Many of the organizations that were started to reach out, broadcast, and appreciate the amazing work of Asians and Asian Americans (or Asian Canadians, Asian Brazilians, etc.) are struggling under the financial burdens of the economic environment, especially in the journalism and print media industry.
So, while encouraging you to help those magazines out, I ask: what culture mags – Asian or otherwise – are you reading these days? What should we be reading?
Patrick Gonder’s work on “the primitive” in 1950s horror films is useful here. Gonder discusses the ‘devolved’ monsters of 50s horror cinema, such as Mr. Hyde and the cavemen-primitives, in terms of race, class, and notions of civilization. He writes that the “hybrid nature of the [devolved monster] asserts white masculinity against and through the fantasy of a primal, animalistic black sexuality.” The beast within (excessive, uncontrollable masculinity run amok) that the werewolf represents for (white) men is always coded in terms of a non-white ethnicity and/or the working class. Cinematic werewolves are almost always associated with non-white ethnicities, from the gypsies in The Wolf Man (1944) to the Indian mystic/scholar in Wolf. […]
A third text that breaks the pattern of ‘unintegrated heroine = less grotesque body’ is Dark Wolf (2003). However, this film’s portrayal of the grotesque hybrid body is perhaps the most racialized representation of the female werewolf. Continue reading →
The issue of long-term and comprehensive immigration reform has gained tremendous momentum over the last month. Be it progressive bloggers, faith-based groups, immigration rights activists, the White House or Congress, the buzz is that those in power must deliver a sustainable and humane solution to the immigration problem. But the disconnect between the mainstream media and the issues of immigration continues to remain challenging.
National Geographic Channel’s new reality series, “Border Wars”, is a perfect example of how the popular media tends to misconstrue the issue of immigration through a sensationalist approach to the problem. Launched on January 10th 2010, and co-produced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “Border Wars” follows agents from CBP as they go after drug trafficking, human smuggling, and undocumented migrants trying to cross the border.
The U.S.-Mexico border stretches for 2,000 miles, over mountains, through deserts and dividing cities. Each year over one million undocumented people cross this border….U.S. dollars are the answer for many poor people struggling in Mexico, Central America, and beyond….From the skilled tracker on foot to the agent able to see in the dark with special night-vision equipment, the U.S. Border Patrol faces the challenge of controlling the desert every day. In “Border Wars”, National Geographic goes inside the world of the U.S. Border Patrol with unprecedented access to the surprising world of the southern border.
My friends at Fantastic Fangirls turned me on to the Chromatic Comics meme that went around LiveJournal, Dreamwidth and similar blog sites. Simply put: a number of bloggers re-cast various fandoms with all-POC casts. Below are a few notable examples with links attached.
Why oh why does the King Kong image and its attendant suggestions of pure white goodness and evil black barbarism keep on rearing its ugly head? Sent to us by reader Ruth, this photo is one of a series done by celeb art photographer David LaChappelle, for special editions of Lady Gaga’s new album. See the whole series here.
Or you may remember it and its ilk from the Amanda Marcotte/Seal Press debacle, where Seal Press used images such as the following to illustrate Marcotte’s book, It’s a Jungle Out There:
Or you may remember this image from this:
The list goes on.
In September, I linked to another Gaga/West image, which features a white lady (Gaga I assume) and a black person (West I assume) humping around. I suggested that the image dehumanised both players in a sexist and racist way. Mostly the reader response was: yawn.
This new King Kong photo of Gaga being the white virgin for West’s primal altar is problematic just to look at: a naked blonde woman with a perfect body is being stolen by a dark-skinned tropical heathen with dead eyes. Aiyeeee.
But the shot is even problematic in the context of the Iconography of Gaga.
On her blog, Deepa D. posted about what she calls the “Slumdog Shooting technique,” using this video from Greenpeace about climate change:
Ishan Tankha, photographer…sitting in casually imperial isolation on one of the many historical monuments peppering Delhi…
Meanwhile every other shot? The gaudy, public, and exotically poor street life of Delhi. At most we get some middle class women shopping, some Metro commuters, and Ishan riding his bike in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
But even as he is saying climate change spans all classes, there are no other young, upper class people like him, no rich people, no half-naked out of fashion rather than poverty women, no fat cat industrialists or cavalcade-riding politicians, no indication that there are any of the Westernised English speaking people on the streets, even though Ishan has been chosen spokesperson.
I’m calling this the Slumdog Shooting technique – use English because you don’t want to alienate your Western audience with subtitles, but keep the local colour full of attractive yet needy children, crowds that look struggling, and picturesque poverty.
Most people talk about the fans. They are typically teenage girls screaming, crying, fainting at the sight of the pallid Robert Pattinson (who plays the Byronic hero Edward Cullen, a vampire who strives to avoid his bloodthirsty desires for the sake of preserving humanity). Now with the post-pubescent buffing up of another of the film’s protagonists, Jacob Black, a werewolf of indigenous heritage whose newfound strengths provide him with the ability to preserve a treaty to quell violence between the werewolves and vampires (played by Taylor Lautner), there’s a new boy on the block for inducing total fan chaos. But with the onslaught of abs and a new love interest for Bella Swan (the pathetic protagonist and central female love interest played by Kristen Stewart), there is a recycling of roles for actors of color that are far from new.
If anything, the title itself adds an ironic twist to a tale that spirals into a stereotypical narrative to which we are all well-conditioned by now, both in films and other more readily-available media in our every day lives. Have you ever heard something along the lines of “dating someone who is [insert ethnic/racial group] ok, but you’d better not marry one!” or “Native Americans are so in touch with nature!”? Have you ever seen a film or tv show that relegated the person of color as the trusty sidekick, loyal friend, or temporary romantic plaything, only then to have the white hero enter in medias res and get all the praise and attention? Have you ever seen a piece from an ad campaign or historical policy discussions in which non-white people are portrayed as animalistic, in both their behavior, thought processes, and athletic ability? Have you, as a person of color, or if you are not, any of your POC friends, ever complained of feeling that their societal value was reduced to their physical appearance or a specific body part?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have already seen New Moon. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World