When Chappelle’s Show dropped in 2003, never in my history of comedic television viewing had a first episode been so explosive. Clayton Bigsby was the most audacious thing I’ve ever seen. A black white supremacist? I, along with millions of others, was hooked. Until then, Dave Chappelle was a marginal comic presence. He had bit roles in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blue Streak, Undercover Brother, and other films. Then he became a star with the stoners for the cult classic, 1998’s Half Baked. He was a stand-up whose career consisted of mostly juvenile and scatological humor with flashes of the socially and culturally relevant comedy displayed on the first two seasons of Chappelle’s Show. He was a hard worker. Dude toured and gave it his all. It was fascinating to see him mature from confident performer to a master of crowd control. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Daves, Past and Present”
It’s too bad Iron Fist wasn’t remotely close to being as entertaining and brilliant as the backlash it’s been receiving. If it had, it would’ve been as popular as Daredevil or Luke Cage as opposed to being one of the biggest punchlines of 2017.
I’m sure one day we’ll all be tired of the proverbial “T” Madame Gao is serving us.
However, today is not that day.
Shifting into Midnighter mode, I’m about to demonstrate my 8-point strike on the fustercluck of white mediocrity that is Iron Cyst.
The art of “translating” a media property from one cultural context to another requires more than simple language transliteration. Translating works of art has existed from the moment people from different cultures encountered one another. But at what point does translating something for an American audience necessitate whitewashing as well? Today, we’re going to look at two animated properties available on Netflix — Yo-Kai Watch from Japan and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir from France — to determine at which point whiteness trumps cultural context when making a kids’ show more acceptable to American audiences.
This past weekend, Netflix finally dropped all 13 episodes of Iron Fist. For the most part, the internet was not pleased. While a smattering of Fist Stans tried their damnedest to pretend what they watched was, you know, good, the consensus among critics (and fans too) was this was Marvel’s first big miss. There was one awesome outcome of the Iron Fist debacle, however: a slew of awesome comics artists began sharing their takes on a redesigned Asian American Danny (or Dani) Rand! And it all started when Jen Bartel shared her riff on Kris Anka’s original:
by Andrea Tang
This weekend, between bouts of story-editing, I meandered my way through the first four episodes of Netflix’s Iron Fist, which I’m actually quite enjoying so far, probably for the same reasons I’ve seen Vampire Academy three times. I’m pretty sure the writers pitched this series as, “What would happen if you put a goldendoodle puppy in the body of a WASPy ten-year-old blue blood, then traumatically dropped him off in the Himalayas for Fifteen Whole Gap Yahs? Probably, he would die, but that is boring and untrue to comics canon, so what if we made kung fu magic happen along the way in a manner most likely to bring the wrath of Edward Said’s ghost down on our heads? LET’S FIND OUT.”
We are rapidly approaching the release of Iron Fist, the fourth Marvel series on Netflix, and reviews have been less than kind. When the show announced it had a (non-Asian American) showrunner, NOC re-introduced the hashtag #AAIronFist. It was an attempt to get Marvel to acknowledge that Iron Fist is a character whose origins are Asian, and should be played by a person of Asian descent, to increase representation in media.
For my part, I wrote an opinion piece about why we need an #AAIronFist. I submitted that being Asian, or even half-Asian, would give Danny Rand a depth to his character that we hadn’t seen before. The “stranger in a strange land” trope where the white man is the foreigner has been done to death, and is vaguely insulting. An 8-year old orphan comes to magical Asian land and becomes the ultimate martial artist? That right there is the definition of the white savior.
Why would my approach have been more interesting? Let me educate you on what it’s like to be an outsider.
Three years ago, when I initially wrote about casting an Asian American in the lead role on Iron Fist, I had no idea the NOC would become ground zero for the #AAIronFist movement. I just never thought an Asian American Danny Rand was that radical a notion! Now that we’re on the eve of the show’s debut on Netflix — in addition to its star’s recent twitter tantrum — years-old arguments are starting to resurface on twitter and elsewhere. Coupled with early reviews savaging the series, I figured now was as good a time as any to resurrect one more Iron Fist thinkpiece before (hopefully) never having to talk about this goddamn show ever again.
Yesterday, Finn Jones, the actor playing Danny Rand on the Netflix debut of Marvel’s live action version of Iron Fist abruptly quit twitter. He wasn’t being harrassed, he wasn’t threatened, there was no controversy. In fact, to most observers, he simply seemed to be having a conversation. This raised more than a few eyebrows, especially since the show is set to debut in less than two weeks on March 17.
On Sunday night, Jones appears to have gotten into a discussion on twitter with Asyiqin Haron, a 21 year old artist from Singapore who also happens to be the creative director for Geeks of Color, (Heron’s comments are from her own personal twitter account and she was not representing GOC or tweeting from their account when she made them).
At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.
It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.
In a time where representation is such a hot topic in Hollywood, Netflix’s The OA does something few have done: cast an actual Asian transgender teenage boy as an Asian transgender teenage boy. Vietnamese-American teen Ian Alexander is one of multiple Asian actors in The OA’s main cast alongside Filipino/Puerto Rican-American Brandon Perea and British Pakistani Riz Ahmed (in a recurring role). Continuing the spotlight from his response to a viral anti-trans photo, Ian makes his on-screen acting debut as Buck Vu in the newly-released show having been cast from an online open casting call in 2015.
Growing up in places including Japan, Hawai’i, and D.C. have helped shape Ian. The fifteen-year-old high school junior has had more experiences than most teenagers his age, and his passion knows no bounds. He’s politically vocal, a huge admirer of actors and filmmakers like Jen Richards (Her Story) and Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and relentless as a Marvel fanboy (he’s “Team Bucky” for those who are curious). Ian had time to sit down and talk about his upbringing and the show (don’t worry, there are no spoilers here).