Khan's Into Darkness Appearance change finally explained

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies: Kelvin Universe' started by BlueMetroid, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. OpenMaw

    OpenMaw Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Some people think it's an issue, and some don't. There is no compromise to be had there. It's just going to be an issue for some, right up there with "Han fired first." It's a matter of opinion clear and simple. :)
     
  2. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think really it's quite easy to come up with a fanwank that can explain why "Khan" is white.

    It's a lot harder to make it totally-not-weird-at-all that the casting of one's specifically South Asian villain is whitewashed, because in our day and age whitewashed casting is weird and noticeable -- fine actor though Bandicoot Crumblybunch is -- and that they also did it back in the Sixties is not a defense.
     
  3. Set Harth

    Set Harth Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Montalban whitened first"?
     
  4. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So Admiral Marcus went through all the trouble of finding and reviving a centuries-old guy so he could design advanced weapon with his teh awesome! brain, and, instead of keeping him locked up somewhere very dark, seen only by those whose entire lives and personal codes are defined by secrecy, the first thing he does is... deliberately mess around with and selectively damage said brain?

    I think that, even given the script-serving vagaries of Trek tech, that's a pretty stupid plot point. :p
     
  5. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This thread makes me wish for yet another reboot where they actually cast an Indian actor as Khan.
     
  6. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, and maybe they could also cast an actual Japanese guy for Sulu instead of a Korean, and an actual Scotsman for Scotty instead of an Englishman, and an actual Southern guy for McCoy instead of a New Zealander, and an actual Russian for Chekov instead of an American, and an actual Iowan for Kirk's father instead of an Australian, because the actors they chose were so god-awfully horrible and unbelievable in their portrayals of the characters they were meant to represent.
     
  7. Set Harth

    Set Harth Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yelchin is Russian-American. Fail.
     
  8. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So let me get this straight Khan being a genetically engineered tyrant who ruled a quarter of the planet and was part of a destructive war fought against him and other genetically engineered tyrants in the 1990s and then when he lost he fled in one of the interstellar spaceships that would have existed again in the 1990s is totally believeable.

    But Khan being a white guy is the thing that stretches credibility.
     
  9. Ryan8bit

    Ryan8bit Commodore Commodore

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    Who said the 90s time frame was believable?
     
  10. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    My husband Mr Commishsleer (well-known Star Trek hater) after saying 'get off that message board and wash the dishes' when I mention this thread says 'Wasn't Montalban Spanish?' (He was Mexican)

    To which I reply he was supposed to be a Sikh. He then says to me Sikh's have beards, turban and never cut their hair and are Indian. Then he says well Montalban doesn't look Indian even after showing him the picture of him in 'Space Seed'.

    He then laughs at me and says "What Sikh actor were they ever going to get to play Khan then?" And then he says you guys are such fantatics etc.
    '
     
  11. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    :rolleyes: We really should have a cheat sheet for these But Ricardo Montalban Was White So What's the Big Deal discussions:

    This. Is. Not. True. Well, it's true that they're Indian, that of course is the entire point, but otherwise this is like saying all Jews dress like Hasidim. They don't. Sikhs can just as easily look like this:

    [ img] http://www.ohfish.in/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Vir-Das.jpg [/ img]

    as like this:

    [i mg] http://theindianeye.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/21.jpg [/ img]

    IOW some are ethnically Sikh and wear secular dress.

    So. "They all wear turbans and beards" should definitely go on the cheat sheet as something never ever to say ever, at all. Just painful.

    "But Ricardo Montalban was white" should be pretty high on the list, too, if the topic of argument is whether whitewashing of South Asian roles is okay and not whether Ricardo Montalban was better. (In fact... no, you know what? It's largely irrelevant even to the debate about whether Montalban is better or the original character conception is better. It's actually a globally irrelevant thing to say. So on reflection, that probably needs to go on the cheat sheet too.)
     
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  12. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    The reason for "But Ricardo Montalban" is because folks point at him saying Khan should look like him, and not white
     
  13. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Ricardo Montalban was incidentally not white, and was not considered "white" when he was cast as Khan and did not have the "white" experience in Hollywood. He was a Mexican actor and his story is part of the Hispanic story in the entertainment industry. So there's also the problem of "but Ricardo Montalban was white" being technically false, which spoils even that most basic angle.

    Racebending's article on this issue was pretty interesting, incidentally.
     
  14. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I thought it was great casting Khan as they did for INTO DARKNESS! J.J. Abrams has to make this franchise his own. Canon is out the window, that's how these movies were sold to me and that's what I count on getting. When you think about it, really, it only preserves Ricardo Malteban's interpretation that much better, because it's so different. There's no real comparisson. And the introduction of Carol Marcus was a really nice touch. I can't wait to see what they do with her in the next movie. And this time ... no lame excuses about showing off her body, to make it more commercial, either!
     
  15. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Basically what I'd say is this:

    - There's nothing wrong with having enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch. I think there's a pretty solid consensus that he's a fine actor and did a fine job.

    - There's a range of opinions on what conception of the character was stronger and whether STiD's Khan lived up to it or particularly needed to be Khan at all. That's also perfectly fine and as it should be.

    - There is something wrong, however, with trying to pretend that there is no there there when somebody mentions that there's something weird about casting a white actor as a South Asian character. At a certain point, trying to make out like noticing that is some sort of fanaticism is just flat out defense of racebending / whitewashing, which in turn is defending a form of casual racism. That's not okay. It's icky, and it sucks, and I humbly submit that people need to just stop doing that.
     
  16. Ovation

    Ovation Vice Admiral Admiral

    Actually, Sikhism is a religion with a multi-ethnic (if predominantly Indian) composition. The idea of using Sikh to denote ethnicity is currently a hotly debated topic, but it is far from a settled issue, so while it may well be true that not all Sikh males wear the accoutrements that are typical, it is certainly not an established FACT that Sikh is a universally recognized ethnicity.

    So while it is all well and good to argue that Montalban was not "white" (which, in and of itself, does not make him more appropriate to play a Sikh character than Cumberbatch), arguing that Cumberbatch cannot play a Sikh because he is white is not a compelling argument. There are white Sikhs in the world.

    Lastly, as the character is entirely fictional and is, within the story, the product of advanced genetic engineering (and thus highly likely to have genetic elements from multiple ethnicities--including whites), it is not inconceivable for the character to be portrayed by a white actor. And it is especially NOT compelling to argue Cumberbatch is unacceptable when many (perhaps not you) would have been silent on the matter had del Toro accepted the role instead (as he would have "looked more like" Montalban, sharing an Hispanic heritage). If we can excuse Montalban in the 60s, we could not, on the basis of "proper ethnic casting" (as argued by many--including you), accept Montalban today were he young enough to play the role. By that logic, we could not accept del Toro either (though I suspect the "outrage" would have been far, far less present if del Toro did play the role).

    I have two films in my collection that I use in class that focus on T.E. Lawrence and Emir Faisal. The more famous, from 1962, stars Alec Guinness (wasn't a "sir" yet) and the more recent, from 1991, stars Trek's own Alexander Siddig as Faisal. In class, we make a point of discussing why Guinness was considered acceptable in 1962 and why he would not be considered acceptable in 1991. A considerable portion of the reason lies in the fact that Faisal is was a real person, not a totally fictional character concocted in a test tube. It would certainly be unacceptable for a white actor to play Faisal today. But that is qualitatively different than playing Khan.

    Would it have been better to cast an Indian actor as Khan? Perhaps. But the character allows for "a few outs". One--he was an engineered being. He could have any characteristics the lab techs wanted to give him. Two--regardless of whether one found it compelling, in-story, the idea was to have the audience think the character was someone else. As the film is set in the 23rd century, and Trek has a long history of tech that can significantly alter someone's appearance, then having Khan appear differently than expected is no great stretch. The comic story provides one possible explanation. If anyone had asked me right at the "reveal" (or just after the movie) to come up with a reason why Khan looked so different from the original, I would have said two things. A) He's in disguise and those are far more substantial (if desired) in the Trek world than in ours. B) If that is the reason he looks different, a 15-sec. scene or a line of dialogue to note this would have been a good idea (to head off all the "outrage"). Perhaps the filmmakers assumed the audience who cared enough about an explanation would arrive at the "disguise" idea and leave it at that. Don't know if anyone's asked them.

    It's science fiction. Heavily altered appearances (explained or not) are not a big deal. If people can buy all the disguises of Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series...
     
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  17. Ryan8bit

    Ryan8bit Commodore Commodore

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    I'm one of those people who wouldn't have wanted del Toro either. But I understand why there would be less controversy. Think of it as two options:

    1. You could cast him like how the character was originally described.

    2. You could cast him to be of Latino heritage, perhaps similar to Montalban.

    Neither of those stray as much as the casting they actually ended up doing, so at least they could be maybe halfway similar. But it was probably a tough one for the production to win no matter how they chose, and not only for reasons of skin tone or nationality.
     
  18. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yes. Predominantly Indian.

    It is incontestably true. There is no "may" about it.

    I don't suppose it matters all that much, although this actually strikes me as obfuscatory and plain wrong; inasmuch I'm not aware of any significant controversy over whether Sikhism is an ethnicity as well as a religion and I have no idea what work "universally recognized" is supposed to be doing there. But never mind.

    It is in fact correct, not just "all well and good."

    Nor is it what I said. I said that it's valid to question whether Cumberbatch's casting was racebending, not that one cannot fanwank a reasonably sound explanation for Khan being white. (Although the world's tiny handful of white Sikhs wouldn't be my go-to. Different strokes.) You just can't eliminate the relevance of the question of racebending by fanwank. It's going to remain relevant.

    Montalban's casting was only progressive for the Sixties. I would in fact expect most of the same kinds of questions to come up for a similar move in the present day as they did with Cumberbatch.
     
  19. Ovation

    Ovation Vice Admiral Admiral

    If del Toro had been cast, the objections would have been fewer and milder by quite a bit.

    As to the "race bending" idea, I think it is overblown and I don't much care if that offends anyone. First, Khan is a totally fictional character. Second, a careful examination of the character onscreen (let's leave aside all the ancillary novels and comics) shows that being genetically engineered is a far more prevalent and prominent characteristic of the character than his being Sikh (something only guessed at by a character who displayed few signs of competence in her field--a field I know well as it is mine--and never corroborated onscreen). Third (admittedly a guess of my own), I'd wager a considerable portion of those who first encountered Khan in TWOK, along with a strong majority of those who first did so in STiD, were unaware of the character's Sikh heritage (as it is unmentioned in either film) but are aware of his being a product of genetic engineering (as it is pointed out in each film). So I'd say his Sikh heritage is of secondary, if not tertiary importance, which makes the need for him to be portrayed by an Indian actor similarly diminished.

    Having said all of that, I think Naveen Andrews would have been a fine choice for the role (it certainly would have rendered all this gnashing of the teeth moot). But I simply cannot get up in arms over the casting of a white guy to play a test tube experiment in a science fiction movie instead of an Indian guy just because of a character's name and a minor, supposed, characteristic that is only stated once with no certainty.
     
  20. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    And I think your dismissiveness is foolish and dickish in almost equal measure.

    [i mg] http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh253/jimifunguzz/Picard-facepalm-animated.gif [/i mg]

    "Racebending" is a term that pertains to the casting of movies. "He's a fictional character" is probably the most perfectly irrelevant objection to its use that you can attempt to raise. The term is talking about how studios are approaching the market place and treating actors, not whether the characters involved are fictional or not. It comes up because the question of whether some groups of actors are getting screwed over by casual racism is unavoidably relevant to the entertainment business and to many of its viewers. Of course most of the characters are going to be fictional for God's sake. :rolleyes:

    This is more relevant, though it mostly gets us to the question of why make him Khan and open that can of worms at all.

    As one of these, it was always extremely clear to me from TWOK that he was meant to be an exotic Prince of some kind. His being specifically Sikh is obviously a pretty widely-known factoid from "Space Seed," however, as it's something that even non-Trekkie reviewers picked up on.

    This phrasing is just another version of "You People Are So Sensitive" and another thing you're better off just not doing in conversations like this, IMO. That someone thinks the question is valid does not mean they are "up in arms."

    And yes, I see you still think you can fanwank the question into being irrelevant, and no, you still can't do that. You can repeat that tactic a thousand times, it will be just as ineffective each time.
     
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