movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Sat Dec 26 2015, 03:09pm | 8 comments
As an Asian-American who spent his childhood in Asia, I disagree profoundly with his argument. He makes the classic mistake of assuming whiteness is the norm (hence its “universal” appeal). He thinks the drive for diversity isn’t necessary, except perhaps for American readers dealing with American issues, without recognizing that that’s exactly the point — stories told about America (which is what most superhero stories do) need to include more of the people who ARE America. And he thinks superhero stories don’t map well onto Asian cultures, but any story can adapt to any culture if done skillfully and thoughtfully; the failed examples he points out are failures precisely because they didn’t do this. (The Green Turtle has, in my opinion, been successfully resurrected and reimagined by Gene Luen Yang in The Shadow Hero.) Not to mention that stories from East and West influence each other all the time: the Star Wars films owe a lot to Kurosawa (who in turn adapted Shakespeare), samurai tales and Westerns share a lot of common ground, etc.
And his final point, that an Asian superhero would have trouble reconciling American-style individualism with traditional Asian values? That sounds like a fantastic premise for a superhero story that has rarely been told before. That’s an interesting story possibility, not a problem.
And something similar is already being done with Ms. Marvel, American-style individualism with traditional Middle Eastern values, going by what I read of it in the Hugo packet last year.
I’m following the Ms. Marvel series and yes, that’s one of the running themes, done very well.
Also just want to point out that Jeff Yang @originalspin is having an argument with the author on Twitter and making some great points.
He makes the classic mistake of assuming whiteness is the norm (hence its “universal” appeal)
I found it quite sad that even he, as a nonwhite person, seems to believe this.
Oh, it’s quite easy to believe. Growing up, I had the same belief myself; everything coming out of America (which at the time meant White People Plus Michael Jackson) was The Best, liked by all, and therefore Universal, whereas everything produced by my countrymen was, by definition, merely of Local Interest. I’ve had to educate myself out of it.
And Keith Chow’s op-ed response is good too.
What this author dosen’t understand is why comics should be diverse in an American contest. He’s only looking at from his viewpoint as a Malaysian, and because where he’s from Asian people are the majority—he obviously dosen’t understand the context of what it’s like to be a minority (whether Asian, black or Hispanic) in America, and how that’s an entirely different situation. So his whole opinion on diversity is so far off from what he thinks it means, or why it’s needed in the first place.
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