Friday, July 16, 2010

Things White Authors Like To Do: Call For Comfort

Sandra Modell,

The word you are avoiding mentioning in your journal (including keeping out of comments), the word that upset a fellow Clarion West workshop attendee, the word you are claiming you had no idea could trigger such upset - is NIGGER TOES.

And you're claiming White Woman Tears for that??!

Talking about how: "A confused reader is an antagonistic reader." Call it a hunch, but I'm fairly certain Ursula Le Guin would be just a little bit appalled to see a quote of hers used to distract away from a critical point of media representation for minorities by a writer so encased in privilege that she, (you), could claim you stand outside your own society and are not caught up in stereotypes - because somehow, you alone have the power to save the universe not pay attention to them.

"I wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of driving me away." - you say in the same post in which you mention someone so upset by your written word that they were crying and stammering. But YOU are the victim. YOU are the one made to feel SMALL, because someone pointed out your words, were incredibly racist.

You also claim "I’m not ashamed of what I wrote. I can see why it upset people, but I’m not ashamed."

So apparently you're yet another recruit to keeping the SFF genre so disgusting, ismist and self satisfied no minorities will want anything to do with it. Well that's one way to keep it 'pure' I'm sure.

PS: The real victim in all this is NOT the story. The story wasn't reduced to tears and anger at yet another set of stereotypes, animalistic stereotypes, about itself and similar others. The story didn't sit in that workshop and hear itself casually slurred. The story didn't get called confused and antagonistic aka 'emotional angry black woman/person'. The story didn't have you judging it.

You admit right off you LIKE your story. You called the woman who pointed out how hurtful it was 'the one who set off the powder keg'.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Bigger Picture

Glockgal is smart and has pointed out that with M. Night. Shyalaman fanning all the flames to himself, it protects the Studio, the Casting Company, the Producers et al from any blow-back from the problematic casting. Right now they're primarily taking heat for hiring him - but not for anything else.

I'm incredibly WTF and boggled at MNS's statements. Incredibly.

But Paramount is the one who sent back protest letters, who wouldn't meet with concerned activist groups, who lied about receiving the blessing from various activist and empowerment groups, who gave the go-ahead for the toys to reflect the white leads (and those predominately male), and for the movie based manga to be more than ambiguous on the side of whiteness (ie - Manga!Zuko looks nothing like Dev Patel so who do they think they're kidding?).

No matter MNS's contributions, he got support
from the Studio (Paramount) and the Producers

Let us not forget Deedee Ricketts;

"If you're Korean, wear a kimono. If you're from Belgium, wear lederhosen..."

Let us not forget Jackson Rathbone (steeped in the institutionalized racism of Hollywood);

”I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It’s one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit.”

Let us not forget;

“Caucasian or any other ethnicity.”

Racism Is More Than A Hat You Put On In The Morning

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And He Opened His Mouth Further. And I Saw Feces.

M. Night. Shyalaman shows the world, for sure that he knows and cares nothing for critical race theory, or institutionalized racism in Hollywood (and its products); and that he believes as a member of a minority he should be exempt from being called on his own actions within, and which uphold oppressive, excluding systems.

Shyalaman displays a distinct lack of knowledge on anime, the anime style and a little simple thing called cultural markers - ahem, except of course, perhaps, when it comes to his own culture.

And finally, he shows a strong bias against criticism; strong enough to make one wonder if lack of criticism is what has resulted in TLA Movie bombing as it has - at least (at this time) with cinema critics.

I personally think the movie (as described by critics and viewing audience) shows he also cares nothing about strong female characters (even those that attract his own daughter) or the struggle for respect and equality between the sexes.

I've said that before that I thought; "Katara will be pretty and emotionally strong but not a warrior, not describable as kick-ass, because Night's female characters are never kick-ass. They're enduring with quirk sprinkles."

But I've been shaking my head and shaking my head at previous interviews that I, generously it seems, thought misguided and perhaps a little ego inflated. But with this interview...

C/p snippet here (emphasis in quotes mine):

JC: I know you’ve gotten this question quite a bit, but I have to ask it because -- I’m sure other members of the press have told you this, too – I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from the members of the Racebending group, especially in the days leading up to the release of this film. And again, they’re expressing their concerns about the lack of Asian or Asian-American actors cast in the film. What is your response to that at this point? Do you have anything further to say on that issue?

MNS: They’re misguided.

JC: Okay--

MNS: They’re aware I’m Asian, right?

JC: I would think so.

MNS: And that Dev [Patel]’s Asian, and Assif [Mandvi]’s Asian, and everybody’s, I mean – it’s incredible to think that there’s a correct Asian here. They don’t own this series. They don’t own all these cultures. The word Avatar is a Sanskrit word. So it’s all cultures that are put together. There’s no correct background here. They should ask: why does Noah Ringer look like a duplicate – a duplicate – of the cartoon guy? Why? He’s a dupe.

Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It’s meant to be interpretive. It’s meant to be inclusive of all races, and you can see yourself in all these characters. My daughter saw herself as Kitara[sic] and now her friend who’s Hispanic sees herself as Kitara[sic], and that’s totally valid. This is a multicultural movie and I’m going to make it even more multicultural in my approach to its casting. There’s African-Americans in the movie … so it’s a source of pride for me. The irony that they would label this with anything but the greatest pride, that the movie poster has Noah and Dev on it and my name on it. I don’t know what else to do.

JC: Does it offend you that they’re defining Asian in what you perceive as a limited way when you consider yourself Asian?

MNS: I think it’s convenient for their argument. Their issue isn’t with me. Their issue is with the artists that invented anime. The story of "The Last Airbender" is an ambiguous story. These cultures are not defined. There is no Inuit woman who looks like Kitara[sic]. That’s not the reality of things. That’s not the way they’re drawn. Talk to the people who drew them. So you’re talking to the wrong person. I’m actually doing a very culturally diverse movie. In fact, I believe it’s the most culturally diverse tent pole movie ever made. And the series will be, if we’re lucky enough to make all three, without a peer -- without a peer -- one of the most culturally diverse movies ever made. It doesn’t have, like, a token person. The entire landscape will be ethnically diverse. That’s the entire point of the series.

I just can’t even believe that having achieved this – I’m the one that fought to get this movie made – having to do all of this and the opportunities I’m getting to do this in this way, and bring all these cultures to the table and all these ideas to a mass audience. 85 percent of the audience will have not seen the show. Right? Around the world. And I’m going to introduce them to all of this. Like the Uncle Iroh character is literally the wisest person in the movie and I believe Shaun Toub [the actor who plays him] is Persian. I forget where he’s from, but he’s clearly not white. On and on.

And Dev is what the movie’s about, his character, where he goes is what the movie’s about. Just that I have to defend this is -- it’s outrageous.


M. Night Shyalaman, in his own words asking why folk are being ungrateful, thinking 15 seconds equals non tokenism and also a show of diversity, alongside brown folk as the villains.

Check out a rebuttal on the Racebending Comm. There's also a link from there, to the original article.

If you want to get to the article from here, however; By clicking this link, I affirm I have taken a deep breath, and time and space to calm down. If I comment on the article at this link, I will not bring cause to have 'the tone argument' brought up and thus muddy the issue. I will not mock, patronize, insult or just plain cuss out M.Night.Shyalaman.

He already thinks people pointing out his faults and faulty actions are rabble-rousing peasantry, folk; disrespectful gutterswine. And while it's true, that gutterswine can see things other people might not; for even those who are as reasonable as can be he's steadfast in this belief that only certain types of people are being critical and does not need further reason to hold up in his bubble of fantasy.

One Last Thought / Dissecting A Scene

The more I hear about the horrid and awful that is The Last AirRacebender, the more I find myself thinking about the story arc that MNS chose to tell vs the one I keep seeing in my head;

The Boy In The Iceberg, -> The Spirit World -> The Winter Solstice (Avatar Roku) -> The Water Bending Master - > The Siege of the North.

Sure it leaves many things out. But there would be time enough to expand in later movies; open up the world and include some b-plots or side-adventures. It's the movie-verse, an alternate telling of the same tale; events could be moved around the time-line, or have a few combinations here and there on littler things. But isn't that a good arc for a first movie - showing off who the characters all are, what the world is, what the stakes are?

Every character has a chance to shine in the arc in my head; Sokka as brave and loyal and a sneaky tactical thinker; Aang as cheerful and sensitive and dedicated despite feeling weighed down by heavy responsibility; Katara as nurturing but also strong willed and a leader; Zuko as emotionally bruised, but determined and a fighter. And I almost forgot the nods to Iroh's spirituality and strong sense of family and the showcasing of Zhao's ambition and competitiveness.

When I figured out for myself and was then told, that the 'camp' I kept seeing in trailers really was the Earthbender Prison, I couldn't believe it. Earthbenders imprisoned while surrounded by dirt, rock, stone, shale, and mud? What possible reason could there be for such a ridiculous set up? For the story to change that much? Why even include references to 'Imprisoned' - it was a great Katara piece, but it wasn't necessary to the full arc.

And now I see reviewers talking about Aang as a quasi-messianic figure and I know. You had to have that piece where the white boy inspires the brown people to help themselves, to realize the tools are all around them if only they were bright enough/motivated enough to see it. If you're going to make said white boy into a Quasi Messianic Figure (the tattoo makes a cross on his back); into a specific kind of Chosen One; you've got to give him someone to save - a mission for a missionary. In fact the plight of the poor brown people is what should inspire the White Chosen One, to take up his White Man's Burden to lead.


I'm just going to let that sit there - crappy adaptation with an unnecessary section, made further defunct by set piece and MNS's intervention to make the Fire Nation need sources of fire which results in the oppressed looking pathetic and unthinking and by cutting out Suki and The Kyoshi Warriors, MNS's interpretation of them as freedom fighters means that the Earth Benders & Earth Kingdom isn't shown fighting back at all without the Avatar there to inspire them.

And of course cutting out Suki and The Kyoshi Warriors is a double blow. Katara is already no longer a heroine of colour, but now she's not fighting against sexist attitudes within friend and foe. No Suki means that the Kyoshi warriors can't shake Sokka's original sexist attitudes, or bond with Katara over it.

So much fail in one scene, in just one part of MNS's 'vision'. So much that is so far away from the original source material. So much of the messages of the series, lost, warped or twisted.

Did Nickolodeon think about damage to the animated franchise while watching MNS move further and further away from their unexpectedly but wildly successful property? Are they thinking about it now? About mothers who control the tv remote? Fathers who don't believe in violence over reason?

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were lied to. And so were we fans. You can see it all in that one scene, even in a simple trailer.