My gripes with Asian casting and character naming in Paramount+ Trek

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' started by Enterprise1701, Jan 2, 2023.

  1. Tallguy

    Tallguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Would that be considered acceptable?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It stands to reason that in a global culture with a lot of intermixing, you'd have ethnically European people raised in Asian countries and cultures, just like you have Asian-American people raised in American culture. It's not appropriation if it's actually the culture they were born and raised in.

    The point is that it's supposed to be an egalitarian global culture, but the way it's portrayed is overwhelmingly Western-centric and America-centric, with non-Western culture virtually effaced and people of non-Western heritage usually being Westernized in name, culture, and values. Trek doesn't plausibly portray a global civilization; it essentially portrays a civilization where America assimilated the entire world.
     
  3. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It was very, painfully obvious how badly Trek was doing representation to me right when Discovery came out, since The Expanse was still on the air as well.

    One show tried to reflect "diversity" in the narrow sense that a liberal Californian would understand, meaning it just came across as "space America" - as was usually the case in the past. The other went out of its way to not only cast non-white people, but people with varied accents, mixed-race phenotypes, and characters who often had jarringly different first and last names, to drive home how much mixing had occurred over the centuries - and how America was a relatively minor component of future human culture.
     
  4. Tallguy

    Tallguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    OK this is the sentence to beat today. Good luck!
     
  5. Mutai Sho-Rin

    Mutai Sho-Rin Crusty Old Bastard Moderator

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    And this “liberal Californian” calls bullshit! Do you engage in such false judgement often? Borders on trolling.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Hardly. Eschaton clearly just meant that it was portraying diversity from an American perspective, which was more limited than a portrayal from a truly global perspective. Part of being liberal is not feeling offended when people point out that our own viewpoints are finite, but embracing it as a reminder of the importance of opening our minds to other perspectives.
     
  7. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    To be clear, I'm myself politically very left wing (a socialist actually). This was not a political dig.

    My point is just that Discovery in particular approached diversity from an American perspective. I'd argue that it was arguably less internationally focused than TOS, which had Doohan and Koenig fake foreign accents in an effort to hide that the cast was all American/Canadian - to help reflect that it was meant to reflect all of the countries of Earth, not just Space America.

    But on Discovery:
    • None of the names of the actors really aligned with the casting at all. This wasn't limited to Georgiou or Tyler, mentioned upthread as Asian examples. Culber is a Scottish surname, but Wilson Cruz is assuredly not Scottish (the later seasons do kind of imply he's Boricua like the actor, but I presume this was a later retcon). In general it feels like they fell in love with the names in the series bible, and didn't bother to make even minor modifications once they were done casting, even though prior series did do this (i.e. Julian Bashir was originally Julian Amoros, but he was changed from being Latino once Alexander Siddig was cast.)
    • They made the decision not once, but twice, to have the British actors in the first season (Issacs and Latif) use neutral North American accents. This was completely bizarre to me. Apparently Jason Isaacs made the decision on his own - and I think it was fine in his case (though I do think it would be interesting if he went with a British accent when the MU mask came off) but there was no reason for Shazad Latif to use one (I think he would have performed better in his natural accent).
    • Aside from Owo, I don't think there are any recurring characters who are human who have been established as having origins outside of North America.
    I do think Discovery has gotten a bit better at this in Seasons 3/4, but it was just jarring to me because as I said, The Expanse was also filmed in Toronto, had access to an identical talent pool, and had a cast which included actors from countries as diverse as Thailand, Iran, Samoa, Cambodia, Lebanon, and Honduras. Plus of course Americans, Canadians, and Brits of all colors - along with dialog coaches who created Belter Creole and had (almost) everyone from The Belt talk in accent.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  8. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Star Trek has always reflected an American point of view. Hopefully that will change but I would not expect it too. I imagine that many other SF shows will far outstrip Star Trek in the diversity field, which is also my preference too.
     
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  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except for Owosekun -- both the character and the actress are Nigerian.
     
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  10. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    True. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing a lot of the "bridge furniture" wasn't in the original series bible, which gave them more flexibility to rename the cast.

    Of course, she's canonically from a "luddite" colony somewhere. Which I guess must be a luddite colony founded by Nigerians only.

    One of the more nonsensical elements of Trek casting to me (from TNG onward) is how you end up with these isolated human colonies where only a few hundred people settled, where still visibly black/white/Asian folks, rather than everyone just being shades of brown/racially ambiguous.
     
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  11. CorporalClegg

    CorporalClegg Admiral Admiral

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    While I agree that its Ameri-centric nature has always been Trek's biggest failing. I don't necessarily agree here.

    I actually think the Georgiou and Culber surnames are a good thing. Pigeonholing surnames into specific ethnicities is actually pretty regressive.

    As far as the accents go, well there's always the "magic" of the UT to consider. But, remember, these people spend a lot of time in San Francisco.

    And to the greater point, both the geopolitical and socioeconomic climates of the Trek universe and The Expanse's are completely different. Not to mention the technological difference.

    For example, a person on Star Trek Earth can have breakfast in Vienna, lunch in Guangzhou, and dinner in Marrakesh and not think twice about. And thousands, millions even, of people probably do every day. And since the shows have been done very little to shocase average everyday life on Earth, it is impossible to even know where cultural divides begin and end.
     
  12. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I broadly agree with you. I think that folks should be really ethnically mixed in the Trekverse. One of the aspects of Season 1 I liked was Lorca's aside that an ancestor of his made fortune cookies, because, of course by the 23rd century there will be a lot of completely "white" looking Americans with a Chinese person somewhere in their family history.

    That said, moments like this were quite limited. The show could have said that Stamets was from a german Mennonite family from Belize, that Michael's father was from Guyana, that Tilly grew up in Ethiopia. But it avoided adding any of these sorts of little tidbits that would have given them more of a sense of rootedness. The only time they did bother to note where people came from (other than Georgiou) was in cases like Tyler, where it was explicitly to define them as Americans.

    I suppose. But you have examples out there like Georgiou and Owo. It should either be one way or another, IMHO.

    True enough. But that gets back to another problem with Trek - the Federation just has way too many people who look to be one ethnic background in particular, even if they present as deculturized North Americans. If you're going to commit to a world without borders, people should have been intermarrying like crazy for over a century. There's just way too many white people in Trek in general, but arguably too many people identifiable as any one thing in general more broadly.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But giving Western names to almost every character of color and never the reverse is also regressive as hell. Again, the problem is not about any individual case, it's about the overall pattern, the vast preponderance of character names of Anglo-Saxon, Irish, or occasionally Germanic origin in Trek, and the effective onscreen erasure of other human cultures.

    It would be fine to have a Malaysian woman named Philippa Georgiou if we also had characters with Asian names. It would be fine to have a Latino named Hugh Culber if we also had characters with Latin names. The problem is that we don't. The problem is not with the kinds of names that are used; the problem is with the kinds of names that aren't being used.


    But it's ethnocentric as hell to assume that that kind of global homogenization would end up producing a planet full of people with American accents and attitudes. If anything, if you averaged out all human populations, you'd end up with something that was mostly Chinese and Indian.



    Except that fortune cookies are an American food most likely introduced by a Japanese immigrant, and derived from Japanese tea cakes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortune_cookie#History
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  14. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, I'm aware they aren't authentic by any means, but I think the intent of the scene was to imply that Lorca had some Asian ancestors.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    He said "It was a family business a century ago," which would be about 30 years in our future. I'm sure there are "Chinese" restaurants in America owned by people of various different ethnicities. Also, Lorca was a Mirror Universe doppelganger lying about his identity, so he could've been lying about this too.
     
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  16. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Obviously not canon, but according to the novels, Detmer is supposed to be German.
     
  17. Nyotarules

    Nyotarules Vice Admiral Moderator

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    The next Trek reboot should have a blue eyed blonde character called Jamie Patel or Jamie Chan or Jamie Agbolade born in Wolverhampton with a Midlands accent
     
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  18. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk A Spock and a smile Premium Member

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    I had never heard the term “Boricua” before. Found it was a colloquial term for Puerto Rican. Which I knew Cruz was. I also discovered this in the Wiki entry
    Which I’m sure is just a coincidence
     
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  19. Mutai Sho-Rin

    Mutai Sho-Rin Crusty Old Bastard Moderator

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    OK, perhaps I jumped the gun but that description felt straight out of right-wing rhetoric. I’m very used to being pigeonholed and condemned by white supremacist types and don’t react very kindly. I’m sorry if I judged you unfairly.
     
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  20. USS Artorius

    USS Artorius Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah not every Asian-heritage or Asian-born actor needs to have a name that perfectly represents their background and ancestry unless it is relevant to the character's story. I am perfectly fine with a Korean born actor being called John Smith if they were born in Korea, the UK or just chose that name becsuse they liked it. Giving actors that look a certain way a name that comes from a place their ancestors or close relatives reside could be seen as stereotypical and racist in itself. When I meet someone who doesn't have the same skin tone as me I don't have reserved expectations for a name that would better match their background in my head. That's racist. Any name is fine. Celebrating race is fine. The problem is when racial empowerment becomes racial superiority and it's possible some people in the present day already have a deluded and warped definition of racial equality as many white people are now receiving the same racial discrimination that they dished out before the civil rights act.