Category Archives: misrepresentation

Yea ‘Aloha’ is Super White, But What’s Up With the Way We’re Talking About It?

Still from Aloha

by Sharon Chang, originally posted at  Multiracial Asian Families

Okay first let’s just get this out of the way. Aloha is a really, really bad movie. Like REALLY bad. It’s getting horrible reviews (as it should) for lousy directing, a terrible script, mismatched A-list actors, poor production etc. It’s boring as hell to watch. I’m not going to even bother giving a a story synopsis here because the plot is so pointless and uninteresting, it doesn’t matter anyway. If you want or need a synopsis, it’s easy to find one online. Just do a web search.
No all you need to know, if you don’t already, is this: Set in Hawaii where Native Hawaiians continue to be besieged by whites and the military, the movie centers white people and the U.S. military anyway, all of which is supposedly made better by the conceit of a military-serving mixed-race Hawaiian/Chinese/Swedish character, who is actually played by a white actress.

Yup. Pretty much.

I saw this movie not because I wanted to (believe me there were so many other things I’d rather have been doing on a sunny day in Seattle), but because I felt I needed to. It’s rare that any sort of discussion about mixed-race/Asian intersections enters public discourse. So when it does, it’s a really important opportunity to get a glimpse into how society views and thus treats people of multiracial Asian descent.

I think almost everyone acknowledges/agrees here that casting a white woman in the role of mixed-race woman of color is crap; that blatant Hollywood whitewashing against a Hawaiian backdrop merely renews the license on an insidious practice that keeps marginalizing people of color. But as the scathing reviews keep rolling in, here’s what I’m really noticing: “Why is Emma Asian”, “Emma Stone Isn’t Asian”, “Not Buying Emma Stone As An Asian-American”, “Emma Stone As An Asian”, “Asian Emma Stone”.

Do you see it too? This is a film set in Hawaii which yes, doesn’t depict the many Asians who live there and alludes to yellow peril, but ultimately is a place that belongs to (and has been stolen from) the Hawaiian people. And yet in our conversations somehow this crucial point seems to be getting subsumed under the shadow of politicized Asian America. Even multiraciality seems to be less interesting to the public than that a character was supposed to be a ‘quarter’ Chinese. To be fair, reviewers do mention Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian culture, history and oppression to varying degrees (they sort of have to), but it’s pretty clear the fact of Stone’s non-Asian-(sometimes-mixed)-ness, is the one calling shotgun:

“…[multiracial people] comprise the fastest-growing population in America. Which makes Crowe’s choice of Stone as the melanin-free embodiment of Hawaiian soul and one of the most prominent part-Asian characters ever to appear in a mainstream Hollywood film so baffling.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Emma Stone, a white actress best known for her role as a white savior with a heart of gold in ‘The Help,’ plays a character who is ostensibly the result of an Asian penis interacting with a white vagina.”

The Frisky

“‘IT IS THE YEAR 2015. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW EMMA STONE, WHO IS WHITER THAN WHITE, GOT CAST AS A HALF ASIAN CHARACTER.'”

Salon

Aloha actually features one of the more prominent Asian/mixed heritage female leads in any studio movie in recent memory. She just happens to be played by Emma Stone.

The Daily Beast

“In an industry that already severely lacks Asian representation on the big screen, they get EMMA STONE to play an Asian…Have you learned nothing from Breakfast at Tiffany’s? It’s offensive. And it’s offensive to let the talents of many Asian actors go to waste. Plus, it’s just plain rude pulling this during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”

Complex

As far as I can tell, none of these mainstream reviewers are of Native Hawaiian descent and less than half are of mixed descent.

This, I don’t like. At. All. I’m deeply invested in exploring the facets of a mixed-race Asian identity and looking at the many questions it raises in a raced/racist world. But I am notinterested in a conversation about that identity which moves towards anti-indigeneity. This is what I see as the Hapa narrative, where mixed-race gets used as a wedge to further divide people of color while advancing white supremacy; something I wrote about in “Say Hapa, With Care” for AAPI Voices (2014):

The hapa of [Native Hawaiian] people stands in stark contrast to a widely commodified version, which lumps together mixed-race Asians and Pacific Islanders and then somehow magically loses the Pacific Islander part. This is no accident (whether intentional or not). It stems from a history that has sought to forget and remove Native peoples for centuries.
This is why, over the weekend, I called my fierce Native Hawaiian friend, scholar and activist Maile Arvin again to get her weigh in. And this is why, right now, I’m going to stop talking about my analysis immediately and let hers take final-center stage.


I’m not really interested in what they think is a more culturally competent movie but still is a white romance. It’s fundamentally flawed. It’s about a military contract and using Hawaii to protect the US from China and Japan…I haven’t seen critique of that. I’ve seen a lot of critique of the word ‘Aloha’ [but] more fundamentally it’s a settler/colonial movie. It’s not just about the name of it but the story they tell about Hawaii.

Maile was completely even-keeled, unruffled and unsurprised by the whitewashing of Aloha:

Hollywood doesn’t usually do well by Hawaiians. The tourism industry depends on all these movies about white romance in Hawaii. It’s not lucrative for Hollywood or tourism to tell any other story. There are so many movies that are shot in Hawaii and often they’re not identified as [being in] Hawaii, like Lost orJurassic Park. Hawaii is often used as the backdrop for all these stories that are about uninhabited islands – or – if it’s about Hawaii, it’s about white people falling in love.

She said she’d heard the movie-makers were claiming, in their defense, that Cameron Crowe loves, adores and respects Hawaii; that he researched his film for months and worked to incorporate the story of the Hawaiian people. But, she replied:

What Maile said she’s been far more interested to see is so many articles criticizing Aloha‘s whitewashing when, by contrast, Descendants (which also featured a mixed-race Hawaiian character played by white actor George Clooney) drew so little attention in 2011:
It seems like the Emma Stone character being Asian has sparked more critique than Descendants. Nobody seemed to have a problem with George Clooney playing a Hawaiian. [So] for a large audience, Hawaiians looking white isn’t a problem, but a mixed Asian person looking white is unbelievable. Which is kind of disturbing. The wider public thinks that Hawaiians could look like Emma Stone, but if they’re mixed with Asian, they can’t. It seems connected to larger problems like the API [Asian Pacific Islander] designation and Asian Americans speaking on behalf or over Pacific Islanders. It shows gaps in solidarity.

In conclusion, she powerfully spoke on the kind of intention/action it really takes to build coalitions and work in alliance with the Native Hawaiian community:

There are definitely a lot of mixed families and people who are Asian and Hawaiian. They are not necessarily always in conflict. At the same time, a lot of people who aren’t mixed [Hawaiian] grew up on the island and identify as Hawaiian. That’s the same problem. It just covers up Native Hawaiians again. And Native Hawaiians are erased from so many things. It’s important to be clear about how you represent yourself. For example, there are some Asian American activists [in Hawaii] that identify themselves as Asian settlers. Some people hate that idea. But it’s a way to express solidarity and really involve in activism with Native Hawaiians.

I think we need to be very very careful, aware, and far more thoughtful about the ways we critique this film. At this point I’m maybe even less concerned with Cameron Crowe (who’s an idiot) and his dumb movie, and way more worried about us. If we’re truly outraged by Hollywood whitewashing because it invisibilizes and erases, do we do much better when we erase too? Aren’t we just cloning the same that’s been done to us? Emma Stone should not have been cast in a person of color role. I one hundred percent agree. But let us never forget what that role was truly supposed to be. Not just an Asian one – but a very marginalized Indigenous and mixed-race one too.

Undoing racism is about uplifting oppressed voices, remembering forgotten histories, and not allowing our own suffering to become more important than the suffering of others. In thinking on Aloha, please make sure you are also hearing/centering Native Hawaiian voices and the story of Native Hawaiian peoples:

“Say Hapa, With Care”

“Possessions of Whiteness: Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness in the Pacific”

Quoted: Comedian Dean Obeidallah On Right-Wing Islamophobia

And then there’s The Washington Times. They whine that the movie is just a parade of liberals mocking conservatives. To be honest, they are correct. We do have some great progressive voices in the film including The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Russell Simmons, Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN], and comedians like Lewis Black, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, etc.

But here’s the thing The Washington Times didn’t include in their article, because they didn’t contact us for a comment: We invited numerous conservatives to be in the film. To be specific, we asked Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Judge Napolitano, and Pat Robertson through their representatives. We even invited some of the most notorious Muslim haters. (I won’t list their names because they don’t merit the attention.)

One guess how they all responded? They, of course, said no. Why? You have to ask them but it’s clear that many on the right don’t want to be challenged when selling their rancid bill of goods to the public about Muslims.

But here’s the truth that some on the right will hate to hear: We will prevail. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean Muslims. I mean American values. How can I say that? Our nation’s history makes it clear how this will end for the Muslim bashers.
– From The Daily Beast

I Saw The Lone Ranger So You Don’t Have To

By Guest Contributor Adrienne K.; originally published at Native Appropriations

 

LR

 

It’s been 12 hours since I saw The Lone Ranger, and I still have the darn William Tell Overture stuck in my head. I wonder how long that lasts. It’s like waking up with a Tonto hangover, I guess. I have so many thoughts on this film, and only maybe one of them is good. But I think we need to start off with this: The Lone Ranger is just a bad movie. It’s 2.5 hours of a film with an identity crisis, not knowing if it’s supposed to be funny, campy, dramatic, “authentic,” or what. At points, it was very hard to separate the stereotypical and hurtful from the bad script, bad editing, and bad character development of the movie itself.

So, if it even needs to be said: SPOILER ALERT–I’m about to give away everything. But you’re not going to see the movie anyway, so it shouldn’t really matter. But you know how the internet is. Here’s my review, in only six parts. I restrained myself.

Some quick overall thoughts: Like I mentioned above, this movie didn’t know what it was, and that was a problem. It was also so. incredibly. long. By the time we got to the final big train chase scene at the end, where the pair save the day (accompanied by the aforementioned William Tell) I wrote in my notes: “FINALLY! I AM SO BORED!” and then that scene drug on for another 15 minutes and I just wanted it to end. I forgot what we were even fighting for. Which I think was the problem all along.

This is also the most violent movie I’ve seen in awhile, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones. Don’t take your kids, despite the Disney label and PG-13 rating. There is so much shooting and stabbing, and they show the aftermath.  Early on in the film the bad guy even cuts out and eats the Lone Ranger’s brother’s heart (yes, eats it). They have no qualms about shooting someone for the sake of shooting someone, and there are blood and guts and barn beams smashing people’s heads. It’s not something I would want to expose my kids to, at all.

And for those of you new to the blog or needing a refresher, here’s all my Tonto coverage over the last year or so, which covers the casting, the costume, and a whole bunch of other things: my initial reactionswhy you should care about Tonto when there are “bigger issues” out theretearing apart Depp’s reasoning over his costume choicesthe controversy I dealt with for writing about Tonto, andArmie Hammer’s comments about Indians loving the movie.

Part 1: The Opening Scene–Indians are so backward and funny, y’all!

The movie opens with a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West Show, set up like a museum of Natural History, and a little kid wanders in dressed like the Lone Ranger, eatin’ some peanuts, lookin’ at the buffalo, then, oh hey! “The Noble Savage in his natural habitat.” Guess who that is??

Spoiler! It’s Johnny Depp. In some scary-ass old person makeup. Like seriously crypt keeper style. Then OMG he moves! and reaches out! and says in a croaky old person voice, the first words of the whole film: “Kemooosabeeeh.” Then there’s this whole bit where Tonto asks the little boy to “traaaade” (sounding like zombies and “braaains”) and points to his peanuts, which Tonto exchanges for a dead mouse. Then he proceeds to eat the peanuts with the shells on, crunching through them to the boy’s disgust and wonderment, while feeding the crumbs to the bird on his head.

I won’t go this in-depth with the rest of the film, but I wanted to set the stage. The very first scene we are presented with an image of a Native person, in a museum–which presumably we’re supposed to critique, but there’s no questioning of Tonto’s position there. To me it reinforces the idea that all the Indians are dead, relics of the past, which is actually a theme throughout. This Indian is so silly and backward he trades a dead mouse for a bag of peanuts, doesn’t even know how to eat peanuts, and is feeding a bird, but it’s dead. Even the child knows that’s wrong. So this is the “new” Tonto? Definitely an improvement, amiright? (that was sarcasm. In case you missed it.)

Anyway, Tonto launches into the story of the Lone Ranger for the kid in the museum. So the whole movie is in flashback.

Tonto speak summary: Tonto in museum. Tonto old. Tonto silly and backward. You listen to story now.

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Race + Comics: Breaking Down Uncanny Avengers’ Continued Racefail

By Arturo R. García

This month’s issue of Uncanny Avengers served as the most explicit follow-up to the much-maligned “we are all humans” speech written by Rick Remender in an apparent stab at “colorblindness.”

Instead of taking to heart the critiques directed toward him, though, Remender seemed intent to “prove his point” via a debate between two of the book’s mutant characters, Rogue and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). But don’t let the cover fool you. This may have been intended to read like a battle of wits, but Remender neglected to arm either combatant.

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Quoted: Highlights From Jay Smooth’s “T-Paining Too Much: The Meme-ification Of Charles Ramsey”

There’s so many questions that probably won’t have easy or pretty answers. And, there’s a rule that people usually apply to this, and that is the “Now Is Not The Time” rule. And usually its applied to politics, “Let’s please not bring politics into this.” And I’ve got to say, I usually disagree with that rule, like, I think in Cleveland we probably should ask how things like class and gender factor into the bigger questions. But I do think there is another version of that rule, a new version that we have to establish pretty soon…

Now is not the time for autotune, can we please we leave autotune out of this?

This trend where a certain type of person is in the news, we have a compulsion to immediately grab that person and then flatten out their personhood into this paper thin, click bait, Chappelle Show laughing-for-the-wrong-reasons viral joke.

There’s gotta be some middle ground where we can appreciate that without this mad dash to make a meme-ified clown out of anyone who fits in the “wacky black guy” box.

Editor’s Note: I wanted to meme-ify something worth meme-ing. So here you are, internet:

Autotune2b

Slammin’ Poetry: “A Letter To JK Rowling From Cho Chang”

by Joseph Lamour

Recently, we came across a great spoken word piece while perusing Angry Asian Man, and we think it deserves a listen. By Rachel Rostad, “A Letter to JK Rowling from Cho Chang” is not only a critique of the first love interest for Harry Potter, but of problematic representations of Asian women in books, cinema, and media as a whole.

If you’ve watched by now (which you should, it’s a pretty awesome four minutes) you could imagine that this stirring piece, well, stirred a lot of people. Since this viral video’s posting on YouTube it’s started an ongoing discussion- not only of representation of people of color in media, but PoC representation in her piece as well.

For Rostad’s video response to the comments on her poem, continue under the cut.

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Quoted: Sunil Tripathi’s Sister, Sangeeta, On Redditors’ False Accusations

Brown University student Sunil Tripathi (right) was at one point accused by Reddit users of being a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, despite no evidence. Authorities later identified two other men as suspects. Image via “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” page on Facebook.

“It’s had a huge cost on our family. We are all very depleted right now, just baseline over the past 34 days, and this has been very, very difficult,” she added. “Without Sunil in our life, it’s been very hard to have that publicity.

“We are absolutely convinced, with no question at all, it’s not Sunil. We are eagerly awaiting formal public news to calm the pain on my family. We have not received a public apology at all. The FBI is incredibly busy as you can imagine in the investigation. The second law enforcement releases complete information on the suspects, it’s going up on our Facebook page.”

On Friday afternoon, the Tripathi family received an email from Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit, “to apologize personally and on behalf of all our employees for … some of the people on our site’s role in the spreading of this false idea about Sunny.” The Tripathi family immediately forwarded that email to NBC News.

“It’s an extreme situation and we are deeply sorry that your family got caught up in it,” Martin wrote in the email. “I can’t imagine what it must be like for your family to deal with this on top of what you must already be going through.”

The Tripathi family’s Facebook page, set up to help locate Sunil and, until Thursday, filled with messages of hope and pictures of the student, began being hit with posts Thursday evening “from individuals who for whatever reason were making the association between what happened (at the Boston Marathon) and him, Sangeeta Tripathi said.
NBC News

Editor’s Note: Sunil Tripathi is still missing. Anyone with any information that might help find him is encouraged to call police in Providence, RI at (401) 243-6191. For more on the efforts to locate him, visit the Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi page on Facebook.

Open Thread: The Boston Marathon Bombings, The Boston Manhunt, And The Race To Racism

By Andrea Plaid

Boston Bruins Dennis Seidenberg observes a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings before the start of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts April 17, 2013. This is the first sporting event to be held in Boston after the explosions that killed three and injured more than one hundred at the Boston Marathon. Image via Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi/Landov

Boston Bruins Dennis Seidenberg observes a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings before the start of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts April 17, 2013. This is the first sporting event to be held in Boston after the explosions that killed three and injured more than one hundred at the Boston Marathon. Image via Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi/Landov

Different city, same racism.

Boston, as you may know, suffered from two bomb blasts during its marathon bearing its name this past Monday. As the city struggles to recover from this recent tragedy, we’re getting reports that the alleged bombers got into a shootout with law enforcement overnight–including throwing explosives–that moved through Cambridge and Watertown. According to reports, one of the suspects died in the shootout, and the police are waging a large manhunt for the other one. All of this has locked down the city, the reports continue, with MIT, Harvard, and public schools  shut down, public transportation suspended,  air space restricted, and advisories to the residents to stay indoors.

What we’re also finding out is about the suspects themselves: the police killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the shootout and are looking for his brother Dzhokar. The siblings come from the Russian Federation country of Chechnya, in the Caucus region. The brothers are, literally, Caucasians–which, in the US, is the (inaccurate) synonym for white people in general.

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