Monthly Archives: April 2013

Trevor Noah: The Racist

I listened to this yesterday and laughed my head off. For anyone mixed race, I think you are really going to love it too. Or if you’re South African. Or liberal. It is just fantastic. You’d better hurry as there’s only 4 days left on the iplayer.

What really got me though was that what Trevor Noah makes a huge joke about is what I am writing about in my next chapter. He is mixed race South African, but not black enough, not white enough, and in South African terms, not coloured or mixed enough either. His transnational travel allows him to ‘almost’ become black, even white, in different contexts, but always falls short. It is a very funny – and astoundingly resonant – look at racial identity and the perceptions that surround it. Race is only malleable and fluid to a certain extent before its borders harden – and make no mistake, our social assumptions like those borders to be in place. I really like Arun Saldanha’s piece around machinic geographies of race because it accounts for this contradictory dynamic in a way that is theoretically rigorous. I am trying myself to work out which theoretical framework to use — machinic race, performativity and race, sociological constructions of biology, passing…… better get back to that redrafting…..

 

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Race and Film: Olympus Has Fallen

Quick post #2

This is why I bang on about racial representation. Thanks to the film ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ we are back to ye olde hackneyed representations of Asians, now, mightily conveniently, updated to North Korea. So timely. These negative portrayals have resulted in a swathe of racist anti-Asian sentiment ‘let’s kill Asians’ from people of all races (white, black, latino), all in the name of being American. Joy. See the Atlantic report here and my friend Phil Chung’s response (basically why are we still surprised by this) here

So much work still to do. What saddens me is that I am no longer even shocked by such comments. But one of these days, hate speech in tweets will lead to something and it won’t be pretty. I know the LA riots were fuelled by a whole series of events, but I can’t help but think that we are constantly on a knife edge. How do you get people to distinguish between fact and fiction? This is why that line of ‘it’s theatre, it’s imaginative’ really doesn’t wash when it comes to race on stage (and screen).

Opening the Door

It’s been a long time and a long term, and I just got utterly snowed under. So two, maybe even three, quick posts from me today in between drafting my book. I did make it to the Opening the Door event held at the Young Vic on Feb 11th. The theatre industry and the East Asian community came out in force to discuss racial ceilings and what they felt could be done to address the marginalisation of East Asians in British theatre. I was really impressed at the turn out and the fact that this was obviously taken seriously as an issue. As someone (who will remain anonymous) said to me:  ‘we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think there was an issue.’ The RSC turned up in force, 5 people from one organisation (2 casting directors, one producer, their press officer and Erica Whyman as the recently appointed Deputy AD). This suggests a real willingness to engage, though of course explanations about The Orphan of Zhao remained rather fuzzy when pushed on it. You can read Anna Chen’s encounter (aka ‘crisp gate’) here. On one level, it felt like a really historic moment, in that people were there, and people were willing to listen. But on another, I felt like a lot of us have had some of these conversations many many times before. There was no doubt too that when yours truly decided to get a bit pushy and questioned people further, that practitioners from within what we may call ‘the mainstream’ became somewhat defensive and even evasive. You can read my report, as well as all the others at the Devoted and Disgruntled website here. Since then, spotlight has also phased out their ‘Oriental’ category. I hope it’s replaced with something more appropriate.

The day ended on a note of optimism, and East Asians felt very empowered by the whole experience, as evidenced in the summing up. There are grounds for hope too with the production of #aiww at Hampstead and Chimerica at the Almeida. I’m off to see the former on April 24th, but I wonder how much boxing is still going on. I am always a skeptic. As David Yip highlighted during the summation, we have been here before, and so it remains to be seen how much of a PR exercise this was, and how much genuine engagement and change will result.