Yesterday, I talked about the impulse to present minorities in the best light in popular culture and why I don’t follow that line of thought. To recap, I have no interest in caricatures, and while I understand the impulse, I don’t think it ultimately helps the minority in questions to be seen as individuals. Also, as a creator, I hate the idea of dictating to people what they can and can’t create. Art should be thrilling and outrageous, and it should poke and pry in all the dark corners of human nature. Put too many strictures on it, and it becomes anodyne and toothless. The things that we don’t want to talk about are often the best fodder for the greatest art.
I ended by stating that I was somewhat hypocritical because I do criticize other creators for their choices, and I wasn’t sure where to draw the line. In thinking more about it, I realized that my criticism is based on products that already exist. I’m specifically talking about Hollywood and how amazing they are about whitewashing PoC or even worse, yellowface (and other colors of faces). Even as I write this, there’s a controversy over the Black Panther pin and how Disney lightened his skin. In the first picture, he looked white. In the second picture, he was definitely black, but light-skinned. Hollywood is unbelievable in its stubborn insistence in pandering to what they believe to be the mainstream. I’ve noted it on other occasions on how insipid Hollywood is. Most of their movies are safe, boring, and focus grouped on that mythic creature–the average, middling (white, male, young) American. When they manage to create a hit, they suck everything out of it with the energy of an emotional vampire.
Anyway, the difference is that these products are already out there, and Hollywood is simply recreating them. They are not bringing anything new to the party as it were, and the results have been anemic. Ghost in the Shell was the pinnacle for me, and it made me realize how fucking hopeless Hollywood is. It has no spine, and it lives firmly in the past. In 2017, diversely cast movies performed well, better than most of the anemic fare that Hollywood churns out these days. What Hollywood doesn’t seem to realize is that even white middle America has moved past the 1950s, and even Joe from Nebraska or Chad from Beverly Hills can handle an actual person of color in an actual person of color role in a movie that isn’t dominated by white people.
I’m still being hypocritical because it’s not only remakes that draw my ire, but any time Hollywood wants to pass off a white person as an Asian. I think I’ll rephrase it as not hypocritical but context specific. Obviously, this doesn’t hold true for the written word, at least not in the same way. There have been poorly-written minority characters by white people (and other people in the majority), of course, but that’s another post for another day. If you are going to have an Asian character, then fucking cast an Asian person. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have our stories and our culture, then erase us from the whole lot* as if we don’t matter. It’s one of the most infuriating things about the GitS example. Hollywood took what is uniquely a Japanese story, then took Japan out of it. The director protested it was an international story, which is bullshit. Even if it’s true, Japan is international. Why couldn’t the main character be Japanese?