The Science Fiction Fantasy Adventure Teacher

The journey of a future science teacher and her struggles with geekdom and nerd culture.

Some White Girl on Racism in Hollywood July 1, 2010

Wordpress - Halo StyleHello world, indeed.

WordPress’s idea of a “default” blog is cute, but unnecessary. But nonetheless, I appreciate how easy-to-use their Themes are and how user-friendly the site is overall. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship, WordPress.


I am finally settling into the feel of the blogosphere…

WHEN SUDDENLY,

I get hit in the face with this: Floating World: facepainting

This post from the “Floating World” blog by Q. Le did a number on me. My head spun with the thought: How do I react?

Mr. Q. Le brings up a touchy subject that I truly never noticed before:  Racism in Hollywood film casting. His article on The Last Airbender movie is worth the read, but for the sake of comprehension, Q. Le writes that Paramount Studios has intentionally chosen to cast predominantly white actors for the roles of characters for the movie The Last Airbender: a film based on a cartoon with strong attachment to Eastern culture and roots.

Essentially, these actors are going to perform in a movie that is based on Eastern culture and imagery—even though Paramount Studios blatantly advertised to choose white actors over ethnically diverse actors that are a part of the eastern culture and heritage the movie relies on.

Avatar: Characters and Cast
The Last Airbender: Characters and Cast

After first understanding the issue, I was ashamed to have never noticed this favoritism casting in some other major Hollywood films. But then I realized that I really wouldn’t know anyway, on account of I am not a movie-goer and very rarely make time for films.

Nonetheless, this is a pressing issue! Everyone needs to be aware of the ongoing influence of racism and xenophobia in the United States – and to put an end to it.

I think I’ve already realized why the minorities in our county lash out with complaints of racism frequently – because it is so integrated into the American history of entertainment that it’s going to take all the oil in the gulf to get the rusty cogs of peace and equality running smoothly [see Q.’s article in which he also discussed the History of FacePainting in America].

I personally feel that everyone is a little bit racist/xenophobic – we all notice differences in each other. But it is about whether we choose to embrace the differences or reject and disrespect them that define racism in the general sense.

Since America has pretty much always been about ripping on other races and portraying whites as “superior” we [xenophobic white people] have lost the sense of innocence that would give us joy and intrigue in meeting someone from a different background.

As a young white girl from a small, ethnically stagnant town, I never had any experience with people from other ethnic groups and all I knew about black people were the racist jokes I heard at my high school and the racist remarks my grandparents would make about people on the television. Thus, in coming to Sioux City and attending college with a class that was 51% African American, I was (and still am!) in culture shock.

One night during my first weeks on campus, a friend and I walked by two of my black colleagues in the parking lot. They were shadowboxing and play–fighting each other. I was delighted (I tend to get excited about silly things like that) and started to cheer. Without thinking, I whooped “Give ‘im a black eye!” and “Give ‘im a fat lip!”. It wasn’t until I felt a yank on my shirt collar as my friend started to pull me away, and saw that everyone was giving me a strange, side-long glance, that I finally realized my social faux pas; the implications of what I’d blurted. I was so embarrassed!

But [in this case] the nature of my problem does not lie with racism; it lies with my filter problem. My filter problem is simply that I don’t have one. And by that I mean I don’t filter what I say at all. In the wise words of Brother Ali, “Whatever comes up, comes out.” And furthermore, had it not been for the too-prevalent racist stereotypes in our society, there would have been nothing at fault for what I’d said.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean it’s my colleagues’ fault for assuming I was being a jerk. If these themes/stereotypes were not so over-used and abused, they wouldn’t have thought twice about what I’d said either. The problem comes from the media, from our history, from our families. We don’t have introduce race to our children as a barrier, or it will forever be viewed and distinguished as one.

Back to Mr. Q.’s article: differences need to be embraced. Instead of shutting out all other races of actors and taking over the theme of eastern culture with white people and essentially Americanizing it, we could be reinforcing the mysticism of eastern culture authentically with actors that have lived it and are actively representing it. Plus, as Q. Le also mentions, ethnically diverse actors do wonders in the way of role models for children of the same ethnic group; it’s important to have people who relate to your culture to look up to.

The problem with America is that we try too hard to be the epitome of EVERYTHING, we want to dominate all cultures, mysticism, ways of life and say we’ve been there, we can do it just like they can but better because it’s the American way. We aren’t a jack-of-all-cultures and we aren’t giving culture room to grow on the American people; we’re force-feeding it to the public with our own brand stamped on it.

Google Image: Two businessmenAll it takes is a step back to honestly try to understand and appreciate other cultures, instead of poking fun at them for their differences. It’s hard not to gawk sometimes, and even harder to keep assumptions from jumping to mind, but all it takes is a little naivety and innocence to be completely entrapped by the interesting roots of other people different than yourself.

Next time you find yourself next to a stranger in the elevator, think before you react to them. Who are they, what are they like? They’ve had so many experiences that you wouldn’t dream of, and while it might not be appropriate to ask a complete stranger for their life story, just remember that anyone can be a teacher and you might need to be taught a thing or two. ♥


As my very first blog post I’d like some feedback on this: Are my views on racism and equality justifiable? Thanks for reading,

Kaitlin Tow ♥

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19 Responses to “Some White Girl on Racism in Hollywood”

  1. Q. Le Says:

    Hi Kaitlin,

    Great first post! You may also want to consider that as a country that takes pride in progressivism (e.g. democracy), America hosts one of the greatest institutions that’s also the slowest at change – Hollywood. It’s a default of the economics that drive the production and marketing, but it’s also about the ethics and social implications at hand.

    Looking forward to seeing writing from you!

    • superkait Says:

      Thanks for the read & your kind words.

      The ethics & social implications are what I’m crying out to–my hope is that raised awareness can help to change even the stubborn institution of Hollywood marketing.

      I’ll be watching you blogs as well. 🙂
      -Kaitlin Tow

  2. Good start, Kaitlin. Your blog-writing skills have really improved from the start of your internship.

  3. No matter what you do or how you say it:

    This site still needs more Mexicans! 🙂

  4. ejayinpjays Says:

    It is interesting that the majority of protagonists are Caucasian, while the Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi represents the fire nation. Point well made Kait.

  5. […] Nah. Innocence? Pshh, I didn’t lose that! (Didn’t you read my first blog?)My old car? I […]

  6. sarahnsh Says:

    This is a great first post, for sure! You hit on a topic that is definitely quite true, I’ve noticed that there has been a sort of racism with film casting before, but I’ve been a pretty big movie goer. And, I’m big into foreign films, which is very interesting. I don’t think that it will change with the movie business, but I agree with you, it should change.

    • superkait Says:

      We’ll see huh? I think that it’ll all start with culture awareness – awareness breeding appreciation – appreciation breeding respect.

      Here’s to hoping!

      Thanks for the comment. ♥

  7. 0s and 1s Says:

    When I was in middle school, way back when, I came across a show on TV while channel surfing called 21 Jump Street. Most people know it as one of Johnny Depp’s first acting gigs. I only stopped on it because there was an asian actor in the show, and there’s never an asian on screen. The show was boring to me, so I didn’t watch it anyway, but my point is: I can personally attest to the importance of seeing oneself represented in the media at large. When you are bombarded with representations of society that is all white, you start to believe that you, a non-white, don’t exist in this society in real life, even if only subconsciously.

    Although black people are often poorly represented in our media, at least we can say that they ARE represented. They play sports, they are very active in music, and they even have films and TV shows with all-black casts. It is exceedingly rare to find an asian portrayed as a regular member of American society. There may be a film about asians set in Asia, such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but rarely do you see asians portrayed as simply being a part of THIS society.

    I would settle for asian extras walking around in the background of a scene, doing ordinary things like shopping for groceries, walking down the street, handing you your change, etc. Anything just to confirm that, yes, we are here. We do things just like everybody else, and we don’t all spend our days practicing kung fu, running with triads, solving calculus problems, or attending to patients in a hospital–not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Fun fact: Did you know that many if not most asians are lactose intolerant?
    –This message brought to you by the Asian Coalition Against Senseless Acts of Dairy.–

    • superkait Says:

      Wow, comment of intensity & value, right here.
      Thanks for letting me see through the other lens, so to speak. and personally, I find this… ethnic invisibility just ridiculous. If we are going to alienate members of our own society through exclusion, what joy is it to live here?
      Anyway, thanks for you very thought-provoking comment, if I ever become a movie director, I will be sure to take you request into mind 😉

      And… awesome fun fact! (Although I’m not lactose intolerant, just allergic.)

      much love & respect,
      -Kaitlin

  8. fashioninformative Says:

    wow I never really realized this either. And by the way I love your style of writing.

  9. Seuhle Says:

    Yes, I think it’s quite well justified. I agree with you on various terms… Sometimes, it’s just too easy to disagree with others just because of their different culture, but we have to understand that they were brought up differently. I got the same “shock” when I first entered my current school, heck, I can’t even understand their language!

    I like your style of writing by the way 😀

    • superkait Says:

      Hey, thanks for reading! I’m so interested in culture and I think it’s such a shame that they don’t teach us more about it in public schools in this county. But hey, at least there are people like us to tell the ignorant ones what’s up.

  10. drusillah Says:

    Hi Kaitlin 🙂

    This is your first post? Wow, that’s great 😀 I am happy when I see Americans that THINK. 🙂 Good for you!

    Indeed, I think Americans try to be the epitome of everything, as you say. That the American way is the best. And then students grow up and know nothing of other existing cultures/countries! There is a world outside the U.S. as well!

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. 🙂 Keep it up!!

    • superkait Says:

      Ahh! Thank you so much!
      I’m glad that you see my point of view — but don’t get me wrong, I do love my country. There’s just a little rust in the cogs is all.
      But I agree & think that the U.S. should be doing a better job of teaching its peoples about other cultures instead of just indulging in our own/stealing from other cultures… Thanks so much for your comment, it meant a lot!

      -Kaitlin

  11. Brilliant post. I’m the ENCO (Equality & Diversity Named Co-ordinator) for a Pre-school group in the UK. I’ve only been there a while, and only just started doing my ENCO ‘thang’ in earnest. Having to tread carefully, as I think I’ve given them a bit of a shock – they thought they were doing quite well on the E & D front, but they SOOOOO weren’t! They seriously intended to do a Wedding theme last week with all the references to ‘white’ (in both meanings of the word) weddings. The only token gesture to E&D was a colouring sheet of a chinese wedding – buried under lots of other English wedding pics, and never shown or discussed!
    And then I came along – if you want to read how that went, feel free to read http://writeousindignation.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/rattling-the-cage/
    If you don’t mind, I’d quite like to quote a few bits from your blog in my next staff training session 🙂

    • superkait Says:

      ENCO – That sounds just awesome. I’ll be sure to look through your blog, sounds like quite a cultural adventure!

      And no, please feel free! These words are meant to be heard.

      Thanks for your comment & feedback; stay real!
      ♥kaitlin

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