Saturday, November 26, 2005

"The Love" or "the Hate"

Jason Steele at RedEye dropped his own Hollywood critique in his column Boy on Boystown. Steele points out that Hollywood's fascination with homosexuality or any male sexuality stops at male nudity.

While most of his evidence is circumstantial, his gripes over the marketing of "Brokeback Mountain" are pretty hard to dismiss. As my friend Matt has also pointed out, the trailers for this movie completely downplayed the homosexual relationship that is at the center of the film's story. This is quite sobering--the marketers of the film have decided that homosexual love is in such opposition to the goal of attracting viewers that they are better off misrepresenting the film so that audiences might go. What will they find when they get there? A knee-buckling love story that involves two men.

What do they think? Mom and Pop America hate the visuals of a gay relationship so much, that they wouldn't dare to go to the film, but they will be tricked into going for heterosexual cowboys and when they see the film, they'll go spread good word-of-mouth about it?

Furthermore, Steele points out the fact that studios often, worrying for the success of the picture, edit out male nudity from HETEOSEXUAL encounters in film.

This firmly destroys the tired old justification that lack of empathetic representation of minority groups in film is just a long process that we need to patient about. It says that it's not about white heterosexual men just passively wanting to see people like themselves on screen and as the market changes, things will improve.

It says that the studios believe and claim to have data that shows that a sizable portion of the viewing public is so homophobic and insecure about their sexuality that they can't handle seeing a penis on the screen.

You see, if we prefer the center of the love story to be white and straight and male because that's the type of love we can relate to, that's a kind of unacceptable passive prejudice too. But that's not all we have in this society. Once there are existing characters, gay, colored, old, etc. we cannot bear to see them in all of their sexual glory. It hurts our eyes to even look at the screen as they reach the heights of human connection. That's the deepest kind of hate I can imagine.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Reality Check

I know this blog is rapidly becoming all "Grey's Anatomy" all the time, but there was another major development this week in terms of Asian American male representation.

In tonight's episode, written by show creator Shonda Rimes, we finally see the appearance of a possible recurring Asian American male part. Some folks are further fuming because he was cast as the bartender's gay love interest. I do agree that combined with some of the earlier episodes, it's a disturbing trending, but in the representation game, we can't always be attacking people who are doing positive on your behalf.

Being upset about this role is no more homophobic than when both LGBT groups and Asian groups were upset about the Details "Gay or Asian" fiasco. The stereotype that AMs are only attractive in a gay context is damaging to both racial and sexual orientation equality.

But we must remember that the two struggles are intertwined, not opposing. Grey's Anatomy just won a Diversity Award and it should. The show has been amazing at casting quanitity and quality in minority roles.

In fact, it's better than that. The show is written from a PoC perspective most of the time. Sure, it's no coincidence that when Rimes isn't writing, the show is worse on all levels, including racially. But the Bailey character is the prototype minority activist warrior--she not only outperforms the white folks and men around her, she destroys them. Her character is so powerful, that even when white folks write, they are forced to consider a minority perspective in order to make her at all believable. That's a major accomplishment on Rimes' part.

We should be critical of the show and we must demand portrayals of Asian American men that dispel damaging stereotypes. They needn't be at the expense of screen time for positive portrayals of women, other ethnicities or LGBT characters--they just need to be there.

But we should also remember to evaluate the show relative to other show's on TV. There is NO show that better advances an equal representation agenda in the entire media world. Let's support and mold this institution.
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