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March 26 2009

Yet another Firefly-related xkcd. "The Uncomfortable Truths Well".

Yeah, this is far more annoying than the complaint about an all-white Southern California in Buffy.
My wank's always been that the crew tended to have run-ins with the military arm of the Alliance. All things considered, one could see a projected future where the Anglo of the Anglo-Sino Alliance is the military arm and the Sino is the economic arm.

That's my wank, and I'm stickin' to it. (Also, nobody's Asian in the movies.)
But we saw Asians cooking dog planetside once (I think when the crew had dealings with Badger) and wasn't there an Asian at the Heart of Gold?

Drat. Now I have to go watch the series again.

Well, not now, ''s 0100 and I really need to get to bed. But soon.
For what it's worth, most scenes in the show with extras have Asians in them (as I recollect).

[ edited by jlp on 2009-03-27 07:34 ]
grrrr. i'm asian. but hey, i don't look asian, i think. so, it's all good to me.
In "Safe" I saw a lot of Asian people dancing.
Well, we can always consider the fact that most of the planets we saw were more influenced by Londinum, but at the end of the day, isn't the point of all of that be that mixed marriages would be a common thing. I have asian friends who married western people, whose kids, don't look that Asian at all, just slightly.

BTW, am I the only one who suddenly got a certain song from Commentary! The Musical in the head right now?
isn't the point of all of that be that mixed marriages would be a common thing.

I think that was the point of the Tams. Trouble is Firefly was only half a season so we'll never know.
I like to think that had the show continued longer, Joss & co would have fixed the problem, but as it is, having an Asian influenced world and not a single Asian character with actual dialogue is a bad, bad mistake, especially coming after the complaints about the representation (or lack thereof) of race in Buffy and Angel.

There is a very good article about the cultural appropriation in Firefly (and Dollhouse) at Racialicious (the discussion in the comments are also worth reading).
Considering Firefly was set in a world that should have been 50% Asian, it was totally poor form on Joss and the rest of the team's part to not have any main characters of Asian descent let alone ANY speaking roles for Asian characters. More than poor form it's actually pretty disgraceful.

I love Joss, and Firefly is one of my favourite shows but he's never handled race well.

Making excuses like "I saw some Asians in the background one time!" only highlights this.
Don't forget to read the mouseover "tooltip". Emacs rooolz indeed (although I've recently been seduced by TextMate).
I saw some Asians in the background one time. They were wise ninja-physicians doing math. It was weird.
None of them owned a restaurant in Chinatown ? That is weird.
No, they were selling groceries! That was the weird part. I'm not willing to believe ninjas have customer service skills.
Good point. They'd kill at re-stocking shelves though - you'd never even see them !

In fairness, that is very Joss, that sort of inattention to basic ninja plot details. I bet you believed the ninja emotional arc though, right ?
Background ninajs don't get an arc.
Man, in that case Asians really do come off worse in Whedon shows. I mean, if we don't know why he* double-bagged the vegetables then how are we supposed to care about anything in the episode ?

* or she - Joss could've totally subverted the background-ninja conventions
He did kill off a whole bunch of mystic ninjas in the Runaways arc. There's really no higher expression of his affection.

He did treat them as one big mob and not compelling individuals, though.
Honestly as a half-Asian myself, I was never really bothered by the lack of very visibly Asian characters with speaking roles or leads. Granted, I look more "American" than Korean or Japanese and admittedly don't spend my time trying to find fault with lack of racial representation in TV and movies (I find it more offensive when there is representation that's negative). But I would think so far in the future with so much blending there would be more mixing and less distinct differences. Given the surnames of characters one could certainly take that as the case.

[ edited by ceo on 2009-03-27 16:05 ]
Joss can't win. He gave two African-American actors key roles, double the traditional Sci Fi quota (Sisko, Franklin, Uhura, Windu...), and he gets gig'ed for not having enough Asians. Sigh. Note especially that Book wasn't particularly a "Magical negro" even though it would have been easy to relegate him to that role.
We're talking about Asians here because he set up a premise where China and the US merged to form the Alliance. It's a noteworthy observation, not nitpicking. His cast was relatively diverse in its core roles for scifi, and I do think the Tams were meant to have Chinese ancestors. But at the end of the day it's still kind of funny that Firefly's blend of Chinese and American cultures was mostly expressed through white people swearing in Chinese.
And background ninjas.

Yeah, it's not a general gripe about sci-fi (or Whedonian) casting, it's a specific issue with the world building. As i've observed (jokily) before, 'Firefly' has no Scottish characters at all AFAIK. But the future being presented isn't one where America and Scotland were the biggest contributors to the current human culture so it's kind of a non-issue.
Well the crew were too poor to hire their laundry out...

Honestly, it's a valid nitpick but I'm satisfied with the idea of culture blending (instead of a melting pot, stick everyone in a blender!) 500 years from now. I'd rather Joss pick the right actors than have any sort of quota. I wasn't particularly impressed by some of the potentials on Buffy.
I just read a bunch of the comments on Racialicious article that ruuger posted, and while I get the appropriation thing... I find it really hilarious that they're trying to base one of their arguments on the fact that Joss kills off a lot of his PoC (and someone actually mentioned that he kills off all his female characters, so obviously he's not as much of a feminist as everyone thought) characters. Um, hello, Joss kills off everyone! He's an equal opportunity knock-offer.
But at the end of the day it's still kind of funny that Firefly's blend of Chinese and American cultures was mostly expressed through white people swearing in Chinese.

I think I'd have had less trouble accepting this if only the white people did a better job of swearing in Chinese! I don't say that simply as a half Chinese person, but also just as a viewer. It made me cringe sometimes.

That said, I like the way the language integrates in the comic books. That comes off very well.
I almost had (badly) in there but thought better of it since I don't know Chinese and have just been told their pronunciation usually sucks. ;)
It can be distracting. I think they could have been more professional about learning the words like they would if it were a European language, but I think they were just going the silly route most of the time. Might have been easier for them if Joss had gotten Cantonese translations like he'd wanted. Though Mandarin makes more sense for an alliance with China anyway.

[ edited by hacksaway on 2009-03-27 19:31 ]
I am sometimes annoyed with the way Gentiles pronounce Yiddish words or use them incorrectly, e. g. knish with an aspirated k, schmuck when they mean schnook. Gentiles who grew up around Yiddish-speaking Jews don't have trouble with common Yiddish expressions, but the ones whose only contact with Yiddish is from TV or books often screw them up.

Hearing Chinese phrases horribly mispronounced must be unpleasant for speakers of the language, but I can justify it as the result of differential exposure to the language depending on the personal history of the speaker.
I think "white" is the official racial gray- no matter how many times you try, you can never get it out.

And the same for the "absorption" of other languages... the way Americans use words, pronounce them, are sometimes no where near their origin, but more of a bastardization of the language.

... not a bad thing, just the way it seems to be. We engulf instead of merge.
I didn't know Joss wanted Cantonese. At least if they butchered that, I would have sort of gotten it (I don't speak a lick of Mandarin, but I do speak Cantonese) but as it has been stated, it wouldn't have made much sense. China speaks Mandarin. Americans who learn Chinese learn Mandarin.

The Tams always gave me the impression they were supposed to be Asian-y as well, but then Simon's dad was a stuffy old white man.

I guess it's the old Whedon chinoiserie for you. He really likes Asian stuff, but doesn't cast too many Asians (I keep thinking back to the Asian ninja in Angel). And now I'm thinking of Bai Ling, who is an affront to all human beings everywhere.

Can we call Whedon a weeaboo? Whed-aboo?

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