Category Archives: movies

Aloha Movie

Land, Power, and Filmmaking in Hawaii: An Untold Story Of “Aloha”

by Shay Chan Hodges; originally posted at the Huffington Post

Updated Author’s Note: I wrote the following post three weeks ago, adding to the dozens of articles about race and culture in Hollywood after the release of “Aloha.” I was one of the few writers, however, who even acknowledged the existence of a native Hawaiian perspective.

On Larry Wilmore’s the Nightly Show, for example, three comedians discussed Emma Stone as “Allison Ng,” including Chinese comedian/actress Kristina Wong and comedian Jo Koy, who is Filipino and Caucasian. Within the first minute, Wilmore said: “The controversy was that Emma Stone was cast as a half-Asian woman…maybe she was like a quarter I think Hawaiian or something like that…” Comedian Koy jumped in, “yeah, a quarter Chinese I think.” Wilmore asked, “a quarter Chinese or quarter Hawaiian?” And Koy responded, “I think Hawaiian is just anything…it’s like Filipino, Japanese, it’s like if you’re in Hawaii and you eat Spam, you’re Hawaiian.”

As a mixed-race Chinese/Mongolian/Norwegian living in Hawaii for the last twenty-three years, it was truly depressing to watch an ethnically diverse group of people dismiss an entire culture in a discussion about racism.  And in all the articles I scanned that week, only one sought to delve deeper into the movie’s presentation of native Hawaiian sovereignty struggles.

Meanwhile, in real time, a significant cultural conflict has been playing out in Hawaii at the top of Mauna Kea  — a volcano considered sacred by Hawaiians  — and has barely made national news. (Coincidentally, Crowe’s depiction of Hawaiian cultural struggles was not far off from these current clashes). Yet the media continues to ignore real Hawaiian news and the perspectives of people in Hawaii.

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Web of Spider-Men: Will Marvel Use Miles Morales To Stick It To Sony?

By Arturo R. García

As of Wednesday morning, the mantle of Spider-Man has changed hands in both the comic-book and movie realms. And while Marvel Comics scored a win on the diversity front, it’s fair to wonder if the move could pay dividends in another realm.

Because while it’s notable enough to see Miles Morales, the Black Latino character introduced in an alternate comics universe nearly four years ago, named as the protagonist in Marvel’s new Spider-Man title, it will be particularly interesting to see how the company handles both him and his predecessor, Peter Parker, after a series of moves de-emphasizing characters who, like Peter, are not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

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Revenge Of The Blerd: The Racialicious Review of Dope

By Arturo R. García

What’s supposed to be a romantic moment in Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope ends up being one of its more problematic: we see the protagonist, Malcolm, tell his love interest Nakia, “Don’t sell yourself short” when she explains that, should she get her GED, she plans to attend a community college before, hopefully, moving on to Cal State Fullerton or a school in that system.

Malcolm’s remark is meant to be encouraging, to spur her on to defying expectations. But there’s also a touch of unwitting condescension, of classism in play in that response. And the vexing thing about Dope is that it’s a coming-of-age tale that won’t let him see that other side even as it insists he’s maturing before our eyes.

SPOILERS under the cut
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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”

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R-oundtable: Avengers – Age of Ultron

Much like one of its action set-pieces, the discussion around the latest Avengers film has blown up in multiple directions: In the week since its US release, the discussion surrounding Age of Ultron has veered from its massive box-office haul to cast members slut-shaming Black Widow off-screen to Black Widow’s portrayal on it to, finally, writer/director Joss Whedon leaving Twitter because of comments that have been attributed to overzealous “feminists.” (SPOILERS: No, it wasn’t because of that.)

Thinkpieces abound on each of these topics, no doubt, and our own trio of Kendra, Tope and Arturo will touch on some of these issues, while also looking at how the movie’s few — and seemingly far-between — POC fared in Marvel’s latest mega-ensemble story.

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‘Hey Adam … Let’s Talk': The #NotYourHollywoodIndian Q&A

By Arturo R. García

Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project.

During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the tag came together, how she feels about the defense of the film as “satire,” and where the campaign goes from here.

Let’s start at the beginning: describe, if you would, the moments when you first heard about the actors walking off the Sandler set. How did you go from there to getting the tag together?

Megan Red-Shirt Shaw: I was definitely upset, but also empowered by their decision to take a stand. It’s really difficult to hear that people within our communities are being dishonored – especially in ways that seem like “vintage” issues — the old Western and “Cowboys and Indians” films we’ve come to know really well. I went on Twitter to see what different voices were talking about and realized there wasn’t a hashtag consolidating the ideas. I looked through the original article by Vince Schilling and saw the quotation by Allie Young about being a “Hollywood Indian.” I knew that was what we had to get trending.
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Unhappy Gilmore: Native American Actors and Activists Protest New Adam Sandler Project

By Arturo R. García

If Adam Sandler thought his brand of “humor” would keep getting a pass in 2015, the past few days have surely disabused him of that notion.

As Indian Country Today Media Network reported, about a dozen Native American actors on his upcoming Netflix film, The Ridiculous Six, abandoned the production over the material.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” said actor Loren Anthony, a Navajo Nation member. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”

ICTMN also posted video taken on the set from another performer, Goldie Tom, showing actors voicing their concerns to an unidentified producer.

“We don’t need to sell out our people,” one actor says in the footage.

“I understand completely,” the producer replies. “But we’re not gonna change ‘Beaver Breath.'”

Defamer’s Jordan Sargent posted excerpts from a version of the script, which featured characters named Sits-On-Face, Never-Wears-Bra and Smoking Fox.

“It’s no surprise, of course, that Adam Sandler has written another movie overflowing with the kinds of jokes that might feel edgy to an 11-year-old who finally understands what sex is,” Sargent observed.

The story quickly picked up traction nationally, blossoming into a rare public blunder for Netflix, which was just coming off the largely-favorable reception for Marvel’s new Daredevil series. And the budding broadcast hub chose to address the issue with a somewhat warmed-over statement.

“The movie has Ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” the company stated. “It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”

While Sandler himself has not weighed in, the chorus of Native Americans supporting the actors has only grown. Natives In America founder Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a past Racialicious contributor, organized the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag to rally attention to the incident.

And Netflix itself now faces the prospect of a boycott, as the #WalkOffNetflix campaign is also gaining steam. Online supporters are threatening to abandon the streaming service if it does not cancel Sandler’s project.

Meanwhile, the production staff has reportedly reached out to the actors who left the set, including 74-year-old Choctaw performer David Hill.

“I hope they will listen to us,” said Hill, a member of the American Indian Movement. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie — I said I would knock his ass out. This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”

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The Racialicious Live-Tweet For The 2015 Oscars

If you skipped last night’s ceremony, we certainly don’t blame you. But, Kendra and Arturo were live-snarking throughout the night, and you can catch their recap of the highs and awkward lows under the cut.

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