2.13.2014

Fade to Black

I respect the audience's intelligence a lot, and that's why I don't try to go for the lowest common denominator~Spike Lee

I used Spike Lee's quote for this piece because well...read on.

Film. Movies. I love them. My friends love them. Most people do. I have not met a person who has said "I hate movies man, they make me sick man". No never heard that. If you hate films...too bad for your life.

In the last couple of years there have been a kind of resurgence of films with black actors in leading roles. I like Madea and her gang sometimes, but those movies are not what I am talking about. I have also noticed that the number of Asian actors has started to increase, unfortunately they are not yet leads in major motion pictures. I am not talking about the movies that you intelligent people find and watch, I am talking about movies at the cinema; the movies that are shown to mass audiences. Here in Korea, in this homogeneous society, films that show America's dark past of enslaving Africans and racism have been popping up quite frequently and the reception has been...well...interesting. Now, I did not conduct a poll or study of hundreds of people, but I did observe.

When Django Unchained premiered in Seoul last year, Koreans flocked to see it. Why? Because it was an awesome movie? Oh wait, I know Jamie Foxx was in it? Oh Oh, Quentin Tarantino directed it? No, no no....LEONARDO DiCAPRIO. That's why. But wait...is that a poster in the back that says "I love Django"?

Django Unchained, receive an 8.34 out of 10 from Koreans according to Naver the got to site for the Korean internet user. However, if you read the comments (Sorry they are in Korean) here is what you see "Leonardo DiCaprio blah blah" "Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz blah blah" "Tarantino blah blah"...but then there were a few...very few that compared slavery and racism to Korea under Japanese colonial rule. Ok, I mean we all try to draw parallels from what we know. Those who drew these similarities were disgusted and appalled at what they learned from the film. But after 10 pages of reading the comments...I did not see anything about the guy who played Django, Jamie Foxx.
Sidenote*China had many of the "violent" scenes edited or deleted for its audience. Then, they pulled the film from theatres, only to release it again a month later.
I, personally, loved Django Unchained. And I will be honest, I saw it for the first time like four days ago. Stop judging. Anyway, I decided to watch it after I saw the commercial for 12 Years a Slave on my Korean television. A few months back, when I went to see Thor at the theatre, there were posters everywhere for The Butler. I was like...ok then. Suprise surprise. At the Music/DVD store (these still exist and are very popular in Korea) there were copies of a boat load of "black films".

                     

Yet, I wonder: without the "Leonardo DiCaprio" factor can these films do as well as Django? Could Django have stood a chance in the Asian market without the Leo factor? I understand that when you spend millions of dollars on a film you must use your best marketing tools to turn a profit. Maybe Brad Pitt will have to make a trip to Korea. Even though he is in 12 Year a Slave for all of 15 seconds. 

The point is many black folks love Asian Drama (We have been down the road of the obsession with Korean-Everything). Its fine to love the movies, dramas, and music...I do. But is it fair that they don't give two scoops of poop about our stuff. Am I generalizing? Should we expect Asian audiences to understand and have in-depth conversations about  the African experience in America?  Or should we just be happy that they are watching even if only to see the Leonardo DiCaprios?

What do you guys think? Should we respect the audience's intelligence?
Until next time, Good People

15 comments:

  1. Asian audiences only get what our American media gives them and most times what they're given is hardly great. It also don't help if Korean media (as well some of the natives) are just into light skin. It almost seem that you have to be a fan of a lighter skinned person because of who they are.

    You was just discussing how Koreans talked about the White characters in Django Unchained but not Kerry Washington or Jamie Fox. They are the main characters of the movie, how do you not mention them? I'm sorry but if you leave them out,then its not a movie. The same goes for 12 years a slave. Lupita Nyongo did not win an award for nothing and she is very famous now because of it. Brad Pitt may have starred on there but he wasn't the main character on there Lupita and Chiwetel Ejifor. THEY we're the most noticeable characters on that movie. If it weren't for them the movie wouldn't be the winner that it is. You just cannot omit the main characters and admit the smaller ones because of the color of ones skin.

    With some Asians,as well as other people from around, its like they have to like someone because they're light skin. They can be the worst actor and the POC, like Lupita and Chiwetel can be great actors but they'll go along with the worst actor because they're White. You see that a lot with Kpop.I'll never forget about a small letter a Korean girl wrote on a blog about Black music. She said that she didn't like Black music,yet she could listen to Robin Thicke.Duh ! He sings mostly RandB music. Then again, he's White. As long as he's that it's OK.How stupid can she get ?

    I commend those Koreans who got a feel from "12".At least they understood what we went through. Still, as a whole, I still think that we're either misunderstood or that were not taken seriously. I remembered reading an article in France where a movie wasn't shown because they thought that having an all Black cast was "racist". In Italy, a movie critic got blessed out for undermining the Black characters in 12 and what you mentioned about China editing the movie.

    It is that kind of stuff that bugs me.I get that some films have to get edited because of their standards but still its like taking the main Black characters out of the movies ,its not the truth nor is the storyline is correct. You may as well not show the movie if you're not going to do that.

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  2. If the main characters of movies are overlooked, then all is lost. It is not good enough that they like Leonardo DiCaprio. The STORY is essential, and if Koreans can't empathize (given their own enslavement/mistreatment) then they are in serious trouble. They are basically ass-kisses to the US anyway. They will be the next and largest (group) appropriators of Black culture!! It's all good as long as you can have a white/fair skin face to slap on the cover/marketing. smh

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    1. Not trying to be rude, but, I think your statement about Korea being an ass kisser to the US is certainly uncalled for. If you really understood Korea's history, and the implications of US imperialism, then you understand the position that Korea is in. Did you think that the Korean people wanted their country annexed into two halves after World War II between the the Soviets and the US? Did you think that Koreans want a US military base on their soil where soldiers commit rapes against women, many I might add go un reported, and dealing with the disrespect of arrogant Americans? Do you really believe that Korea wanted to deal with US military building a naval base on Jeju Island which will cause havoc to the environment there? Or how they had a history of US backed strong men running their government squashing the voices of dissent? Or I know this will be controversial but do you thing that Korean people aren't invaded enough with western English teachers furthering western imperialism and that many only learn English because it is forced upon them through American neo colonialism? Please learn more about history before making these kind of statements. There is a reason why Koreans look up to the US and you damn right its directly because of US military industrial complex that forces itself on other nations. Not to mention American soft power which has appropriated black American musical culture with a white face or two dimensional black people as hood or gangster and send that to the world in conjunction with racist American films and tv shows. I know we are frustrated with the way black people and black cultures are seen but this is directly related to the much larger odious white supremacist world wide societal control. Also lastly I agree with Julie on this, whenever I read these post about South Korea specifically, commentators always want to comment on all of Asia and apply the same dynamics to a whole Continent. Asia is huge, not all of Asia is South Korea, Japan and China. So people need to just be more specific cause I know when you say Asia you are talking about South Korea or Japan and not Kazakhstan, Iran, or Bangladesh.
      AC

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  3. You're actually severely generalizing. People most specifically consume K-media, J-media and some C-media, HK-media or Bollywood (aka, not Viet, Hmong, Bangledeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai, Indonesian...medias). You really can't talk about Asia without saying specifically which ones. I imagine it's a lot like the diversity amongst Black peoples in America and around the world. Nigerians, Haitians, Americans.

    That said, we can't talk about media without recognizing that White Supremacy is in the room with us, and has exported itself all over the planet. With WS in the room, the only names anyone is going to recognize on a cast list are those that Hollywhite wants us to know.

    Maybe you can tell me better being on the ground over there, but does John Cho have any clout in Korea compared to the local celebrities? Do people care that he was in Star Trek? Is anyone over there hunting down Sleepy Hollow episodes? Or Flash Forward? Or...Harold and Kumar....? I'll be honest, the only people that I know who care about John Cho are Asian-Americans or are some kind of anti-WS activists. Same both ways, the only kinds of Asians I know that care enough about Black American history to do research on it are Asian-Americans, and most are activists at that.

    When Nicki Minaj is exploiting a Black hero for her profit. When Amy Chua...yeaaaa... When even Black and Asian and other minority peoples in America have to actively learn and FIGHT to love ourselves and see ourselves as amazing and beautiful, how can we expect anyone else to understand it? The Minaj's and Chua's are the acts that WS loves and promotes, so that's what's exported and the world learns to disrespect us.

    BTW- if you start a convo about Black history/movies with the locals over there, I for one, would love to hear about what they have to say. You should interview folks.

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  4. I just got through reading this article from Groove Korea "Korea's Black Racism Epidemic" http://issuu.com/groove_korea/docs/groove_korea_february_2014__1_

    Really good article.

    JNguyễn the articles I have read so far seems that Koreans talk more about Steven Yeun "Glen from the Walking Dead", than John Cho.

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    1. I wonder if its because Steven Yeun is paired with a white woman on the show. Or because the show itself is so popular.

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    2. I wonder if its because Steven Yeun is paired with a white woman on the show.

      You read my mind.

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    3. Great article.

      I was thinking about an article that I've read a couple of years ago about a Korean politician who endured the same problem because of her background (Korean/Filipino). I was looking at some of the comments on the website and frankly, some of those comments were just outright silly and definitely racist into why this woman shouldn't be part of their government. One commemter said that he would have preferred a White person on there or a Korean native on there.

      Though Korea isn't the only country that does this but nonetheless, its shameful. I just think about how much a White person can humiliate that country and still be respected. It is said that Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in Asia .It seems so weird. There's nothing wrong with being into your culture but being homogeneous shouldn't equate to disrespectful to another person because they are not of your background.

      Its really amazing how some Koreans just respect a person because of what they look like. They can be a cold blooded murderer but they will come to that person in their homes without evaluating their character. That was evident with that clip where some of the Korean natives were eager to help out White people than a non white or their own people.

      A co worker and me had a talk about Korea .He asked me will it become the next Japan? I couldn't tell him anything that I wasn't sure of.Sure,South Korea has that potential to be that. Although there is racism in Japan, its a country that in comparison to other countries is more internationally friendly than Korea .There is an annual Japanese festival that I love attending. I notice how diverse the attendees are and out of all of the festivals they have coming from Asia,they have the most people coming there. There is also a Korean festival that is in my neck of the woods and its pretty well attended but its not as big and diverse like the Japanese festival. I guess because Japan seems to be a more inclusive country. As tennis great Andre Agassi would say" Image is everything". Far as Korea, they can be the hip country it desires to be, but they have to work on the image and messaging that they give people. Maybe one day but for the time being they really got some work to do when it comes to respecting others.

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  5. The point is many black folks love Asian Drama (We have been down the road of the obsession with Korean-Everything). Its fine to love the movies, dramas, and music...I do. But is it fair that they don't give two scoops of poop about our stuff. Am I generalizing?

    One - yes, you are generalizing. Just like African people are not a monolith, and African isn't a country, Asians aren't a monolith and Asia is most certainly not a country. And think back to the US. Think how heavily dependent people who live here are on the media. People who believe the bullshit on the news or in whitewashed media. That's Americans living in America swallowing that bull.

    Imagine, then, the impact of those who live abroad and have even less info to contradict that same media?

    Two - and yes, I realize I'm going in reverse, I don't think Black audiences "enjoy" Asian media as much as it seems. To avoid generalizing (too much), let me boil things down to our immediate sphere. This is the Blasian Narrative, a blog written for/by Black women and Asian/Asian-American men. A lot of us Black women here have openly admitted a physical appreciation for Asian men. One main reason Asian media is so exciting for us is that Asians are damn near invisible in mainstream America media, seen far less (and often in a worse light) than even we are. So we appreciate the copious amounts of eye candy.

    The key concept here is "eye candy", and Jules will vouch for me on this because we watch dramas and talk dramas all the time. I think that very rarely do we find a film or drama that we fully appreciate - story, soundtrack, cast and production crew. Nine out of ten times, we just like the eye candy, and just want our visual fix. We find K-Dramas overly dramatic, C-Dramas filled with nationalistic propaganda, J-Drama period pieces to be few and far between, and we're still waiting for a steadier supply of any media to come out of the Southeast.

    In other words, we're not full-on crazy about most of Asian media; like many of you here, we analyze, criticize, and have developed a very particular taste. We'll watch a movie here (not always making it through) and some episodes of a drama over there (again, rarely making all the way through), but the truth is, we might as well be watching a lot of this stuff on mute.

    Did that make any kind of sense to anyone?

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    1. "I think that very rarely do we find a film or drama that we fully appreciate - story, soundtrack, cast and production crew."
      Aside from production crew I can say that of Japanese dramas I have watched there are many that I have fully appreciated. Of course I do like eye candy as much as any person but I watch dramas for all of the other things too, especially the story, soundtrack and acting. I even listen to Japanese drama soundtracks regularly and my ringtone is the instrumental theme to a Japanese drama. On my blog I have written extensive analyses of dramas I have written and another website for drama fans. But, I am a drama enthusiast and I don't just watch a few episodes, I watch entire series (over a hundred now). But yeah, like you said, most people aren't deep into to it like I am and only like the eye candy lol.

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    2. LOL - by production crew, by the way, I'm referring to directing, editing, etc.

      But yeah, like you said, most people aren't deep into to it like I am and only like the eye candy lol.

      Bingo. So it's fair to assume that Black audiences don't consume Asian media nearly as much as we - and others - tend to believe.

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  6. Do black (I will refer to black Americans for this comment, as that is the limit to my experience) people enjoy Asian media? By "Asian" I will assume you mean the Big Three (Japan, China and Korea). I will say no. Most Americans don't enjoy Asian media, especially if it isn't the big three. People into Asian media tend to gravitate towards Japanese and Korean stuff. Right now Korean stuff is hot, but that will fade. J-dramas were big at one point but now people have lost interest. J-Pop was pretty big too, but the popularity of that faded. Look at Tokyo Hive versus All Kpop, and Arama They Didn't vs. Omona They Didn't. Anime is huge and will continue to be huge, but most people into anime have such a slim understanding and appreciation for Japanese culture beyond anime, and quite frankly probably never will develop that understanding or appreciation. As someone who has studied Japanese for a while now and encountered many of these Japanese culture "enthusiasts", the majority don't know squat about Japanese culture other than anime and video games, and they don't care to know either. As for Korean stuff, for most Koreaboos it's just a K-pop fantasy that doesn't extend beyond idols and dramas. In American among fans of Asian media, anything other than the big three gets ignored, though I have seen some threads in forums in which people discuss Thai dramas and Thai music, but again, that is very limited.

    As for people in Asia appreciating black movies/media (again, I'm assuming you mean the big three) I can't say I expect them to flock to the theaters for these movies. First off, the black movie industry, as limited as it is has produced some great films, but it is still limited to stereotypes, pigeonholing and dated archetypes. The stories depicted just aren't as varied as mainstream (read: white) movies. Every time a black movie sweeps the Academy, it has to be about slavery, civil rights, or star black women as maids. Even I don't watch black movies that much. Before black movies or media make it big worldwide or even in Asia, we need to overcome the hurdle that is white supremacy and racism. We also need to branch out and create more diverse stories. It is a big battle to be fought because like I said, white supremacy and racism are still prominent, preventing black writers and filmmakers from truly succeeding and reaching new audiences.

    "Should we expect Asian audiences to understand and have in-depth conversations about the African experience in America?"

    *African-American

    And to answer your question: heck no. Whites in this country don't even want to have that discussion. Why should we expect people who haven't even set foot in this country and who haven't even extensively studied the history to have such conversations? If a select few take that deep interest, then great, but it really isn't anything I am expecting, nor should any expect realistically. Black expats in Korea or other countries in Asia get exposed to their culture and might be able to have conversations regarding their culture, but it will still be from the prospective of an outsider, even if you have spent years in that country. I'm not going to expect some Korean person to watch a few Spike Lee movies and suddenly talk about race relations in America. Nope. Those conversations still need to be had between people in this country. And we have a looong way to go.

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    1. アマンダ: "I'm not going to expect some Korean person to watch a few Spike Lee movies and suddenly talk about race relations in America. Nope. Those conversations still need to be had between people in this country. And we have a looong way to go."

      Yes, yes, yes!! And there it is then. Your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. I don't have to repeat it, but I will affirm it. I, like you don't consume solely Black media. I probably consume less than one would think.

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  7. I hope i will not sound too crass. First of all coming from a Central European point of view, I emphasis on central because Europe in itself is more diverse than people may think and depending on which part of the continent you live in you experience may differ. World War II is a pretty dark moment in the history of Europe in the sense of what happened on the European soil. I come from a small country which was pretty much affected by the war. The Holocaust Remembrance day, in my part of the world is a big thing, where we do group projects and etc at school. Every child here since the 1st grade knows about World War II. It may sound harsh but I sometimes was fed up about history classes dealing with it and also all those World War II movies we had to watch at school. Let's say watching a movie about slavery touches me more than watching a movie about Holocaust, it may be that I share the same color with the slaves. Due to having that same skin color I feel the pain of these people even though they are not my ancestors. Most of my friends here however care more about WWII because they've heard their grandparents talk about the war since tender age. We here in Europe focus on what Hitler did but never really talked about the involvement of Japan during the war and the atrocities they committed in Asia. Basically what I mean is slavery was a bad thing, and through this act a whole 'race' had and still has to suffer from its outcome. Me being African I also want people to know about our history, the killings, exploitations and injustice we had to face in our own land, but I can not force everyone to be interested in it. We do treat colonialism in school but briefly, for at the end of day it is still part of European history. Basically I can't force someone to have knowledge about my history, the history which affected me... Another funny is that all the movies you mentioned were quite successful here but in my opinion because Europeans love to point their finger at America about how racist they are... I hope I could make my point clear :)

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