Asian Representation in Media: The Art of Yellowface and Cultural Appropriation in the name of “Feminism”
There has been a specific issue that has particularly angered and annoyed me. That issue is asian representation in media particularly with the use of yellowface and cultural appropriation in Hollywood/Celebrity Culture. Also the role of Hollywood not casting/hiring asian directors, actors, and actresses. I could talk about Ironfist and Matt Damon in The Great Wall which uses the white saviour narrative and asian people as background characters but I am going to focus on white woman and there “white feminism”.
1. Lets start off recently with the photoshoot Vogue did with Karlie Kloss. In this photoshoot, Karlie Kloss, a white woman, is portraying a geisha with the background being Japan. This is not only a case of yellowface but also an instance for the Western audience of Vogue to consume an orientalist fantasy. Karlie Kloss, has apologized but it means nothing from a person who also wore a Native-American headdress at Victoria Secret fashion show and most likely will not face any consequences for her actions. 2. Scarlett Johansson portraying Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell is another instance of yellowface and a white actor taking a role from an Asian person. There has been a lot of controversy with this movie among asian fans. I haven’t watched the trailer because not going to support this trash movie but from what I read online the whole entire background of the movie is set in Japan. The story/setting is Japanese with scenes of japanese characters death. One argument is but “Motoko is a cyborg, cyborgs don’t have a race”. To shut down that argument in the trailer Motoko’s mom is a Japanese woman and in the manga there are clear visual distinctions between caucasian and asian women. Also there was the whole controversy of CGI people with asian features. 3. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. There has been controversy this movie with the casting and with the whole Tilda Swinton vs. Margaret Cho emails. First off, two asian characters Wong and the Ancient One in comics were incredibly racist depictions of asian people. The writers and directors changed Wong to not be just a sidekick and manservant to Doctor Strange but to be a strong character by himself, arguably. With that information, they did not even try to do the same with the Ancient One but instead cast a white woman. With the whole Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho emails it was a classic case of a white woman wanting a person of colour to ease their white guilt and get approval from person of colour to forgive them of their mistakes. Tilda Swinton also tried to play the victim with the whole “it’s hard for a 55-year old, Scottish woman to get roles”. Well, it is hard for asian people to get roles period. Not only that the whole Doctor Strange movie reeked of orientalism. 4. Lastly, the Mulan movie from Disney. Another movie that had a lot of controversy when the initial script had the whole white saviour narrative written on it but then Disney reassured us that it would star asian characters. Mulan, recently got a director, Niki Caro, a white woman. There are so many asian directors that could’ve been given a chance but no they chose a white woman. There are asian directors that are also women. I solved your problem Disney.
In regards, to Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton, and Mulan this has been framed as a step towards “feminism” or framed as in the name of “feminism”. This isn’t an “asian vs. woman issue” you can have woman who are also from asian descent. WOW. This is literally a prime example of white feminism. Then there is Karlie Kloss who issued the apology with all I want to do is empower women and girls like that is such BS. You only want to empower white women. I am sick and tired of seeing white people take our roles and projects that are aimed for us. All of these examples, the use asian culture and asian people as the background just shows how disposable and unimportant we are and our stories are. It also shows the blatant white supremacy and capitalism interwoven in society/Hollywood. It shows how the “white gaze” works to favour white, Western audiences. There are 48 countries in Asia. We are not monolithic people. All I want and a lot of asians want is proper, media representation of Asian people.
i think a p. handy definition of white feminism is ppl being excited over the possibility of tilda swinton playing a ~traditionally male~ marvel character…who is a 500 year old tibetan. bc tibetan men are so overrepresented in the media.
marvel: ok so we cast benedict cumberbatch as a character who many read as not white and whose backstory is Fucking Extra Racist As Shit if cast with a non-asian (esp white) actor.
marvel: how do we make people stop complaining
marvel: I GOT IT. white lady as a canonically definitely no-doubt asian character.
So before I get into this list I just wanted to say that yes, I saw The Interview and it was not that funny. The movie is nowhere near Team America levels of getting angry at at all. If True Detective was a movie, I’d without a doubt have that as best of the year bar none. Two films I debated that should be included were American Sniper and Unbroken, but the more I thought, the more these films went further and further into the enjoyed camp rather than great. I also want to thank you the reader for making my best of 2013 so popular. It’s cause of you guys I keep this going when I can. Now with that out of the way let’s get on with this list beloveds.
36. Calvary - John Michael McDonagh’s second film is not as strong as his first, The Guard, but this dark drama has a priest staying resilient while facing a tough choice in town that doesn’t want him.
35. Obvious Child – At first, the protagonist started off much like many women I know in Brooklyn. Whimsical, flakey, flighty and aloof. But halfway through the movie she realizes she’s fucked up and tries to fix that without changing herself. Smart, funny, mature, delightful all describe this very simple rom-com about a struggling comedienne who has to face the consequences of a one night stand. This was a perfect vehicle for Jenny Slate.
34. Only Lovers Left Alive – What’s crazy is Jimmy said he had written action scenes into this film. When it was requested that he do more he cut them all out making the film as sparse as possible. The film is really hypnotic and the scenes of Adam driving Eve around a hallowed out Detroit were a nice bit of social commentary. Also, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton have amazing chemistry that without it, this film would not work at all. The vampire shit comes second to these two character’s relationship to each other.
33. The Signal – A film most didn’t like, but I thoroughly enjoyed. William Eubank’s sci-fi Twilight Zone tinged indie really stood out a something special to me. From Eubank himself all the way down to the three leads, I can’t wait to see what everyone does next as there is a lot of special talent in this film.
32. Ida – This Polish film really took me by surprise. I’m not gonna say much about. It’s streaming on Netflix right now.
31. Under the Skin – You gotta have patience with this film. A movie about an alien finding humanity within herself while on a mission to collect skin from men through seduction. The movie is beautiful to look at, unsettling in its score and has a lot of unexpected nudity. I did the Birdman hand rub near the end of the film. Scarlett what up ma?!
30. Locke – I know a lot of people didn’t like this film, but this to me was a great film about a man accepting responsibility for his actions. And like most men Ivan Locke let his dick do the thinking for him and watching the fallout of the consequences of his action really made me admire the film as we get to know that he is truly a good man who made a flawed decision. This is a cinematic play as we ride with Ivan and watch him try to make amends all done by a great performance by Tom Hardy.
29. A Most Wanted Man – John le Carre’s novel is adapted to make a very tight and involving espionage thriller. Philip Seymour Hoffman leads an all-star cast that’s firing on all cylinders under the tight direction of Anton Corbijn.
28. Foxcatcher - Bennet Miller’s best film IMO has three impressive turns from Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum. This true story is dark look at loneliness and psychosis and the effect of being wanted.
27. The Guest - Adam Winguard did this awesome, fun 80s throwback thriller that’s a slow burn which leads to a bat shit insane last 20 minutes. The John Carpenter-esque score helps set the mood in this film with a very strong lead performance by Dan Stevens as the titular guest.
25. Chef – A very simple and entertaining film of a man rediscovering what he loves doing and reconnecting with his son in the process. And the soundtrack to this film is top notch. It was good to see Jon Faveru return to his indie roots.
24. Two Days, One Night – Seeing as I’ve lost a job a multiple number of times due to the company not being able to pay me anymore and watching many, many people suffer through the recession after working 40 years at a said job, this really hit home for me. Marion Cotillard gave a very realistic performance as Sandra, a woman breaking down slowly, as her and her husband try to make sure her job is secure. The Dardenne brothers once again work their magic and bring us another natural realistic film that left me thinking afterwards.
23. Boyhood – I was less enthralled with the movie as a whole, but what kept this going for me were Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. I thought their characters were very honest and real. And the fact Linklater managed to make a cohesive film over 12 years impressed me. Just for that in my opinion he should win Best Director.
22. The Notebook (Le Grand Cahier) – This Hungarian film about twin boys sent during WWII to live with their abusive grandmother is harsh, but also very human. Tense from beginning to end, these two boys learn to harden themselves from the evil that surrounds them leading to a heartbreaking but hopeful ending.
20. The Drop – A very, very good crime drama that’s more of a character study with great turns from Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace, Michaël R. Roskam constructs this film with nuance which grabbed me.
19. A Most Violent Year – This is essentially a crime drama about a guy trying to get a loan and legitimize himself. A gangster film about a guy trying not to be a gangster, it’s set during the winter of the most violent year in New York City, the subtext of this film had a lot to say in this film which is violent in tone.
17. The Lego Movie – Never would I have thought a song about conformity would be so catchy. Also, I would never think a movie having this much fun with itself would have a positive individualism message. Very self-aware (which doesn’t overkill it like 22 Jump Street), this was perfect for both adults and kids a like. I’m really skeptical on the sequel(s), but without a doubt this hit all the sweet spots.
16. Birdman – Didn’t enjoy this as much as others, but still really like this. Everyone has been raving about this or that, but to me what really made this was Michael Keaton’s arc in this. Watching him unravel was something to behold in this film, even if the drum score got really overpowering at points.
15. Beyond the Lights – Here’s an old school honest romance film that’s rarely made any more because it’s not cloying. Everything about this film felt real, and what’s better is in addition to the romantic drama was the scathing indictment of the music industry and how they treat their female stars. That’s a lot of it. It’s got more complexity than you may expect from the ads. Plus Gugu Mbatha-Raw is absolutely gorgeous. Cotdamn…
14. Jodorowsky’s Dune – The most epic movie never made I know that without a doubt would’ve been THE sci-fi movie. I mean a lot of films have taken their designs from this film. This touching tribute asks what if and pulls you in. It sounded batshit crazy in the best way possible as are all of Jodorowsky’s films. Speaking of…
13. The Dance of Reality – Jodorowsky’s first film in 23 years is classic in that surreal Jodorowsky way. A movie that has to be experienced just like El Topo and The Holy Mountain. The one scene that made me uncomfortable (in a movie full of ‘em) is the “negro scene” at night. That was easily one of the most bizarre scenes I’ve ever seen put on film.
12. Citizenfour – This movie is enthralling and will leave you breathless. As far as I’m concerned, Edward Snowden should be canonized for sainthood. He changed the game on privacy b. This is not a documentary, but a thriller. I was afraid for him, but his main concern was his family. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Snowden are heroes. Do a double feature with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and marinate long and hard on “freedom”. My only problem is that after multiple revelations in the film, it just stops. We need more even though this is still ongoing. Laura please, please continue this.
11. Enemy – 2014 saw 3 films about doppelgängers drop. The One I Love and one based off of the novella The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky with the same name, and this film based off of the novel The Double by José Saramago. This very loose adaptation is really open to your interpretation due to the ambiguity of the picture. There’s enough given here to suggest many things with everything being important. Yes, the lectures given on totalitarian states matter. The last scene of the film is easily one of the scariest things I’ve seen all year. I have no clue what it means, but I do feel a satisfying catharsis with it. The subtext and syntax of the film is pretty dense as well. Movies that rely on what you think more times than not fail, but this fever dream of a movie is a big exception because it stays with me from the menacing, unsettling score to even the very strange way Jake Gyllenhaal’s colleague recommends a film to him. I actually appreciate Denis Villeneuve’s trust in the audience to form their own film. Between this and Prisoners last year, he’s a director to watch.
10. Interstellar / Gone Girl - Two of my favorite filmmakers made films that polarized the shit out of audiences.
With Interstellar, Nolan made a throwback to the big budget sci-fi movies that Hollywood used to put out back in the 60s and 70s with a touch of Spielberg and a dash of Kubrick. Loved that the science was 95% accurate and that the journey itself was the antagonist (along with one character and you can argue for another). Watching this for the first time made me miss my godkids halfway through. Add to that this has one of my favorite “action” scenes of the year where Matty McC pulls off some daredevil piloting to dock with a spaceship all set to this magnificent score by Hans Zimmer that had me on the edge of my seat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3zvVGJrTP8 (fast forward to the 2:30 mark). Loved how the spaceship Endurance represented time with its twelve points (Which is shattered during said sequence. Time now being lost on getting home). Speaking of Hans’ score gave off a 2001 vibe that made the movie bigger with its use of pipe organs. If you already saw it on 70MM IMAX you were treated to some beautiful imagery filling up however big your IMAX was. Glad people overseas saved this one as we were too busy here in the United States being enraptured by Big Hero 6 :/. I have no doubt that in time this will be looked backed on fondly.
Gone Girl the movie was more focused on the marriage and how sensationalized the media gets with things like this. Gone Girl the book was more about the mystery of Amy’s disappearance. I appreciate Fincher’s take and love it just as much as I love the book. Rosamund Pike absolutely brings Amy to life in my favorite performance by a lead this year. She looked like a movie star from yesteryear bringing her A game to a great character. Also, Trent Reznor crafted another memorable score that fits the film perfectly. The ending remained the same as the book having the same reaction from the public and destroying relationships in the process. Just like the book, this takes a hard look at marriage and how we lie to not only each other, but ourselves as well. As Gillian Flynn states: “marriage is sort of like a long con, because you put on display your very best self during courtship, yet at the same time the person you marry is supposed to love you warts and all. But your spouse never sees those warts really until you get deeper into the marriage and let yourself unwind a bit.”. This left me with the sentiment, just like the film and its source material, that even though you may think you know someone but you never truly don’t.
9. Inherent Vice – This is a film that demands to be seen twice, first time for the journey, second time for the plot. The fact that others, and not just me, are coming out of this the first time fulfilled and with buzz, shows that this movie works. This is destined to become a cult classic that will be appreciated as time goes on. Described as a drugged out surf noir, I would say it’s that and much more. PTA made something I think about often. Any movie that has Minnie Ripperton on the soundtrack gets high marks from me anyways. I pray that I get catch a 70MM print of this film.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel Studios was on fire in 2014. They packed a one two punch with something heavy and something fun. The fact that exists in the same universe as The Winter Soldier and we all buy it is a testament of how they know to hit the sweet spots. Never would I think that a talking raccoon and a tree that says “I am Groot” would be two characters I would connect to emotionally.
6. Starred Up – This British prison drama is a powerhouse. I really don’t want to say much other than Jack O’Connell will be a star. But yeah, this one is gonna stay with you long after the end credits roll.
4. Selma – First I just wanna say that David Oyelowo is long overdue on just in general props. The same with director Ava DuVernay. Never has a film about a dark time in our history has been more relevant to the current times as this. Proving really that “Time is a flat circle” (True Detective reference for the few knuckleheads out there) and sadly a deep seated racism in this country has resurfaced. The film also manages to show MLK the man, instead of MLK the saint and I greatly appreciate that.
3. Top Five – Chris Rock made a Woody Allen film for black people and I greatly appreciate that. I also appreciate that this is still uncensored, raw Chris Rock. The thing that kept this together is the film’s heart. Not only does this have a love story on full display, it also shows the studio system and the public at large expectations when it comes to certain actors and comedians who don’t owe us anything, but we demand it.
2. Nightcrawler – Part noir thiller, part satire on the media we follow a successful sociopath in very original film that is deftly written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Photographed by Robert Elswit, Jake Gyllenhaal breathes life into the best performance he’s give yet with sociopath Lou Bloom. He’s one of the smartest characters I’ve seen in a long time knowing how to work any situation to his advantage. The moral corruption exists in every character here. And before you say Rick was innocent he’s not. He manipulated Lou’s forced illegal activity as leverage instead of doing the right thing. This movie has a lot to say and holds a mirror up to us as a society as whole. America eats its babies and just like Gone Girl evil comes in many forms.
1. Whiplash – We all aspire to be the best. But at what cost? The expectations I had for this film were high and then blown away. My boy was right about this when he was at the premiere at Sundance. This is a horror film masquerading as a drama. Director Damien Chazelle shoots the film as a horror film ensuing tension from opening frame to closing frame. Again, this is another film where the tone of the film is violent. And J.K. Simmons breathes life into one of the scariest characters portrayed on film all year. The drumming scenes in this film are better than most action films today. The last fifteen minutes are some of the most exhilarating, breathless I’ve seen all year. Watching the character dynamics constantly shift between the two main characters is something to behold. It’s like watching a seesaw go up and violently. By the time the credits rolled I felt as if I was suffering from the title. The second time I saw this I sympathized with Fletcher more even if his methods are ones that are hallmarks of a psychopath. If fact, Terrence Fletcher reminds me a lot of how my dad still treats me. Emotionally and physically abusive, manipulative and thinking he’s hot shit. Maybe it’s why I liked this movie so much. And maybe why my heart’s so cold.
As Sean Price says “Aight. We fucking finished”. See y’all in 2015. What was your favorite film of 2014?