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Old March 20 2009, 06:17 AM   #31
Kirkman1987
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Hirogen Alpha wrote: View Post
So, what happened to over one BILLION Chinese people, then?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIMH50X0F-4

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Old March 20 2009, 12:16 PM   #32
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

It's strange, because I had the same thoughts about the new Grand Theft Auto game which focuses on Chinese characters.

My feeling is that if you're just using "Othered" characters/cultures just for the sake of window dressing, then it becomes appropriation. The most obvious real life example would be the kanji/hanzi tattoo.

And yeah, Firefly didn't last long... but there really was no reason that they needed to bother including this hybrid culture in the first place. It really seemed like a "neat idea" that they had but then never got around to developing... so all we get is a flag that's half American-half Chinese and some random Mandarin/Cantonese thrown around.

Just for shits and giggles - what's a good example of using Chinese in a SF series?
Space Above and Beyond. In one of final episodes, the President gives a televised speech to the world and it is subtitled in Chinese. It was a nice touch and didn't feel as contrived as Firefly.
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Old March 20 2009, 12:47 PM   #33
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Hirogen Alpha wrote: View Post
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?
Where are you getting the idea that the populations of China and the United States were evacuated in their entirety or in proportion to their total populations? A more plausible scenario to my mind would be a few tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of colonists watching Earth go up in flames. Even discounting that it's possible that population balances could've shifted significantly over the intervening years between now and the fall of Earth, not only through biological or social changes but also simply through geopolitics. One of the larger questions raised by the idea of China and the United States as the "last men standing" is the fate of the European Union in general and the more prosperous European states in particular, perhaps many or all of the states that presently constitute the European Union become part of the United States.

Sci wrote: View Post
Rii wrote: View Post
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...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."
Now that they're all dead it's safe to remember them?

Those are fairly limited influences though, nothing as pervasive as implied in Firefly.

Last edited by Rii; March 20 2009 at 01:08 PM.
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Old March 20 2009, 04:09 PM   #34
Sakrysta
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Incidentally, there were a good many Asian faces in Firefly - quite a few of the extras in crowd scenes were Asian. That doesn't address the lack of speaking roles, but the need to see Asian faces in order to support the premise of a Chinese/American cultural dominance was at least attempted.
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Old March 20 2009, 04:54 PM   #35
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Sakrysta wrote: View Post
Incidentally, there were a good many Asian faces in Firefly - quite a few of the extras in crowd scenes were Asian. That doesn't address the lack of speaking roles, but the need to see Asian faces in order to support the premise of a Chinese/American cultural dominance was at least attempted.
Why, given their supposed dominance, not one Asian would happen at random to be part of this fairly randomly-assembled group of travelers always seemed to me to be a question that begged an explanation.

I suspect Whedon would have one, if pressed. It might not be one that he was really comfortable with disclosing. He may have assumed pretty rigid social segregation for some reason.

Certainly his casting of Mal as an equivalent to a American Confederate soldier was something that he always felt was pretty dicey but still worth doing.
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Old March 20 2009, 05:01 PM   #36
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

I have to say the casting of Firefly was exceptional. There are few casts I have encountered with so much talent.
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Old March 20 2009, 05:25 PM   #37
Harvey
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Rii wrote: View Post
Where are you getting the idea that the populations of China and the United States were evacuated in their entirety or in proportion to their total populations?
Just conjecture, I admit. The explanation of the exodus from earth is extremely vague. But, even so, even if the population distribution was made equal--or even slightly skewed out of the Chinese's favor--Starship Polaris' point still stands:

Why, given their supposed dominance, not one Asian would happen at random to be part of this fairly randomly-assembled group of travelers always seemed to me to be a question that begged an explanation.
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Old March 20 2009, 05:31 PM   #38
Michael Chris
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

That makes me laugh. You can't appropriate a culture.
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Old March 20 2009, 05:48 PM   #39
Forbin
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

I dunno, Rome appropriated Greek culture pretty thoroughly.
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Old March 20 2009, 10:01 PM   #40
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Clear Whedon just hates Asian people. I think he killed an Asian guy once. Just to watch him die.
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Old March 20 2009, 10:47 PM   #41
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

I might be more inclined to criticize Firefly for not including more Asian speaking roles if it had lasted more than 13 episodes. It's hard to judge the intent of the producer's with such a limited time frame. It's possible, given time, that more Asian characters would've been introduced. The lack of Asian actors for main characters is more telling, but with such a small time on the air, I'm willing to give it a pass. I'll be more interested in how it plays out on Dollhouse with it's very obvious Asian culture inspired designs. So far, the show is one-up on Firefly with the Sierra character.


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Old March 21 2009, 01:25 AM   #42
Rii
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Hirogen Alpha wrote: View Post
Rii wrote: View Post
Where are you getting the idea that the populations of China and the United States were evacuated in their entirety or in proportion to their total populations?
Just conjecture, I admit. The explanation of the exodus from earth is extremely vague. But, even so, even if the population distribution was made equal--or even slightly skewed out of the Chinese's favor--Starship Polaris' point still stands:

Why, given their supposed dominance, not one Asian would happen at random to be part of this fairly randomly-assembled group of travelers always seemed to me to be a question that begged an explanation.
Oh, absolutely. For my part I think it was simply an idea developed in response to issues that could've been raised in its absence, however not itself being an essential ingredient in the story Whedon and co. wanted to tell it wasn't actively supported beyond those initial precepts. Given that Firefly was set not in an alternate universe but in our future, if the culture portrayed was derived exclusively from western influences many would be curious as to exactly what happened to everyone else.

Star Trek dodges the issue in part because we're seeing things almost exclusively through the eyes of Starfleet which, like most contemporary military and quasi-military institutions, tends towards its own particular monoculture.

CaptJimboJones wrote: View Post
Clear Whedon just hates Asian people. I think he killed an Asian guy once. Just to watch him die.
Gavin's death on Angel was rather gratuitous.

Last edited by Rii; March 21 2009 at 01:35 AM.
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Old March 21 2009, 01:38 AM   #43
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Wow...a Whedon-bashing thread on TrekBBS...there's something you don't see every day...
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Old March 21 2009, 07:20 AM   #44
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Rii wrote: View Post
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...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?
Two possibilities:

(1) They'd already incorporated Asian influences long before the genocide. There may have been peace for centuries before hatred flared, just as the Jews lived in Russia and Europe for centuries before the Pogroms and the Holocaust. At that point, there'd be no way to separate the Western influences from the Asian ones in their mixed culture. Current western cultures are a hodgepodge of influences from disparate peoples who used to be mortal enemies. You probably can't go a whole day without saying, eating or wearing things that were created by the British and other things that were created by the French, for instance.

(2) Westerners didn't dislike Asians, Western GOVERMENTS (that may or may not have been totalitarian by then) decided to eliminate Asians. So there'd be no reason for the average Westerner to want to reject Asian cultural influences.
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Old March 21 2009, 06:23 PM   #45
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Re: Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

I rationalized that China got the better end of the Alliance and that the others we see most of the time in the series were those who got the short end. We don't see many Chinese fleeing the Alliance because they have the need.

A more sinister way of looking at it is how oppressive the government in China seems now and perhaps the series is actually symbolic of American idealistic values vs. that (not that we always live up to those ideals).

Mind you, I am not saying that is what Whedon necessarily had in mind but like I said my way to rationalize/interpret it. There are a number of possibilities of why there are so few Asians in the show and some are certainly more disparaging than others. It'd be interesting if any interviews ever broach this subject with the man who would know the answers.
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