Jul. 3rd, 2010 04:29 pm
I've been thinking: The one thing I can sort of see M Night Shyamalan's point about is the changing of the pronunciation of the names. But my problem with his argument "I made them sound more properly Asian," is that I think he is grossly overgeneralizing how Asian languages pronounce things. (And that "Sokka" and "Katara" are not exactly supposed to be any kind of Asian name. And I see no evidence whatsoever that he went and looked up how the relevant indigenous populations pronounce things. I'd be okay if he had researched any of them, really -- Inuit, Aleut, Ainu -- hell, I'd probably have been okay with something as far-flung as Sami or Siberian or Samoan, at least it would show research rather than assumption.) He says "Avatar" is a Sanskrit word (which it is, obviously) and then takes this as license to pronounce everything in an Indian way, because people mispronounced his name when he was small (and I don't discount that at all) but I don't think this course of logic entirely follows. All rectangles are not squares -- all Asians are not Indian.

I fell into this trap once, getting annoyed with "Lost" for pronouncing "Jin" to rhyme with the drink and "Sun" like the object in the sky. I made quite a point of calling the characters JEEN and SOON, to prove, what, that I wasn't some lazy American or whatever. But guess what -- I was a wrong, silly, misguided and obnoxious outsider person trying to force what rules I knew from Japanese onto the Korean language which is not the same. (I stopped. And luckily I didn't do it much anyway -- it's not my favorite show to discuss by any stretch ^__^ -- and not to anyone who really cared.)

So I guess I'm still displeased with M. Night. He might actually have a point, but I just don't trust him.

(Even though in my head I still can't help calling Zuko's girlfriend something that sounds like "My." ^___^)
I have quite a few thoughts on this, and I wonder if they are, um, extremely me-biased.

Obviously the question has come up rather a lot -- why are people so incensed about the live AtlA casting, but not about the casting of non-Asian/Pacific Rim voice actors?

And my gut feeling always goes directly towards the day I found out that one of the major voice talents in "Dave the Barbarian" (don't judge me :-D) was Erica Lutrell, playing the oldest sister in a family of pre-Christianity Vikings. And it wasn't a great role of operatic scope and versatility (she was basically a pre-era mallrat) -- but if she was forced to wait around for a role that matched her face, she would have wound up playing yet another one of those obnoxious "sassy" belligerent black sidekick girls (YEAH I MEAN YOU, "AMERICAN DRAGON") that piss me off so much, that are never, ever accompanied by anything other than a hip hop soundtrack. (There is nothing wrong with a hip hop soundtrack. But there are a hell of a lot of other possible soundtracks in the world, for god's sake. And some of us black girls are actually quite introverted and completely devoid of sass. I couldn't muster up sass if you paid me in gold-pressed latinum. Startling, I know!!) Note: This was 2004. I think there's a tad more variety now.

The voice acting community is very small, and voice acting is a very different skill set than visual acting, something I think even a lot of industry insiders don't really understand properly, seeing all the stunt casting the do with big-name Hollywood actors being shunted into animated programs and, all too often, failing to shine (not always! But sometimes, abysmally). And (I believe) you absolutely cannot cast someone who needs to be very much trained into a (planned) long-running series, as you might be able to in a one-shot movie situation. So yes, a lot of the same people in that small community get voice acting jobs over and over again, and the ones that get the most jobs tend to be GOOD (so good that you cannot recognize them sometimes). I cannot, for example, begrudge Phil LaMarr, Grey DeLisle, or Tara Strong anything they might choose to do ever ever ever. They are genius, chameleon, multi-multitalented people. Phil LaMarr needs laud and praise and an award of some kind, seriously. Or another example -- I would hate to see Dante Basco excluded from voicing teenage boys because he is now in his thirties, which would definitely happen in live-action. And, yeah, Tara Strong. Who is obviously not a baby or a ten year old boy in real life...but has made these roles into staples.)

So with AtlA, I'm not inclined to hold any grudges on that score -- I know they put some effort into multi-ethnic casting on the one hand, and on the other hand, more or less everyone they cast in main roles was seasoned. (Even Aang's tiny voice actor had already done another long-running voice-acting gig and knew the score.) And yes, eventually they replaced Iroh's voice actor with a white one, but one who had long studied the original actor's voice patterns and idiosyncracies specifically to be able to do justice to the man's work -- with respect.

I am still, after all these years, inclined to see an adorable black-haired "Sanada Ryo" in my head whenever I hear blond Canadian Matt Hill speak, regardless of role -- even when he does live action. Seriously, I hear the guy talking, I see his mouth moving, and I can't help but imagine a cartoon Ryo in a soundstage with headphones on while Hill lip-synchs. The picture of a Japanese teenage boy is firmly settled in my head for all time. I'm sorry Matt!!!

That is to say: The visuals remain the same, and they remain the thing that has the most impact. (The voice actor's take does matter -- I watched AtlA in French and Spanish and believe me, a different voice interpretation can skew the characterization ENTIRELY -- in French, Aang is totally a 16-year-old, and in Spanish Toph is that close to being an outright man -- but a different voice actor does not tend to really change the race of a character onscreen. "AtlA" exists in English, French, German, Japanese, Thai, Spanish, Dutch if I'm not mistaken, Korean I'd bet money, as well as others -- none of these versions are "less real," and none of this can vastly alter the ethnicities of the people we see onscreen.)

So, overall, I fault the voice acting industry about a thousand times less for their behavior than I do the visual film people, who sit at tables and say awful, horrible things that I then read about on blogs. ("But WHY does the character have to be [insert nonwhite, nonmale caterory of person here]? Obviously there has to be a specific reason.") There is ALWAYS room for improvement, especially as far as actors getting work who tend to be unfairly excluded, but it's a complicated thing with nuances in it as far as impact on audience goes.

There are no #@$&*&((*#$* nuances in this live-action production. It is just badness.

That's my two cents.

(Dante Basco touches on some of these topics -- he's focusing on live acting, here. "Believe me, as an actor, it’s no easy answer. My first gut feeling is, the best actor should be cast for the job no matter race… But maybe that’s just an ideal that is unreal when it comes to making a movie, and making a big budget movie at that. See, my whole career is based on playing roles that were not written race specific, matter fact, if I had to wait for Hollywood to come along with a script for a Filipino American, I would have no career at all.")
Yeah, this pretty much. A chocolate coating to make the bitter white pill go down faster

This is how I feel when I see the Dragonball commercials. Giving the white guy a black sidekick DOES NOT make up for kicking all the Asians out (or in Avatar, casting the dark-skinned South Asians as the persecutor of the golden protagonists, when in the original cartoon THEY WERE ALL ASIAN/PACIFIC ET CETERA. Okay there were Aztecs and Guru Patik, but for the most part, you know). This just exacerbates the false-dichotomy idea of America, and I don't like being used in this way, and I don't like the resentment it fosters, and yes I do indeed blame shit like this when other minorities come and tell us that black people are whiny don't have problems anymore. With this sort of crap being the most visible you can hardly blame them.

*tsu blames media yet again*
Miranda Cosgrove as Toph!???!

Oy. Well, I guess there are... rumors of her part-Filipina-ness?
Oh for god's sake.

Somebody explain to me why this kid is not playing Zuko. Come on. Explain it to me. Make it plausible. Go ahead.

*headdesking into unconsciousness*


Freaking "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior" isn't enough Disney-kid cred??!

And here's a cute little Aang-type.

Go on, explain! I'll wait.


Feb. 3rd, 2009 05:29 pm
Stolen from [ profile] corvus_imbrifer:

Well...well this doesn't suck.

Avatar Cast Gets Colorful, Finally

I... I dunno. On the one hand, Dev Patel is South Asian and actually knows how to do martial arts. I've seen him do 'em. (I think he's a black belt in tae kwon do.) And I thought he was lovely in "Slumdog Millionaire." I was happily surprised. On the other hand, the character of Anwar from "Skins" did not set the bar way high for me.

On another more important hand, I think their motives here are far more SLUMDOG IS POPULAR OMG (and so we can throw a bone now)!!! And far less, y'know, represent the actual show. (Also...darker guy chasing pale protagonists across the world and calling them offensive names....Oh, I don't know. I don't know. Rathbone, get to work on your #$&*&(#$ tan *eyeroll*)

(How reliable is this site!!??)

Read more... )
[The quote is yanked from elsewhere.]

I have been pondering for a couple weeks now (actually, I ponder this a lot, but it's been particularly on my mind recently) a big WHY I find rattling around in my head. To wit:

Why do I find this:

Due in theaters in summer 2010, "Airbender" has already begun to face a bit of controversy over the casting of white actors like Rathbone, Ringer and McCartney to play Asian characters — a concern the actor was quick to dismiss. "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan," he said of the transformation he'll go through to look more like Sokka. "It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."

...more offensive, at a visceral, gut level, than Angelina Jolie playing a biracial black/white woman in "A Mighty Heart"?????

Read more... )
After today, I am going on a complete-positivity bender for a while, because the more I pursue this, the more infuriating I find it. (It's not even new stuff, just the repetition of the same old stupid.)

What we talk about when we talk about -- [ profile] ciderpress on the A the Last A casting.

"Then the youngest, all of 7 years old, asked me whether this meant that he couldn't be Aang when he played Avatar with his friends from now on"


cut for addendum )

ADDENUDUM TWO: Or pretty much what this guy says.

"They loved and honored east Asian culture (clarified, as pan-Asian is not what the show was), so they set out to share that love and that respect. Why was every speculative world out there set in a vaguely European world, anyway? We don't have to subscribe to Eurocentricism. We don't have to acknowledge the tyranny of the default. We don't have to do things that way, so we won't. We'll be diverse and inclusive and our show will be all the more awesome for it.

Do you see the problem with the casting?

What does this casting choice say to me, the angry Asian man? It says that every time somebody speaks more slowly and loudly to me because they assume that English isn't my first tongue, they're right to do so, because I'm not normal. It says that when my freshman year roommate thought that the delivery guy calling with my order was my dad, I shouldn't have been offended, because the guy sounded Chinese on the phone, so how was he supposed to know, right? It says that every time somebody asks me to translate a random set of pictographic characters for them, they're right to do so, because I know ancient Asian secrets." [...]

I may talk about Firefly in a bit.

teeny footnote )
Best collection of comments so far.


"Because it’s so obvious that the characters are meant to be Asian that I think anyone who says they aren’t is smoking something. Good grief, they write in Chinese characters/Japanese kanji. They use chopsticks and teacups without handles. They have names like Mai and Toph Bei Fong*. They wear Korean hanboks and Chinese scholars’ robes and Japanese feudal battle-armor and Inuit sealskin. If they’re meant to be white, then why not pepper the show with the trappings of European culture instead?"

(Me -- and sometimes they write in Hangul!)

I think more people need to read this art book to find out what people actually look like.

Free glimpses here:

Not exhaustive, but plenty-plenty extensive. (I discovered this woman on [ profile] little_details)

As a culture, the West is overly reliant on color as a signifier (including eye and hair color) -- we don't remember often enough that if you stick blue contacts or do eye-fold surgery on a East Asian they still look Asian, and that a black with vitiligo doesn't suddenly start "passing." (How, after all, do we think blacks and Asians and Middle Easterners tell each other apart? Recognize their family members?**)

Avatar paid so much attention to this sort of detail that this whole thing seems far more egregious than "Earthsea" to me (in scope, if nothing else. This is a feature film, not a TV miniseries, and the Avatar dudes were far more blatant than Le Guin was able to be, in 1969).


*Me again -- and furthermore, the Chinese characters of her name spellout "Tao Fu" -- her full name sounds like "tough" in English (as we see her) but the spelling means "supported lotus" -- weak little flower (as her parents saw her). This is not randomly done, guys!

**LOL -- Actually, I tend to recognize my friends by their gait.
[ profile] tablesaw says in detail what I don't have the patience to say right now.

The "Avatar" casting

Look, I understand that it's hard to analyze this stuff from the inside, to step outside oneself and study like an anthropologist. This is why they offer PhD's in that shite.

But this all comes from this unspoken idea that white is not so much a color as it is a template, and that all other ethnicities are to be evaluated by the degree to which they "deviate" from it -- with, of course, all the negative connotations of "deviance" lurking always right under the surface, just waiting... (Hence, a long time ago, a friend of mine telling me "Well, you can can't really caricature white people like other races, because there's so much variety!" -- no, you're just paying more attention to the variety in one group and believing overgeneralizations about the others.)

I do believe that these people think, subconsciously or not, that by casting all-white actors, they are actually being "neutral." (Whoo hoo! Universal appeal! I'm colorblind!) But there is no such thing as neutral. (Why should there be? Who wants to be neutral and un-special?)

The flip side -- hell, not even flip -- is this assertion that unhyphenated white Americans are somehow not "ethnic," that because their culture sort of permeates everything here by osmosis and is therefore not so noticeable, that it doesn't exist. That it's not really a culture, it's just a mundane reality. And everything else is quirky, or earthy, or spiritually in-tune, or some other form of fetishizable weird, or whatever.

(This is why I didn't really like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding": Rather than the couple reaching a nice happy medium of compromise, he was simply subsumed into her culture, as if he didn't actually have one. Like being American white is the same as being a blank slate. That's not good either.)

Was Shyamalan pressured in some way?

(Oh god, it just occurred to me the insanely vertiginous camera tricks they're going to have to use to make these kids look good at martial arts. Urp.)

(You know, if they DID hire a bunch of insane, Olympic-level martial artists and gymnasts and we just don't know yet, it could change my whole outlook on this. So far all we know is the Aang pick is a martial artist...but he has to actually fight other people! Primarily Zuko, who is meant to be at least a little bit scary¡ He's not going to just execute forms by himself!)

I have no clue how I achieved that upside-down exclamation point.


Dec. 10th, 2008 05:17 pm


Jesse McCartney as Prince Zuko.

And yet, to be quite honest, I could fall down and die of not-surprise.

*quietly lumbers off to read Ursula K. LeGuin...*



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