All posts by Arturo

Dear Joss Whedon: We Found You A Wasp

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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As of press time, the majority of the geek world was bracing for a big fat win, in the form of confirmation that Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon would be directing Marvel’s Avengers film adaptation – the culmination of the company’s attempt to create a shared film universe. Both Deadline and Variety have said, basically, that it’s all over but the champagne at this point.

Samuel L. Jackson’s presence as Nick Fury is all but a lock in this film, since he’s been the guy pulling these disparate heroes – Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and perhaps The Hulk & The Black Widow – together. But given Whedon’s predilection for casting familiar faces, there’s potentially a great opportunity here to cast Dollhouse vet Dichen Lachman as Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, long established in canon as one of the team’s founding members, and had one of the longest relationships in both Marvel Universes with Henry Pym.

I say “both” because in the (alternate) Marvel Ultimate U., Janet is of (vague) Asian descent, and a holder of two doctorates. And the Jackson version of Fury’s character also originated in the Ultimate ‘verse. Though Whedon’s issues with representing Asian culture are well-documented, Lachman’s ability to steal the show on Dollhouse and the relatively neutral nature of the Avengers setting – it’s a military-industrial complex, sure, but at least the decor isn’t refried Geisha – would seem to insulate the character against at least some questionable characterization. Here’s to hoping. And to starting an anti-cancellation petition, just in case.

image courtesy of Rich Lovatt

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One more fandom note: I won’t put up any Doctor Who spoilers, since the show will barely start airing in the U.S. this coming weekend, but I will recommend you check out next week’s episode, “The Beast Below,” featuring Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten. I mean, come on, she rocks a cloak and twin hand-cannons. And she instantly joins the ranks of Characters Who Need Their Own Series Right Now.

image courtesy of Bleeding Cool

Diamond In The Rough?: The Racialicious Roundtable For FlashForward 1.14

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Even excluding the episode’s surprisingly good ending, “Better Angels” shouldn’t have worked: an ad-hoc team journeys into Hollywood Somalia looking for a plot device? Forget Red Panda; this had Red Flag written all over it.

Case in point: Abdi, the unfriendly neighborhood warlord of the (fake) Somalian village where Dyson Frost/D. Gibbons and company beta-tested the GBO. All the signals were there for the character to become a caricature: blind religious faith; a flashforward that fed further delusions of grandeur; and seemingly the itchiest trigger-finger this side of Yosemite Sam.

Fortunately, writers Scott M. Gimple and Ian Goldberg took care to give Abdi not only a backstory, but a sense of hurt to balance out his more venomous traits, and even more fortunately, Owiso Odera was able to fashion a performance that actually generated some emotion. I actually felt sad when Vogel gunned him down. Let’s see what the Roundtable thought:

Andrea: *Sigh* I thought Odera did a good job in a bad role, namely playing a “Somali warlord.” Of course, “Somalia” is stereotyped as only a war-torn place full of superstitious people with delusions of grandeur. Whether it’s ruling with the gun or the olive branch, they will be great with the CIA’s help. Of course, the CIA will shoot that notion down–in Abdi’s case, literally.
Diana: Meh. I didn’t really like the whole black on black violence vibe.
jen*: Um … yeah. I was definitely sad to see him die. I wasn’t super-thrilled with Janis’ convenient savior moments, but the story moved along well enough that I didn’t have to dwell on it. Come to think of it, I was actually a little pissed that Abdi was killed like that.
Mahsino: They really took that to an unfortunate place. I dunno, I feel they could’ve gone someplace really great with that and just phoned it in once they realized how much work it would be to create a whole subplot around helping Abdi achieve his destiny. Continue reading

Race + Fandom Roundup: M. Night on Airbender, and Tales of Two Amandas

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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The Last Airbender director M. Night Shyamalan finally addressed the controversy over the white-washing of his film’s casting in a recent interview. Without further ado, here’s a few excerpts …
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Here’s the thing. The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. So when we watch Katara, my oldest daughter is literally a photo double of Katara in the cartoon. So that means that Katara is Indian, correct? No that’s just in our house. And her friends who watch it, they see themselves in it. And that’s what’s so beautiful about anime …

I was without an agenda, and just letting it come to the table. Noah [Ringer, who plays Aang] is a photo double from the cartoon. He is spot on. I didn’t know their backgrounds, and to me Noah had a slightly mixed quality to him. So I cast the Airbenders as all mixed-race. So when you see the monks, they are all mixed. And it kind of goes with the nomadic culture and the idea that over the years, all nationalities came together.

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On the casting of the Fire Nation, and Dev Patel as Zuko:

The Fire Nation was the most complicated. I kept switching who was playing Zuko. It was such a complicated and drawn out thing, about practical matters. But the first person that I was considering casting for Zuko was Ecuadorian. So I started thinking that way. Then when that person couldn’t do it, the next person who came in was much more Caucasian. And then we had to switch everything around …

… Dev ended up being my choice for Zuko, and I looked for an Uncle that could be in that realm, for a moment I thought about Ben Kingsley. But Shaun Toub, I just loved him in Iron Man. I thought this takes us into a Mediterranean kind of Arab and Indian world, and I can go as far as that, that will be the breadth of the Fire Nation, that kind of look.

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Stark Raving Bland: The Racialicious Roundtable For FlashForward 1.13

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

When ABC executives reportedly addressed FlashForward’s objectives during its’ extended hiatus, it’s (hopefully) doubtful that one of the network’s missives was, “Y’know what? People need more of Aaron Stark.” So seeing him become a focal point of “Blowback” was a classic example of trying too hard with a character who doesn’t deserve it.

Here you had a character that went from mopey sidekick (and looking mopey compared to Mark Bedford is as impressive as wearing the douchiest Ed Hardy shirt at a UFC show) to, this week, Ex-Marine Hardened Ex-Con Amateur Hacker. What, he’s not a ninja on the weekends? His character isn’t worth a spit in the scope of what should be the show’s driving plot – the GBO and the efforts to find the people behind it before it happens again. His only connection to anything important going on is the chance that his daughter, who exists as nothing more than a plot device for him, has been abducted by those same culprits. And somehow, this suddenly-brilliant tactician records a phone-call that proves his suspicions, if not a bigger conspiracy behind it, yet he neither records the call, nor hands it over to his buddy and his FBI co-workers?

But maybe I’m being too hard on the guy. Let’s see what the Roundtable thinks of his antics. Continue reading

The Racialicious Roundtable For Flash Forward 1.11 & 1.12

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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SPOILERS AHEAD

Call it injury piled onto insult: not only did ABC choose to bring Flash Forward back opposite the opening day of the NCAA Tournament, but it ended up being arguably the best – and by best, I mean “bracket-shredding” – NCAA opening day in history. Seriously, my particular bracket looked like L.A. on Blackout Day.

simon1That said, the two-part “Revelation Zero” gets points for at least trying to seem important, as the creative team busted out seemingly every narrative trick at its’ disposal and brought in more characters to bolster its’ biggest revelation: that the man we’d come to identify as Suspect Zero was in fact Charlie The Hobbit – which made the shot of him wielding a ring somewhat funnier than it probably should have been. But what did your Friendly Neighborhood Roundtable make of all these revelations? Well, we’re glad you asked …

I’ll say this about these episodes: at least the show looked more forceful than it had been before its’ extended hiatus. Even if very little of the plot holds up if you think about it for a minute (more on this later). What’d you think?
Diana: I was surprised to see the Hobbit’s storyline step up a bit. But honestly, I’m not sure if the show is going to last for much longer.
Andrea: I agree, Diana, that Charlie Hobbit’s storyline is stepped up, but his villiany–and to a lesser extent, Lloyd’s–make my eyes glaze over because their evil, be it intentional (Hobbit) or by abbetting (Lloyd), seems to stem from the fact that they have British Isle accents and are erudite. That makes spotting Teh Baddies just that much easier ’cause ya, know, that’s how stereotypes rock.
jen*: Evil Brit tropes might be tired, but they’re more fun to watch than what-really-should-be-side-story-Benford (IMO). Maybe that’s why I was more into the first half than the second. I’m not really into the Hobbit, but I can’t not love Steve. Continue reading

Race & Fandom Roundup: Kato Steps Out, Green Lantern Casting, Maggie Q & Dwayne McDuffie

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

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Thanks to Racialicious reader Tomas for tipping us off to this: this May, Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet comic-book line will focus on the titular hero’s companion in Kato: Way Of The Ninja. The Kato character has been part of Hornet canon since the character’s beginnings in the radio era, but his most memorable incarnation came in the 1960s, when he was played by Bruce Lee. Even there, though, Lee’s character had to play second banana. Ninja writer Jai Nitz told Newsarama that in the comics, Kato is played more as the Hornet’s equal, and this particular mini-series will take him places the Hornet can’t go.

Nitz also said the story will focus on Kato’s somewhat-forced racial ambiguity:

The first actor to play Kato on the Green Hornet radio program was a Japanese actor named Raymond Hayashi, and Kato was explicitly referred to as “Japanese”. Then Kato was ambiguously changed to Filipino as American/Japanese relations deteriorated in the face of World War II (remember, Pearl Harbor wasn’t the first blow struck in the escalation to WWII, it was the last). Then after Pearl Harbor Kato was explicitly Filipino (and you have to remember the closeness of the Philippines and the US at the time to understand why). Whew. All that said, [Green Hornet: Year One writer] Matt Wagner sets Kato as a Japanese soldier that becomes disillusioned with how the Japanese conduct themselves during the war with mainland China. But, like the real-life radio dilemma, Kato hides his identity, in our story as Korean, when he and [the Green Hornet] return to the States due to the tensions with Japan.

Continue reading

Speed Trap: George Lopez To Play Speedy Gonzales

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By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

Nothing good can come of a new Speedy Gonzales film. No matter what the intentions, or the updates George Lopez’s wife, Ann, is promising:

“We wanted to make sure that it was not the Speedy of the 1950s – the racist Speedy. Speedy’s going to be a misunderstood boy who comes from a family that works in a very meticulous setting, and he’s a little too fast for what they do. He makes a mess of that. So he has to go out in the world to find what he’s good at.”

So Mrs. Lopez, who will produce this project, says the couple can refashion a cartoon like this into A Mexican-American Tail:

georgelopez1 The thing is, it’s not just about Speedy, but about the universe he inhabited. Continue reading

Sailor WTF?: Kirsten Dunst’s ‘Akihabara Majokko Princess’

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS NSFW IMAGES

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

At least she can sorta carry a tune.

Dunst1After two viewings, that’s about all I can glean from Kirsten Dunst’s cover of “Turning Japanese,” which premiered late last year as part of an exhibition by Takashi Murakami at London’s Tate Museum. According to Anime News Network, the video is a collaboration between Murakami and director McG, which makes this – to give everyone the benefit of the doubt – somewhat puzzling as an interpretation of anything close to fandom.

Dunst, to her credit, has a history with the medium: she voiced the title character in the English-language adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and has expressed an affection for Sailor Moon – which explains the costume – in past interviews. But instead of presenting her as a Majokko (“Magical girl” or “Witch Girl”), MCG here threw her under the same bus Scarlett Johansson rode in on for Lost In Translation.

Start with the musical selection: to be sure, “Turning Japanese” isn’t about actually being Japanese (nor is it about masturbation. Well, apparently.). And inter-cutting shots of her with hentai imagery – like, say, the upskirt shot on the billboard seconds after the one on Dunst – takes Dunst’s character out of the sympathetic realm and into Male Gaze territory. And as someone who had to sit through Terminator: Salvation, I don’t think McG thought it through that thoroughly.

Finally, there’s the “interactions” with the locals. The vast majority of them are wordless Others, watching the camera with blank looks. The guys in the jumpsuits, it seems, are members of a local dance troupe, and they at least get to be active. But otherwise the actual Japanese people here are either spectators, or look like they’re wondering who this girl is who’s ripping off Gwen Stefani’s act.