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Well… Naya is latin.
Tokenism: In the arts, employment, and politics, tokenism is a policy or practice of limited inclusion or artistic and/or political representation of members of a traditionally marginalized group, usually creating a false appearance of inclusive practices rather than discrimination, intentional or not.
Naya’s the token. In addition, Naya Rivera is lightened up in her photo, which happens a lot in photos involving people of color.
Yup. Skin lightening happens to everyone, but particularly to people of color. Just look at Rihanna! That’s scary.
Glee seems to be a show completely made up of tokens. They preach diversity and inclusion, but only end up doing the typical Asian on Asian love, for example. The two characters then don’t get normal kisses, nope. They get “Asian kisses” as Jes mentioned in her last post. Glee markets to a (largely) ignorant audience who don’t recognize true diversity. I remember reading some posts by an LGBTIQ blogger about how to some fans of Glee, Kurt and Blaine had become more than just a popular couple…they had become a FETISH.
I rarely do fandom posts this in depth, but this combines my passion for film & television as a film major and Asian American representation in the media. I warn you: it is fairly long.
I’ve seen some comments about how a Japanese-American actress (Tamlyn Tomita) and a Korean-American actor (Keong Sim) was cast to play Mike’s Chinese-American family. Especially considering there are plenty of great Chinese-American actors there to choose from who have some substantial credits. I like Tamlyn Tomita though she and Keong Sim are certainly not my ideal choices. I wanted BD Wong for his dad and either Joan Chen or Kelly Hu for his mother personally.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand where the concerns are (I am Vietnamese American myself).
But look at it this way.
This is a very different situation from Memoirs of Geisha where the story was VERY Japanese-centric (and aside the fact that movie was a hot mess in general). You got to keep in mind, they aren’t just representing a Chinese-American family, but an Asian-American one and such identity isn’t as simple to define. It’s a term that as coined during the Civil Rights Movement when Asians were united because they were similarly discriminated against in the United States. Hell, I only used it for myself only just a few years ago when I got more involved with Asian American community.
It is difficult enough for Asian-American actors in general to get roles in Hollywood. There is a very tight knit group of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry (actors, producers, writers, etc, etc) and a lot of them know each other or met each other or are connected to each other in someway This network is close (check out CAPE for example). And let me tell you, if anything they’d be all in support for the cast because it’s a role for Asian Americans on a popular show and a lot of them are all working toward that goal. These actors/entertainers/filmmakers didn’t get started with that goal in mind but eventually they get pulled in.
You have to incorporate an actor/actress’s point of view (and unfortunately the lines blur and it’s not black and white). There aren’t many opportunities (they are growing with CBS’s cop show in development which has a Chinese-American lead and Justin Lin’s untitled film about the all Japanese-American unit in WWII).
If an actress of Japanese-descent (American or otherwise) was restricted only by Japanese roles in Hollywood, she wouldn’t have many roles. How many big roles are out there for Japanese characters in the last few years? The only one I can think of at the top of my head was Saito in Inception. What if the actor/actress was Hmong (a minority group that exist all around southeast Asia). They’d REALLY be restricted because aside from Gran Torino, there are almost no films/shows that feature a Hmong character. I don’t think any small roles for that the character was Hmong. For myself, I’ve virtually seen almost no Vietnamese or Vietnamese-American characters on recent mainstream television or film let alone actors and actresses and the only one I know at the top of my head are Dustin Nguyen and Thuy Trang. Dustin was in 21 Jump Street as a major character who was actually Vietnamese guy (they based his character’s story off Dustin’s personal story) who stole a Japanese name. But that was in the 1980s and I wasn’t even born when that first came out in 1987. While Thuy Trang played what I assume to be a Korean-American character (due to her last name of “Kwan”) in Power Rangers (also RIP Thuy Trang). But that was in the 1990s.
Read this: Japanese-American George Takei gave his full blessing to Korean-American actor John Cho when it came to the character of Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek. Because in Takei’s own words, it wasn’t what Sulu was—it was what he represented.
Just my two cents. Feel free to agree or disagree. I would worry more on HOW they are written rather than who they were cast by. Glee is full of stereotypes, yes, but it also contradicts stereotypes at the same time. Mike and Tina initially started off as quiet, shy Asian American teens (Mike probably still is). Mike is from what is implied to be a traditional family which is balanced with Tina’s family (from the small hints and spoilers we’ve gotten). They’re dating each other and were on the academic decathlon at some point. But Mike also dances, he’s a football player and he’s hot—he’s seen as a viable romantic option. Tina is a goth girl who can sing (how much is another story entirely) with a quirky and wild sense of fashion. I’d say we judge how the parents are presented rather than who they cast. While I’m pretty sure there will be stereotypes (this is Glee after all), if they can provide some depth to them and contradict other stereotypes, well then we might have progress.
drvy answered: bruno mars is arguably the most famous AA in the music industry, but they sell him off as racially ambiguous
theadorkablehanhnatrinh answered: far east movement is asian. C:
aliapenny answered: Phenotypically white Darren Criss?
izzygarcia answered: Other race includes a lot of European descent xp
Thank you all for the input! As a thought though, think about how difficult it was to think of more than two AA celebrities in the music industry. Why do you think this is? Why can’t people with AMAZING voices like Clara C, David Choi, AJ Rafael, etc make it “big”?