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Old March 19 2009, 08:19 PM   #16
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

I want to say that in one of the commentaries, Whedon said that, in all honesty, no Asian actors ever auditioned for them, but I'm not sure if I'm just imagining that or not.
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Old March 19 2009, 08:24 PM   #17
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Kelthaz wrote: View Post
People need to stop taking simple entertainment so seriously.
You're posting on a Star Trek board. If people didn't take entertainment too seriously there would be no such thing.

In any event, "simple entertainment" generally = crap. It's a waste of time unless someone just needs background noise on while they drink.

Rii wrote: View Post
No, the idea was that China was a great superpower, that China and the United States were the last bastions of human civilisation before Earth "went under".
The two most populous planets of the human civilization in "Firefly" represent the eastern and western cultures - Sihnon and Londinium. So the writer may have gotten the details wrong, but certainly understands the premise fine.
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Old March 19 2009, 08:48 PM   #18
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

The fact that the Mandarin/Cantonese the actors were allegedly speaking was horribly pronounced is admitted to on the commentary tracks of the DVDs. It's shoddy work, to be sure, but it definitely slips by me, in the same way that the gibberish the American Indians in Dances With Wolves slips by me. They should have had a dialogue couch, but I can understand how this concept wouldn't receive much attention under the arduous schedule of weekly television.

What doesn't slip by is the complete lack of Asian faces on the series, especially considering the premise, and especially considering the population distribution between the United States and China, the two surviving superpowers (or, the two surviving powers, anyway) after Earth's abandonment. Actually, the history is a bit muddled, since we don't have much to go on beyond a few comments and that montage that opens Serenity, but that seems to be the general idea.
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Old March 19 2009, 08:58 PM   #19
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Maybe there were almost no asians left in China on Earth. There was mass immigration into China and those people took over and started speaking mispronounced Mandarin/Cantonese.
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Old March 19 2009, 09:05 PM   #20
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

So, what happened to over one BILLION Chinese people, then?
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Old March 19 2009, 10:30 PM   #21
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Sci wrote: View Post
I want to say that in one of the commentaries, Whedon said that, in all honesty, no Asian actors ever auditioned for them, but I'm not sure if I'm just imagining that or not.
That explanation just wouldn't fit with his portrayal of a future heavily influenced by Asian culture. If that's the future he wanted to portray, he could've ASKED agencies to send over Asian actors to audition for him.

...Unless the lack of Asian people was eventually going to be explained. Maybe there was a genocide before the exodus from Earth.
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Old March 19 2009, 10:33 PM   #22
Temis the Vorta
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

The fact that the Mandarin/Cantonese the actors were allegedly speaking was horribly pronounced is admitted to on the commentary tracks of the DVDs.
You'd expect whatever the source material was for the language to be garbled to a large degree. Of course, we shouldn't be able to understand the English they're speaking any better than we understand Shakespearean dialogue, peppered with slang, allusions and puns that no longer make sense without access to footnotes. Ideally, Firefly's dialogue should have been near-nonsense with subtitles (that would have saved the Nielsens, no doubt).

I wouldn't at all mind some Asian actors if they can get the likes of James Kyson Lee, Daniel Dae Kim and Ken Leung. But those guys tend to get work anyway, don't they? James Kyson Lee in particular needs a better show, unless Bryan Fuller can really turn things around and give the poor guy something to do for a change.

There was also that guy on Surface. Remember him? Ian Anthony Dale - IMDB lists a role on Dollhouse anyway. He had a certain spark to him; I think he could handle a lead role in his own series.
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Old March 19 2009, 10:41 PM   #23
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

IMHO you can't appropriate a culture that's been put up for sale.

When a culture has been canned, commercialized and exported for sale abroad for decades, there's nothing to appropriate.

I think the criticism of appropriation is somewhat valid if you start taking some third world culture's folk music and then record it with white artists and try to copyright it and make millions off of it and never pay a cent to the original artists. But Japan and Bollywood for another example, they've marketed their cultures and I think the whole appropriation criticism is bull.

I think Whedon has "appropriated" feminism and used a cheap version of it to offset his fetishes and soft core porn fantasies he keeps writing into his stories.
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Old March 19 2009, 10:59 PM   #24
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Cartoonist wrote: View Post
...Unless the lack of Asian people was eventually going to be explained. Maybe there was a genocide before the exodus from Earth.
Why would the genocidal culture seek to incorporate the cultural apparatus of their victims?
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Old March 19 2009, 11:22 PM   #25
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Acting isn't exactly a particularly encouraged profession amongst the Asian-American population in my experience. Out of the dozen or so shows I've done, I've encountered 2 east-Asian actors, including at the auditions. If they're casting for the best actors without going out of their way to find Asians specifically, then it really isn't surprising to have a cast with so few Asians in it.

Also, as far as the English language in the future being unrecognizable, there is some truth to it, but considering how much media we have these days, we get as much of our language from movies, podcasts, radio, tv, etc. as we do from our environment. Language isn't going to evolve as fast because that media remains something that links all of us and remains long after it was made. Firefly went a lot further than most productions do, and I expect the reality won't be much more jarring than their guess.
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Old March 19 2009, 11:33 PM   #26
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Rii wrote: View Post
Cartoonist wrote: View Post
...Unless the lack of Asian people was eventually going to be explained. Maybe there was a genocide before the exodus from Earth.
Why would the genocidal culture seek to incorporate the cultural apparatus of their victims?
I don't know, but it does happen. Ask half the communities in the American Midwest why their European-descended ancestors chose to use Native American names for their communities after exterminating them (the State of Ohio, for instance), or why English-speakers chose to keep Spanish names like "El Paso," "San Francisco," or "Los Angeles."

Cartoonist wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
I want to say that in one of the commentaries, Whedon said that, in all honesty, no Asian actors ever auditioned for them, but I'm not sure if I'm just imagining that or not.
That explanation just wouldn't fit with his portrayal of a future heavily influenced by Asian culture. If that's the future he wanted to portray, he could've ASKED agencies to send over Asian actors to audition for him.
I want to emphasis that I am not certain if he actually said that or if I only thought he did.

However, for all I know, it's possible that they did send Asian actors over and he and the other producers felt that none of them were right for the parts. It's also possible that they simply engaged in color-blind casting and found there weren't enough Asian actors to use. I don't know.
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Old March 20 2009, 01:16 AM   #27
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

If I recall, the role of Simon was open to Asian actors. Joss had cast Summer Glau as River right from the beginning - that wasn't negotiable - and since she has a slightly Asian-ish look to her face, it was possible that her brother would be of Asian ethnicity. But then whatshisface auditioned, and the decision was made.

I guess that doesn't explain why none of the cast were Asian, though. I suspect Joss just had people he wanted already in mind for the big roles long before it got to the actual casting stage.
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Old March 20 2009, 01:21 AM   #28
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

ManOnTheWave wrote: View Post
I think Joss Whedon holds hands with George Lucas while they rape Asian cultures and childhoods, respectively.

You forgot the part where Spielberg helps Lucas rape Indiana Jones.
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Old March 20 2009, 05:53 AM   #29
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

For an in-show explanation how about this: We know Sihnon was supposed to be the "China" planet. But it's right smack dab in the middle of Alliance territory where our BDH never went. The reason why we never see Asians is because they're the high culture of the 'Verse and our heroes aren't likely to cross paths with them.
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Old March 20 2009, 06:10 AM   #30
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

So...that explains why there weren't a large number of Asians on these planets. But the Chinese outnumber Americans by at least 3:1. That's a huge number more. Are we supposed to believe all of the Chinese descendants lived on a planet we never saw? And what does it say about Whedon in the fact that he never brought that world into focus into the series in the first place. I realize this is a hard charge to make substantially (after all, the series didn't last long, so there were a lot of things Whedon couldn't include), but it's worth thinking about.
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