It’s been a while since I’ve done a straight up opinion piece. I started a number of them, and then realized that while I might feel better venting, I was not likely to change anyone’s mind, affect the unfolding of events, or have any impact of any kind on anyone, anywhere.
There was a time I carried the hope I might make people think (part of the reason for this very blog is rooted in that hope), but people are very protective of their views, and have shown to be resistant to logic, data, or anything challenging their perception of the world.
BUT . . . this is different. This is about Firefly. Well, not just Firefly, but also a broader subject that permeates nearly everything anyone does these days.
The blog post that got me to grabbing virtual pen in virtual hand and writing on virtual paper is HERE. I was going to reply directly on the blog, but since I don’t allow third party cookies, I can’t. Ergo, this post.
For them too lazy to read the piece, at issue is the fact that Firefly is set in a ‘verse “… that mixes the U.S. and China as the dominant cultures in a far-flung space-faring future. The characters are all fluent in Chinese, wear Chinese-inspired clothing, eat with chopsticks, and wear white to funerals.“
The author liked that aspect of it, but “… the fact that the show has no Asian actors in leading roles is a very troubling and uncomfortable thing. It’s hard enough for Asian actors to succeed in Hollywood; it’s even more depressing when a work of media steals the shiny bits of our culture and then gives no opportunities to Asian-American actors.“
Mind you, the fact has been pointed out before and by other people. What struck me were the words “… a very troubling and uncomfortable thing.“
Really? It got me thinking. Would I have been troubled or felt uncomfortable had it been an all Asian cast? I’m pretty sure not. No, not just pretty sure. I am sure.
I have no great insight into Joss Whedon’s motivation for choosing the actors for the series. I have no insight at all. In fact, I did not even look up if he ever addressed the the issue in one of his many tweets and blog posts. He killed Wash and Book (and Penny), so the man is dead to me.
What I can comment about is the idea a work of fiction has to reflect the audience’s changing perception. Specifically, whether the creator of any fictional universe has to adhere to what anyone else think they should be doing.
Given the number of opinions out there, and the propensity for this or that group to be offended, my opinion is thus . . . short of purposefully going out of one’s way to denigrate a given political/religious/ethnic/etc group, the creator of any work of fiction, be it songs, movies, books, or embroidered tapestries, should have the freedom to do whatever they want. Even then, I give them lots of leeway in what they do.
Want to make a movie about a balding 61-years-young old man with a speech impediment and questionable looks? Go for it! I just ask that it be funny. Want to cast a woman in the role? Fine with me. Want to make him a vegetarian . . . well, I have to draw the line somewhere.
But here’s the kicker . . . whomever they would cast, I don’t think it would cross my mind to say “Uh! . . . they had a perfectly good Disperser they could have used, but they went with someone else! It’s kind of depressing that a work of media steals the story of my life, and does not give me the opportunity to play myself!“
“Foul! Not the same!“
No? What’s different? I’m pretty sure I could do a credible job of playing myself. I know the motivation behind the character, I know what drives the character’s actions when he is mad (seldom), happy (often), or craving a Nutella sandwich. If someone were to make a movie of the story of my life so far, why wouldn’t I expect to be a part of it? And not just me, but the whole cast of characters that are peripherally involved in my life?
“Well, it’s just not the same!“
Seriously, I want someone to explain to me why the absence of Asians in Firefly is important enough to comment on it. I’ve seen movies about Vikings without actual Viking, movies about the Roman Empire without Italian actors, movies about sick people without actual sick people playing the role of someone who is dying from a terminal disease.
I could see if one of the characters was Asian and they hired a non-Asian to play them, using makeup to make them appear Asian. That would piss me off, much like it pissed me off when the old cowboys and indians movies would have white guys playing indians (I especially hated it when they were supposed to be riding bareback, but you could see a saddle under a blanket).
Sidney Toler was a poor version of an Asian, and that did detract me from watching him, but not for those who liked the movies. Those movies made money. How did Asians react to seeing a Scottish actor impersonate an Asian character?
Probably the same way I react when a character is presented as Italian when they obviously are not; it takes me out of the story. To date, I know of Arabs, Mexican, Irish, Indian (not American Indian), and even Van Diesel who played Italian characters.
I’ve yet to hear a non-Italian nail the language, so I imagine that is the same for other languages as well (unless you are Jason Bourne – a facility for languages, that one has).
What I don’t do is assume the director or studio hates Italians. I don’t assume Italian actors have a specific right to get a given role because of their ethnicity, even when the movie is about Italians. I don’t take pen in hand and demand fair representation of my abandoned ethnic origin in movies and TV shows.
I understand it’s entertainment. I understand it’s not real. I understand the people making the show may offer parts to their favorite actors and actresses. I understand sometimes the studio has actors under contract that they want to use. I understand there may be a number of reasons as to why a particular part was cast the way it was.
And here’s the kicker . . . I can’t think of any movie I have watched and liked where I later sat back and said “You know, that part should have been played by so-and-so.“
Actors come to own the characters they portray. That’s one of the reasons I intensely dislike the Star Trek reboots, and why I don’t want more Firefly or a remake of Firefly, and why I can’t imagine anyone but Ford playing Indy.
I mean, I can imagine it, but it’s “wrong”.
So we return to the cast of Firefly. It meshed. It gelled. It worked amazingly well together. It made me believe in the impossible, care about them as they go about their improbable life, and offer up a version of reality I could accept.
The author of the blog I linked at the beginning of this piece puts together an all-Asian cast for Firefly. Interesting, but I can’t see it. Those actors are different. The equation would change, the dynamics would change. Changing even one would change the finished product. Maybe it would have been better, but maybe not. I do know I like what we got.
It’s not that I dislike those actors. I know most of them, and I like them all. I just can’t see them in those roles.
It’s not that they could not have done a good job, or that the show would not have been as good. It’s just that it would not have been the same show.
So, the question is . . . what’s the point? Should we ask by Zoe would have been better played by a man? How about an all female cast? Imagine the possibilities!
Whatever the reason why there are no Asian lead actors in the show, there is no denying Joss’s vision was realized big time (ask any rabid fan). Maybe the same could have happened with an Asian cast, maybe not.
Maybe Joss worked with all those actors before (except for Inara and Book), and knew how to present them to us. Maybe he hates Asians. Maybe he hates Italians. Maybe he hates Dispersers.
I. Don’t. Care.
I would not care even if I hated the show. Why? Because it’s a show. It’s not real life.
“But, but . . . what about fairly representing the distribution of people, either as a reflection of the actual society, or as representative of the given premise?“
Because it’s a show. It’s not real life.
“But, but . . . it denies non-caucasians work, discriminates against non-caucasian, etc. etc.“
I’m not naive enough to imagine there is no discrimination or gender-bias at play in all facets of our society. But I am also not naive enough to imagine that it’s always the driving force behind what are essentially business decisions.
Entertainment responds to demand. There is real money driving these decisions, and like it or not, I think casting decisions are made with the bottom line in mind. Sure, there are exceptions, but I keep reminding myself it’s a business. And the people running it want to make money.
But what about when money is not a primary motivation? Where is the ethnic diversity in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? . . . uh! . . . maybe Joss is a racist after all . . .
Meanwhile . . . http://imgur.com/gallery/1nIgP7Z
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.