Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    Jul 30, 2000
    star 7
    Yes, I think the laziness there should have included at least a couple of people of color.
  2. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
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    I was thinking about your point about the Death Watch, and it's an interesting one. Do you think the racial uniformity there was an intentional parallel with the real world? The EU in general usually gives us mixed-species bands of pirates, but then again, in TCW it's usually a group of Nikto pirates or a group of Weequay pirates or another one-species bunch. So I wonder if Death Watch might just be cost-cutting use-the-same-character-maquette as well.
  3. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    No, not semantics. It's actually very revealing. It illustrates your intent, which, to all appearances is to assume the worst and crucify people on the altar of diversity. The point of my earlier comment was that it takes a considerable effort to even identify the Ming Po as Asian. Heck, I recall the ew.com clone wars recaps where, when the episode originally aired the author misidentified the whole species as Mirialians (which was actually my thought when I saw it air, that they were oddly colored Mirialians). The most Asian thing about the species is their name.

    If you going looking for examples of not perfectly aware or cogniznat material in popular media, yes, you will find things that you could consider racist. You can even do that towards white populations, a cetain kind of political commentator does that all the time.

    You postulate that the TCW design team saw the Ming Po as a deliberate chance to exoticize a human ethnicity. That is extremely unikely. Far more likely is that some artist fuond a certain type of costuming, in this case a sort of historical Chinese-Mongolian mix, cool and chose to build around that for what, ultimately, was a bit part. The choice to call them the Ming Po was probably meant as a gesture of respect to the source aesthetic, something common in TCW (ex. Embo's species is named the Kyuzo, after the Seven Samurai character he was meant to mirror).

    [QUOTECharlemagne19]That they're Nazis and bad guys? No, seriously, Death Watch is evil. It's a group of evil racists. What's the problem with using visual storytelling about this?[/QUOTE]

    This, actually, is why the Death Watch and the New Mandolorians (who are the same ethnic group), and white, more than anything. It's a deliberately race-conscious act. You cannot, in popular entertainment, have a mixed race society, and then take a minority and make it the dominant villainous group, especially when, as in the case of Death Watch, there are clear ethnic concerns in-universe. If they had made all the Mandalorians in the show African, or Asian, or Hispanic, there would have been outrage. Beating up on the majority is legitimate (and while this is vaguely restrictive, its probably necessary in the US today, I certainly wouldn't want to go the other way in the name of art).

    This is the same reason why certain works continue to churn out all white Imperial groups. Making everyone identical reinforces the image of a villainous group as monolithic and irredeemable, and spreads the blame for the sins of the leaders across the masses, but if you're going to take advantage of such visual cues with the bad guys, then everybody's got to be white, because they're the safe target. Best example: the Yuuzhan Vong - for such an abundant group they're awfully monochromatic, and they're pale as it gets, despite being, more or less, angry space Mesoamericans.
  4. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    And their eyes. And their dress. Not really sure why you're trivializing the former point; see my earlier post about caricaturizing. Your guess about my intent is way off, but since my argument also involves speculating on intent, I can't really criticize you for it. :cool:

    I'm not accusing them of being deliberate and overtly racist, no. What I'm getting at is that it's probably an unconscious thing. Even if they did merely build a culture around a cool bit of costuming, they took it too far by giving them exaggerated "Asian eyes," giving them a Chinese-sounding name, and making them not Human. Even if it was an unconscious decision, that latter bit reflects how exotic and different they found these Asian-inspired characters to be. And it looks bad. Very bad. That's not me trying to actively hunt for racism and crucify people, but rather me reacting with disappointment to a poorly-thought out finished product.

    What compounds the problem is that there haven't been any East Asian Humans in TCW yet. I'd be more forgiving if there had been, but when the closest thing we have is a culture that's classified as not Human, it's very frustrating and disappointing.
  5. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I think that's probably the stronger point to be made here - it's hard to nail down just how visually "Asian" the Ming Po are because there's little to no precedent for regular Asians in TCW to compare them to.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Oct 29, 2012
  6. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    I've been hoping for a while that they'll use Bultar. Ideally in a teamup with Tsui Choi, now that they have Aleena character models, which would be cool foreshadowing of their familiarity with each other in Purge.

    The problem with that, though, is that they'd probably kill her.

    Speaking of strong female characters --- I just watched the final Onderon episode yesterday. Although I thought the whole arc was pretty meh, having a strong, leading woman of colour is definitely a good thing.
    Contessa and Esg like this.
  7. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    We've never seen Tholothian hair because they wear skullcaps. Which apparently is enough to make you an alien, as long as you're black.

    But the Ming Po? Jesus. So they have green eyes. Well, that solves it. They can't be space Asians if they have green eyes! Come the hell on.

    [IMG]

    We have people in Asian dress, with Asian skin tones, black hair, a stereotypically Asian pointy beard on the guy, and slanty eyes on the woman. No, clearly, they're not intended to be Asian at all! Because one of them has green eyes and some other ones have brown and red hair (which, shockingly, can be found on some Asians!). Oh, and the stereotypical slanty eyes on the crude CG woman don't actually look like Asians' real eyes, just like stereotypical depictions of them. That's all right, then. Jesus Christ.

    [IMG]

    This is just insulting my intelligence. They didn't put a couple of geckos in kimonos and call them the Ming Po. They put Asian-looking (if only stereotypically Asian-looking) people in Asian-looking clothes and gave them an Asian-sounding name and decided they're not humans. No problem there! That's not sending any kind of message!
  8. Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 7, 2012
    star 3
    On the topic of "Asians", I don't know if it's been mentioned here before but I just saw that Satele Shan was visually based off an Asian model. So I guess the Shans, like the Thuls, are another family that TOR establishes changes ethnicity over the centuries.
  9. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    Jul 30, 2000
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    I'm glad for that at least.

    :)
  10. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    Sticking my nosy Ming Po head in here just to drop some historical trivia and say that when Asian Americans first came to the United States, we were called "celestials" because we looked so "inhuman" and from another planet to poor ol' white settlers in California. The "celestial" language has (mostly) fallen out of vogue, but the name "alien" still sticks and we use it to refer to non-citizens (many of whom are overwhelmingly people of color) and uh...space aliens, so good going, America!

    So yeah, human = white, not white = possibly not human, is a really, really awkward conceit that Star Wars needs to move past.
  11. Reveen Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 2012
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    There were a couple people who we're miffed about Satele Shan's race change between the comic and the game if I recall. I think the fact that there are racist fans in a franchise that supposed to be rejecting those sorts of attitudes doesn't speak well of how things have been handled so far.
    Charlemagne19 likes this.
  12. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 2, 2012
    star 4
    This is the same franchise that makes customizable characters white by default
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  13. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

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    Jul 30, 2000
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    I confess, I wish Satele was Asian in those comics.
  14. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
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    I love my Alien Registration Card here in Korea. When my young ESL students say "Teacher! You're an alien!" with perfectly silly intentions, I counter by showing them my card and saying "Yes, but I'm a registered one."

    But now I wish they called me a Celestial. Creating the Universe and overseeing the Force and like... enslaving insects and stuff? Damn that'd be awesome.
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, Oct 29, 2012
  15. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Nah, he's been in the conversation - maybe on the temp board. I brought him up at some point as this asian discussion has been pretty far reaching.
    Last edited by Robimus, Oct 29, 2012
  16. Mechalich Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    Evidence for the Ming Po being Asian: dress, nomenclature, hair design, eye design conforming to certain stereotypes.
    Evidence against the Ming Po being Asian: pale skin, mix of hair colors, mix of eye colors
    Neutral feature: Mirialian tattoos

    So, all the evidence for the Ming Po as Asians is cultural, none of it is physical, and this is taken to mean that the cultural trumps the physical. That's an interesting view. It means that if I, as a white male, dress up in full Chinese costume including makeup, change my name to 'Liu Deng' and grow a narrow waxed beard I'm legitimately Asian? I don't think that would fly very far.

    Of course, on Earth, physical ethnic or racial traits are conflated with cultural ones, often very, very strongly. In Star Wars they are not. The Ming Po are a mash-up of Asian cultural characters onto otherwise generally indeterminate character models. Frankly, if we're trying to promote 'diversity' this is something that Star Wars should do more - present situations that emphasive it's color blind nature and the racial/cultural alterations that would produce.
  17. GrandAdmiralJello Emperor: Community & Lit

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    That sounds like nonsense to me. Alienus is Latin for "stranger/foreigner," and has consequently been used for foreigners for thousands of years, long before we had any notion of people from space. (FYI someone who was caelestis in Roman times would've been a god, since at the time, the thought was that only the gods lived in the sky).

    The definition of "alien" that means someone is extraterrestrial is an extension of the original concept, which could merely refer to someone who you hadn't ever seen before. What do you suppose the verb alienate means in English -- it certainly doesn't mean to turn someone into a space creature!
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Oct 29, 2012
  18. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    It's not taken to mean that the cultural trumps the physical at all. You're just emphasizing the trivial details. If you create space Asians complete with a number of Asian stereotypes and then change their eye colour to green, you've still created space Asians. Trying to stack up evidence against the obviously overwhelming Asian influence on the design of the Ming Po is just naively ignoring the obvious. If they were Human, I'd be applauding TCW for including Asian characters, but as it stands, I'm disappointed and a little mortified.
  19. QuentinGeorge Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2003
    star 5
    Evidence against the Ming Po being Asian: pale skin, mix of hair colors, mix of eye colors

    Sorry to break it to you, there's plenty of Asians, especially East Asians, with pale skin.
  20. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    What the hell are you talking about? Pale skin and a mix of hair colors are evidence against their being Asian? Many Asians have pale skin and brownish or reddish hair. Oh no, the slanty eyes on one are GREEN! They couldn't POSSIBLY be Asian stereotypes! You are straining so hard to try to say that characters who are visually Asian stereotypes . . . aren't. They're only Asian culture projected onto perfectly generic human character models, who just happen to . . . all appear Asian, though you for some reason insist on denying this. I don't get it. I don't see what you think you're going to prove here.

    The animators for TCW didn't stuff a bunch of white people in Fu Manchu getup. They created character models out of thin air, which appeared and dressed Asian (and were, at absolute best, ambiguously Asian-looking), and somebody decided that they weren't humans. Nobody here is saying, "Oh, it's Owen Wilson and Gina Torres in Asian clothes, playing a nonhuman species! RACISM AGAINST ASIANS!" They're saying, "Oh, it's a made-up bunch of character models that look pretty Asian and range from 'giant Asian caricature with slanty eyes' to 'ambiguously Asian but not definitively anything else,' wearing Asian clothes, playing a nonhuman species of Space Asians that are not physically distinguishable from humans and appear to have been assigned 'nonhuman' status based purely on being Asian-looking. This sends a deeply problematic message."

    What here do you think you need to fight, and what the hell for?
  21. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2000
    star 7
    I think everyone should pause and remember we're discussing a bunch of funny CGI characters whose main crime is the fact they're oddly animated (in a show that's oddly animated from top to bottom) and being the victims of a bunch of white people. Oh and the fact they're aliens when they could be humans despite the fact aliens range from this...

    http://www.starwars.com/img/explore/encyclopedia/groups/talz_detail.png

    to

    http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100622164055/starwars/images/b/b3/Dani-SWG5.jpg

    In other words, not something to get upset over.
    Last edited by Charlemagne19, Oct 29, 2012
  22. Rilwen_Shadowflame Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 27, 2005
    star 6
    I invite you to peruse these images regarding the mix of eye colours.
    Contessa likes this.
  23. CeiranHarmony Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 10, 2004
    star 5
    regarding the issue with asians = aliens..

    maybe this was not done due to stupidity but with a basis in real world esoterics that George Lucas likes to use for his mythology. there is a certain group of people who actually beliefe that humanity did not evolve on Earth but elsewhere and that on different planets, different human groups evolved differently after settling. thus several of those migrated or were brought to Earth loooooooong ago.

    so going by that train of thought.. humans = aliens and different types are from different worlds. even asian mythology has this in their tales if one adds the fabled Lemuria / Mu to this and Gods moving people to Earth and around Earth after the continent sank.

    so it might be deliberate.. but probably is not ;)
  24. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    Asian is a remarkably broad category. The Ming Po are dressed in a Chinese-Mongolian costuming and their cultural stereotypes fit that specific cultural heritage. Their physical traits do not. If you think the Ming Po models, stripped naked, look, in the aggregate, like Chinese or Mongolian people then I think you're the ones who trying really hard to form an association. The physical and the cultural do not match in this particular setup.

    They match a cultural stereotype, they don't match a physical stereotype.

    Race is a biological trait. It is also a meaningless one - a purely visual set of differences that has no further impact beyond appearance. Culture is not a biological trait, nor is it meaningless. Racism and cultural predjudice, while often found in the same place, and tending to bleed over into each other, aren't the same thing. You want to say the Ming Po send a problematic cultural message, fine, that's accurate I suppose, but it is not accurate to say they send a racial one. I deeply dislike such lumping because I believe that lumping the two issues together is actually an impedient to social progress.


    Why? For the sake or artistic variabilty. If taking a people with a mix of physical traits that could easily be considered White or East Asian or Central Asian, and using a hitorical culture from Earth as their cultural model suddenly turns them into a caricarture then that applies globally. Doing so means you can't mix and match race and culture at all without sending a 'deeply problematic message.' So you couldn't put a group of African people in gothic armor, have a white culture with Native American tatoos, or put vaguely Indian people on tropical islands and have them wear Polynesian headdresses, or just about any example. That fights against the status of Star Wars as a color blind society, by limiting to existing Earth-based race-culture historical examples.

    I don't want to see a galaxy far, far away trapped within the race politics of the United States. Sometimes its going to do something different, something that makes perfect sense by the rules of its universe but not by Earth-historical rules, and that, if there's no evidence that it was trying to dog whistle up an incident, should be okay to do.
  25. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    The trouble with 'race' and 'racism' or 'racialism' is that it actually isn't as clear cut as you're saying, as it depends on which definition of racialism one is working with. Take the OED definition, for instance, which explicitly refers to the German race as an example, even though most people would be more likely to think that Germans are biologically no different to any other Central European Caucasian, which shows the term has no universally accepted 'biological' definition and has been applied for different purposes by different schools of sociology. (In particular, I think it's one of the things that often vary across the Pond between American and European approaches.)
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Oct 30, 2012