12.13.2014

Marco Polo, or Why Asian Dramas Should be Handled by Asians

Benedict Wong as Big Boss Pimp Daddy Kublai Khan

Like many of you here at the Narrative, I love watching historical dramas from Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, and wish I could watch more from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.  You could say people like us have gotten spoiled by sites like Viki, DramaFever, and the Korean section on Hulu.  And sometimes even Netflix.

I was going to wait and watch the whole Marco Polo series before I said something.  But what I've seen this far warrants addressing.  Like...right now.

Warning: When you watch Marco Polo, a few things happen very quickly.

1) You will stop giving a shit about Marco Polo.  You realize right away that the only reason the show was named after him and he's chosen as our protagonist is that someone wanted to do a project about Mongols but wanted to make it about a white dude...when they should've done a damn series about the Mongols and had done with it.

2) You will love the settings but despise the writing.  Once again, you're made patently aware that white dudes are running the show, drafting dialogue in a way Asian dramatists generally don't.

3) You will love the casting but hate the acting.  After all, the script isn't giving them much to work with.

4) You will want to base an entire drinking game off the phrase "Eternal Blue Sky."  No, really.

5) You will wonder WTF happened with Rick Yune.  Rick Yune's name always appears in the credits, but he's not always in the episodes.  When he is, his screen time lasts only a few minutes.  You wonder if his name is simply bait.  Don't even get me started on the characterization of his daughter.  It's clearly a white dude's handiwork.

6) You will notice that this project is way, way, way below Joan Chen.  They must have offered an insanely large paycheck and threatened her with bodily harm to convince her to do this shit.

7) You will get the impression Marco Polo is little more than a ninety million-dollar Asian fetish, which is what always seems to happen whenever white people are allowed anywhere near Asian history and drama.  It's like they're biologically incapable of separating "Asia" from "fantasy."

The number of fully naked Asian women and white-looking women seems uncountable (soooooo glad no African women were part of this hot mess).  The women are all lusty, some are surgically busty, and all are magically interested in any and every man (or woman) who walks by.  The sex scenes are random and do nothing for the overall narrative.  It's pure (white) male fantasy.  Meanwhile, all I could think about was how every noise they make and every smile they flash is so obviously fake.  Again, you have to wonder how much money they were offered.  I can already tell you they got ripped off.

8) You will think the opening credits and music are the highlight of every episode.  After the credits end, it all goes downhill from there.





14 comments:

  1. Never heard of it before. From what you wrote, I'm not missing a daaaaaaang thing.

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    1. Netflix just unveiled it yesterday. Shoulda just left this one on the shelf.

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  2. This Tumblr post, though, not to mention the tags. XD

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    1. The show may suck,but I'll take the men.

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    2. I am in the throes of a full-fleged Remy Hii addiction. I'm willing to watch him in absolutely anything at this point.

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  3. I heard about this and watched the trailer on screenrant. I enjoy a good historical show here and there but you could see even in the trailer Asian people would be props and secondary characters (that have to lose to and or worship the lead).

    That alone turned me off. I was still going to check it out, but from your review I think I will pass.

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    1. The Asian male eye candy is reason enough to watch. I mean, the casting was damn near flawless - Rick Yune, Remy Hii, Mahesh Jadu, Tom Wu - this piece sucked royally but it introduced me to some folks I'm going to keep a strict eye out for.

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  4. If people are going to do movies/TV series about other races/cultures, for once it would be nice if they actually let the actual people do it. When you do movies about people that you're not and/or have any experience with..chances are it will suck

    I was just thinking about the movie Exodus. Egypt and Morocco have already banned this load of crock(BBC news) because of the historical inaccuracies in them and they're right. I was thinking about how whitewashed the movie is. I mean,, do Mr. Scott is everybody in Egypt are Blond haired,light colored White people? I think not. People like him are the partt of the reason that those countries won't show Exodus and I can't blame them. What a waste of time.

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  5. SPOILERS FOR EXODUS FILM:
    Babes, the world is like that. Instead of complaining about it, continue to find and encourage the people willing to take the different route. I loved Exodus despite the fact EVERYONE was white and my brother and I rolled our eyes everytime we saw some Naked African "slave girl" AND DESPITE the representation of God as a spoilt child and missing some obvious biblical plot points. In fact they should have put a disclaimer. . I liked how they dealt with the issue of FAITH because the premise or lesson of a film is what inspires me most.

    Not that pissed off really about Marco Polo (i always thought it was a game), it's not like when people took Dragonball Z and made Goku a white dude. That was horrific. This is just white people telling a(n expensive) white person's story in Asia. The Last King of Scotland was a brilliant film. Despite it being by a scottish director and tells the story of a scotsman in Uganda, and the two main leads being BLACK AMERICANS and NOT African, in fact i think Kerry Washington got "darkened" for that role. I admire people for stepping out of their comfort zone and writing about people of different races. JK Rowlings crime novel "Cuckoo's Calling" is about white people but she manages to write about certain race issues quite well despite her not being black herself. Maybe the fact that she worked aith Amnesty International helped.

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    1. Babes, the world is like that. Instead of complaining about it, continue to find and encourage the people willing to take the different route.

      Instead of telling people how to react to media, just state your likes and dislikes, then move on.

      Exodus and Marco Polo aren't examples of white people taking a new route or stepping out of their comfort zones. They are big budget examples of white people doing what they always do - whitewash brown historical/spiritual/mythological figures and tell the story of an entire brown culture through white eyes. This is an old problem which won't die so long as POC "continue to find and encourage the people" who insist on doing this shit year after year and while claiming it's in the name of progress.

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    2. She actually wrote that, didn't she?

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    3. "Instead of telling people how to react to media, just state your likes and dislikes, then move on."

      Okay :-)

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  6. AH PLEASE do not misinterpret my words....when i said "Instead of complaining about it, continue to find and encourage the people willing to take the different route." I was NOT talking about Exodus....I meant the independent film makers of colour and everyone else to focuses on what they love despite how fucked up and unfair this world is...Michaela DePrince for example. This is the internet, you can think what you want about me as what i think of you. But you have this platform to promote the good that can come out of a bad situation. and you have the followers. Use it. (Or continue to use it) positively.

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