Diversity and seeing yourself (or not)

One of the more surprising moments at Dragoncon was during a discussion of representation. A Filipino-American woman said the first character she’d thought of “like her” was Tura Satana, the bad-girl protagonist of Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! They were both Eurasian (Satana’s Japanese American) and Satana played his unbelievable badass who kills for kicks and uses men for sex. Awesomeness!

Which just goes to show that it’s not always easy to predict how people will react to seeing themselves or their race or faith onscreen, or what they consider good representation. I never thought of Wonder Woman’s sister Nubia as much of a character (as executed) but she has fans who’d love to see her in the movies.

On the other hand despite all the good press I’ve seen for the film, one Singaporean writer says the Asian representation in Crazy Rich Asians left her cold (“How Chinese, how Asian we all look, making dumplings”) .

A post on Nerds of Color argues that Disney’s Mulan was an intensely Asian-American story, but Disney is writing the live-action remake focused on the Chinese market with no American input. The post makes some good points about Hollywood preferring Asians to Asian-Americans, but given that the Mulan legend is a classic Chinese tale, I would think China has just as much skin in the game.

Viola Davis talks about how much she loved the 1970s Wonder Woman TV show: “When the show came out I was twelve years old, and I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I mean as soon as the going gets tough, you saw this woman who was seemingly demure […] she could turn into a superhero and get the job done. It wasn’t about her trading in her feminity […] she wasn’t vindictive towards other women.”

A Mary Sue post argues that not casting Romani as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (or a Romani Dick Grayson in Titans), is whitewashing. The discussion in the comments was what held me, with some Romani arguing that they look white, so it’s silly to object to white non-Romani taking the roles (not everyone agreed). In case you’re wondering, Dick was retconned as Romani about 15 years ago, then retconned out, now it’s back in the New 52, so it’s not as if it’s a fundamental part of his character. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have been Romani from the get-go, though it’s never played a large role in their characterization.

I have no particular conclusion to draw here, I just found the discussions interesting.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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