Race and videogames: A look at ‘True Crime – Streets of LA’

by guest contributor Pat Miller, originally published at Token Minorities

true crime streets of LAWell, I finally got to sit down and get a somewhat satisfying session in with True Crime Streets of LA. I haven’t finished it, but I think I can safely say that the elements of the game’s plot that caught my attention – the strong presence of racial minorities in the game, including a biracial protagonist, set in Los Angeles – ended up more as a product of the mix of two film genres – a cop movie and a kung-fu movie – than anything else. Nick Kang may be half-Chinese, half-Caucasian, but lines like “It’s dim sum time!” don’t really hold a whole lot of progressive appeal. I do have a weak spot for Nick Kang, as Asian American men rarely get roles as cops who play fast and loose with the rules, but he doesn’t do a whole lot to redeem the game.

One thing that caught my attention was the focus on international organized crime. The main forces (possible spoiler?) in True Crime: Streets of LA are the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the North Korean People’s Army, putting Nick Kang and the rest of his Elite Operations Division in the position of Saving America From The Rest Of The World. On one hand, that should establish the multi-colored EOD as the vanguard of America, disassociating the identity of ‘white’ with that of ‘American’. On the other hand, it’s not quite clear whether some of the characters are Chinese or Chinese American, Russian or Russian American, etc. Certainly, ethnic enclaves like Chinatown or Little Tokyo will have some kind of connection to China or Japan, as those places are often the easiest points of entry for new immigrants, but I can’t say I like how True Crime: Streets of LA seems to equate those centers as universally working against the good of America.

For a game that does invoke race, ethnicity, and nationality as often as True Crime: Streets of LA does, I’d think that they could have utilized the setting much more eloquently than they did. The only Los Angeles in TCLA is in the street names. Yes, we have Asians and Chicano/Latinos and African Americans working together, and I’d like to think that somewhere in LA is a police department that looks like the EOD. But they could have done so much with the racial tensions that historically have actually occurred in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t you rather play Nick Kang, a Korean American police officer fighting to protect Koreatown from the LA riots?

Alberto VO5 hair wax makes you like, totally anti-establishment

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I actually think this ad is kind of cute. But hopefully people will realize that this isn’t quite representative anymore of China today.

The art direction is pretty accurate, puke-green paint on the wall and all. When I lived in Shanghai in the mid-80s, local schools really did look like this. Students had long ago ditched the grey Mao suits, but the little red scarves were still a must.

Thanks to HighJive for the tip!

links for 2006-11-29

Asians in James Bond films: the best, the baddest and the bedded

by guest contributor Bryan Thao Worra, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

james bond asiansWhen People magazine asked Daniel Craig to name his ideal Bond girl, he pointed to the Japanese American film producer at his side, his girlfriend Satsuki Mitchell. The chap sure knows how to dodge a bullet. Sadly, Mitchell’s not 007’s love interest in the latest release of the franchise, Casino Royale. But that doesn’t mean the British superspy exists in a whitebread world of international intrigue. No, Asians have been central to the 21 films, from evil genius Dr. No to Hong Kong masseuse Peaceful Fountains of Desire. Join us now for a look at the best, the baddest and the bedded.

1962: Dr. No

dr. no james bondWow. It’s “yellow peril” right from the start with Dr. Julius No, a brilliant Eurasian scientist, who describes himself as an “unwanted child of a German missionary and a Chinese girl of a good family.” Aren’t they all?He later became treasurer of the most powerful criminal society in China and escaped to America with $10 million in gold bullion. He specialized in atomic energy, a hobby that cost him both of his hands. Never one to let that sort of thing get him down, he replaced them with bionic ones. And bit the big one by getting boiled alive. A fat lot of good those robot hands did him.

The other notable Asian in Dr. No is Miss Taro, played by Zena Marshall, a Dr. No flunky working undercover at the Colonial Secretary’s office in Kingston, Jamaica. Her brilliant idea to help her boss is sleep with Bond until a nerdy professor can come along to kill that pesky 007. She ends up getting arrested instead. But this sets up a dynamic to be repeated throughout the series. Not quite a case of sisters doing it for themselves.

1964: Goldfinger

goldfinger james bondThe man with the Midas touch can afford to cart around the iconic Oddjob, a hulking brute played by Harold Sakata who flings around a mean bowler hat and can crush golf-balls to a fine powder. And he never got a bit of dialogue. In the novel version, he apparently also ate cats. Greeeat.

1967: You Only Live Twice

you only live twice james bondAnd twice is the only way to live, with Nancy Sinatra croaking out a drippy pseudo-Japanese tune that could only come from the 60s. The film opens up in a bedroom with Ling played by Tsai Chin. After some bedroom antics with Bond, Ling presses a button on the wall flipping the bed into an upright position with Bond still on it. She then lets in a couple of gunmen who assassinate Bond. They’re not promoting an idea of crafty backstabbing Asian dragon ladies here at all. The killing, of course, is staged in order to give Bond more freedom to complete his real mission, an entire film that boils down to a big ninjas vs. SPECTRE throw-down in a volcano. Also known as Austin Powers.Of course, logic necessitates Bond undergoing special surgery to make him look Japanese to uncover the bad guys. And sleep with his friend Tiger Tanaka’s best agents, like Kissy Suzuki, played by Mie Hama, who fell for one of the worst cases of yellowface since Charlie Chan.

Tiger Tanaka was played by the recently deceased Tetsuro Tamba. Tanaka is the head of the Japanese Secret Service in You Only Live Twice, aiding Bond in defeating Ernst Stavro Blofeld, using a team of ninja warriors he just happens to have readily on hand for just such an occasion.

Of course, there has to be an Asian bad guy in this film, and that’s Mr. Osato, played by Teru Shimada. The head of Osato Chemicals and Engineering, he’s also moonlighting for SPECTRE as a henchman of Dr. Evil, um, I mean SPECTRE #1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Unfortunately, his worst nightmare comes true: he’s shot by his own boss. Continue reading

links for 2006-11-28

Brand-new “Addicted to Race” episode out now (#49)!

by Jen Chau and Carmen Van Kerckhove

A brand-new episode of Addicted to Race is out! If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes. Click here to launch iTunes and subscribe today, it’s absolutely free.

teddy zee Carmen chats with movie producer Teddy Zee about the current state of representations of Asian-Americans in film and television. Zee is president of Ironpond, an entertainment company that bridges Hollywood and Asia. Previously, he was a top-level studio executive at Columbia and Paramount. He produced Hitch, Saving Face, The Pursuit of Happyness, and recently completed West 32nd.

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Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World