NEW SPOKEN WORD VIDEO! “Colorblind” - a response to racism in film, media, and theater.
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Yo but The Last Airbender shoutout gave me chills
ALL OF THIS
I got chills. Give this man an award for all this truth.
Really good. It somehow reminds me of this one chilling passage in Steinbeck’s East of Eden: this main character, Lee—a Chinese immigrant and servant in the 1800s—spoke perfect English. Better English than the white farmers who’d lived in the Salinas valley for generations. But to be understood by those white farmers, Lee had to speak in pigdin. A heavy accent. Why was this? Because Lee’s pigdin was expected, accepted. It conveyed his message but didn’t make him stand out. If Lee spoke that perfect, perfect English—well, none of his words would be processed by society, because everyone would be too focused on the startling sound of his speech. It was a game, all a game. And Steinbeck showed that, against the masses, Lee couldn’t win. And that’s not right.
You’d think our society would’ve progressed since Steinbeck’s time, but the problems are the same. They’re just conveyed through different media.
I also cheer whenever I see Asian characters in TV or movies, though it doesn’t happen much, and when it does, it’s sometimes even more offensive than no Asians at all. Hello, why is the diner owner of 2 Broke Girls a short Asian guy who speaks with an accent, can’t get women and is the antithesis of hip, whereas no other race is represented so blatantly stereotypical on the entire show? Not that 2 Broke Girls is some breakthrough exemplary casting hero of television or anything (it’s basically the opposite) but it represents the sort of canned-laughter sitcom that is still the prototype for media today EVEN THOUGH it claims to be stepping in the right direction with 2 female leads. Glee is a better example as a show that is on a equal representation crusade. While it does do many many admirable things, it is still lacking. How did Tina and Mike, the only two Asian members of Glee (and pretty much the only ones on the entire show, secondary and tertiary characters included) end up dating? They ‘bonded’ at Asian camp. How does the show get them to interact with each other? They talk about having dim sum with Mike’s mom. There’s nothing wrong with Asians hooking up (or any other ethnicity in any combination - although we rarely see anything out of hetero and white) but frankly if they weren’t both Asian there would be no other reason for Glee to put them together.
I don’t mind a lack of minority ethnicity if it makes sense - I expect no Asians in a Elizabethan period film - but contemporary media’s choices on the whole do NOT make sense and display an obvious bias against Asian characters, actors, and Asian centric scenarios. Why are Caucasians constantly cast for Asian characters for no good reason other than that Asians are still seen at the exotic Other? The absence of the Asian presence is one thing, but misrepresentation is at the best ridiculous and at the worst harmful.
I’ve lived in very tolerant cities in Canada, where the Asian populations are relatively high (MUCH more than the American average of 5.6%), but I still have multiple experiences where people make irrelevant assumptions about me or ask stupid questions, like why I don’t have an accent if I’m an immigrant or if I have a black belt. Why is it that the population in America which statistically has the greatest proportion of people with post-secondary education and the highest average income gets portrayed as the very opposite? Why is it that the largest immigration group of our decade is also the one that is most ignored in media?
I grew up knowing that I had the ambition to be someone and do something - but I wasn’t sure if I had the name to fit. Even in the past few years, as I’ve burrowed deeper into academia - generally a tolerant and international community - I wondered if I should take on some sort of pen name for my research, because it didn’t feel successful to have an Chinese last name. I can list famous Caucasian scientists at the drop of a hat: Hawking, Goodall, Dawkins, Watson… but other than Suzuki, can you think of any well-known Asian researchers? Even in my own field, European names such as Danto, Krauss, and Nochlin reign supreme, whereas I cannot even think of ONE Asian-American prominent in Art History. I know that ethnic presence in fields of research have so many different variables that explains for this fact, and that it isn’t quite the same as the media’s lack of Asians.
But that’s even scarier - to generalize, produced media (i.e. stuff that is planned and finished, such as movies) has the ability to CREATE characters and the power to CHOOSE the cast. So all of this disappointment is due to conscious decisions; there are people who sit in a room and decide to cast white Goku and white Aang and write all Asian characters as a Jackie Chan caricature. There are also people who sit in movie theatres or their living rooms and continue to accept and support those choices. Why?