PDA

View Full Version : The Martian Casting, or "Whaddaya mean they're PoC??"



Putputt
04-01-2015, 09:04 AM
So I just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir (loved it, totally recommend it), and I hopped on to Google and looked up the movie casting. Looks good so far, until I got to the choice for Mindy Park. When I read "Park" in the book, yanno, my assumption was Korean-American. But nope, they cast a white actress. Okay, whatever. I have like 50 Korean-American friends with the last name "Park", but then I also have one white friend with last name "Park", so FINE. Improbable, but you could argue that she could very well be white. Who knows, maybe she married a Korean-American guy and changed her last name.

Then I came across the casting for Ryoko. White actress*. SERIOUSLY?? Are you fucking kidding me right now, Hollywood??!?! Is there something weird going on that the rest of us aren't aware of, like are white babies in the US being named RYOKO?? And Ryoko has such a tiny, tiny role. But I guess casting an Asian actress for that super minor role would just horribly tank the movie or something.

I used to think that naming your characters Ryoko would be enough to signify that they're of Japanese descent, but apparently that's not the case. Thank you, Hollywood, for reminding me of the giant shit machine we're continuously trying to fight.

THIS is why whenever I see people say that you don't have to be explicit with your character's ethnicities, I say, in an ideal world, it won't even be an issue. You could name someone Ryoko and rest assured that nobody in their right mind could think of that character as white. But in our world, right now? We're not there yet.

Of course, if you're writing alternate-world fantasy or a story that isn't set in our current world where the labels we have aren't applicable, then it becomes more difficult to be clear. But if we're writing contemporary, or even some SF/F that's set in our world, I think it's important to be clear about our characters' ethnicities. I didn't think it affected the story in a negative way when Dashner said Minho was "Asian". In fact, I appreciated the way it was just said so matter-of-factly and then it wasn't ever repeated again (that I remember of). The story didn't let us dwell on his ethnicity, it just kinda went "This Asian kid appeared. So anyway, then this happened..."

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I just saw the list and went, ARRGRGGHHHHHH. I dunno. I guess I'm just...tired. This battle feels endless, and it seems like we're just taking one step forward, two steps back...straight into Hollywood's warty, shit-spewing anushole. :(

*ETA: Thanks to Buz and Backslashbaby for the clarification! Actress playing Ryoko is... half-white, half-Indian.

buz
04-02-2015, 12:25 AM
Then I came across the casting for Ryoko. White actress. SERIOUSLY?? Are you fucking kidding me right now, Hollywood??!?! Is there something weird going on that the rest of us aren't aware of, like are white babies in the US being named RYOKO?? And Ryoko has such a tiny, tiny role. But I guess casting an Asian actress for that super minor role would just horribly tank the movie or something.

TBF, "her mother... is of Indian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India) descent from Uganda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda) and her father... is British (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_people)" per Wikipedia, so she may not identify as white, though it's not like I know her... :D


I used to think that naming your characters Ryoko would be enough to signify that they're of Japanese descent, but apparently that's not the case.But yeah, Ryoko would seem a pretty clear signifier. :D

backslashbaby
04-02-2015, 12:37 AM
Eta: cross posted! Sorry :)


Ryoko is half-Asian, not white. She's Asian via India, though :ROFL: so not a good pick for a Japanese character ;)

Ridley Scott is directing, and you'll remember how he casts Egyptians. Very, very white those main old Egyptians were, eh?
http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Ridley-Scott-Casts-White-Men-Play-Egyptians-Explains-His-Choices-66972.html


Had Ridley Scott been directly asked about not casting Middle Eastern actors to play Moses and Ramses his answers to questions about Bale and Edgerton may have been different, but what I gather from this interview is that the director wasn't really looking at race when he was finding his leads - he was just looking at talent. He likens putting the cast together as being similar to putting together a talented soccer team, saying that he requires strong partnerships. But is that enough of an explanation?

Putputt
04-02-2015, 07:48 AM
TBF, "her mother... is of Indian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India) descent from Uganda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda) and her father... is British (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_people)" per Wikipedia, so she may not identify as white, though it's not like I know her... :D

But yeah, Ryoko would seem a pretty clear signifier. :D





Ryoko is half-Asian, not white. She's Asian via India, though :ROFL: so not a good pick for a Japanese character ;)

Thanks for the clarification, you guys! I will edit my OP.



Ridley Scott is directing, and you'll remember how he casts Egyptians. Very, very white those main old Egyptians were, eh?
http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Ridley-Scott-Casts-White-Men-Play-Egyptians-Explains-His-Choices-66972.html

Oh yes, who can forget Moses and his city of white people. :rolleyes: I also remember something about Ridley Scott dismissing the questions about the white casting and telling those who dared to crit the choice to get a life (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/09/ridley-scott-exodus-boycotters_n_6293934.html). Lovely.

*wallows in bog*

KateH
04-02-2015, 07:57 AM
Ugh. :rant:
If my novels are ever published and turned into films, I want to add a clause in my contract saying 'No whitewashing!'

(ETA: Though as the actress in question isn't white, this is more a case of erasing/changing race than whitewashing.)

Cyia
04-02-2015, 05:57 PM
Ugh. :rant:
If my novels are ever published and turned into films, I want to add a clause in my contract saying 'No whitewashing!'



Sadly, those clauses don't exist.

slhuang
04-02-2015, 06:02 PM
Sadly, those clauses don't exist.

I am sure that anything could be added to a contract, theoretically . . .

(Of course, whether they want your work badly enough to add it is another question.)

(And yeah, this is a clause I'd want, too.)

Alessandra Kelley
04-02-2015, 06:18 PM
Boy, the argument "I'm not looking at race but talent" sure gets used a lot.

backslashbaby
04-02-2015, 11:13 PM
That does get used a lot. And I do actually feel for them about the leads and getting Hollywood money, which is part of the problem if they are just honest. Christian Bale was much better at addressing the Exodus controversy, imho:


"I don't think fingers should be pointed [my note: I do], but we should all look at ourselves and say, 'Are we supporting wonderful actors in films by North African and Middle Eastern filmmakers and actors, because there are some fantastic actors out there," Bale said.
He said he feels audiences can help international actors who are lesser known in the Western world get cast in major films.
"If people start supporting those films more and more, then financiers in the market will follow," Bale said.
"The audience has to show financiers that they will be there, and (then) they could make a large budget film."
Bale said the time will come when another film about Moses will be cast with a North African or Middle Eastern actor.
"To me that would be a day of celebration. For the actors it would be wonderful. It would be a wonderful day for humanity, but also for films and for storytelling in general," he said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/09/ridley-scott-exodus-boycotters_n_6293934.html

ETA: But that still doesn't explain the casting for The Martian. We have more big names who would fit the parts better than Egyptian big name actors (by Hollywood standards).

KateH
04-03-2015, 01:39 AM
Sadly, those clauses don't exist.

I am sure that anything could be added to a contract, theoretically . . .

(Of course, whether they want your work badly enough to add it is another question.)

(And yeah, this is a clause I'd want, too.)
A girl can dream...

Cyia
04-03-2015, 07:30 AM
Boy, the argument "I'm not looking at race but talent" sure gets used a lot.


And it's also every bit as insulting as just flat out admitting that they think they'll make more money with a white, or at least light-skinned, person in the lead (as well as most of the background) roles.

Saying they cast by talent, then presenting a monochromatic cast, implies that the only actors with talent were those who are not POC, which is ridiculous, untrue, and offensive.

J.S.F.
05-08-2015, 06:00 AM
And it's also every bit as insulting as just flat out admitting that they think they'll make more money with a white, or at least light-skinned, person in the lead (as well as most of the background) roles.

Saying they cast by talent, then presenting a monochromatic cast, implies that the only actors with talent were those who are not POC, which is ridiculous, untrue, and offensive.
---

Have to agree with everything you said above, but the Hollywood powers that be are looking at which actor/actress will put butts in the seats, not necessarily which actor/actress is right for the role. It's an unfortunate thing that Hollywood has always done.

Then as now, the idea of using PoC (the correct races and/or ethnicities, I mean) for the role would require them (producers/director) to take a leap of faith on a relatively unknown person. In turn, that might mean audiences saying "Who the hell is that in the title role? Never heard of him/her." It would also make the producers very leery of investing big bucks and banking on said actor/actress turning in a fine performance which would lead to more people seeing said flick.

Therefore, the old line of who will bring in the patrons and big bucks (i.e. talent) is brought up. I don't agree with that, but that's how it stands. Didn't do jack for the Bale-Exodus flick which I though truly awful in pretty much every way.

I haven't read The Martian yet, so cannot comment on the merits of the novel. I will say, though, that when I saw the name Ryoko I knew right away (duh) that is was a Japanese woman's name. Never heard of anyone not Japanese having a fairly common name like Ryoko (or anything with a 'ko').

Marlys
05-08-2015, 06:25 AM
---
Never heard of anyone not Japanese having a fairly common name like Ryoko (or anything with a 'ko').

I had a childhood friend named "Mariko." Her parents were of English and Polish descent, and fell in love with the name when they lived in Japan.

I haven't read The Martian. Is the character Ryoko described as being of Japanese descent, or does she just have a Japanese name?

Lillith1991
05-08-2015, 11:04 AM
I had a childhood friend named "Mariko." Her parents were of English and Polish descent, and fell in love with the name when they lived in Japan.

I haven't read The Martian. Is the character Ryoko described as being of Japanese descent, or does she just have a Japanese name?

Why would that matter? When I read names attached to a specific culture, unless the author says otherwise like you did with your friend, I assume they're Japanese, Indian, Jewish etc. The likelyhood of the person or in this case, character being named Ryoko or Chava without being Japanese or a particular kind of Jewish is slim.

Marlys
05-08-2015, 04:21 PM
Why would that matter? When I read names attached to a specific culture, unless the author says otherwise like you did with your friend, I assume they're Japanese, Indian, Jewish etc. The likelyhood of the person or in this case, character being named Ryoko or Chava without being Japanese or a particular kind of Jewish is slim.

I wouldn't be comfortable making the same assumptions. Parents choose names for all sorts of reasons, so thinking you can read ethnicity from a first name seems wrong to me. Maybe authors are more likely to use names as shorthand to indicate ethnicity, but if they're relying solely on a character name they probably aren't putting enough effort into it.

kevinwaynewilliams
05-08-2015, 06:26 PM
I wouldn't be comfortable making the same assumptions. Parents choose names for all sorts of reasons, so thinking you can read ethnicity from a first name seems wrong to me. Maybe authors are more likely to use names as shorthand to indicate ethnicity, but if they're relying solely on a character name they probably aren't putting enough effort into it.

There's a balance. I set a book in the middle of the South Bronx; named the children Letitia, Jahayra, Tiara, Kiara, Jada, Malik, Trevon, Rosarita, Jose, Lucia, Maria, Jorge, and Diego; and then merrily wrote away, presuming that the setting and names would be enough that I would never have to specifically describe the various skin tones. I did have some clues, like
She didn’t try to sound like Mrs. Robinson unless she had to. Nobody talked like Mrs. Robinson, with all her rules about double negatives and “Don’t say ‘ain’t’ ” and “ ‘I am’ not ‘I be’ ” and on and on forever. She had long ago decided that Mrs. Robinson must have taken special classes in how to talk like an old white lady because there was no way she could have come up with it by herself.
and
There was a big rack of books on one wall, all labeled The Sunset Guide to This or The Sunset Guide to That. Basic Home Repair. Plumbing. Roofing. She leafed through them. They were full of more pictures of big happy white men doing big happy white man things, but they looked useful: fixing windows and roofs and walls and things.
I was quite surprised to find out that I had confused a beta reader with a scene involving one of the girl's hair towards the middle of the book because she hadn't realised that Letitia, Jahayra, Tiara, Kiara, Jada, Malik, and Trevon were black. I "fixed" it by more explicitly describing Letitia and Jahayra, but I remain surprised that it was necessary to this day.

Lillith1991
05-08-2015, 06:27 PM
I wouldn't be comfortable making the same assumptions. Parents choose names for all sorts of reasons, so thinking you can read ethnicity from a first name seems wrong to me. Maybe authors are more likely to use names as shorthand to indicate ethnicity, but if they're relying solely on a character name they probably aren't putting enough effort into it.

Sure they do. But caucasian kid named Ryoko or Mariko is odd, precisely because most caucasian parents aren't going to use distinctly Japanese names for their children unless the child is half-Japanese. A Black, Indiginous, Hispanic, Middle Eastern etc kid with a name that is Japanese would be odd too actually for the exact same reason. Is it lazy shorthand for an ethnicity? Sure is, but it's also one we use in real life. Most people expect Ryoko or Mariko to be Asian, Japanese if they really have to guess without seeing them. They also, in the US at least, expect Keesha and Jamal to be Black. Cynthia and John are most likely going to be pegged as white without evidence to the contrary, and so is Jessica. Ahmed is likely Middle Eastern to most people, unless they meet him and he is Indian or Black, which is still more likely than him being White.

And I hope I'm not coming across as rude, I'm just trying to point out that your childhood friends name is an anomly that doesn't happen that often. I bet it actually surprised many people over the years, because they were expecting her to be Japanese and not White.

J.S.F.
05-09-2015, 03:01 AM
Sure they do. But caucasian kid named Ryoko or Mariko is odd, precisely because most caucasian parents aren't going to use distinctly Japanese names for their children unless the child is half-Japanese. A Black, Indiginous, Hispanic, Middle Eastern etc kid with a name that is Japanese would be odd too actually for the exact same reason. Is it lazy shorthand for an ethnicity? Sure is, but it's also one we use in real life. Most people expect Ryoko or Mariko to be Asian, Japanese if they really have to guess without seeing them. They also, in the US at least, expect Keesha and Jamal to be Black. Cynthia and John are most likely going to be pegged as white without evidence to the contrary, and so is Jessica. Ahmed is likely Middle Eastern to most people, unless they meet him and he is Indian or Black, which is still more likely than him being White.

And I hope I'm not coming across as rude, I'm just trying to point out that your childhood friends name is an anomly that doesn't happen that often. I bet it actually surprised many people over the years, because they were expecting her to be Japanese and not White.

---

I'd have to agree with this. Names invariably reflect the country of origin and race or ethnicity. There are exceptions, to be sure, but by and large it holds true. If someone white has a name like Mariko or Ryoko, to me that's an anomaly. Not a bad one at all, just an anomaly.

As a side note, some girls in Japan have the name "Anna" which is distinctly Western sounding. Just the way it is, but no one thinks anything bad of it. My sons are bi-racial--half-Japanese and half-Caucasian--and are named Kai and Ray. The names are written in Kanji, of course, but they could be construed as Western ones when you hear them. This reflects their dual heritage and that's what my wife and I wanted.

kwanzaabot
05-09-2015, 01:50 PM
Ugh. :rant:
If my novels are ever published and turned into films, I want to add a clause in my contract saying 'No whitewashing!'

(ETA: Though as the actress in question isn't white, this is more a case of erasing/changing race than whitewashing.)

I'd want the same clause.
In my WIP, I have a Polish Jew, an Australian of half-Korean half-Aboriginal descent, a Scottish android, an Alaskan of predominantly Dena'ina descent, a black Frenchman, a Palestinian, a cat, two Japanese people and one woman of ambiguous but probably white ancestry.

So it's pretty much unfilmable. :P