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On Being an Asian Nerd: this article is so relevant to my interests

JinniganJinnigan Registered User regular
edited February 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
http://www.startribune.com/yourvoices/82188702.html?elr=KArks47cQiUUUU

Bao Phi on being an Asian Nerd

some of my fave bits:

I’ve told this story a million times: when I was young, my father kept me off the streets and saved much needed money buying me the toys I wanted by getting me a library card and teaching me to walk to the Franklin Avenue library, and there began my love of books and stories.

What I’ve written less about is the books I gravitated towards: books about mythological monsters, Greek gods and heroes, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Lord of the Rings, my older sister’s Elfquest collection and X-men comic books. And the secret of many a nerd of color from the ‘hood: my lifelong devotion with role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire: the Masquerade (making vampire fixations embarrassing long before Stephanie Meyer).

[...]

However, there was a discomfort about some of my own internalized issues. I always chose to ignore the weird feeling I got when I realized that, in my dreams, I was always, literally, a white knight. When I dreamt I was a superhero, I was a white dude with superpowers and the Mary Jane to my Peter Parker was always white. Even though I had a nagging feeling about it, I thought I was justified in my dreams because, hey, none of King Arthur’s knights were Asian and therefore my dreams wouldn’t be real if I dreamt otherwise. And I never really cared for the Oriental Adventures rule book for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

[...]

I became a fan of the new Battlestar Gallactica and yet wondered how Grace Park’s character seemed like a sci-fi stand-in for Miss Saigon, and despite my skepticism stuck with the series through its entire run and watched in horror as the show literally and figuratively dumped almost all of their characters of color out of an airlock by the time the show ended. I dug Firefly a lot, but was annoyed that Whedon predictably relegated Asian culture to a neo-Yellow peril future where the extent of China emerging as a superpower means that people throw in a couple of badly pronounced Mandarin words into their everyday conversations, and despite the idea of this looming Asian culture, there are no actual Asian characters to be seen.

[...]

And you’d think that fellow nerds, regardless of race and gender, would understand given that our status as freaks and geeks and outcasts would give us some humility and common ground to stand on. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Try bringing up issues of race, class, gender, and homophobia on a video game message board and see the vitriolic response you get, no matter how diplomatic you try to be. Bring up issues of representation and race to fans of Battlestar and Firefly and get told that you’re a killjoy or one of the “PC police” who doesn’t understand what their favorite show is trying to do. Bring up the relative absence of Asian men in American pop culture and people invariably bring up Bruce Lee – without acknowledging the fact that he was passed over for the television show he created, Kung Fu, for a white actor, and had to go to Hong Kong to find success. Point out that The Last Airbender has an almost all-white cast and people will say, since they’re animated and fictional, they’re not supposed to be Asian – while ignoring that, even when the characters are supposed to be Asian, Hollywood makes them white anyway (see the movie 21, based on a true story where almost all of the real life people involved were Asian Americans, or if you need to stay with nerd references, see Bulletproof Monk, where the Asian American character in the comic is replaced by a white guy).

I welcome reasonable debate and discussion, even with people who don't agree with me. However, race still touches a deep nerve in the majority of Americans, and the denial of it - this idea that race is no longer a relevant issue - makes it even worse. It’s hard to have an intelligent discussion when people can just reactively respond by saying things like “my best friend/girlfriend is Asian and doesn’t think that’s racist so you’re wrong”. And being a nerd as well as a person of color, I understand being defensive. You always feel like someone is going to make fun of something you hold sacred. But at what point do you learn from that experience, of being the odd one out, and realize that you may be doing that to someone else – based on their race, or gender, or with whom they decide to partner with? At what point do you empathize rather than silence?

[...]

And it’s not like I have any particular cause to be righteous. As much as I was critical of the way brown people were portrayed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and all of the Star Wars films, I am still a big fan of both franchises. I am not without my own contradictions, my own questions. But I think applying a critical mind to the things we like and love is necessary.


I love this piece, because it expresses perfectly all of the things I've felt over the years, as an asian nerd myself. In essence: escaping into a fantasy world, only to find that there's a great amount of self-denial and simply, well, lack of asians in most fantasy, whether it be D&D, video games, or tv shows. I've also had the same frustrations when trying to bring up the topic with fellow nerds.

So here I am! Bringing this article to you, because I do quite like it, and I think it is something worth thinking about, as (I am assuming) all of us here are nerds, in one way or another.

whatifihadnofriendsshortenedsiggy2.jpg
Jinnigan on
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    JinniganJinnigan Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    so i guess here's a question or two to get a ball rolling:

    if you're white, have you noticed or thought about this sort of thing before? what do you think of this sort of thing?
    if you're not white, what do you think? have you had similar experiences?

    Jinnigan on
    whatifihadnofriendsshortenedsiggy2.jpg
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Parts of that article were a lot more familiar to me than I was expecting. As an Asian nerd, I've thought about things like that as well. I think the part at the beginning (where he talks about daydreaming about being a white fantasy hero with a white girlfriend) is more indicative of western society being white by default, rather than a slight against Asians.

    However, it is a pretty noticable trend that Asians are very rarely seen in media outside of specific archetypal roles (though it's been getting better in recent years). Also (from anecdotal experience) it seems that while Asian women show up a lot in interchangable roles, Asian men are rarely in the "hero" role unless it's a kung fu movie. I suspect that Asian men are perceived by the greater American audience as being less masculine than a white or black counterpart.

    KalTorak on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Unless I'm missing something (and I've only seen the first two and a half seasons) in Battlestar Galactica, Grace Park just seemed like a character who happened to be Asian.

    Isn't that the point? Or are we demanding a "true Asian" be forced into roles?

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I think the first most obvious question is how this compares to mainstream culture. Otherisation isn’t exactly unheard of there, and theoretically it strikes me that it should be better with the more recent heavy east asian (specifically Japanese) influences and cultural elements that have seeped in. Though the interaction there is fairly complicated, and not something I have enough familiarity with to speak on confidently, but there seems to be a fair amount of misogynistic feeling tied in (anime is seeped in this, and Japanese culture as a whole isn’t that much better, the subservient housewife stripped of agency is far more common), and the idealisation of the culture which can’t exactly be healthy.

    But yes. The stereotyping of east asian men is incredibly stark. I’d argue they get pigeonholed in a way that no other race does. Whilst black leads aren’t exactly as common as they should be I bet I could think of a few dozen off the top of my head, an asian lead? I’d have trouble thinking of five, and if we ignore martial arts films that would make things astronomically more difficult. It strikes me that a large part of this is the way east asian men are emasculated. Setting aside just protagonists there is still a heavy amount of stereotyping, mostly along the lines of the aforementioned ‘dragon’ women, meek office works/student/nerds (I’d argue to an extent these are inextricably linked in many ways in popular culture, there’s at least a tremendous amount of overlap), and martial artists.

    As for the discussions of race relations within the fandom? To put on my pop-psycology hat I would argue that given nerds see themselves as the other they’re more sensitive to critiques and complaints of being priveliged because these are things they for whatever reason think they haven’t been given access to, and are being unfairly judged for. And no one likes it when you point out that they’ve got it easier anyway.

    Leitner on
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    SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    There is a similar problem in sci-fi and fantasy books. There are very few books that detail with black cultural mythologies in fantasy especially. Like you said even attempts in media to incorporate non-white culture often fall flat.

    For me the question is one of understanding. I'd guess that most writers of fantasy/sci-fi television, films or books tend to be white themselves so will often gravitate towards their own heroic influences. Its not right and makes things limited but I'd suggest that it might take a success like the Twighlight books (/spit) but with another culture explored to get these things seen in a more equal light.

    The annoyance is that when literature or film incorporates non-white or non-european tropes its well received and considered so fresh it could drag in non nerds to enjoy it.

    Spindizzy on
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    ShivahnShivahn Unaware of her barrel shifter privilege Western coastal temptressRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited February 2010
    KalTorak wrote: »
    I suspect that Asian men are perceived by the greater American audience as being less masculine than a white or black counterpart.

    While I doubt it's as bad now, this is certainly a great possibility. Back in the sixties*, one of the big stereotypes was that Asian men were effeminate, and this was used in a lot of super racist advertising, among other things. As far as I know, it's always been a stereotype and it really wouldn't surprise me if it were still the case in general culture. I grew up in pretty isolated pocket with essentially only Asian friends, though, so I don't feel qualified to comment on broad cultural trends like this.

    *eighteen sixties, that is.

    Shivahn on
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    BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited February 2010
    Ursula Le Guin neatly pointed this out with her Earthsea books, casually mentioning that the lead character was black ages into the story, shocking the reader out of their preconception that he must be white. The noble elves, doughty dwarves, amusing hobbits and steadfast men of fantasy are all pale by default.

    I dunno about his deal with BSG. Grace Pak didn't seem like Miss Saigon to me and the lead character was a Latin dude. Sure, white people outnumbered them, but picking out BSG seems odd.

    Bogart on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Bogart wrote: »
    Ursula Le Guin neatly pointed this out with her Earthsea books, casually mentioning that the lead character was black ages into the story, shocking the reader out of their preconception that he must be white.

    Not to nitpick, but he was red-skinned and we knew that pretty much from the start.

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Neil Gaiman did something similar in "Anansi Boys," making the default race black and not mentioning it until a ways into the book.

    Since most of the characters are either descended from an African trickster god or just from the Caribbean, it's a bit more shocking than usual that studio executives for the film project of the book wanted to turn all the characters white.

    KalTorak on
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    sidhaethesidhaethe Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I'm black and I definitely feel it - it's not quite the same thing as the way Asians are whitewashed out of their own settings, but I do notice it. One of my favorite riffs on this subject was by Margaret Cho, talking about how she loves historical fantasies and would love to be able to be cast in one, but the only way she was going to get a job like that is if she were laying on her side smoking some opium. I love historical fantasies too, love getting dressed up for Ren Faire; guess where my people were in medieval times?

    Re: portrayal of Asian men in culture. Man, I had been hoping we were done with that silly goosery, and then Hiro tried to kiss Charlie, freaked out, and time-traveled. I seriously threw up my hands and groaned at that, like, what the hell!?

    sidhaethe on
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    BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited February 2010
    Chanus wrote: »
    Bogart wrote: »
    Ursula Le Guin neatly pointed this out with her Earthsea books, casually mentioning that the lead character was black ages into the story, shocking the reader out of their preconception that he must be white.

    Not to nitpick, but he was red-skinned and we knew that pretty much from the start.

    It's been a while, so I checked wiki and he's apparently 'red-brown, like a Native American'. I don't remember it being clear from the start, though. Btu I could be wrong about that, obviously, as I misremembered the colour.

    Bogart on
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    SkyGheNeSkyGheNe Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    if you're white, have you noticed or thought about this sort of thing before? what do you think of this sort of thing?
    if you're not white, what do you think? have you had similar experiences?

    I don't think I thought of it much in high school, and by the time I was in college, I became more aware of this isolation felt by minority groups.

    Women who worry about getting jumped and raped in relatively safe neighborhoods.
    Blacks who immediately realize they are the only one in a college classroom.
    Asians who (in my experience) struggled between multiple identities.

    I think as a minority, your identity is strained because the white patriarchal system we operate under states that there is the ideal you need to strive for (be dominant, white, good looking, strong, decisive, unwavering, have money), basically, all the values that you "should" strive for are that of the white patriarchal culture. However, many minority groups then have their own set of values which, at home, are seen as equally important, and it creates a fragmented identity.

    I'm mexican american, but my ancestors arrived in Mexico with the conquistadors, so I look european, and thanks to my mother, I have a very german build. Growing up, I wasn't really accepted by hispanic culture, and so because of my appearance, gravitated towards the dominant values held by "white" culture, for lack of a better term.

    Nothing was more isolating than when I went to Spain and everyone was speaking a different language than me - and I looked noticeably American. For once in my life I knew what it meant to be surrounded by the "other." It wasn't like going to the African American Cultural Center or something like that. If i went to those places, I knew that by the end of the day, I would be surrounded by people who looked like me, but in Spain, there was no escape from it. So it was interesting and definitely a good experience to be forced into encountering that awkward feeling for a longer period of time.

    On the topic of entertainment, until you see more minorities in positions of power in relevant industries, you probably won't see accurate representations. The other issue is that what we do see in popular media influences how we view groups (black man raping white woman/asian doing martial arts/sciences/jack bauer torturing and therefore torture works) etc.

    SkyGheNe on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Bogart wrote: »
    Chanus wrote: »
    Bogart wrote: »
    Ursula Le Guin neatly pointed this out with her Earthsea books, casually mentioning that the lead character was black ages into the story, shocking the reader out of their preconception that he must be white.

    Not to nitpick, but he was red-skinned and we knew that pretty much from the start.

    It's been a while, so I checked wiki and he's apparently 'red-brown, like a Native American'. I don't remember it being clear from the start, though. Btu I could be wrong about that, obviously, as I misremembered the colour.

    There is mention made of the people of his area being red (or I guess red-brown) fairly early in the story.

    The irony is more that people just didn't notice and assumed he was white (I recall doing that myself when I first red them as a kid). I think it became controversial when publishers depicted Ged as white on cover illustrations.

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    sidhaethe wrote: »
    I love historical fantasies too, love getting dressed up for Ren Faire; guess where my people were in medieval times?
    Well, I don't know your exact heritage, but potentially "in Northern Africa, kicking the shit out of white folks."

    While I understand the OP's complaints with regards to fantasy characters all being paleskins, I'd point out that the vast, vast majority of fantasy is based on either Arthurian legend or Grimm's fairy tales or a combination of the two (in varying proportions.) I'd love to see more eastern-influenced fantasy novels - there's a lot of really, really cool Chinese and Japanese mythology that I'm only very vaguely familiar with - but there doesn't seem to be anyone producing any, which is odd.

    Salvation122 on
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    BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited February 2010
    Chanus wrote: »
    Bogart wrote: »
    Chanus wrote: »
    Bogart wrote: »
    Ursula Le Guin neatly pointed this out with her Earthsea books, casually mentioning that the lead character was black ages into the story, shocking the reader out of their preconception that he must be white.

    Not to nitpick, but he was red-skinned and we knew that pretty much from the start.

    It's been a while, so I checked wiki and he's apparently 'red-brown, like a Native American'. I don't remember it being clear from the start, though. Btu I could be wrong about that, obviously, as I misremembered the colour.

    There is mention made of the people of his area being red (or I guess red-brown) fairly early in the story.

    The irony is more that people just didn't notice and assumed he was white (I recall doing that myself when I first red them as a kid). I think it became controversial when publishers depicted Ged as white on cover illustrations.

    Le Guin certainly commented on it when it was done. I think he was white in the mini-series as well, about which she was likewise unimpressed.

    Bogart on
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    SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Ursula K Le Guin was the daughter of an anthropologist and so wanted to mix things up a bit. Earthsea is supposed to be a representation of South East Asia. Meanwhile her other big book - Left Hand of Darkness I think the protagonist is black.

    A quick comment on africa during the medieval period. There is a great series on the BBC at the moment that explores the civilizations of Africa lost due to the hegemony of Europe from about 1500 onwards. Before then Africa was a continent full of dynamic and advanced civilizations on par or more advanced than many of the things going on in Europe.

    I do think there is room to make other cultures part of the things I read and watch. I'd love to read stories that explore the Vedic tradition or Babylonian myths. That was something I liked about American Gods was that the gods are explored in such a way that you felt connected to them despite being unrelated to their mythic traditions.

    Spindizzy on
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    Andrew_JayAndrew_Jay Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Interesting topic. I'm white, but have occasionally wondered about how other folks interacted with science fiction and fantasy, and "geek culture" in general. The OP hits on the weird juxtaposition - on one hand, it comes across as middle-class, white, culture (at least it seems so to me) while at the same time it's hardly a "dominant" culture, so you don't immediately see it as exclusionary.

    Though science fiction is somewhat inclusive, at least in terms of featuring minority characters (be they racial, sexual, etc.). Arthur C. Clarke did that a lot, and often in an interesting way. He'd develop a character and half-way through the book reveal that they were, for example, black (I haven't read the book Bogart is talking about, but I guess it's similar).

    But the race of characters brings up another issue - cover art. My copy of Empire Earth has a white guy on the cover, presumably the protagonist, and I believe the same thing has happened with editions of Heinlein's novels where protagonists where non-white.

    Andrew_Jay on
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    SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Equally, a problem of other alien races in fantasy or sci -fi is that they can be seen to be characatures of other human ethnic groups playing up to stereotypes.

    Thinking that the future will be a anglo-white dominant one is naive and a cliche we've all to readily been duped into by visual media. While with literature less so.

    Spindizzy on
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    ScorchedScorched Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I find this interesting, as a white-asian. My mother's side of the family comes from Singapore and my dad is Dutch. Reading the article, I my experiences regarding protagonists in imagined stories mirror his both as a kid and to this date.

    Thing is, I personally don't suffer from self-denial. Or at least, I think I don't: I am culturally more white than asian. I don't have any relationship with my mother's side of the family, or any interest in joining in with her cultural traditions or heritage - this all despite the fact that I lived in Singapore for 4 years of my childhood, at a relatively impressionable age.

    Of course, all these influences were affected on me before I moved there and perhaps my apathy stems from some ingrained view that white fantasy trumps asian fantasy. It would be quite interesting to examine said influences more closely. Personally though, it doesn't really bother me. Perhaps that should worry me.

    Scorched on
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    CabezoneCabezone Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I came to Firefly late and thought it was pretty noticeable that there were zero Chinese people anywhere in the series even tho they're supposed to be the other major group. I'd read about the universe background a bit before viewing. I found it somewhat irritating that they didn't bother even attempting to cast some Chinese folks into the show. There isn't even any goddamn background Chinese people for the most part.

    I think most of it is because most of the stuff put out is marketed towards white folks. I would prefer casting people actually made some kind of attempt to mix it up a bit, I have zero issues watching and rooting for any race.

    Cabezone on
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    CauldCauld Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I noticed the lack of Chinese people in Firefly and thought it was strange as well. I've noticed things like this a little more since I started dating a Chinese woman (who I've since married). I find myself noticing many little comments in podcasts oron the radio that I have to subconsciously defend, and I'm not sure if I like it.

    Of equal interest to me is that the author of that article grew up within a couple miles of me. Maybe I know them! Also that's the first decent article I've seen out of the Star Tribune in a long time.

    Edit: I remember in grade school a lot of the Asian students I knew would go to the library after school for a few hours everyday. I remember thinking it was a little strange at the time, but I also remember envying them a little. I wanted to hang out at the library!

    Cauld on
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    LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    SkyGheNe wrote: »
    I'm mexican american, but my ancestors arrived in Mexico with the conquistadors, so I look european, and thanks to my mother, I have a very german build. Growing up, I wasn't really accepted by hispanic culture, and so because of my appearance, gravitated towards the dominant values held by "white" culture, for lack of a better term.

    That would be, to be quite simple because you are a product of the dominant ‘white’ (it’s a lot more complicated than that, I’d say class for example is more of a predicate of divisions but let’s set that aside) culture. It's over arching and inescapable. Which is something that isn’t nearly touched upon enough in any media, let alone geek related media, that of hybridity. You can’t simply have an east asian character who grew up in and was a Londoner, more so then anything else, whilst recognising the discrimination and assumptions he faces. Perhaps even touching upon the conflict, ala East is East or the like. Rather the lets say Chinese character has to get in touch with his Chinese heritage and have it define him, I question how helpful that is.

    Leitner on
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    SamSam Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I'm Indian, and I feel all the things mentioned in the thread, compounded by the fact that many people think I'm an Arab. I guess it isn't possible for non brown people to be sure without asking. It's particularly frustrating to be attached to a culture you have no connection to whatsoever, beyond skin color. This is in addition to having Indian parents and relatives whom I cannot culturally identify with in the slightest- it's a culture I'm familiar with but have never been able to identify as. Nor do I identify with "white culture", if such a thing even exists. I've found that the people I relate best to are those that grow up in multiple cultures. Most of these friends would also decline to predominantly identify with one culture, although I have seen several overcompensate in one direction or the other. It gets pretty nasty.

    I've met American born Chinese who adopt ferociously sinocentric and Chinese-supremacist worldview in their early adulthood (somewhat similar to black pride culture in the 60s) as well as some who are more Chinese born Americans that will refuse to discuss China or Chinese culture and try extremely hard to act American despite English not being their first language. In both cases there seems to be a sense of insecurity, and some amount of self loathing.
    Everyone wants to be part of some majority. I wish I could feel that way, but I can't. I'm don't speak any Indian languages, and honestly don't care for the religion, cuisine, politics, pop culture or sport (using the singular because it's only cricket) I also find the American worldview incredibly insular.

    I'm inclined to feel like an Other no matter where I am, unless it's with people who have gone through the same thing.

    Sam on
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    Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Leitner wrote: »
    SkyGheNe wrote: »
    I'm mexican american, but my ancestors arrived in Mexico with the conquistadors, so I look european, and thanks to my mother, I have a very german build. Growing up, I wasn't really accepted by hispanic culture, and so because of my appearance, gravitated towards the dominant values held by "white" culture, for lack of a better term.

    That would be, to be quite simple because you are a product of the dominant ‘white’ (it’s a lot more complicated than that, I’d say class for example is more of a predicate of divisions but let’s set that aside) culture. It's over arching and inescapable. Which is something that isn’t nearly touched upon enough in any media, let alone geek related media, that of hybridity. You can’t simply have an east asian character who grew up in and was a Londoner, more so then anything else, whilst recognising the discrimination and assumptions he faces. Perhaps even touching upon the conflict, ala East is East or the like. Rather the lets say Chinese character has to get in touch with his Chinese heritage and have it define him, I question how helpful that is.

    I read a sci-fi series a while back - and I cannot, for the life of me, remember the title of any of the books, or the name of the author, which is really irritating - about a near-future NATO naval force that got swept up in some kind of time-travel thing and sent back to the Battle of Midway. One of the destroyer commanders was a British Indian woman, and a big chunk of the second book focused heavily on how much shit she was getting from the British Admiralty of the 1940s. Culture clash between the future crew and 1940s military was actually one of the main themes of the books.

    Ed: Ha! Axis of Time series, by John Birmingham.

    Salvation122 on
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    mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Jinnigan wrote: »
    so i guess here's a question or two to get a ball rolling:

    if you're white, have you noticed or thought about this sort of thing before? what do you think of this sort of thing?
    if you're not white, what do you think? have you had similar experiences?

    I've thought about it only because I have so many asian friends who were nerds. I would taunt them with Mickey Rooney-esque impressions of asians.

    mickey-rooney-breakfast-at-tiffanys.jpeg

    mrt144 on
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    adytumadytum The Inevitable Rise And FallRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    SkyGheNe wrote: »
    if you're white, have you noticed or thought about this sort of thing before? what do you think of this sort of thing?
    if you're not white, what do you think? have you had similar experiences?

    I don't think I thought of it much in high school, and by the time I was in college, I became more aware of this isolation felt by minority groups.

    Women who worry about getting jumped and raped in relatively safe neighborhoods.
    Blacks who immediately realize they are the only one in a college classroom.
    Asians who (in my experience) struggled between multiple identities.

    I think as a minority, your identity is strained because the white patriarchal system we operate under states that there is the ideal you need to strive for (be dominant, white, good looking, strong, decisive, unwavering, have money), basically, all the values that you "should" strive for are that of the white patriarchal culture. However, many minority groups then have their own set of values which, at home, are seen as equally important, and it creates a fragmented identity.

    I'm mexican american, but my ancestors arrived in Mexico with the conquistadors, so I look european, and thanks to my mother, I have a very german build. Growing up, I wasn't really accepted by hispanic culture, and so because of my appearance, gravitated towards the dominant values held by "white" culture, for lack of a better term.

    Nothing was more isolating than when I went to Spain and everyone was speaking a different language than me - and I looked noticeably American. For once in my life I knew what it meant to be surrounded by the "other." It wasn't like going to the African American Cultural Center or something like that. If i went to those places, I knew that by the end of the day, I would be surrounded by people who looked like me, but in Spain, there was no escape from it. So it was interesting and definitely a good experience to be forced into encountering that awkward feeling for a longer period of time.

    I guess it depends on where you're from.

    In college, as a white male, I was by far the vast minority in most of my classes.

    Then again I went to the most diverse school in the United States.

    I've never felt out of place when I didn't jive with the culture / language. People are usually very accepting if you're open.

    adytum on
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    SamSam Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    In college, as a white male, I was by far the vast minority in most of my classes.

    this is not the same as being in the vast minority of the country you live in and/or growing up that way. not even close.

    btw if it was a diverse school there wouldn't be a minority, everyone would be on equal footing; whites aren't a "minority" if there isn't a majority.

    Sam on
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    SkannerJATSkannerJAT Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Its an interesting discussion. I am white, German and English mostly. I can say I never really notice the particular lack of one group or another in mainstream media and I can get on board with the idea that it my be my racial background and/or environment growing up that reinforced the narrow sightedness.

    My girlfriend is an interesting individual in this regard however. She is Korean, but was adopted by her parents at around 6 months. Her mother is native German and her father American. She lived in Germany for a period and identifies with the German culture far more then Korean. She has absolutely no interest in Korean culture at all. I can safely say she shares my same aptitude for not noticing the narrow range of cultures within the mainstream while herself being part of a minority.

    Also this reminds me of something someone asked me in Germany. My girlfriends cousins were saying how I looked German to which I replied my surname is German with ancestry. She asked why we Americans make such a big deal about where our families come from instead of just saying we are "American". I think our countries basis of being made up of immigrants influences how we view the absence or inclusion of cultures in the media and our society as a whole.

    SkannerJAT on
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    sidhaethesidhaethe Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Sorry, this is kind of all over the place, as I respond to a bunch of things at once:
    Well, I don't know your exact heritage, but potentially "in Northern Africa, kicking the shit out of white folks."

    Yeah, unfortunately I'm slave stock from the Caribbean, so, West African descent here.

    A quick comment on africa during the medieval period. There is a great series on the BBC at the moment that explores the civilizations of Africa lost due to the hegemony of Europe from about 1500 onwards. Before then Africa was a continent full of dynamic and advanced civilizations on par or more advanced than many of the things going on in Europe.

    That is true, unfortunately due to the civilizations being lost we don't have a ton of information about about what they wore, how their culture worked, etc. I have considered going to Faire dressed as a Moor, for example, but there is verrrry little information about how Moorish women dressed. It's so much easier to just buy a Tudor-era gown and English it up.

    The absence of Asians in Firefly is appalling, really, I don't know what Whedon was thinking. I remember starting up the pilot and thinking, "wow, there are not one, but TWO main black characters in an ensemble cast of NINE, in a sci-fi series! Huzzah!" and then, later, "...where the fuck are the Chinese people?"

    I just don't buy the whole notion of white audiences wanting to see white people. I get that there are some people who would see a cast of blacks or Asians or Indians and think, "ooh, a special interest film" but how many of them can there be out there who think like that? And maybe people wouldn't think that if people of color were actually cast in movies and series that weren't addressed specifically to POC concerns! Gee, what a thought!

    Some anecdotes on childhood fantasies and how people saw themselves: I'm pretty sure I didn't see myself as "black" when I inserted myself in heroic fantasies as a kid. My hair was pretty good at reminding me, however - a little girl with nappy sausage pigtails is in for a rude awakening when she tries to style her hair in Princess Leia buns. See also: my attempts to set my hair in curlers in order to look more like Annie.

    A few years ago, a couple friends and I suggested on Livejournal, for argument's sake, that Hermione Granger was actually black, since JK Rowling had never specified her ethnicity and only described her as having bushy brown hair (that could be temporarily "tamed" by applying cream to it) and brown eyes. The response was interesting, with some folks vehemently against the idea and others finding it refreshing - our own initial reaction to the idea was "oh, wow, that changes everything!" and then moments later realizing that it changed nothing. It was a fun little exercise that tested our perceptions and the way we read into the text.

    Edit: Oh, and I'm American-born, Canadian-raised, by West-Indian parents. I have a tough time identifying with African-American culture - as in I don't - and usually look at things from a white perspective by default, since that's the majority of my circle of friends, until I'm "other"ed out.

    sidhaethe on
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    TalleyrandTalleyrand Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    The simplest excuse for misrepresentation in media is that it's set either in the Western world or is an extension of it. Right now the majority of people in the U.S. are white so it makes sense that most characters in film or television are as well, but no that doesn't make it right. I never noticed that about Firefly and I'm glad you pointed it out but it makes me wonder if having an asian character would be enough or if they had to represent some aspects of asian culture as well. Attempting to fight under-representation or stereotypes is very difficult, (especially since most writers and directors are white males) without resorting to other stereotypes. If someone wanted to include a female character that isn't just a sex object she is usually made too masculine or becomes a different stereotype; bitchy boss, maternal figure, or fat and shy.

    Talleyrand on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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    BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Parts of that article were a lot more familiar to me than I was expecting. As an Asian nerd, I've thought about things like that as well. I think the part at the beginning (where he talks about daydreaming about being a white fantasy hero with a white girlfriend) is more indicative of western society being white by default, rather than a slight against Asians.

    It's more likely a reaction to Western media.

    pic-secretasianman.jpg
    And Gene Cajayon, the Filipino American director of the 2001 film "The Debut," the first Fil-Am movie to be released nationwide in the United States, talks about the revised ending for the action movie "Romeo Must Die," a retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" where the R&B star Aaliyah plays Juliet to the Chinese actor Jet Li's Romeo. The original ending had Aaliyah kissing Li, a scenario that didn't test well with an "urban audience." So the studio changed it. The new ending had Aaliyah giving Li a tight hug. Says Cajayon, "Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/24/AR2007052402573.html

    The most famous love story of all time with no love scene because the Romeo role was played by an Asian male. And the funny thing is if instead of Jet that were Lucy Liu there would've been no problem.

    BubbaT on
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    LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    "too masculine"

    Leitner on
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    mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Talleyrand wrote: »
    The simplest excuse for misrepresentation in media is that it's set either in the Western world or is an extension of it. Right now the majority of people in the U.S. are white so it makes sense that most characters in film or television are as well, but no that doesn't make it right. I never noticed that about Firefly and I'm glad you pointed it out but it makes me wonder if having an asian character would be enough or if they had to represent some aspects of asian culture as well. Attempting to fight under-representation or stereotypes is very difficult, (especially since most writers and directors are white males) without resorting to other stereotypes. If someone wanted to include a female character that isn't just a sex object she is usually made too masculine or becomes a different stereotype; bitchy boss, maternal figure, or fat and shy.

    Or you wind up with an Annoying Milquetoast like Harry Kim who nobody likes, but might be a might be a somewhat accurate representation of Asian American Men.

    mrt144 on
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    adytumadytum The Inevitable Rise And FallRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Sam wrote: »
    In college, as a white male, I was by far the vast minority in most of my classes.

    this is not the same as being in the vast minority of the country you live in and/or growing up that way. not even close.

    btw if it was a diverse school there wouldn't be a minority, everyone would be on equal footing; whites aren't a "minority" if there isn't a majority.

    There are absolute majorities, and relative majorities.

    Way to pick nits and still be wrong about it. Silly goose.

    adytum on
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    mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    adytum wrote: »
    Sam wrote: »
    In college, as a white male, I was by far the vast minority in most of my classes.

    this is not the same as being in the vast minority of the country you live in and/or growing up that way. not even close.

    btw if it was a diverse school there wouldn't be a minority, everyone would be on equal footing; whites aren't a "minority" if there isn't a majority.

    There are absolute majorities, and relative majorities.

    Way to pick nits and still be wrong about it. Silly goose.

    I face palmed about that. It's like he was defeating a white martyr strawman.

    mrt144 on
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    SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    So do you think there is a market for more diverse ethnicity within science fiction and fantasy media? Or is it the studios and television executives that are blocking things? Is there a particular mythology or culture you'd actually want to see?

    Egyptian? Hindu? Babylonian? myths or stories set in a futuristic Zimbabwe for example? or is Europe an exotic enough location for American readers?

    Spindizzy on
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    VerrVerr Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I'm Hispanic-American, and I can identify with the OP/Article. I was raised in the Midwest, and can admit I didn't "get" racism till I got older. Played pokemon, D&D, CS, all the big ones.

    I always kid with my black and asian buddies that at least they get the "good" stereotypes in sci-fi/fantasy. The Latin/Mexican characters always seem to be some variation of:

    a. traitors
    b. theives
    c. redshirts

    Verr on
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    Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I dunno, man

    Brazilians made out pretty well under Orson Scott Card

    Salvation122 on
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    FCDFCD Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Regarding Firefly, it occurs to me that Fox executives could have prevented Whedon from casting any Asians in Firefly. Has anyone ever asked him about the subject in an interview?

    FCD on
    Gridman! Baby DAN DAN! Baby DAN DAN!
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    agoajagoaj Top Tier One FearRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    sidhaethe wrote: »
    I'm black and I definitely feel it - it's not quite the same thing as the way Asians are whitewashed out of their own settings, but I do notice it. One of my favorite riffs on this subject was by Margaret Cho, talking about how she loves historical fantasies and would love to be able to be cast in one, but the only way she was going to get a job like that is if she were laying on her side smoking some opium. I love historical fantasies too, love getting dressed up for Ren Faire; guess where my people were in medieval times?
    As a white person, I can only assume this:
    blackknight.jpg

    I wonder if the popularity anime has had any positive effect on this problem. While they usually deal with Japanese characters in Japanese society, the "face of the other" issue has most people say Goku "looks white to me".

    agoaj on
    ujav5b9gwj1s.png
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