ghost in The Shell I wish to talk about is the support of it from Kodansha, the manga publishing company that released Ghost in the Shell way back in 1989.

This does not absolve Paramount Pictures of its racist whitewashing, and the reason why is context.

See, in Japan, there are all kinds of roles for actresses and actors in all matters of entertainment, be it video games, anime, movies, and dramas. There is almost literally no lack of roles for them, and as such, a white woman playing a Japanese character is something unique and interesting over there.

However, in the West, it’s yet another example of whitewashing.

Context is also the reason why Yellow Rangers in the various Sentai shows over 30 years is not racist in Japan. Over there, it’s simply another primary colour among many for the brightly coloured teams that have entertained children for years.

Here in the West, yellow has racial connotations that sprang up from Yellow Peril, a 19th century colonial theory about how East Asians are a threat to the Western world. A browsing of yellow peril on google’s image link shows off where the caricature of the Asian man with the fu manchu mustache, exaggerated slanted eyes, and yellow skin came from.

As such, when Thuy Trang was cast as Trini the Yellow Ranger in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, it was most definitely racially insensitive.

What also concerns me is that a success by Ghost in the Shell could be seen as having a silver lining, that an action movie with a female lead can succeed, and to that I say No.

Stop it.

Progress does not come by having a white woman stand on the back of women of colour. That is what one calls White Feminism, and between this and ScarJo’s other film, Lucy, which features a white woman in peril from evil Asian men, I’ve pretty much lost all enthusiasm for a Black Widow movie.

This casting choice was a mistake, one that continues to be repeated time and time again, and I fear that the only lesson to be learned from it if the movie fails is that women can’t lead action films, not that one shouldn’t whitewash roles.

*Figures taken from boxofficemojo.com.

 

 

Not Your Asian Sidekick, Hollywood

With the release of the first image of Scarlet Johannson from Ghost in the Shell and the teaser trailer of Dr Strange, it’s time to take a look at just what these two are doing to continue the Hollywood tradition of cultural appropriation and whitewashing of Asian roles.

From The Angry Asian Man blog, comes the image of ScarJo from Ghost in the Shell, which recently started filming.

Oh look! Six other Japanese actresses Hollywood could have picked from instead of whitewashing the Majour.

And a great article on The Hollywood reporter summarizing a number of responses to the white washing, yellow face, and cultural appropriation in both Dr Strange and Ghost in the Shell.

I’ve Got A Problem, Episode 2

Hello everyone and welcome to I’ve Got A Problem… with the Legend of Korra!

I usually save this series for content which fails in a most spectacular manner or which enrages me a whole lot, and this is one of them.

And trust me, this fails as well as enrages me, like you would NOT believe.

Hell, I could have made a fucking documentary out of all the failings of this show. And to think, it came from the same people who made the pretty damned good Avatar- The Last Airbender.

Brain Food At The Movies – Episode 3

Hello everyone, and welcome to the third installment of Brain Food At The Movies, wherein I talk about Star Trek – Into Darkness!

It’s easily one of the most shallow, pandering, lazy pieces of writing slapped on screen that I’ve ever seen, and includes an unfortunate amount of whitewashing in replacing the character of Khan with a white guy, Super Benederp Cucumbatch, when he had been Indian in the original series.