Doctor Strange. Iron Fist. Ghost in the Shell. It’s hard out there to be an Asian American actor. Or an Asian American consumer of media. Or someone who would prefer to see more Asian Americans on screen (and behind the scenes). That’s why guest host Valerie Complex (whose #IAmMajor clapback recently went viral) gathered an all-star panel to talk about being Asian in Hollywood: feminist pop culture writer Clara Mae, Geeks of Color Creative Director (and Finn Jones’ favorite person on Twitter) Asyiqin Haron, Man in the High Castle actor Lee Shorten, and (the man who should’ve been) Iron Fist’s Lewis Tan.
On February 28, I saw a 15-minute sneak peek of the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. From the announcement of the project, this has always been a bad idea. But the announcement of the cast and story has made things much worse. Most noticeably, Hollywood adaptations of Japanese anime have yet to be successful. Either their stories veer too far from the source material, the director isn’t a good fit or the casting makes no sense. You would think Hollywood would learn, yet here we are, on the precipice of another anime-adapted flop.
Here are the takeaways from what I have seen of Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell so far.
It’s been nearly a year since we were hit with the double whammy of Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johannson. Now with Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell just around the corner, we’re joined by BuzzFeed News’ entertainment reporter Susan Cheng to let us know where Asian Americans currently stand in the greater pop cultural landscape.
Last week, Warner Brothers announced the addition of a solo Nightwing film with LEGO Batman director Chris Mckay to their DC film slate. The news sent fans into an excited tizzy and resulted in a slew of potential fan-chosen actors who could play the title role.
It’s been almost 20 years since Dick Grayson last appeared on the big screen in Batman and Robin as portrayed by Chris O’Donnell. Previous actors who have played Dick Grayson — or the Robin character — have been Douglas Croft, Johnny Duncan, and Burt Ward. There have also been two television shows, The Graysons and Titans, that were meant to feature Dick Grayson as the central character. Both, unfortunately, were scraped by their respective networks.
So there’s been a lot of fan interest in a Nightwing/Dick Grayson-centric media property for a long while. Now with Warner Bros. making it official, fans are eagerly awaiting to see who will put on the black and blue suit as our hero. All the talk about who can, and should, play Dick Grayson on the big screen has also brought up the truth behind Dick’s heritage in comics canon.
That truth being Dick Grayson is part Rromani.
After reading Desiree Rodriguez’s essay about Latinx representation and how we assume one’s race based on looks, I was inspired to write my own essay on the assumption of one’s race and biracial representation, while sharing some of my experiences as a black biracial woman.
Before we go any further, I’m African-American, Greek, French, and Scottish. However, I identify as being Black-Greek, black biracial, or half black/half white. I know this is a question I’m going to get, so I had to address it as soon as possible before diving even deeper into these subjects. Please remember that not everyone who is biracial and or a POC have had the same experiences as me; however, I’m simply adding my experiences to the conversation to hopefully give a new perspective.
Last year Supergirl hit CBS with a splash raking in a whopping 13 million viewers in its pilot episode and while the shows viewership dropped after its premiere, and eventually moved to smaller network The CW to join other DCTV shows, it is still a show that’s proving to be a positive investment for the network.
Two on-going criticisms of the show, however, was the overall lack of women of color in what was supposedly a feminist superhero show, and the usage of coming out metaphors within the show’s narrative. Both criticisms were addressed during the season two promotional tour. The showrunners revealed that there would be an introduction — or rather a coming out — of a major LGBTIQA character on the show, along with the inclusion of Maggie Sawyer (a known lesbian in the DCU) and Sharon Leal as Miss Martian.
There is an old fairy tale popularized by Hans Christian Andersen as The Little Mermaid. I’m one of those odd first-and-a-half generation Vietnamese American immigrants, and tales of living in between spaces have always held my attention. The story goes that a little princess from a world under water wants to live on the land. She falls in love, exchanges her tongue for a pair of legs, and finds herself thrust into the unenviable circumstance of navigating a strange space where she literally has no voice. Ultimately finding no place for her in the world for which she had given up everything, she casts herself off the side of a ship into the ocean, drowns, and dissolves into sea foam. Victorian sentiments about Christianity and moralizing stories for children eventually got Andersen to amend the ending. This is more or less the state of Asian American identity politics. We’re always finding ourselves caught between “where we come from” and wherever we yearn to belong.
The buzz around the 2017 Ghost in the Shell film, among many other film and television projects of its ilk in recent memory, has ignited a bevy of thinkpieces about cultural appropriation and the nature of Asian American identity politics. The topic is complicated.
Wow, where to start with this trailer. It OPENS on a person in stylized Japanese esoteric garb to tell us how much we’re in that place Japan where things are weird. Who is this person? Don’t know, don’t care at all.
Then we get a pretty faithful live-action recreation of the original Ghost in the Shell’s elegant opening action sequence, pretty much nailing the point home that the only reason you aren’t aware of this seminal science-fiction already is because it didn’t have Scarlett Johannson in it, and now we fixed that for you.
Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), tells the story of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a gifted neurosurgeon who is wrapped up in his own vanity. After karma executes Stephen’s fate he suffers irreversible damage to his hands, destroying his valued medical career. His desperate search for physical healing takes him to the Far East to a place called Kamar-Taj. There he meets the “Ancient One,” (Tilda Swinton) a mystical witch with undisputed power, and Baron Mordor (Chewitel Ejiofor) one of the chief masters of the Kamar-Taj temple. Strange believes the Ancient One is the key to healing his hands and returning back to the medical field. Little does he know he is smack in the middle of a war between good and evil. His visit to Kamar-Taj will be a turning point for Stephen Strange. He chooses to learn the ways of the arts but isn’t sure if this magical war is a good fit for him.
Six months and change after the release of its first trailer — and therefore about the same amount of time since co-writer C. Robert Cargill’s infamous “[t]he social justice warriors were going to get mad at us for something this week” rebuttal to Asian American critics of the film’s whitewashing — the initial reviews are in for Doctor Strange, and they’re not encouraging.
Oh, the movie? Actually, the critics seem to like it just fine. Being The Nerds of Color, however, we’re interested in looking at a different metric. Doctor Strange’s whitewashing of primary character The Ancient One was, after all, one of the driving forces behind the hashtag and rallying cry #whitewashedOUT in May.
So no, this isn’t a review of Doctor Strange the film, but a review of the reviews of the film, using a simple standard: how accurately and humanely did each review portray Asian American dissent over the whitewashing of The Ancient One?
Even though we originally wanted him to play Peter Parker in Civil War, there’s a new campaign to get Ryan Potter a live action superhero role. As previously discussed, #RyanPotterForTimDrake is the latest fan-led hashtag that’s gaining steam on the internet. Part of the reason is because Potter himself has been very vocal about it. So he came on Hard NOC Life to talk about what it means to be Robin. Just in time for #BatmanDay!
This morning, Deadline unveiled the first trailer for Birth of the Dragon, which recently made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Ostensibly, the film depicts the legendary fight between Bruce Lee (played by Philip Ng) and Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia). But because this is Hollywood, the movie is going to be told from the perspective of a white dude.
What does it mean to be Latinx in comics?
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. Growing up snatching up whatever scraps of Latinx representation I could even if it meant settling for stereotypes, whitewashing, secondary character status (if lucky), and their stories ending in death. This is a plight many fans of color and other marginalized peoples can relate to. In comics, Latinx characters are often Latinx in name only, Spanish characters being positioned or promoted as Latinx characters, whitewashed, or having their Latinx identities erased.
The trailer for The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou, dropped yesterday and my first reaction to seeing it:
What. The. Frack?
Why is a white dude in a film about the construction of the Great Wall? And there’s dragons? One of them is voiced by Willem Dafoe? HUH??
Earlier this month we learned that David Franzoni, the Oscar-nominated writer and Oscar-winning producer of Gladiator, is working on a new screenplay based on the life of Persian poet and scholar Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.
We also learned, in an interview with The Guardian, that the writer would like Rumi to be played in this film by a white man.
Continuing our special live recordings of Hard NOC Life from the Smithsonian’s CrossLines pop-up culture lab on intersectionality. We were joined by young adult fantasy author and online activist, Ellen Oh.
This guy. Playing somebody named Takeshi, who is specifically described in the articles as being at least biracial Japanese.
Last week, a contingency of Nerds of Color were invited to speak at Pandora Radio as part of the company’s Mixtape Rap Sessions. Representing the NOC were Julie Kang, Shawn Taylor, and Valerie Complex, as well as Salim French, host of the podcast Blacker Than Black TImes Infinity. This was a reunion of sorts of the NOC panel that was a highlight of last month’s inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con.
Over the weekend, I was invited to join a CCTV America newscast — the Stateside arm of China Central Television — to discuss Hollywood’s continuing habit of erasing Asians and Asian Americans from the movies. It was my first time as an in-studio guest, but I was able to join anchorwoman Susan Roberts live from Washington, DC. Check out the video of the segment after the jump.
There’s been so much talk about Ghost in the Shell, Dr. Strange, whitewashing, yellowface, and underrepresentation I bet some of you out there are saying, “Man, I might be at my limit!” But wait, there’s more!
When the first look image of Scarlett Johansson as The Major came out, tons of people, Ghost in the Shell fans and regular movie fans alike, were dismayed that yet another opportunity to cast talented Asian actresses passed Hollywood by. Or to put it another way, folks were upset that Hollywood didn’t take the opportunity to advance itself into something better than it has been.
If ever there were a family of real life superheroes, it would be the Pogue Clan. Their story is an inspirational one and I’ve been proud to call these four friends (family, rather) for many years.
So when patriarch Paul F.P. Pogue informed me had a new web series in development, suffice it to say I was stoked and had to learn more about Dr. Beyond and the Agents of ABOVE.
You readers are in for a real treat. Today Paul and I discuss his new project, all things eighties, casting an Asian lead, whitewashing in Hollywood, and why diversity and multiculturalism should be a priority for everyone.
Today is the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Hollywood has been preparing for this month by announcing film after film after film with white people playing Asians. To that end, we’ve teamed up with some of the minds behind #WeNeedDiverseBooks and comedian/actress Margaret Cho to launch a new movement to tell Hollywood we are #whitewashedOUT.