Author Topic: some thoughts on cultural appropriation  (Read 90021 times)

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Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #135 on: April 05, 2017, 01:10:14 PM »
You don't think the VF article on point, Slick?
Knowing that Ghost In The Shell was created by a Japanese person working for a Japanese company and originally envisioned the main character as "white" (well, a robot but one with Caucasian features, if my memory of the original anime is correct), no, it's probably not the best example of whitewashing. I mean, there are several other roles that, in the manga, were clearly Japanese people, and I could make a case for it if I wanted to, but no, I think there are far, far better examples of whitewashing than that. Did you want better examples, or were you hoping that someone would fall into some kind of sticky libtrap? Because I can give you a few better ones:

Doctor Strange (yes, the one that just came out this fall)
The Last Samurai
47 Ronin
Little Big Man (kind of a classic by now but also like the epitome of what a whitewashed film is all about - "hey, this movie about Native Americans isn't accessible enough! I know, let's cast a white person in the main role! He can pretend to be an Indian so that we all know what it feels like!")
Argo (much as I love Ben Affleck, I read Tony Mendez's autobiography and he is a bit, um, darker)
Batman Begins (I mean, fuck, even in the *comics* Ras Al'Gul was Arabic)
Like pretty much every Biblical movie ever made - that Exodus: Gods and Kings one that came out a couple years ago if you want an especially shitty specific
Lawrence of Arabia (a classic example but no, weirdly enough, the real life Prince Faisal didn't look all that much like Obi Wan)
Like the entire cast of Scarface (soooo many Italian Cubans... weeeeeeeeeeeeeeird)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (the Tina Fey movie that came out last year about Afghanistan in which, like, all the Afghanis were not, um, actually Afghani)

Was that enough? Or do we pretend that these plus all of the other examples that me and the other people in this thread came up with also don't exist?
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #136 on: April 05, 2017, 01:16:24 PM »
Nice list. Which film do you think causes the most harm?

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Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #137 on: April 05, 2017, 01:19:54 PM »
Um... you've read the thread, right? Nobody is saying that any one instance causes a lot of "harm". It's a whole bunch of smaller instances (microaggressions if you will) that lead up to it. If you want a particularly egregious and recent example, either 47 Ronin or Doctor Strange works for me.
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #138 on: April 05, 2017, 01:35:21 PM »
It isn't difficult to think of hypothetical examples where adoption of ideas from other cultures would indeed cause harm, e.g. adopting FGM in places where it is currently out of fashion. But microaggressions on film are also worth thinking about.

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Online The Latinist

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #139 on: April 05, 2017, 01:55:24 PM »
I think the whitewashing of film is a bit in a class by itself, in that it has harms different from those of other cultural appropriation: namely that it deprives children and even adults of the opportunity to see strong and heroic characters on the screen that look like them.  That has a broad cultural impact that's hard to quantify.  Take the example of the new Netflix Iron Fist series, which I understand is bad for many reasons, but which I also know takes an Asian superhero who was one of the few young Asian-Americans had to point to, into a white man.  That hit a lot of people hard; I have a friend who tells me that the Iron Fist was a huge role model for him growing up precisely because of his ethnicity and who was really devastated by what they'd done to the character.  It's not something that I can fully understand, but if my friend tells me that having such a character was important to him and that whitewashing the character hurt him, I accept that. 
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #140 on: April 05, 2017, 02:06:25 PM »
TV tropes seems to believe that Daniel Rand (of Iron Fist) was a textbook example of the Mighty Whitey trope. Rich white dude outdoes the masters of K'un-Lun, becomes relatable superhero. Written by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to cash in on the popularity of Asian kung fu films, the entire franchise is arguably rooted in cultural appropriation.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2017, 02:11:59 PM by D4M10N »

Online Harry Black

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #141 on: April 05, 2017, 02:08:49 PM »
Iron Fist has always been white in the comics.
He has always been pretty much the epitome of cultural appropriation in the comics universe.

The problem of whitewashing is (to me)  more a symptom of how non white people are viewed in 'mainstream' culture.
The desire of financiers to remove the 'undesireable' bit from whatever they want to sell and the willingness of an audience to respond to that.
Its very much like pointing out that tall gooodlooking people get lighter sentences. The people who dont fit that category are completely correct to point out the bullshit double standard and to try to make people think about their complicity in it.
Likewise, I would imagine that was an objection many kabbalah followers had to Madonnas representing their beliefs in public.
Not only was she likely fucking it up, but she did not go through the same historical shit their people did to claim that identity. Whether you as an individual think that makes sense, it can be a slap in the face to people who suffered as part of an identity that they barely got a choice in (hell, Ive seen it viciously defended by people who DO get a choice as part of the 'stolen valour' idea in the military)

Online The Latinist

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #142 on: April 05, 2017, 04:27:46 PM »
TV tropes seems to believe that Daniel Rand (of Iron Fist) was a textbook example of the Mighty Whitey trope. Rich white dude outdoes the masters of K'un-Lun, becomes relatable superhero. Written by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to cash in on the popularity of Asian kung fu films, the entire franchise is arguably rooted in cultural appropriation.

Indeed, I had misremembered my friend's point.  I've reread his very moving Facebook post, and his point was that having a real Asian superhero who looked like him would have been very important to him, and that he felt that the character should have been rewritten to give his children what he never had but instead the new series just perpetuated the cultural appropriation.

I will confess that I have never been into comic books at all, so my knowledge of the subject is virtually non-existant.  I can put myself in his shoes, though, and imagine what it would be like to have almost all of the heroes he looked up to--even the ones who practiced elements of his culture--look nothing like him.  And ultimately I think to understand the effects of cultural appropriation one must practice some empathy.
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Online Harry Black

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #143 on: April 05, 2017, 04:42:35 PM »
TV tropes seems to believe that Daniel Rand (of Iron Fist) was a textbook example of the Mighty Whitey trope. Rich white dude outdoes the masters of K'un-Lun, becomes relatable superhero. Written by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to cash in on the popularity of Asian kung fu films, the entire franchise is arguably rooted in cultural appropriation.

Indeed, I had misremembered my friend's point.  I've reread his very moving Facebook post, and his point was that having a real Asian superhero who looked like him would have been very important to him, and that he felt that the character should have been rewritten to give his children what he never had but instead the new series just perpetuated the cultural appropriation.

I will confess that I have never been into comic books at all, so my knowledge of the subject is virtually non-existant.  I can put myself in his shoes, though, and imagine what it would be like to have almost all of the heroes he looked up to--even the ones who practiced elements of his culture--look nothing like him.  And ultimately I think to understand the effects of cultural appropriation one must practice some empathy.
Well said.
I think there is somewhat of a second layer too,which is that until very recently, it was almost unheard of to have an asian character worth looking up to who wasnt a martial arts expert.
Ive heard asian men comment that if they cant do asian martial arts and arent good at math then they fail to have any potential relevance or worth in the perception of wider society.
Their food, their art and their tech is everywhere, but they themselves are invisible.
This is then often countered by pointing out how things are percieved in Japan or China (like the cherry picked quotes from Japanese people saying Ghost in the Shell looked fine, despite numerous op eds from asian americans who disagree being ignored) when thats actually irrelevant because the japanese are the cultural majority in Japan and thus will have a different perspective.
Actors like John Cho and shows like the walking dead are starting to bring characters that are more rounded and deep to us, but there is still a ways to go.

Its also interesting to see the overlap between appropriation and quackery in terms of quacks going on vacation and finding a niche they can exploit and sell back home.
Even 'bullet proof coffee' is sold as an executives great discovery from the working schlubs who guided him up Everest.

Offline Redamare

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #144 on: April 05, 2017, 07:54:31 PM »
I find this debate over the legitimacy of CA to be uninteresting. It definitely has some non-zero quantity of legitimacy.

What i want to hear is why some people think there is some net utility in making this a political talking point.
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Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #145 on: April 05, 2017, 08:02:27 PM »
You can find this concept used for something other than a (socio)political talking point...?


Offline jt512

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #146 on: April 06, 2017, 04:26:31 AM »
Again, I mention the Irish example because its highly visible, but what it lacks is the factor of the people involved being cut out of the picture and the good ideas they bring being taken.
This is mostly because Irish people are mostly white christians.
Non white people have to deal with the same process but then dont get to be seen as equals by those 'celebrating' them.

Huh?
As I alluded to earlier when I talked about (for example) asian people being deleted from stories involving 80s culture, most notably martial arts movies.
The mighty whitey trope.

Hey, here's a tangible example worth discussing!  Whitewashing as a form of cultural appropriation.  Of course, every culture does this: [...]Is the Magnificent Seven problematic or harmful to Japanese culture because it's a blatant rip off of Seven Samurai?

Does anybody here actually consider The Magnificent Seven (1960) to be a "ripoff" of Seven Samurai?
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Offline Rai

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #147 on: April 06, 2017, 04:44:25 AM »
I think the whitewashing of film is a bit in a class by itself, in that it has harms different from those of other cultural appropriation: namely that it deprives children and even adults of the opportunity to see strong and heroic characters on the screen that look like them.  That has a broad cultural impact that's hard to quantify.  Take the example of the new Netflix Iron Fist series, which I understand is bad for many reasons, but which I also know takes an Asian superhero who was one of the few young Asian-Americans had to point to, into a white man.  That hit a lot of people hard; I have a friend who tells me that the Iron Fist was a huge role model for him growing up precisely because of his ethnicity and who was really devastated by what they'd done to the character.  It's not something that I can fully understand, but if my friend tells me that having such a character was important to him and that whitewashing the character hurt him, I accept that.

It also matters how non-white actors have such hard time getting roles other than "Terrorist 2" or "Grocery Store Clerk", the major characters are generally whitewashed.

Offline superdave

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #148 on: April 06, 2017, 06:43:42 AM »
pretty much the number one rule of social justice discussion is you need to take people at face value when they say something hurts them.
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline D4M10N

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Re: some thoughts on cultural appropriation
« Reply #149 on: April 06, 2017, 07:39:21 AM »
This is also the number one rule of alt med quackery, as it happens. No need to provide evidence when you have earnest people telling you about their subjective experiences. Just listen and believe.

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