Wednesday, April 22, 2009

OMG there's an Asian person on Ramsay Street???

Erinsborough residents marvelled as the Token Asian Girl tunnelled into Ramsay Street from China.

Ok, what? Just as I was complaining that there are hardly any people of colour on Australian TV, I tuned in to Neighbours last week for some Godforsaken reason and was introduced to a Miss Sunny Lee, latest arrival to Ramsay Street. I prepared to cringe.

In the brief parts of the episode I watched, this Asian teenager was confidently introducing herself as ‘the new exchange student from
Korea’ and saying things like, “Is this how you do things in Australia?”

In a broad Australian accent. I can buy an exchange student who has travelled extensively (and perhaps been taught English in school – perhaps even attended an International School) having a good grasp of English. I don’t buy an international student who has never been to Australia with an obvious Australian accent. Is there an Australia-Town ghetto in Seoul? Maybe there’s some future plot that reveals that Sunny is actually a criminally insane teenage runaway pretending to be an exchange student, but the fact that other characters never question her story or accent seems to quell this theory.

After a bit of web-searching I’ve learned she is played by actress/model Hany Lee Choi. There is no information on this character or Hany Lee Choi on the Neighbours website but there are some active forum threads discussing the new character. There is also a page from that fountain of free knowledge, Wikepedia. “[Sunny Lee] was created by producer Susan Bower in response to criticism that Neighbours was "too white" [1], as Sunny will be Korean.”

There goes that cringe.

What producer Susan Bower had to say on racial diversity on Neighbours: ‘‘I would like it (Neighbours) to reflect Australian society, but I can’t give Libby and Dan a black baby so it has to come in a natural way. I don’t believe in bringing in people for the sake of it. It has to be part of the story and it has to be believable. … I know we’re going to get flak about this gorgeous little Korean girl who’s going to be coming in next year, because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Damn straight you’re going to get flak, Bower, when you can’t even stick to your own principle of introducing characters in a ‘believable’ and ‘natural’ fashion. So, you’ve begrudgingly thrown a token Asian girl into the White mix. Unfortunately you’re obviously not willing to tackle any further issues regarding her race, and so you fail.

Are you so behind the times that you think a pair of slanted eyes and brown skin will confuse your viewers? You think the only plausible way for an Asian chick to be in Melbourne suburbia is for her to be an exchange student (does over a hundred years of Asian migration to Victoria mean NOTHING to you?) yet you can’t be bothered either casting a native Korean actress for the role, or taking the time to research Korean culture/speech/etc. in order to train the current actress. Seriously, an exchange student from Seoul with a clearly Australian accent dressing like she’s in a Dangerfield ad and swanning around speaking perfect English? Weak. How stupid do you think your viewers are?

Why not just write her as an Asian-Australian girl? Plausible and interesting. But then you’d have to hire Asian actors to play her family as well, and that’s tipping the status quo a little too much, isn’t it?

There are a million ways you could have realistically introduced a ‘gorgeous little Korean girl’ onto the cast of Neighbours. Need to conveniently import her from somewhere and dump her into the Kennedy home? Need to justify why she was born in Australia but her Korean parents are nowhere in sight? She’s in foster care. She’s adopted. She ran away from home. She’s from Sydney and won a school scholarship and had nowhere to stay to pursue it. Her parents spend all their time travelling with her singer/actress younger sister. See how easy and non-insulting that is?

There are so many interesting ways to explore race through your medium. Is she homesick? Going through culture shock? How do the younger kids (Callum and Charlie) react to Sunny, presuming they are not exposed to many Asian people in their insulated little world? Do the other teenagers at school sing that racist ‘Chinese Japanese, dirty knees’ taunt that the boys used to sing to my Korean best friend in school? How about having her get angry when Paul Robinson or someone conflates her ethnicity with ‘Chinese’?

Or is it all too hard? You’ve thrown those loudmouthed critics a bone; I suppose you’ll want to leave it at that. Just over your ears and yell, “You’re still not happy with the pretty Korean doll? I told you – damned if you do and damned if you don’t! LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU ANYMORE!” like everyone else.


PS: *facepalm* Why, oh WHY did I read the rest of the comments in that “‘Perfect blend’ to colour casting” article? Are you feeling threatened by the fact that Australian TV might not cater exclusively to you in future, opinionated- white- folks- who- throw- hysterical- screaming- tantrums- at- the- slightest- hint- that- somebody- somewhere- out- there- might- or- might- not- have- just- called- you- racist?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backwards In High Heels

To all those who argue that it is perfectly plausible for kick-ass superheroines (or women in similar professions that require stealth, athleticism, martial arts prowess or basic coordination, such as sexy-ninja-assassins!) to be wearing high heels during work hours: I give you the prison break scene from Watchmen.

Next to the opening montage set to “The Times, They Are a-Changin’”, this is my favourite part of the film – seeing Silk Spectre II carve her way through rioting convicts to bust Rorsharch out of prison with Nite Owl II. This sexed-up film translation of Silk Spectre II calmly and efficiently roundhouse kicks, dodges, spins, punches and karate chops these hardened felons and doesn’t even seem to break her stride. Finally she's in action!

Awesome (if a little stiff), isn’t she? About as close to a real life Black Canary as we can get. And look, Silk Spectre II wears spiked fetish boots and garters and no pants and can still kick considerable choreographed arse!


Where did her stiletto heels go during the actual kicking-people-in-the-head bits?


The high heels are gone! Inexplicably replaced with sensible FLAT heels during the stunts! Fascinating. Certainly seems to suggest that even basic stilted martial arts choreography is hard to perform while wearing sexy spiky heels, doesn’t it? Stiletto heels - specifically designed to place the wearer off balance - would seem to impede one's ability to perform spinning kicking combinations, no?

See, this is my basic rule when it comes to superhero costumes (particularly martial artist type superheroes):

Excluding garishness / colours / capes / symbols / animal motifs / throwbacks-to-superhero-parents etc., would the costume function properly if you wanted to go jogging?

If you answered no to this question, than I daresay it is a very stupid costume indeed. Who the living hell goes jogging in heels?

I don’t get why the costume department didn’t just design Silk Spectre’s costume with flat boots in the first place and keep it at that. Is it so important for the character to be in stilettos, even if it clashes with continuity once she actually performs fight sequences in flats?

There are more female vigilantes/crime fighters/superheroes who appear to sacrifice basic comfort and balance for sexy sexiness than you can poke a stick at. Many, many more. And as Malin Akerman up there demonstrates, not even months of training and working out can counteract the devastating effects ridiculous high heels have upon one's ability to be completely and utterly kickass.


Further references for stupid non-functional superheroine costumes:

Rose/Thorn: A split-personality-disordered streetfighter who is quite cool but seems to think basic protection from the elements – let alone protection from bullets/knives/blunt weapons/bare hands – is completely unnecessary. Also wears thigh-high stiletto boots and proudly displays her g-banger throughout an entire issue of Birds of Prey, curtesy of Ed Benes.

Would you wear that to a MMA match?

Rachel Summers: Sure, Marvel Girl is a telepath/telekinetic who can harness the Phoenix Force, hence she doesn’t rely solely on her physical prowess, but that is no excuse to be wearing a miniskirt the size of an elastic band. I presume she needs to walk, run or sit down at some stage.

Nice knickers, Starchilde.

Black Canary looks great in heels – but stabbing factor aside, this martial arts master needs footwear that will aid her in her quest to put some serious whammy on thugs and the like, not clip-cloppy balance-disrupters of doom.

Yeah, she might make it look easy but that shit gets old fast in high heels. Not to mention it could be permanently crippling. S'why Dinah's ditched them for stompy army-style boots.

I'm not too keen on Elektra’s peekaboo red loincloth either, but that’s for another day. At least she wasn’t tottering around in high heels, though.