Marvel’s Asian Problem

Since the new trailer of Doctor Strange is making the rounds, I wanted to share my thoughts on whitewashing, more specifically Asian whitewashing, in the Marvel Cinematic and TV universe. But before I go on any further, here are a few things you should know: as an Asian woman, I wanted to weigh in on this issue, but of course I can’t and don’t speak for all women nor am I the authority on all things Asian. I am Filipino, which is considered by some ignorant people as the whitest of all Asians, whatever the hell that means. Yes, we were colonized by the Spanish and occupied by the US, but that does not make us any less Asian. I also am aware and acknowledge that some Asians are guilty of racism, but that is another problem altogether. What I want to address in this post is the casting of a white woman as the Ancient One in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie and the casting of a white man as Iron Fist in the Netflix series.

When I first heard the news that Tilda Swinton would be in the Doctor Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, I was ecstatic. She is such a wonderful actress and any film would be lucky to have her. However, my feelings became torn when it was revealed that she was going to portray Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One. In the comics, the Ancient One is a man born in Tibet. I have no problem with gender-bending the role as president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige has defended. Why can’t the Ancient One be a woman? What I have a problem with is the fact that once again, our white hero will learn about the traditions of a culture from someone who is also white and not of that culture. Some can argue that maybe Swinton’s Ancient One learned from a Tibetan Ancient One before she assumed that mantle. Sure, but that’s not what the Doctor Strange narrative is about.
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Cultural appropriation is a problem in the entertainment industry. Here was an opportunity for Marvel to get it right. I am a feminist so of course I love the fact that the Ancient One in this version is a woman but why did the conversation have to stop at that woman being white? Couldn’t they have cast her as a Tibetan woman? Wouldn’t that have made more sense story-wise? And before people start bringing up stereotypes, let me shut you down. You can’t justify not giving roles to Asian actors on the basis of type-casting. No Asian actor would ever get work. You just have to write and portray the character in a way that isn’t stereotypical and offensive, what a novel idea.

This train of thought leads me to Iron Fist. I was disappointed when they announced that Finn Jones was cast as Daniel Rand. The story of Iron Fist revolves around a young man whose family is killed (as per usual). He desires vengeance so he gets trained in the martial arts in a mystical city within the Tibet region. Here’s why it actually is possible to whitewash a white character. Iron Fist as a concept is problematic from the very beginning. The comic was created to capitalize on the martial arts hype during the 70s. White man inserts himself in an Asian narrative, takes what he needs from that culture then becomes the hero. The whitewashing happened when he was conceived and then by casting a white actor, you’re saying there wasn’t a problem to begin with. By casting an Asian-American actor, it would allow for Iron Fist to learn from his own culture and become an Asian hero. You take away the always-saved-by-the-white-man trope and the yellow fever-ness of it all.
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So just to recap Marvel’s reasoning behind casting Finn Jones is that Daniel Rand is white in the comics, whereas they wanted to be edgy and unpredictable with the Tilda Swinton casting by going against comics canon. They messed up both times. In Daredevil Season 2 though, they were fine with having Elektra be a character of Asian descent despite her long-established backstory. So why not Danny Rand? This article breaks down the troubling reasoning behind that

Basically it boils down to Asian women are fetishized while Asian men are viewed as unappealing leading men. This is what worries me about the casting of Jessica Henwick as the female lead in Iron Fist. Henwick was awesome in Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I just hope her character is not reduced to the white hero’s exotic love interest.

Asian fans deserve better. We deserve to be better represented in movies and TV shows. But more importantly, we deserve to be represented and represented well in the films and TV shows that deal with or showcase our culture as a fundamental theme or plot device. Come on, Marvel, you’re pretty great already but do better.

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The End of an Era: ARROW’s Biggest Mistake

It has been over a year since my last post. I did say the blog would take a backseat to work but I did not foresee how long I would step away. A lot of things have happened since I last wrote. I have tried new restaurants, played new board games, devoured TV shows and movies, all of which have gone by undocumented here because of work or family stuff or whatnot. But here I am, back on the blog. I’m not saying this is the end of my hiatus but I do know that I feel strongly enough about this subject to do a post about it.

As you know, I am a big fan of Arrow, the CW TV show about DC Comics’ Emerald Archer. In fact, I am a fan of all of Greg Berlanti’s superhero offerings on the silver screen (Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow). But this week’s episode of Arrow Season 4 entitled, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine”, got me so upset that I just needed an outlet to vent.

My favorite comic book character is Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance. She is very much tied into the Green Arrow mythos so I was understandably looking forward to her portrayal in the show. In Season 1, we were introduced to Laurel, a lawyer who already had a history with Oliver. It wasn’t exactly Dinah from the comics but I understood that the show would be different. I was not prepared however for the character not to be the first to don the Black Canary mask. That honor was bestowed upon her sister, Sara, a character that was made up for the show. I grew to love Sara but I was always rooting for Laurel.

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A lot of people, even a few of my friends, did not care for her character. They called her whiny, useless and annoying. I believe a lot of this stemmed from the fact that in Season 1 she was in love with two guys while still mourning her sister, after Tommy died she became obsessed with hunting the Arrow down and then turned to drugs and alcohol to drown her sorrows. Wouldn’t you be messed up as well if your sister ran off with your boyfriend, then both died, then said boyfriend returned from the dead when you’ve finally moved on to dating his best friend? This is a CW show after all. As for her being useless, that is a matter of perspective. She wasn’t part of Team Arrow for the longest time. How was she supposed to contribute when she was kept in the dark until the end of Season 2? I don’t know what it is about her that rubs people the wrong way. The fact that she has flaws and she’s open about them? Her character dealing with addiction and grief as well as her own father’s alcoholism was one of the show’s most compelling and most important arcs.

You can make a case that Laurel wasn’t the show’s best female character. How could she be when there was Felicity Smoak, who was only supposed to be a one-off character but Emily Bett Rickards did such a fine job stealing the scene that she became a series regular. I personally don’t see the chemistry between her and Stephen Amell but a lot of fans do and so did the writers. Once Olicity was decided upon, Laurel’s role as Green Arrow’s main love interest was no longer on the table. And that is fine by me. Her relationship with Green Arrow is not what makes her great in the comics. Laurel couldn’t occupy the sister role either since Oliver already has a sister, Thea. She couldn’t even be Black Canary until mid-Season 3 and only after her sister dies. And of course by then, fans’ opinions about her have been solidified. They even found her training to become a vigilante unrealistic. Sorry if it only took her a few months’ training to be able to fight crime in a mask, but then again this is a TV show based on a comic book. Plus they did show her getting her ass kicked in a couple of episodes.

My point here is not to make the Laurel haters love her. I am secure in my opinion and I just want to write it down and share it: I believe Laurel is the most developed character on the show and there was absolutely no reason to kill her off. I read interviews with the writers and show runner and their main argument was that Laurel had to die because it made the most sense to the story. How exactly? She was finally at a point where she had grown into her role as Black Canary and is an important part of Team Arrow. She was there for Star City when Oliver “died” and again when he retired to live in the suburbs. She won her battle with addiction. She repaired her relationships with her sister and her father. She was able to call Oliver out on his shit, challenged him and reined him in. Green Arrow and Black Canary were finally partners and equals, both heroes trying to do the right thing. But because the writers showed a grave in the beginning of the season and now must deliver on their promise, she gets the ax.

When a show has to rely on killing off one of their characters to make an impact, it’s a sign they’re running out of things to do. When a show kills off yet another female character solely for the sake of tormenting a male character, especially one who went through the journey Laurel did, that is called fridging and it’s problematic as hell. Darhk literally tells Laurel she has to die because he made a promise to her father that if he betrayed Darhk, he would kill her. I wouldn’t be as mad if Darhk had killed her because she turns down the offer to become District Attorney in order to still be able to prosecute him in court. On top of all that, the way they killed her off was so disrespectful to her and her fans. Fake-out aside, one of the last lines she utters was about how Oliver is the love of her life even though she isn’t the love of his. Where the hell did that come from? They haven’t been lovers since Season 2! To reduce her character in the end to merely a love interest was the last slap in the face. She doesn’t even get to talk to her dad for fuck’s sake.

Other people have pointed out Arrow’s tendency to fridge its female characters, but I never thought it would happen to Laurel, who has been a major character since the very beginning. She wasn’t always treated with respect by the fans, the writers and even the other characters, but in Season 4, all the pieces came together and she at last reminded me of the Black Canary in the comics. None of that matters anymore. They made their decision to kill her off and it was the wrong one. They will stick by it and I will stick by my choice to no longer support the show.

Whether as an Assistant District Attorney, a daughter, a sister, a friend or as Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance did not fail this city, but the writers have most definitely failed her.

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Another busy week of 2015 down. March has just crept up on me and I will be turning 25 on Monday. I’m also starting a new job next week so the blog might take a backseat until I get my bearings. In the meantime, here are a few fun things we’ve done recently:

We went to the Insurgent Premiere in Toronto and Jai Courtney was there (which was the best part of the whole experience)!

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While I didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year as much as I used to, at least a little green beer was had:
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Speaking of beer, we finally used up a $50 gift certificate from The 3 Brewers:
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Happy weekend everyone!

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Tabletop Thursday: Board Game Expansions For Your Collection

Following my reading recommendations yesterday, I was inspired to post about a few board game expansions worth adding to your collection:

Ticket to Ride: 1910
This is essential just to replace the tiny cards that comes with the original game
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Ticket to Ride Nederland
It may be because I totally dominated when we played this version, but the introduction of bridge tolls adds a very interesting element to the original game. Read: Cutthroat.
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Dixit Origins (or any of the other ones)
I’ve professed my love for Dixit so it comes as no surprise that we have already started acquiring the expansions. To be honest the toughest question was not if we would buy it but which one.
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I’m excited to discover more board game expansions, namely for Lords of Waterdeep, Tokaido, Catan, Dominion, Carcassonne and Alhambra. Happy Thursday!

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3 Books You Should Read Now

Happy Hump Day! I’ve been so busy at work that I had zero idea what to write about for today, so here’s a quick little post on my reading recommendations:

Yes Please. If you still haven’t read Amy Poehler’s hilarious book, you are seriously missing out. It stands out from all the other celebrity part-memoir-part-blog books with its sincerity, hilarity and just plain wonderful-ness.
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The Night Circus. I had been holding off on reading this book but I finally succumbed to peer pressure. The consensus was right. It has mystery, romance, magic…how is this not a movie yet?
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Paper Towns. Read it before the movie starring Cara Delevingne comes out (the poster just got released). Just like The Fault in Our Stars, this book features a quirky but cool lead characters that you’ll fall in love with.
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Keep calm and read on!

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Tasty Tuesday: St. Patrick’s Day Recipe Round-Up

I remember St. Patrick’s Day being a big deal while in university, but once you graduate, it becomes one of the holidays you don’t have time to celebrate, especially when it falls on a weeknight. That doesn’t mean you have to totally ignore it. Here are some recipes that we might try tonight:

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe from The Brown-Eyed Baker
Love Guinness so this recipe already had me from its name
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Uncorned Beef and Roasted Cabbage Wedges from Martha Stewart
A modern take on the Irish classic
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Irish Apple Beer Cake from The Beeroness
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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“Shoot, Quick!” Episode 13

Happy Monday! The “Shoot, Quick!” gang is back with a brand new episode. Listen as we recap the last Arrow episode, Nanda Parbat.
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