Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Cartoonist

    Cartoonist Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  2. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. LaxScrutiny

    LaxScrutiny Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  4. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    Why would the genocidal culture seek to incorporate the cultural apparatus of their victims?
     
  5. Venardhi

    Venardhi Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    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."

    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.
     
  7. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  8. Brolan

    Brolan Commodore Commodore

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    You forgot the part where Spielberg helps Lucas rape Indiana Jones.
     
  9. DWMarch

    DWMarch Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Kirkman1987

    Kirkman1987 Commodore Commodore

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  12. firehawk12

    firehawk12 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    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.

    Now that they're all dead it's safe to remember them? :lol:

    Those are fairly limited influences though, nothing as pervasive as implied in Firefly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  14. Sakrysta

    Sakrysta Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  15. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  16. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    I have to say the casting of Firefly was exceptional. There are few casts I have encountered with so much talent.
     
  17. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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:

     
  18. Michael Chris

    Michael Chris Admiral Admiral

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    That makes me laugh. You can't appropriate a culture.
     
  19. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    I said out, dammit!
    I dunno, Rome appropriated Greek culture pretty thoroughly.
     
  20. CaptJimboJones

    CaptJimboJones Vice Admiral Newbie

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    Clear Whedon just hates Asian people. I think he killed an Asian guy once. Just to watch him die.
     

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