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View Full Version : Black Face isn't OK, but neither is yellow face...



Rachel Udin
08-29-2012, 05:44 AM
Maybe Victoria Foyt wanted to make her book into a movie. We never know. Frightening as that is (though I have no idea where they would cast anyone who was black for the roles.)

The fear would be that she would...

Well, instead there is yellow face... It made it as a movie.

http://www.racebending.com/v4/blog/cloud-atlas-conversation-yellowface-prejudice-artistic-license/

*cough* No.

And just in case someone is wondering, dressing up like a stereotypical "Latino", doing red face or whatever you have in mind is still not OK.

*Head meet keyboard* What part of that do they think is OK?

Kitty27
08-29-2012, 08:08 AM
I will never understand how anyone can think this sort of thing is okay.

It just isn't.

I think a privileged mindset and an inability to see beyond their own experience is the cause of a lot of this foolishness. This kind of fuckery defies understanding. We tell them time and time again that it is offensive and yet they STILL pull it. It makes me believe the opinions,thoughts and feelings of people of color mean absolutely nothing to these people.

Kitty Pryde
08-29-2012, 08:40 AM
Sacha Baron Cohen (White Dude of Welsh and Jewish descent) is about to play Freddie Mercury (Parsi dude of Indian descent), and it seems like nobody cares. It also seems like he got the role on the basis of being slightly swarthy and having extravagant eyebrows. Might be more a case of whitewashing than...brownface?

Chasing the Horizon
08-29-2012, 09:16 AM
Going by the pictures with that article, not only is what they're doing offensive, it also looks terrible. He doesn't look Asian. He looks like a white dude who needs to sue his plastic surgeon.

They really think that will sell more movie tickets than hiring a good actor of the correct ethnicity???

Purple Rose
08-29-2012, 09:25 AM
Sacha Baron Cohen (White Dude of Welsh and Jewish descent) is about to play Freddie Mercury (Parsi dude of Indian descent), and it seems like nobody cares. It also seems like he got the role on the basis of being slightly swarthy and having extravagant eyebrows. Might be more a case of whitewashing than...brownface?

A lot of Indians and even some Parsis I know, think Cohen is a good choice because he can pull it off. While Freddy Mercury had a magnificent voice, and Cohen probably can't sing, they are both equally creepy to watch. Besides, it was not like Mercury wore his Indian heritage or Zoroastrian beliefs with pride.

Mac H.
08-29-2012, 11:38 AM
They really think that will sell more movie tickets than hiring a good actor of the correct ethnicity???How else could you do it?

Remember - Cloud Atlas is effectively about a single set of characters who are reborn - so you kinda need the same actor each time. Otherwise it is just a set of different, unrelated stories.

The whole conceit of the film is that they are visually recognisable as the same person each time.

The alternative (which you are perhaps arguing for) is to whitewash the film and rewrite it - so all the 'rebirths' occur with the same ethnic group, to match the actors.

Is there an alternative?

Mac

Chasing the Horizon
08-29-2012, 01:06 PM
I have no idea what the movie is about. I was only going by the pictures and descriptions in the article.

I went and read a full summary of the book and still have no idea what it's about, but do remember why I skipped reading it in the first place. Soooo many kinds of confusing.

But whatever the story is, I'm sure they could've come up with a better way than yellow-face (for instance, finding a group of actors of different ethnicity who bear a resemblance to each other to play each part).

Frankly, if terrible-looking yellow-face was the ONLY possible way they could make the book into a movie, maybe they should've chosen a different book to make into a movie.

Purple Rose
08-29-2012, 01:17 PM
Frankly, if terrible-looking yellow-face was the ONLY possible way they could make the book into a movie, maybe they should've chosen a different book to make into a movie.

:ROFL: But seriously, I agree.

fireluxlou
08-29-2012, 01:30 PM
Cloud Atlas is about the reincarnation of souls. The book has unsual structure it is a series of short stories about moments in each souls life and they are connected to one another. The book and movie are about everything being connected. The same people reincarnated throughout.

Here's a pic of all the actors in their blackface, yellowface and whiteface as their characters.

Halle Berry playing an Indian woman, a white woman from the 1930s
http://i50.tinypic.com/2058c8x.jpg

Tom Hanks
http://i49.tinypic.com/n6p4k7.jpg

Hugo Weaving playing a korean man and a white woman.
http://i45.tinypic.com/91m0ib.jpg

Here's more of the characters:
http://fashionweekblog.com/image/2700019

Rachel Udin
08-29-2012, 01:39 PM
How else could you do it?

Remember - Cloud Atlas is effectively about a single set of characters who are reborn - so you kinda need the same actor each time. Otherwise it is just a set of different, unrelated stories.

The whole conceit of the film is that they are visually recognisable as the same person each time.

The alternative (which you are perhaps arguing for) is to whitewash the film and rewrite it - so all the 'rebirths' occur with the same ethnic group, to match the actors.

Is there an alternative?

Mac
You want one, I'll give you other alternatives than 1:

1. Body swapping: These types of films are still popular in the US and Canada. You give them body language tells and it's all fine. They've done it with men and women, old and young.

Why can't you WRITE the screenplay to do just that. Give the actors all "tells" on their characters. The one soul has tells. Isn't that what people say... that who you are doesn't fundamentally change and certain factors tell you who that person is?

But God forbid, you should actually *trust* your audience, talent, directing and acting to pull it off. You'd just have to *write* it really well to pull it off as "character" rather than "labels for character" without preaching color blind.

2. You don't have to whitewash them, you could make them all of color...

No one really thinks of that, do they? The default must be white.

3. Remember, it's an adaptation, and you can sometimes do better than the source material, which means some licenses. Think ahead.

4. Not make it a movie. There are thousands of other subjects you can get to without shooting yourself in the foot.

It's like Victoria Foyt's novel should be made into a movie. You just don't do it.

Personally I prefer 1 or 4. 2 as a compromise and an empowerment statement and 3 as can't do anything with this, but not a strong enough writer to get over it.

There are other tricks you can pull off which have been used in other reincarnation movies. The so-called mirror trick, the dreams trick, and so on. You can switch actors and have them see glimpses of their past selves. If you need examples...

What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams. Though there was reincarnation, due to the writing you could tell that the end had the two main characters reincarnated again. And that was a trippy movie that kinda was like Dante's Inferno aspects to it. (Photographing Fairies also could be used to create the feel and landscape.)

All of Me (1984) uses a mirror to establish the other "soul", writing, story cues and acting to pull it off.

None of these deal with race, but you certainly can use the conventions in them to establish different souls and *study* them. After all, All of Me's concept was stolen and recreated for Mr. Jekll and Mrs. Hyde (which was lousy, but see, it recycled) And then stolen again for Me Two. And then recycled for the Robert Downey Jr. Movie, Hearts and Souls. I'm sure there is an older one before All of Me, but it's the earliest one I can remember.

With all that precedent, why *can't* they use those cues? It's a movie. They have more flexibility than a book visually.

I think it *can* be done, and it's been done numerous times with reflections, water, etc. There is plenty of precedent and it's even been done well in shoddy/crappy movies that make me want to find a wall to numb the pain from the *rest* of the story. Even Asian dramas manage to pull it off with different actors and story writing. Some trippy ones, too.

This is why you should study your genre and techniques before embarking otherwise you resort to cheap, ineffective and stupid methods like trying to justify [color]-face. There are ways to do it more gracefully. Use them.

Mac H.
08-29-2012, 01:50 PM
I'm not sure the 'mirror' trick would be effective - that works in things like 'Quantum Leap' where the character understands what is happening (or at least notices something odd) - but I can't see it working here.

As for only using actors of a non-white ethnic group - that wouldn't solve anything .. the problem would be 100% the same.

Also - like it or not audiences like stars in their films. Having 12 different A-list actors is expensive - and people will end up cheated that the particular 'star' they paid good money to see is only in 1/4 of the film. I hate the fact that 'stars' are so important in the financial success of many films - but every film sales agent & distributor that I've spoken with (except for one) has confirmed that it is a major factor in whether they buy a given film. I hate it - but we can't ignore the problem of making something sellable. (Ironically it doesn't matter if the audience doesn't care - it needs to be picked up by distributors so audiences get a chance to see it)

Trusting audiences has limits - especially with such a visual medium.

I understand now that others hate it - but I honestly don't have a problem with Halle Berry using makeup to play a white woman, or a makeup to play an alien etc. I've in fact used that trick for a screenplay before - have the same actress (in fact I visualised Halle Berry or similar for the role) play a white character and herself.

It didn't occur to me that others would find it offensive.

I guess I'm learning more each day.

Thanks for the discussion.

Mac

BunnyMaz
08-29-2012, 02:57 PM
Racebending has a very long history, and it's very, very problematic. I just can't see why it's necessary to go straight to white-people-in-*race*face for the movie when there are so many other options they could have tried. For one thing, looking at the promotional character images you posted, they look really really crappy in half of them - it makes the film look almost like a comedy with how poor a job they've done of turning white male actors into women and people of colour. It's clumsy.

And I'm quite sure they'll already be adapting the book heavily to make it Hollywood suitable. I can't imagine they'll keep the brutal gangrape of a small boy in the post-apocalyptic setting in.

Celia Cyanide
08-29-2012, 03:15 PM
Sacha Baron Cohen (White Dude of Welsh and Jewish descent) is about to play Freddie Mercury (Parsi dude of Indian descent), and it seems like nobody cares. It also seems like he got the role on the basis of being slightly swarthy and having extravagant eyebrows.

I think he got it because he's quite talented and well known.

Sai
08-29-2012, 05:40 PM
A lot of Indians and even some Parsis I know, think Cohen is a good choice because he can pull it off. While Freddy Mercury had a magnificent voice, and Cohen probably can't sing, they are both equally creepy to watch. Besides, it was not like Mercury wore his Indian heritage or Zoroastrian beliefs with pride.

I agree with this, and plus Cohen can sing passably. I mean, he's no Freddie Mercury, but few people are ;).

Here's his bit in Sweeney Todd:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srR56T9-j5M

Kitty Pryde
08-29-2012, 07:11 PM
I think he got it because he's quite talented and well known.

Ya think? ;)


I agree with this, and plus Cohen can sing passably. I mean, he's no Freddie Mercury, but few people are ;).

Here's his bit in Sweeney Todd:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srR56T9-j5M

Can't act, can't sing, mostly just makes fun of people mercilessly. But none of that changes the fact that a white English guy is cast to play a brown Indian guy. Racebending is okay when there is lots and lots of money to be made.

aruna
08-29-2012, 09:32 PM
I'd like to admit something.

I am not as horrified by blackface as black (and white) Americans. That's because I actually only first heard of it as being offensive recently, on AW. It's just not part of our racism history. Yes, I'd heard of the Black and White Minstrel Show before but only very vaguely.

Left to myself, the idea of a white person darkening his or her skin to pass as black would have called up memories of Black Like Me, the non-fiction book about JOhn Griffen who darkened his skin to live like a black person and then wrote about it, in the 60's - revealing the true horror of what it was like.

I think that book was well received (ie, with shame and horror) at the time; but it begs the question whether the same book written by an ACTUAL black person would have elicited the same reactions. I'm sure lots of blacks must have written about their lives. It's typical that only an account by a white person would be taken seriously!

Anyway -- Guyana's history of racism is a totally different one, and our triggers are also different. We were in the majority; whites were a tiny minority and still managed to impose a heirarcht of colour and a racist mentality on our society. Just different to the USA. In some ways I guess it was better; because blacks were able to be well educated and get good jobs and even govern the country long before this was possible in the US.

On the other hand, I think ingrained white-worship is even more pronounced when all whites really are an elite living in white palaces with swimming pools and driving the best cars and sitting in all the best positions. We simply don't have a white underclass. Whites, in people's minds, are automatically "better", because that's what they see.

backslashbaby
08-30-2012, 01:03 AM
It looks bad, it is offensive, and it also makes no damned sense in a story about souls, imho. I have a separate pet peeve about reincarnation keeping the same looks at all for a person. Souls aren't about looks, and hopefully the audience aren't idiots.

Purple Rose
08-30-2012, 06:37 AM
I'd like to admit something.

I am not as horrified by blackface as black (and white) Americans. That's because I actually only first heard of it as being offensive recently, on AW. It's just not part of our racism history. Yes, I'd heard of the Black and White Minstrel Show before but only very vaguely.

Left to myself, the idea of a white person darkening his or her skin to pass as black would have called up memories of Black Like Me, the non-fiction book about JOhn Griffen who darkened his skin to live like a black person and then wrote about it, in the 60's - revealing the true horror of what it was like.

I think that book was well received (ie, with shame and horror) at the time; but it begs the question whether the same book written by an ACTUAL black person would have elicited the same reactions. I'm sure lots of blacks must have written about their lives. It's typical that only an account by a white person would be taken seriously!

Anyway -- Guyana's history of racism is a totally different one, and our triggers are also different. We were in the majority; whites were a tiny minority and still managed to impose a heirarcht of colour and a racist mentality on our society. Just different to the USA. In some ways I guess it was better; because blacks were able to be well educated and get good jobs and even govern the country long before this was possible in the US.

On the other hand, I think ingrained white-worship is even more pronounced when all whites really are an elite living in white palaces with swimming pools and driving the best cars and sitting in all the best positions. We simply don't have a white underclass. Whites, in people's minds, are automatically "better", because that's what they see.

WOW, thanks aruna! My admission, too, based on experience, but I never really thought to put it quite like this until I read your post.

Certainly wherever I've been in Asia, and living in Singapore, whites really are an elite class, usually expats on generous packages - in S'pore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand and China. Even the whites in Bali and ashrams in India and islands in Thailand living on a "shoestring" budget are seen as better-off.

I have no problem with coloured faces but I still agree with an earlier post, however, that if you can't do the different colours properly, then don't make the movie.

Jcomp
08-30-2012, 06:07 PM
Souls aren't about looks, and hopefully the audience aren't idiots.

Well... that's often a pretty big hope.

Regarding this film, the Hugo Weaving thing really looks problematic. Like visually, it's pretty damn awful. Same with Halle in her incarnations, from the images above. But the Wachowski's have been overestimating the appeal and effect of their facial SFX since Matrix: Reloaded, so I'm not surprised.

Beyond that, wanting stars in your movie is understandable, but the thing is Hugo Weaving isn't really a bankable box office draw. He's a good actor, but he's not going to move tickets. If Tom Hanks and Halley Berry aren't going to bring in audiences based on star power (and... well, both have waning box office impact, so they might not), then you're not going to salvage it by bringing in Hugo Weaving for the role. All of which to say, why not put an Asian actor in the role? Well, aside from the fact that he'd have to play the rest of the movie in whiteface, given how they're making the film.

Rachel Udin
08-30-2012, 07:00 PM
Well... that's often a pretty big hope.

Regarding this film, the Hugo Weaving thing really looks problematic. Like visually, it's pretty damn awful. Same with Halle in her incarnations, from the images above. But the Wachowski's have been overestimating the appeal and effect of their facial SFX since Matrix: Reloaded, so I'm not surprised.

Beyond that, wanting stars in your movie is understandable, but the thing is Hugo Weaving isn't really a bankable box office draw. He's a good actor, but he's not going to move tickets. If Tom Hanks and Halley Berry aren't going to bring in audiences based on star power (and... well, both have waning box office impact, so they might not), then you're not going to salvage it by bringing in Hugo Weaving for the role. All of which to say, why not put an Asian actor in the role? Well, aside from the fact that he'd have to play the rest of the movie in whiteface, given how they're making the film.
I don't agree that A list actors would help, in this case. Besides, if they have enough to do extra CGI, why can't they use that extra money and man power to pay more actors? Does the cast list inherently have to have *all* A list actors? You could try to get one or two and use the tricks I said.

Emma did just fine with low level actors (at that time) and became a big office smash.

The argument that "Quantum Leap" trick won't work is kinda moot because the point is that it's for the *audience* not for the *character* they can just see themselves as they are. They see instead of their mug in the mirror *how they feel about themselves* and that would be to see their soul. It's basic acting 101 anyway.

Arguing that the way that the movie is done is OK and factual without any other method, is kinda odd. The movie is done wrong. They had budget to spare from the cinematography shots. (They had to have hired someone to translate that Korean) Either gather money to do it right and try to make some stars, using the book to launch the movie, or consider if you want to do it at all. Besides, Indie films have done lots of creative things on limited money, but these people have money to spare...

What I'm saying is creativity can get you fairly far and the way they did things in this film is clunky at best, race aside. With race included, it's just odd, an insult and shows a general lack of thought about social impact mostly afforded to Wachowskis being white males.


I'd like to admit something.

Yes, I'd heard of the Black and White Minstrel Show before but only very vaguely.


You can see it online (Google it--look at the you tube videos)... Though I'm not African American, I can also see how it influenced stereotypes within this country and how much impact those kinds of images had on how blacks were treated in their everyday life, especially hurtfully, which is why the African American community is sensitive to it. Stereotypes and given roles pigeon hole...

I saw a few of those and I was gagging on myself because not only did I understand, but I'd seen it (as an outsider, mind you) and not liked it, but after those tapes, I liked it even less.

aruna
08-30-2012, 07:45 PM
I saw a few of those and I was gagging on myself because not only did I understand, but I'd seen it (as an outsider, mind you) and not liked it, but after those tapes, I liked it even less.

Nope. Not going there. I want to keep my dinner in my tum, thanks.

Jcomp
08-30-2012, 11:21 PM
I don't agree that A list actors would help, in this case. Besides, if they have enough to do extra CGI, why can't they use that extra money and man power to pay more actors? Does the cast list inherently have to have *all* A list actors? You could try to get one or two and use the tricks I said.

Well, that's kind of my point. You already have one or two ostensibly A-list actors (in terms of box office draw) in Hanks and Berry. If they're not good enough to draw a crowd, Weaving and the myriad others in his same category (again, in terms of draw) aren't going to be the solution, so the idea that they cast him because of name recognition and because audiences like stars in their films (which someone else brought up earlier in the thread) isn't really valid here. That's what I was getting at.

That said, the producers might (must?) think otherwise.



Emma did just fine with low level actors (at that time) and became a big office smash.

Well, it pulled in a good box office against its comparatively modest budget, but $22 million isn't really a box office smash. It's respectable. Cloud Atlas has a much larger scope and a $100 million production budget.

From a strictly financial standpoint, I'm still stunned it got the green light. The last "serious-minded time-trippy soul-hopping adventure-drama" flick to get a major release was The Fountain, and it couldn't make back half its budget. The October release date near Halloween, on the heels of Paranormal Activity and a week before the Zemeckis+Denzel "we're pretty much printing money" drama Flight probably isn't going to be too friendly to it either.

I know that's not the primary point of the thread, but as someone else also mentioned up-thread, money is always an overriding factor, and often the overriding factor. The studio appears to be hedging its bets on having a loaded cast with a couple of genuinely big names, and then a bunch of other "oh yeah, I remember that guy, that's whats-his-name, he's been in some movies I like" kind of actors. Instead of insisting on shooting the film in a manner that's more socially sensitive, they tried to stack the deck to ensure better box office returns. I could be wrong, but odds are it ultimately won't work as well as they'd hoped.

Cyia
08-30-2012, 11:48 PM
Cloud Atlas has a much larger scope and a $100 million production budget.




Please tell me you're kidding. From everything I've seen and heard about this one, I thought it was some 20 mil ensemble piece. O.o

Rachel Udin
08-30-2012, 11:52 PM
The bigger budget makes me think they have less excuses... so I agree... it's just odd overall.

BunnyMaz
08-30-2012, 11:55 PM
Please tell me you're kidding. From everything I've seen and heard about this one, I thought it was some 20 mil ensemble piece. O.o

Turns out really shitty CGI is expensive, I guess O_o

Mac H.
08-31-2012, 06:52 AM
Beyond that, wanting stars in your movie is understandable, but the thing is Hugo Weaving isn't really a bankable box office draw. He's a good actor, but he's not going to move tickets. If Tom Hanks and Halley Berry aren't going to bring in audiences based on star power (and... well, both have waning box office impact, so they might not), then you're not going to salvage it by bringing in Hugo Weaving for the role.I don't understand casting either.

Speaking with distributors and sales agents - they have very specific knowledge of how certain actors are 'bankable' in certain roles, and I've never figured out the logic. For example - a project with a major music star in the main role wasn't enough to get sales in vital regions - so they added an actress who I would have thought was minor DVD only. The 'minor DVD only' actress was what got the major distribution deals. The distributors simply weren't interested in the major music star in the main role! (It would have been different if he was playing the role as 'a major music star' ... but the distributor's weren't interested in him playing the role as a normal actor would)

It didn't make sense to me - but that's why they are the experts & I'm not.

They know their stuff - but I'm flummoxed by it all.

Mac

AndreaGS
08-31-2012, 07:46 PM
I can't say I find it offensive yet. I can understand why they did it, and while it seems weird (and the actors look TERRIBLE), I haven't yet seen the movie. I'm not sure how much it actually reinforces stereotypes. It's more mystifying to me than offensive. It looks like they wanted to make their actors look sort of Asian to get the point across, but since they didn't commit to it because the actors still need to look like themselves, it ends up looking awful.

In contrast, I've never watched Breakfast at Tiffany's, because I had such a visceral negative reaction to clips of Mickey Rooney's character.

And then there's You Only Live Twice, where James Bond disguises himself as a Japanese man by slapping on a wig and shaving his chest hair. I still LOL about that one...

Solunar
08-31-2012, 08:03 PM
Oh eurk. They've crossed into the uncanny valley with a few of those, especially Hugo Weaving's Korean.

AndreaGS
08-31-2012, 09:35 PM
You know what it is? It's like they applied some sort of generic "make asian" photoshop filter. It just changes the eyes and the eyebrows and they're all *wiping hands* nailed it!

Hugo Weaving also makes a terrible woman. Who knew?

Cyia
08-31-2012, 09:52 PM
Honestly, Weaving doesn't look Asian at all. He looks like a Vulcan.

And I'm fairly certain those are practical effects. They didn't actually change his eyes, other than to add brown contacts, but put a prosthetic overlay from half-way up the bridge of his nose to his browline. It's pretty shoddy; you can see the seams on his nose where it's not blended properly. If I had to guess, this was either an early make-up test, or they're using a combination of practical and CGI effects where they're going to enhance the make-up in post-production.

Solunar
08-31-2012, 10:02 PM
Yeah. Something off about the positioning. A human skull has a certain shape to it and it doesn't look like his eyes are actually sitting properly in their sockets. I think that's why he looks creepy. They look like they're hovering and are not properly part of his face.

Jcomp
09-01-2012, 12:18 AM
You know what it is? It's like they applied some sort of generic "make asian" photoshop filter. It just changes the eyes and the eyebrows and they're all *wiping hands* nailed it!


Yes.


Honestly, Weaving doesn't look Asian at all. He looks like a Vulcan.



Holy shit, yes. How did I not see that before?

I can't say that I think it'd have less potential to offend if they had gotten the effects better, but getting the effects wrong certainly doesn't seem to be helping.

Kitty Pryde
09-01-2012, 05:10 AM
Hugo Weaving also makes a terrible woman. Who knew?

NOOOO HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT WHAT ABOUT PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THAT WAS HIS BEST FILM AAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!

AndreaGS
09-01-2012, 07:44 AM
NOOOO HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT WHAT ABOUT PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THAT WAS HIS BEST FILM AAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!

Hahahaha, y'know, I COMPLETELY forgot about that movie...

My bad. Hugo Weaving makes a terrible woman in this promo photo for Cloud Atlas ;)

Celia Cyanide
09-17-2012, 04:20 AM
Can't act, can't sing, mostly just makes fun of people mercilessly. But none of that changes the fact that a white English guy is cast to play a brown Indian guy. Racebending is okay when there is lots and lots of money to be made.

I actually didn't know what Sacha Baren Cohen's race was. Or Freddie Mercury's, for that matter. SBC is what they refer to in the industry as "ethnically ambiguous."

The last time this came up, I asked who should play Freddie Mercury, and no one seemed be able to suggest anybody better. But yeah, a lead actor does have to be well known, because it costs an awful lot just to make a movie. If they cast someone who is of the correct ethnicity and not famous, the public will not go see it. So they are just as much at fault as anyone else.