In Which Dawn is Accused of Being a Racist

by dawn on October 26, 2012

In lieu of a mid-week show (due entirely to my own incompetence … of course) I thought I’d give you my thoughts on the new film Cloud Atlas.

Yesterday, in fact, a friend asked me on Facebook what I thought of the film. Someone else — a mutual “friend,” someone I was once close to, and have since drifted away from for reasons that may seem obvious after you read the following — popped in to give her two cents before I replied.

For the sake of this post, taken from Facebook with only the tiniest of editing for brevity, I will call her Gladys. My decision to change the name of someone who posted under her legal moniker to Facebook is merely a courtesy because we were once friends. As a rule, I think people should be held accountable for their words on the Internet. But this morning I’m feeling like a nice guy.

Gladys has not seen Cloud Atlas. But being a solid liberal** who enjoys becoming instantly incensed about things like white privilege (which is a HUGELY sexy I’m-furious-on-the-Internet topic among science fiction/fantasy readers these days) as soon as she read that someone of color, somewhere, was a offended by something she knew that she’s offended by it, too. Even though, you know, she hasn’t seen it.

For the record: Believe me, I know that white privilege exists. I also know that Hollywood does a piss-poor job of telling stories with minority actors, and they love to cast “bankable” (white) stars in ethnic roles that could well be played by actors of that race. This is, indeed, a shitty deal.

But that’s not what’s going on with Cloud Atlas. Quite the opposite, in fact — actors play multiple roles in service to a larger theme, that of personalities/souls existing in a continuum that transcends race or gender. No one seems to have a problem with Asians playing white, or a black actor playing Asian, or women playing men, or men playing women. Or, for that matter, Halle Berry playing a German Caucasian, seen here. To call just one character in the film — the one played by Jim Sturgess in one of the six simultaneous storylines — “yellowface” is miss the entire point of the film. Which is easy to do when you haven’t seen it.

Below is my opinion of Cloud Atlas, and the irritating Facebook exchange. Enjoy.

 

Gladys  Personally I’m not going to bother. I can’t deal with the decision to put white actors in yellowface rather than use Asian actors. Just can’t. It’s fucking 2012.

Dawn Taylor  I loved it. It’s huge, and epic, and beautiful to look at, all about the experience of humanity that’s common to all people, no matter when or how they exist — love, evil, betrayal, how the choices we make affect those around us, about choosing to act for others and not just yourself. It has multiple storylines in different time periods, with actors playing analogs of their characters in the other stories. As for the race issue: the main actors play multiple characters, and the Korean actress — who has one of the largest roles — also plays Caucasian in another story. Men are sometimes women, women play men … there’s an overarching theme of “humanness” encompassing more than race or gender that’s explored by having the actors do this.

Gladys  I prefer to take my cue from actual Asian people, who are offended by this. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/cloud-atlas-asian-actors-yellow-face-MANAA-38307021 hours ago · Like

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

Dawn Taylor  You can take your cue from whoever you like. J asked for my opinion, since I’ve seen the film. You haven’t. The author of that piece on racebending.com hasn’t, and had a knee-jerk reaction to the film’s trailer. There’s no indication that members of the advocacy group quoted in the Hollywood Reporter piece had seen it, either. The Wachowskis have said that they considered casting Asian actors, but as they’re playing versions/reincarnations/analogs of the same people from story to story, they felt it would be confusing to cast different actors in each segment — the audience would have trouble grasping that they were the same people in each storyline.

Dawn Taylor  It’s actually kind of sad that this is being made an issue of, when the very point of the film is about the absolute opposite of this kind of divisive crap. But please, feel free to take your cues from a special interest group that has an outraged reaction to something that they haven’t seen yet. In the case of something like “The Last Airbender,” the casting of a Caucasian was, indeed, deeply stupid and offensive. In this case, it’s actually part-and-parcel of the entire point of the film. One could also be offended that Hugo Weaving plays a female in one story, when actual female actresses could use the work. It misses the point entirely.

Gladys  An Asian man had a knee-jerk reaction to seeing white people in yellowface. Go figure. But whitesplaining that it’s Art makes it OK. And Asians are a special interest group. Just like blacks and women I guess. Voting for Romney this year are we?

Dawn Taylor  Oh, jesus christ. “Whitesplaining?” Fuck off.

 

** DISCLOSURE: I consider myself a liberal, as well!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Smith October 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

Please tell me this person lives nowhere near Portland so I never have the chance to actually meet them. Talk about a thoroughly unpleasant woman!

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Iain October 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Evil will exist as long as there is an ass that needs kicking

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Foible October 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Personally I’m glad that “whitesplaining” and “mansplaining” are catching on. It lets me identify and dismiss racist and/or sexist bigots without having to wade through whatever drivel they’re peddling.

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J October 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

As the person who asked the initial question regarding the movie, I do not at all appreciate content (in this case, comments) from a restricted (i.e. non-public) post to my Facebook account being reposted publicly. Dawn, if you want to snark about “Gladys” and her accusations, publicly, knock yourself out. But please do NOT repost any more restricted content from my Facebook account – other than your own – without permission.

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Bobby October 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm

The argument happened on a social network. That the argument happened on your page doesn’t make it yours, or provide you any semblance of ownership over what happened. Basically – just because an argument broke out on your page doesn’t mean its YOUR argument. Because it isn’t.

Being as you weren’t mentioned, you weren’t quoted, and reading Dawn’s facebook page, you don’t even really have a problem with how the argument went down (you are Cat Dubh on facebook, yes?) I have no idea why you’re rolling in here wagging your finger like you have a single fucking leg to stand on.

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Iain October 30, 2012 at 10:02 am

YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uW47jWLMiY

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The Dork Knight October 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Wow J, way to kick a girl when she’s down. Its not like she in any way identified you. Dawn, you need better friends.

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J October 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Believe me, Dork. This is not kicking. I’m quite able to kick, and extremely good at doing it.

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The Dork Knight October 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Its all good. I’m sure you told Gladys off for calling a friend a racist without cause. Cause friends have each other’s back, yeah?

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Dawn October 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

It did not occur to me that I needed to ask permission to repost a conversation I had with another person, with names removed, in a semi-public arena. Your Facebook settings may be restricted, but this wasn’t the same as a private email or text message. It was on Facebook. Neither Gladys nor I had a problem with having this discussion, using our full names, in public, and you were left out of this entirely. I’ll apologize for offending you, but I can’t honestly apologize to recounting the exchange.

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Geekoid October 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm

J – You have no right to restrict what another party repeats.

“Believe me, Dork. This is not kicking. I’m quite able to kick, and extremely good at doing it.”
Just what we need, another internet ‘tough guy’.

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J October 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Fair enough. As we obviously disagree, I’ll kill your access and let it go at disagreement. I’ll miss reading you, for whatever it’s worth. That said, I honestly do wish you and Patrick well. Take care.

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Bobby October 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm

What a crock of disingenuous horseshit.

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Brian Walz October 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm

But you aren’t “letting it go as a disagreement”, you are killing her access and never going to read her again.

Letting it go as a disagreement would be more like when I disagreed with Dawn’s review of going to the new Cinetopia. I felt she was overly critical and pointed out the areas where I felt she was wrong in what she posted in her review. However, she didn’t block me for what I said about her. I did not block her or stop reading her stuff or listening to her show because we disagreed about something. Bobby and I have gotten in to a few arguments in this comment section and on Cort and Fatboy, yet there has been no blocking on either side and I continue to listen to his shows. Adults should be able to disagree and still continue to interact.

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Dawn October 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Person A: “Come over to my house and talk about a movie!”

(I go to Person A’s house)

Me: “This is what I thought.”

Person B: “Blah blah blah whitesplaining blah blah bitchcakes blah blah you are racist.”

(I go back to my own house, sit in my front porch, and tell people about that conversation.)

Person A: (comes to my house and stands on my front lawn): “Hey! How dare you tell people what the two of you talked about in my living room! You didn’t quote me or anything, but you still should have asked me!”

Me: But it was my conversation. 80 percent of that was stuff that *I* said.”

Person A: “I don’t care! And now you are never allowed on my living room again!”

Me: “Umm. Okay, I guess.”

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Eric Smith October 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Does Facebook just bring out the crazy in people? Jaysis!

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Fred Smith October 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Artistic issues aside, I feel that it was morally questionable- at best- for you to C&P her words without her consent.

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Mike October 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Thanks, I really do wish I could read the unedited exchange though! Crazy people are amusing, and its great material for when one goes trolling!

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Mike Russell October 28, 2012 at 8:33 am

Anyone who uses condescending, dismissive buzzwords like “whitesplaining” and meaningless zingers like “Voting for Romney are we?” instead of trying to post a reasoned counter-argument and further the discussion (or even just agreeing to disagree) is basically throwing up his or her hands and committing intellectual suicide.

(And for what it’s worth, I’d argue there’s a HUGE difference between the sort of racist “yellowface” that Mickey Rooney deployed in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the bold provocation in “Cloud Atlas” — in which you cast the same actors across several different races and genders to very specifically make an anti-racist point.)

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Brian Walz October 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Hmmm, this comment leads me to the conclusion that Mike has actually seen the movie on which he is stating an opinion. What an interesting concept…

This reminds me a little of the kinds of things people were saying about The Last Temptation of Christ when it came out. I went to go see it, to form my own opinion. And after seeing it, I realized that most people talking about that movie had not actually seen it. I feel Cloud Atlas is going to be the latest in the long line of movies that people love to argue about, even when (and especially if) they haven’t even seen it.

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gaius October 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm

The whole damn world is going to die off (in real life) and this is what we’re arguing about. Boy, do we deserve it.

As long as races exist, racism cannot be eradicated by restricting discourse. The only solution to racism is another thousand years of interbreeding until the groups that people see when they look at each other no longer exist. Until then, pretending that there is any “right” or “wrong” is just masturbation. There is no objective standard that you can beat someone over the head with when they have a different perspective than yours, and the world will never be a perfect reflection of your morality regardless of its merits. Simple reason – right and wrong themselves are figments of your imagination. Even murder isn’t objectively wrong (anyone could conjure a situation where killing an innocent child would be the right thing to do – say, the kid has a nuke strapped to them by a terrorist), but someone thinks they have the “correct” answer to a question as complex as this one?

Whitesplaining, mansplaining, whatever. Explaining oneself is for people who are apologizing. Stop apologizing and you won’t need an excuse. Doesn’t mean you’re right. But if you’re wrong, it simply doesn’t matter.

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gaius October 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Bear in mind, the Asian commenters who wrote the articles that Gladys references?

They speak for all Asians. At least that’s Gladys’ take.

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Herodotus November 7, 2012 at 6:11 am

So-called liberals, which actually truly aren’t as such a term is a thinly veiled disguise for various types of political and economic ideological unthinking ranging from Leninism to PCism, just suck.

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