Is Constance Wu A Trailblazer?

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So I follow Constance Wu on Instagram, and I saw a video she posted recently where she was talking about how, soon, she’d be shooting the 100th episode of Fresh Off The Boat. That was a big deal for her because, one, that’s the most episodes of anything she’s ever shot, and two, it will officially mark the longest run for any show with a majority Asian cast in US TV history. Continue reading

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Is Crazy Rich Asians Good For Representation?

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I read an article in The Atlantic recently. It was by Mark Tseng-Putterman, and titled “One Way That Crazy Rich Asians Is A Step Backward.” What it argued, essentially, was that, despite the films groundbreaking nature, it also took care to represent its Asian characters according to White norms. Those norms being things like having Western names, going to Western universities, wearing Western-style clothes, and being wealthy and materialistic. To Mr. Tseng-Putterman, the fact that the Asian characters in the movie were all so well off and Westernized made them un-relatable, and not at all emblematic of the experiences shared by the vast majority of Asian Americans. Now, normally, I wouldn’t give an op-ed piece like this much thought. Every time a movie about a certain group or issue comes out, even if the intentions of the filmmakers are clearly good, there will inevitably be detractors. There were women who thought that Wonder Woman wasn’t Feminist enough. There were Black people who thought that Black Panther perpetuated Western stereotypes of Africans as being warlike and tribal. So, of course, Crazy Rich Asians will have its fair share of Asian detractors. But two things happened, the publishing of Kelly Marie Tran’s New York Times piece, and the release of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, that got me thinking about the article and its questions of Asian representation more seriously. So I decided to address them, and, hopefully, figure out what, if any, solutions can be found. Continue reading

Isle Of Dogs (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game. Continue reading

American Crime: Season 1

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

And boy do I love being wrong! What? That doesn’t make sense? well, allow me to explain. I just finished watching the first season of American Crime, yet another anthology series looking to “examine race in our modern society.” And yet, despite its well-worn premise, and lackluster title, I ended up loving the show. It’s truly a fantastic piece of art. I highly recommend it to you all.

The story of a murder in Modesto, California, American Crime stars an ensemble cast, and examines how each of the people connected to the crime react to it. First, there are the people who were directly involved. There’s Antonio “Tony” Gutierez, a teenage boy who works at his father’s auto repair shop. There’s Hector Tontz, a drug dealer and illegal immigrant who rents cars from Tony. There’s Carter Nix, a meth head whom Hector drives around sometimes. And, finally, there’s Aubrey Taylor, Carter’s girlfriend, and accomplice. One night, something goes wrong, and a guy named Matt Skokie winds up dead, and his wife, Gwen, gets put in the hospital. By the end of the show, we’re not entirely sure what happened, or who’s really to blame, but, one thing we do know is that, somehow, Tony, Hector, Carter and Aubrey were involved, and they each get arrested as a result. Their family members then get called in, including Tony’s father, Alonzo, a strict disciplinarian who wants to keep his son on the straight and narrow, Carter’s sister, Aliya, a convert to Islam determined to get her brother off free, Matt Skokie’s divorced parents, Barb and Russ, and Gwen’s parents, Tom and Eve. Each of these people has serious issues, and they only get more messed up as the sordid details of the case come to light. Barb, a delusional racist, doesn’t want to accept that her son was selling drugs. Tom, an old-fashioned Christian, can’t stand the idea that Gwen, his little girl, was sleeping around. And Eve, well, she’s just trying to keep her sanity in check as everything crumbles around her. Needless to say, a great deal of drama unfolds over the course of this 11 episode series, and, if you want to find out what happens, you should give it a look.

As I stated earlier, I really enjoyed this show. As far as writing and acting are concerned, I have no complaints. Every character has depth and backstory. Every character changes over the course of the series. Seriously. I started off the show hating Barb and hector, and, by the end, they’d grown and changed so much that I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for them. And the casting could not have been better. See, very often when you watch a movie or a show, there’ll be that one person who, even if they were fine, just wasn’t up to the same level as the rest of the cast. Those of you who’ve read my review for Suicide Squad (HELL YEAH!) might remember that I praised all the actors, except Jared Leto, whom I believed was really hamming it up. I don’t have that problem here. There’s no single actor in this series who stands out as “bad,” or “just okay.” Everyone is great, and I appreciate that. And, for a show dealing with race and racism, the series does largely manage to avoid racist stereotypes. What I mean by that is, very often, movies that try to comment on racism will make their characters extremely stereotypical so as to make a point. Films like Do The Right Thing, Falling Down, and Crash are populated by individuals that feel more like cartoons than real people. These movies are especially bad when it comes to representing Asians and Asian Americans. See, race movies mostly tend to focus on the relationships between Black people, White people, and Latin people. If Asian people are brought up at all, they’re either a background element, or someone that the other characters can mock. Most of the time, they’re shown as being incompetent , rude, and, no matter what, incapable of speaking the most basic English. That’s not the case with American Crime. Yes, none of the main cast is Asian, but, Barb and Russ’s living son, Mark, is getting married to a woman named Richelle, who is Asian American, and is actually fairly non stereotypical. She speaks perfect English, is from Oklahoma, and is in the Army. It’s rare to see a character like her get written, especially in a show that’s directly addressing racism, and I was very impressed. Wish more writers would create characters like her. So, yeah, good writing, good acting, and good representation. Well done, American Crime.
With regards to filmmaking, though, I do have some comments. They’re not necessarily complaints, just observations. One is the fact that, this show is shot in a very odd way. What I mean by that is, most of the time, directors will shoot a conversation between characters as a series of close ups on the various speakers faces, or with a wide shot, where you can see both actors at the same time. American Crime doesn’t do that. Very often, whenever a conversation is being had, the camera will only focus on one person’s face, and either the other speaker will be off screen, or will be blurred out so that you can’t see them. What this does is make the conversations feel less like conversations, and more like long showcases of how particular characters are feeling. Which is fine, and maybe was the filmmaker’s intent, but, still, it’s hard to look at one person’s face, non-stop, for an entire seven minute conversation. The other comment I have with regards to filmmaking is that, while the musical score does its job just fine, accenting particular moments with proper amounts of pathos, it’s not particularly memorable. I honestly couldn’t hum it back to you if you asked me. And that’s fine, not every score needs to be as catchy as John William’s Superman theme, but, still. It’s better if your musical score can stand out.

All in all, though, I think American Crime is a very well done series, with strong writing, and strong performances. I highly recommend it, and have decided to give it a 9 out of 10. Give it a look.

Why You All MUST Watch “Master Of None!”

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game!

And, until recently, I didn’t think telepathy or ESP were real. Then I saw Master Of None, the new Netflix series created by, and starring, Aziz Ansari, and, well, now I’m a believer. Seriously! As I was watching it, all I could think was that Aziz and series co-creator Alan Yang had somehow hijacked my brain, because the show literally contains everything I’ve ever said or written about race, technology, the media, sexism, and even the entertainment industry. It’s brilliant! And what makes it even better is that it never comes off as preachy. The show is a comedy, and in many, many instances, the jokes are as funny, and thoughtful, as it’s possible for them to get.

But, for those of you who want to actually know what the heck this show is about, Master Of None tells the story of Dev, a struggling actor living in New York. Each episode of the first season deals with a different issue–ranging from parenting, to marriage, to the immigrant experience, to the limited roles available for non-white actors and women, to aging, even. It manages to combine a surprising amount of heart with really funny, really thoughtful jokes. To give you an idea, in one episode, Dev is talking to his friends about a racist e-mail that a producer of a show he auditioned for sent around. His friend Denise, who is Black, suggest he should leak the e-mail to the press. Dev is hesitant to do so, saying, “I don’t know. I feel like you only really risk getting people angry if you say something anti-Black or anti-gay. Like, if Paula Dean had said, ‘I won’t serve Indian people,’ no one would have gotten upset.” Denise retorts by saying that Paula Dean didn’t really get into trouble, “she gave some fake ass apology, and then went right back to making fatty foods.” Dev responds by saying,”Yeah, but at least she had to give an apology. She had to meet with Al Sharpton, and have tea with him or whatever. That was her punishment. Who do Indian people have for you all to apologize to? Deepak Chopra?” The fact that lines like that are being included, and laughed at, in a mainstream American TV show gives me so much hope for the future. Add to that the fact that there is another, highly-acclaimed comedy series starring a predominantly Asian-American cast–Fresh Off The Boat–on a major television network right now, and I’m one happy camper.

The bottom line is, Master Of None is awesome. Everyone I’ve showed it to–my classmates, my roommates, my girlfriend–loves it. It’s funny. It’s thoughtful. It’s not too long. If you’re looking to laugh hard and learn a lot, give this series a look! It’s a 9 out of 10.

Why Colorblind Casting Works

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Loved ones, it’s a hard truth to swallow but, we’re all somewhat prejudiced. At least, as far as entertainment is concerned we are. We all have set notions about the way certain characters should look and act–about who our heroes and our villains should be. This is most likely due to the fact that Hollywood consistently employs archetypes and formulas in its films–particularly in the genres of action, horror and comedy. As a result, we tend to develop preconceived notions about the characters and story-lines of films even before we see them. Oh, she’s a blonde girl in a horror film? That means she’s a slut, and that she’s going to be the first one to die. Oh, he’s a black dude in a crime drama? Well, that can only mean that he’s a drug dealer and/or ex-con. Now, on it’s own, this presumption about fiction might seem harmless, but it can have serious real-life consequences. If all we ever see of certain groups is what’s shown to us in TV and movies, and those representations are biased or inaccurate, we can develop negative and fallacious conceptions of those groups. Not all blonde girls are sluts. Not all Black guys are drug dealers or ex-cons. This is why Colorblind Casting is such a good thing.

For those of you who don’t know, Colorblind Casting is when a filmmaker chooses to cast an actor in a part that they might not typically be seen in–i.e. casting a Black person to play a character traditionally shown as White, casting a woman in a role usually reserved for a man, etc. This has been done several times throughout theater and cinema history, and more often than not, to positive effect. In the sci-fi horror classic Alien, for instance, the main character, Ripley, was supposed to be a man, but the director, Ridley Scott, ended up casting Sigourney Weaver in the role. Similarly, the 2008 BBC television series Merlin employed several actors of color in roles traditionally described in the Arthurian legends as Caucasian, most notably Queen Guinevere and Sir Elyan The White. Basically, Colorblind Casting is an incredibly good, not entirely uncommon practice, and one that I believe more filmmakers should partake in. Why? Well, three reasons, actually.

First, Colorblind Casting is good for the actors. Whether we like to think about it or not, women and minorities do oftentimes get relegated to smaller and/or stereotypical roles in films and television. So, when they’re chosen for non-conventional, higher-profile parts, critics and audiences tend to pay attention, and the actor in question’s career usually takes a turn for the better.

Second, Colorblind Casting is good for the filmmakers. Studies have shown that films and TV shows with more diverse casts tend to do better with critics and make more money. Just look at Grey’s Anatomy. The creators of the show wrote the characters without any specific racial identities, cast the actors who did the best job, regardless of how they looked, and now the series is on its 12th season. That’s got to tell you something.

And third, Colorblind Casting is good for audiences. As I stated earlier, the way we perceive certain groups is oftentimes influenced by how those groups are represented in media. If those representations are more well-rounded, then our perceptions of the groups in question will likewise be more nuanced. Alien’s Ellen Ripley taught us that women can be bad-ass action heroes. Hannibal’s Beverly Katz showed America that Asians can be witty, well-rounded and tough, and don’t have to know Kung Fu, speak broken English or lack a sense of humor to be taken seriously.

So why not employ Colorblind Casting more often? It’s good for the people making the films, and it’s good for the people watching them. It is, in every sense of the phrase, a win-win situation. That is why I’m calling upon all aspiring filmmakers out there to keep an open mind when working on a project. Don’t just go for the first thing that comes to mind when casting. Try to envision what the story would be like if the main character were Asian, Latino, Female or Disabled. If you do so, I can almost guarantee that good things will happen to everyone involved.

 

If you agree, and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a reply. If you disagree, and would like to express why, don’t hesitate to do so. And if you enjoyed this post, and would like to see more, feel free to follow my blog at liusviews.com