Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Second Response to The Print Room Fiasco from a UK Theatregoer of Chinese Descent

So The Print Room has just issued an apology solely for making an announcement, and not for their other actions. They have emphasised that their play, or as I now see it, their caricature showcase, is 'not a Chinese play and the characters are not Chinese', but the production 'references a setting in Ancient China and the characters' names are Chinese. These are literary allusions ... and never intended to be taken literally. The allusions are intended to signify “not here, not now, not in any actual real ‘where’ ” and the production, set, costumes and dialogue follow this cue of  "no place".' 

Instead of questioning motives and then getting annoyed, which rather jars with this festive season of peace and goodwill, why don't we all move on? As a UK theatregoer of Chinese descent, I would boycott the play as it currently is and encourage everyone who believes in the UK to do so, but if my suggestions here were to be implemented, who knows, everyone could be a winner!

1. The Setting:
Why can't the setting be changed to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Japan, or even better, Czarist Russia? With Czarist Russia, especially, there'd still be that Imperial connection (an Emperor by any other name is still an Emperor), while the caricatures could have harmless, pleasing Russian names like Bogov, Sodoff, Pissov (for the men), and Balalaika (for the woman).

(Actually, I've had a think. 'Balalaika' isn't authentically Russian enough. 'Komonova' would be better.)

2. The Cast:
Changing the setting to Czarist Russia would also solve the casting problem, given that the Print Room team originally couldn't envision a more diverse cast. As Czarist Russia was ethnically diverse (I seem to recall that Catherine the Great was from Central Asia), there is now ample opportunity to include four non-white actors of all genders and none along with the white actors, and have everyone work together.

3. The Themes
To address the theme of universality, everyone in the cast of eight, white and non-white, must be made to  learn every line of the caricature showcase, and then every cast member must be given the chance to offer their interpretation of each caricature once. This would make the caricatures fresh and exciting every time with every viewing, and this will open minds to fresh casting possibilities. Meanwhile, if the cast forget their lines, they can always improvise, because after all, 'allusions are intended to signify “not here, not now, not in any actual real ‘where’ ” and the production, set, costumes and dialogue follow this cue of  "no place".' This would make the caricatures absolutely exotic and something never seen before.

And in the spirit of true diversity, and to question what it is to be human, and in keeping with the Russian setting (Russia has shown it leads the way in diversity in this regard), Aleksandr and Sergey the Meerkats could be roped in, and could be a sponsor, and this would be a financial dream come true with spin-off games, toys, books...

What, it won't work? Really? Are the setting and names really that important? Is the cast really that important? Are you telling me that the cast must consist of real human beings? Is the dialogue crucial...? Can't the plot change? But why? Because it'd be a different story? But... but it was meant to be abstract, no? I'm confused...!!!!

Since the setting, names and everything about this caricature showcase is an abstract, why did the current casting happen? Why was this caricature showcase marketed the way it was? Why do the characters sound like caricatures? Why do they have those names that come straight from Gilbert and Sullivan...?

If you, my reader, can come up with any more possibilities to improve this situation, please do share them on Twitter under the hashtag #yellowface.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A response to The Print Room fiasco from a UK theatregoer of Chinese descent

This is the blog post which alerted me to the practice of yellowface by UK-based The Print Room, and here is The Print Room's response after being accused of practising yellowface:

In the Depths of Dead Love is a very simple fable; it is not a play that tells a Chinese story, it is not about Chinese society, culture or perspectives. If it were, the casting would be very different, naturally.

Whilst the characters have been given Chinese names, that is to reference the abstract and the folkloric idea of the universal; we could just as easily be in the metaphorical area of Hans Christian Anderson, or, alternatively, the land of the Brothers Grimm.

It is, in fact a very ‘English’ play and is derived from thoroughly English mores and simply references the mythic and the ancient. It has therefore been cast accordingly.

This dark comedy was first presented by BBC Radio 3 in 2013, supervised by Howard Barker, starring Richard E Grant and Francesca Annis, to great acclaim.

We acknowledge that some publicity materials seem to have permitted the possibility of a misapprehension arising. Print Room remains committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all we do, as our history shows.”

It's traditional in the UK for the very youngest to pretend to be Jewish, Arab, trees, stars, sheep and grass, for adult men to pretend to be women, and for adult women to be little boys at least once a year, and I've seen friends, neighbours and colleagues dress up as all sorts, even fish, for fun. After all, Shakespeare set lots of his plays in lands far, far away from the British Isles, and peopled those plays with characters who originated from those lands, and in his day, there was nothing wrong with men pretending to be women on stage, or for Englishmen to be people of other races and nationalities, all in the name of art. 

But where do fun and art end, and where does racism begin? Why did I, as a UK theatregoer of Chinese descent, feel so riled up about what I had read about The Print Room's production (I will not even mention it!) that I was moved to tweet 20 times in one day?

The Print Room fiasco isn't just about white people acting as 'pretend Chinese people' in a play. This is different. Here we have an instance where someone who has been posited as one of the top playwrights in the UK, someone who is seen as intelligent, an intellectual, creative, imaginative, has spawned 'pretend Chinese people' onto which he has grafted prejudices and bias, and then said nothing when Caucasian actors were cast as those 'pretend Chinese people'. In this same instance, what is even worse is that an institution, The Print Room, has given its blessing to these actions.

'Pretend Chinese people' indeed. You see, to quote The Print Room, 'the characters have been given Chinese names', yet we get 'Lady Hasi' - young, good-looking, suicidal - and oh, doesn't 'Hasi' sound like 'hussy' in Received Pronunciation (which is what most of London's theatreland speaks), plus an oh-so-subtle 'chink' who will do anything for money called 'Chin', who charges money from people to commit suicide in his bottomless well.   


Seriously, telling someone with a Chinese heritage like me that bottomless wells are for suicides is like me telling Anglophones that what lies in the wardrobe isn't Narnia, but death and hellfire and brimstone.

What The Print Room has showcased are not people, or even characters. Put the names, character descriptions, decision to intentionally cast Caucasian actors, and insistence that the work in question is an 'English' play which just so happens to be set in ancient China, together, in this age of the internet where knowledge can be gleaned in seconds, and what is brought to life aren't three-dimensional 'pretend Chinese people', but mean-spirited, sneering, mocking caricatures just like, to be crude and rude, 'darky Sambo who lives in his grass and mud hut in Bongo-Bongo Land and asks "how high?" when Massa say "Jump!"' for black people, and Shakespeare's Shylock for Jewish people. 

Aladdin, on the other hand, can be described as 'the story of a poor boy who finds magic which helps him get a kingdom and a princess. It just so happens that he is Chinese because the story is set in China and Chinese people live in China.' That is the difference.

I've always told everyone I know that the UK isn't a racist country, and while it isn't Utopia, it isn't as bad as elsewhere. Dressing up as Michael Jackson for fun whilst respecting his considerable talents, and dressing up as Michael Jackson to satirise/mock the way he sang and danced and looked, is not the same as dressing up as Michael Jackson to mock/bully him/black people in general because he was black and 'black people need to be put in their place'. If my white friends and colleagues and the people around me, including my family, 'the man on the street', can understand this and change their behaviour accordingly, I am at a loss to see how The Print Room missed this completely. The wallies at The Print Room have given white people a bad name, and seriously, I think I might have jumped to the wrong conclusion if it weren't for my white family, friends and colleagues.

What does this say about UK (or maybe London's) theatre and its ability to connect with the man on the street if there is such a dissonance? And what of the brightest creative and imaginative stars the UK has to offer...?

The UK is a country of many different races and faces. Perhaps UK theatre should start by showing this. 

Hmm, I'll stop now.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Why I Think AirChina's Advice on Safety in London is not Racist

As usual, I have been the last to know of some of my fellow Londoners' reaction to the above photo. They say that it's racist.

Well, my fellow Londoners who think it's racist, what you are all seeing is a mistake and a mis-translation, and AirChina, you should find out who greenlit this translation, and sack them.

I write this with confidence because what the bit in Chinese actually says is this:
                'Although London as a whole is very safe to travel in, some areas where Indians and Pakistanis congregate, and some areas where black people congregate, are relatively more disorganised. It is best not to travel alone, and women especially should travel accompanied, in London as a whole at night.'

Note where I have put italics, and emboldened the italics. The beauty of the Chinese language is that it is a completely different language to the English language. Take it from this bilingual British Chinese/British East Asian: I'm telling you, my fellow Londoners who think this is racist, that what I read in Chinese does not match the English translation, which is a piss-poor translation.

Having said that, Mayor Khan, AirChina is right to give their advice to Chinese travellers. Although I find London a much nicer city than, say, Manchester or Vienna (Vienna, one of the low points of my life in travel, a place where someone I can only describe as a 'tosser' actually exposed himself and spanked his monkey in front of my mum, so I had to point her in the direction of a giant bronze of a two-headed eagle, and thankfully, she got too engrossed by the two-headed eagle to give a toss about the tosser), I wouldn't walk in London as a whole alone at night, especially with my Chinese face.

As a Londoner, I find the catcalls, lunges and shouts ignorant and annoying at best, but as someone who has friends who are Chinese/East Asian and/or not proficient in English (or even a particular British accent), the catcalls, shouts and lunges can be threatening at the worst.

This feeling of being in a place, and of feeling wary that the calmness I see in the non-East Asian (of every colour, I am sorry to say) across me or next to me will suddenly escalate into something else (and this is not an if, but when) despite keeping to myself, is a feeling that I think someone who has a non-East Asian face in a Western country, or an East Asian face in an East-Asian majority country, will never understand. I have found myself in situations where I'm just walking past someone, and they will change into a monster at the snap of the fingers, simply because they don't like my face. I have learned to spot the signs of the monster's appearance, and defend myself, but I hope you, my reader, will never experience what I have sometimes felt, because it does put one on a knife-edge.

The question we should be asking isn't how such a lousy translation got published, but why AirChina felt it was right to give this advice in the Chinese language in the first place. Sadly, I agree with what AirChina has done, but I do hope that Chinese visitors will not be put off from visiting London, or the UK, as London's actually quite a great place to visit :-) 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Why I absolutely hated the 2016 remake of 'Are You Being Served' (warning: contains spoilers!)

This is more a rant than a review about the revival of 'Are You Being Served' ('AYBS'), so it contains spoilers; you know where to look if you don't want to know these!

The 'AYBS' revival happened to be on the telly, and I watched it without knowing that it was a remake. The penny dropped when I saw that Mrs Slocombe seemed to have had a facelift, Mr Humphries' voice had changed, and Captain Peacock had put on a few pounds (this, by the way, is what happens when you return to Planet Media after coming off the internet and other news outlets for a while - you don't know that a remake's happening). I decided to stick on out of sheer horror (I LOVE horror stories) at what I perceive to be laziness from the BBC at coming up with new ideas, and out of apprehension on seeing that the remake was set in the 1980s (thus surviving the existential crisis that was triggered by asking myself if I had been imagining that 'AYBS' was set in the 1970s, and I had my fears assuaged when my parents assured me that they were wondering the same, too).

I didn't mind Mr Conway joining the show, but I did wonder where Mr Lucas was. With all the silvers around him, Mr Lucas was the only reason I watched the original, and with the present-day politicking about black and white working-class boys going on, I hoped that poor Mr Lucas hadn't been replaced with Mr Conway out of political correctness, and that what I was supposing existed solely in my head and in the imaginations of the crackpots who remade 'AYBS', and not in real life.

The actor who played Mr Conway, as well as all the other actors, especially the chap who was Mr Humphries, Beta Edition, did a very good job, but it is such a crying shame that their talents were wasted on this. I now, however, have a new respect for actors, and I do wonder that since the original actors made the original 'AYBS' come alive by using certain behaviours and mannerisms which the new actors, in order to pass the remake of 'AYBS' as 'AYBS', had to learn and mimic, doesn't this mean that actors of iconic characters (and their relatives/estate/whatever) should have some sort of right to stop producers and directors from asking new actors to copy behaviours and mannerisms which make characters special? So I am torn, because although I do admire the actors of the remake for their bravery, respect for the original performances and talent, and for tackling the script the way they did, I think that what the BBC has done has been very, very, VERY disrespectful to the original actors. I find this remake not just a huge step backwards in the world of comedy, but an insult to the original actors and their creativity.

Whilst the original 'AYBS' was a 1970s show set in the 1970s, and therefore mirrored real life at the time (that is part of its appeal and charm; you know that you are catching a glimpse of what people were really like back then), this remake is just a story which has nothing to offer. Whatever the BBC has to say about what life was like in the 1980s should have been said in the 1980s; it's 2016 now and frankly, a bit late for that.

Something good did come out of the remake, though. I had been too young back in the day to appreciate the minutiae of the original 'AYBS', and I found myself asking my parents what Mr Grainger had around his shoulders and why (it was a tape measurer, they said, for measuring, and I asked why a measurer and tape measuring were needed back then, which started a whole conversation which could be a sitcom in itself, I guess).

But this saving grace wasn't enough, and I found myself  wondering what else my licence fee is being used for. Frankly, the BBC should and could have given someone a chance to create an entirely new sitcom, which could've been set in the 1970s if that's what was needed but please, leave the established universe of 'AYBS' alone, and let Mrs Slocombe's pussy continue to lie and be the prize-winner it already is.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Most Annoying Vote, Ever

From what I have seen and heard from the politicians so far, they've failed me.

Remain: Our economy will shrivel faster than a walnut in saltwater if Britain pulls out of the EU and therefore pulls out of the European single market! *At the risk of reminding you about your geopolitics, have a look at Norway...*

Leave: We must lower the numbers of unskilled European immigrants entering Britain, and allow more skilled folks from the Commonwealth through! Look at French Nigel, his latest poster, his German wife, his Turkish political mate who's admitted his blondness comes from a bottle, and Greek Prince Philip, and tell poor old Chinese me whether it really is Europeans the Leave camp want to keep out.

British politicians didn't look into their children's and grandchildren's futures for this referendum, and after watching David Cameron on Question Time, I think they don't even care about what happens afterwards. All they want is to win an argument. At least that's sorted.

But I could be wrong.

Maybe it's not the politicians we should be cross with, but the media, and those so-called 'experts' who, I am willing to bet, have worked out a way to see what's on the dark side of the moon, or, for that matter, their own backsides.

So I am going to ignore them. 

Who would I prefer as my parliamentary representative: a European MP who I haven't voted for, or a British MP who I haven't voted for? Who would I prefer as my grandchildren's parliamentary representative?

Based on the rhetoric I'm hearing, it's a hard, hard decision. But no matter how I'll vote in the EU Referendum this Thursday, the sun will come out, tomorrow, etc, and whatever will be, will be, and that's why it's The Most Annoying Vote, Ever. I'll bet it's like looking forward to eating scrummy, crispy, golden, fried chicken wings, only to discover that the chicken wings are limp and oily because they were fried the night before. I'll bet the reaction will be a massive 'Meh? Is that it?' by Friday evening, and everyone will carry on, and whinge that it's raining in June. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A blog post written on a gut reaction

I was shocked when a black friend identified with ‘The Black Prayer’ by Anonymous. I was shocked that ‘The Black Prayer’ even exists. I wrote my own answer because I wish it didn't.

Beanie Lei’s Answer To ‘"The Black Prayer" by Anonymous’

I can’t speak for God, and I won’t even try
The voice you’ll hear is my own
I feel it’s wrong to hear you cry
Because you’re black, you’re alone.

There’s everything right about ‘black’
Black’s just another colour
But weirdos use ‘white versus black’ to attack
Those people who they call ‘the other’.

If there is day without night
We would lose track of time
Without black ink, we would lose sight
of words and rhythm and rhyme.

Just as we know that a shadow
Is a place where one finds cool shade
From the fury of white hot heat, I know
You’re Graciousness portrayed.

Your hair and nose and cheeks
Are beautiful, like you
And whites tan themselves, sometimes for weeks
For the colour your parents gave you.

Diamonds are formed from much pressure
They were black coals that didn’t burn out
But turned tough, into colourless treasure
And that’s what you are, I’ve no doubt!

This is ‘"The Black Prayer" by Anonymous’ I’m referring to. I didn’t write it. 

Cheers, Beanie x

‘The Black Prayer’ by Anonymous
This is deep, so take your time.

Why Did You Make Me Black Lord
Lord... Why did you make me black?
Why did you make someone
the world would hold back?
Black is the color of dirty clothes,
of grimy hands and feet...
Black is the color of darkness,
of tired beaten streets... Why did you give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you create someone
who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt...
Black is the color of darkness,
black is the color of dirt.

Why is my bone structure so thick,
my hips and cheeks so high?
Why are my eyes brown,
and not the color of the sky?

Why do people think I'm useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do people see my skin
and think I should be abused?

Lord, I just don't understand...
What is it about my skin?
Why is it some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are "Labeled"
when others want to keep them away...
Black is the color of shadows cast...
Black is the end of the day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me,
and you know this just ain't right...
They don't like my hair, they don't like my
skin, as they say I'm too dark or too light!

Lord, don't you think
it's time to make a change?
Why don't you redo creation
and make everyone the same?

God's Reply:

Why did I make you black? Why did I make you black?

I made you in the color of coal
from which beautiful diamonds are formed...
I made you in the color of oil,
the black gold which keeps people warm.

Your color is the same as the rich dark soil
that grows the food you need...
Your color is the same as the black stallion and
panther, Oh what majestic creatures indeed!

All colors of the heavenly rainbow
can be found throughout every nation...
When all these colors are blended,
you become my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb's wool,
such a beautiful creature is he...
I am the shepherd who watches them,
I will ALWAYS watch over thee!

You are the color of the midnight sky,
I put star glitter in your eyes...
There's a beautiful smile hidden behind your pain...
That's why your cheeks are so high!

You are the color of dark clouds
from the hurricanes I create in September...
I made your lips so full and thick,
so when you kiss...they will remember!

Your stature is strong,
your bone structure thick to withstand the
burden of time...
The reflection you see in the mirror,
that image that looks back, that is MINE!

So get off your knees,
look in the mirror and tell me what you see?
I didn't make you in the image of darkness...
I made you in the image of ME!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Dear Max Landis, here's what you missed in your video about 'Ghost in the Shell'

I've tended to ignore debates about race and Hollywood films because people like you, Max Landis, are vocal enough. I've linked to your video because you've made a point, but where the casting of Scarlett Johansson in  'Ghost in the Shell' is concerned, I think you've missed a few others.

Point #1: Max, you didn't mention that 'Ghost in the Shell' is fiction, just like 'James Bond'. So many white actors have played James Bond that it's arguable that 'James Bond' is the codename for 'Secret Agent No. 007 of MI5'. This could be anyone, even a woman (no, Idris, I'm not calling you a woman or likening you to one, but please remember to thank me when you get The Call). After all, it's fiction, right? On that note, Scarlett Johansson's role in 'Ghost' is as a cyborg. Would 'Ghost' be different if her role went to either a man, a transgender person, or a robot?

Point #2: Max, your thoughts on the allegation that CGI was used to make Scarlett Johansson 'look more Asian' in 'Ghost', or that the taping of Caucasian eyes to 'make them look more Asian' actually happened in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and 'Cloud Atlas' would have been welcomed. Do you know what 'look more Asian' means? Are there decision-makers who decide what it means to 'look white' or 'look black' or 'look Asian', or have a set standard of  'acting Asian', or 'acting white', or 'acting black', or 'acting Native American'?  What do you think of Sacha Baron Cohen? Has he set the standard for his acting as 'blackness', 'gay Austrian-ness' and 'Kazakh-ness', and why/why not?

Point #3: Max, you forgot to mention that just as most white people don't look like oil paintings, most East Asian people don't look like scroll paintings or manga. All humans don't look like paintings or drawings of any sort because we are three-dimensional and we have urbanisation, industrialisation, improved nutrition, new ways of using makeup, and good cameras. We don't even need surgery to look uber-gorgeous anymore.

Point #4: Max, you didn't talk about white adults having to play extreme make-believe games for the sake of money, and what this means for our world. You see, I personally think that Mickey Rooney was a wonderful weirdo in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', Justin was a great ape in 'Dragonball', David Carradine was legendary as a bald wanderer, and Rooney Mara was an inspiring pixie dust spreader in 'Pan'. I am particularly grateful to these white actors for doing what they did, because they took one for the team and helped to stop struggling Native American and Asian-American members of their fraternity from looking and acting like complete and utter prats.

Point #5: Max, you blamed 'the system' for creating the Scarlett Johansson Ghost in the Shell fiasco, but as a writer in Hollywood, what part do you play? Why did 'Ghost in the Shell' have to come from Japan? Why didn't you or your mates come up with 'Ghost in the Shell'? Did 'Ghost in the Shell' have to come from Japan to be marketable? Does a marketable idea from the Far East always have to involve a make-believe East Asian female whose femininity is central to her identity (can a man play her? Why/why not?)? Given as the current President of South Korea is a woman, while Hilary Clinton gets horrid comments for being female, and Donald Trump gets away with making nasty comments about females, is Hollywood out of touch?

For your next big idea, where will you and your mates be looking?


B x

Monday, 8 February 2016

My first Chinese New Year blog post!

If you're looking for a blog post about Chinese New Year and its customs, then sorry, you aren't getting that. But if you're looking for a good excuse to change your New Year's Resolution(s), then you've come to the right place.

Ever since I discovered that an accident in biology and environment meant that I could indulge in two New Year's Days, I've made New Year's Resolutions every 31st of December, tweaked these until the arrival of the Chinese New Year, and then followed the ones I could keep until the next 31st of December. It makes keeping New Year's Resolutions so easy!

This year, however, I have decided to dispense with my tried-and-tested method by adding in New Year's Resolutions to replace the ones I have decided not to keep.

This came about after I went shopping for drinks. Now, when I buy something that screams that it's an elderflower-containing drink, I expect elderflower in my drink. It was only after I'd drunk some of it and wondered why it didn't taste of elderflower that I read this:

My drink contained apple juice. Apple juice which I didn't buy willingly. Apple juice which I would have preferred to drink neat, not diluted with Mexican lime. I have nothing against Mexican things, but I do have a problem with adding any sort of lime to my apple juice.

My morello cherry drink fared better - at least it contained this:

This made me wonder: if the other 95% of the drink is not morello cherry, then why does the label look like this:

So once I discarded some New Year's Resolutions I couldn't keep, I decided on these two: 1. to drink alternatives to these drinks and 2. to take time to read every label on every bit of food before I buy my food.

And if you're wondering, I wish I could say I was in Neverland, but no, I'm in a first world country called the UK.

Why is this allowed here in the UK? Why have we allowed ourselves to be sold lies about what we put into ourselves? Why are we consumers so lazy and trusting?

Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year (if you celebrate it) and if you don't, enjoy the fireworks!


Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Real Problem with This Year's Oscars

2016 has only just begun, but there already is plenty about race, gender, diversity and the Anglo-American arts scene to chew over. Take your pick from the whiteness of this year's Oscars to a UK literary festival dedicated to non-white authors and the online furore following an interview a white-male journalist had with the first Sino-British-female winner of the T S Elliot prize for poetry.

I am writing from the point of view of someone who is not part of the Anglo-American arts scene. When I say 'Anglo-American', I mean 'UK, US and English-language', 'arts scene' encompasses the worlds of literature and film, and 'not part of' means that I get my bread and butter from elsewhere.

From where I stand, the problem isn't institutionalised racism. In other words, I used to think that Hollywood and the world of Anglo-American literature Favoured the White Man of a Certain Class, but I don't think that anymore. Rather, I think that the gatekeepers of the Anglo-American arts scene are out of touch with the people who are not part of the Anglo-American arts scene.

These gatekeepers want profit. Of course they would; they are in business. But in doing what they do, they have created a set of Boxes that Must Be Ticked In Order To Create a Blockbuster.

When I watch a Hollywood movie, I usually find the following:
 -the darkest black man (if in a group with whites/paler blacks) dies first
-any black man, even if he looks good in a suit, can't be Indiana Jones or James Bond
-the Arab man is a terrorist
-the man from the Indian subcontinent (because they are all the same in Hollywood) speaks with a head wiggle and a singsong accent
-the white non-Jewish girl must have a white man to rescue her, or otherwise show that she's boss by being so good at what she does that no white man can dethrone her
-the older white non-Jewish woman is defined by her relationships and their calibre and not by her intellectual capacity
-the Asian / Oriental from the US man never gets the white girl (if he does, he dies)
-Mexican = Latino = Hispanic = Spanglish = ghetto/gangster/gardener/maid
-the Asian / Oriental woman, no matter where she is from, is either a mysterious martial arts expert with mind-blowing bedroom skills or submissive with mind-blowing bedroom skills
-the Asian / Oriental guy from the Far East = North Korean = Chinese = Jet Li-sort of chap if he's bad and Jackie Chan if he's good.

Do you think white actors in Hollywood films have it easy? They don't, because their characters usually follow these rules:
-Young + American accent + light coloured hair and eyes = hero/main character who is inexperienced and/or stupid and muscly and needs help to succeed
-Young + American accent + dark hair and eyes = hero/main character who is clever and reedy and had a hard childhood/youth and needs help to succeed
-old/middle-aged + American accent = US President/boss (good guy in distress) + a deputy (stupid, power-crazy and bad)
-Jewish = clever and good (Jewish women, on the other hand, come across as worriers if they aren't mothers and overprotective of their offspring if they are mothers) / survivors of the Holocaust
-Russian = clever and bad
-German = stupid and bad and/or Nazi
-British stiff upper lip = clever and bad and megalomaniac; dies or is imprisoned
-Cockney = stupid and good and a survivor
-Italian = you can tell by the accent plus pizza, restaurant and mobster neighbour
-Irish = you can tell by the accent plus shoes, bullying attitude and loutish behaviour
-tweenie + American accent = precocious 
-tweenie + British accent = Harry Potter/a wizard
-non-Italian/non-Irish/non-British/non-Russian/non-German/non-Jewish European = MIA

If fictional characters must follow those rules, what else can we expect from the storylines and worlds such characters inhabit? 

It's all getting predictable, baby, so predictable that Joss Whedon, when he's writing a script for a film, can generate rules which detail what needs to happen and when, and put his rules into practice.

And let's not get started on Anglo-American literature. This has been happening for a while now, and I wasn't surprised by last year's success of Yi Fen Chou. It just isn't possible for a human being to speak good English and be female and Chinese and a happy bunny and comfortable in her own skin. To be authentic, this human must be a female, must tok pigeon and must be unhappy and unsettled because she's either torn between her Chinese immigrant background and her Anglo-American environment, or she has a mother who's torn between her Chinese immigrant background and Anglo-American environment. If she's willing to be authentic, she's an author, she's marketable, she's publishable.

Why does Malorie Blackman remain the only black science-fiction author of note? Why does she have to write about race and being black, and why is a made-up world where blacks hold power classed as 'science-fiction' as opposed to 'fiction'? Why can't Malorie write about spaceships and the challenges of building them?

Why can't Tom Clancy write a gothic romance, Lee Child chick lit, or Neil Gaiman a historical story, without any supernatural and fantastic elements, about black slaves?

Is it because these authors aren't good enough? Or is it because 'it won't be authentic', and therefore, 'unmarketable'?


The Anglo-American publishing industry isn't racist and sexist. It doesn't aim to silence an author, and neither does it favour a group because that group is 'powerful'. It doesn't care about your authenticity and your story. All it wants is profit. It must create Blueprints For a Bestseller which force an author to write about certain topics because 'that's what the readers want'.

That's why there's Monica ALI and 'Brick Lane', 'mixed race' ZADIE Smith and 'multicultural-London' 'White-Teeth'.

That's why Joanne has to be JK Rowling as well as Robert Galbraith. She can't be a children's author whose main character is a boy because boys apparently won't read books about boys who were created by women, and frankly now, she can't write about grisly murders if she's a children's author and female, can she?

Does the blame for this predictability, whether in Anglo-American film or literature, lie with  gatekeepers? Or are we consumers really as shallow as gatekeepers say we are?

As a consumer, I am willing to try anything, so for that reason, I blame the gatekeepers of Anglo-American arts for restricting my diet. All I can say, gatekeepers, is that you will only have yourselves to blame if you kill creativity and originality for the sake of fattening your profits.

Let Joanne write the next 'Fifty Shades' as 'JK Rowling'. Let Idris Elba be James Bond. Whether I'll buy it or not is up to me.