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Author Topic: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon  (Read 28996 times)

BlueMark

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« on: 01 Mar 2011, 19:16 »

Point taken, though I've never seen firefly nor am I multilingual so I shall take your word for it.

Oh you lucky lucky bastard.

Go out and get the Series DVD set. And watch them straight though in their proper order. Followed by the movie Serenity.

No excuses, just do it.

Lucky lucky bastard.
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DoomMagnet

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #1 on: 01 Mar 2011, 21:09 »

I Frequent TV Tropes ...

Willingly? 


Really?!?

 :laugh:
Yes willingly, and yes really. Its interesting stuff. Good time waster.

Point taken, though I've never seen firefly nor am I multilingual so I shall take your word for it.

Oh you lucky lucky bastard.

Go out and get the Series DVD set. And watch them straight though in their proper order. Followed by the movie Serenity.

No excuses, just do it.

Lucky lucky bastard.

Is it okay to simply download them? My friend obsesed over them for a small, though he has had some bad taste so... how good/bad is it?
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mllerustad

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #2 on: 01 Mar 2011, 22:24 »

Quote from: DoomMagnet
Point taken, though I've never seen firefly nor am I multilingual so I shall take your word for it.

Oh you lucky lucky bastard.

Go out and get the Series DVD set. And watch them straight though in their proper order. Followed by the movie Serenity.

No excuses, just do it.

Lucky lucky bastard.

Is it okay to simply download them? My friend obsesed over them for a small, though he has had some bad taste so... how good/bad is it?

If you must, but they're worth paying for. Some of the best characters and writing ever seen on television. Hopefully after watching you will agree. :)
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Odin

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #3 on: 02 Mar 2011, 04:39 »

Quote from: DoomMagnet
*crap about Firefly*

If you must, but they're worth paying for. Some of the best characters and writing ever seen on television. Hopefully after watching you will agree. :)

They are not worth paying for. The show features some of the worst cliched writing ever by Joss Whedon and the only reason anyone still thinks the show is good is because it was canceled long before the normal idiocy Whedon pulls in every single thing he writes had a chance to crop up (seriously, Google up and check some of the concepts for the show Whedon was planning on before it got canceled, like the quasi-incest sub-plot in Season 2 between Simon and River *shudder*).

The show survives purely on the magnificent casting job that was done for each character and the acting chops they each brought to their roles. I mean, you have Adam Baldwin basically reprising his Animal Mother role from Full Metal Jacket IN SPACE, which is pretty funny, but still not worth buying.

Borrow it or rent it, don't buy it.

frogfactory

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #4 on: 02 Mar 2011, 05:36 »

Quote from: DoomMagnet
*crap about Firefly*

If you must, but they're worth paying for. Some of the best characters and writing ever seen on television. Hopefully after watching you will agree. :)

They are not worth paying for. The show features some of the worst cliched writing ever by Joss Whedon and the only reason anyone still thinks the show is good is because it was canceled long before the normal idiocy Whedon pulls in every single thing he writes had a chance to crop up (seriously, Google up and check some of the concepts for the show Whedon was planning on before it got canceled, like the quasi-incest sub-plot in Season 2 between Simon and River *shudder*).

The show survives purely on the magnificent casting job that was done for each character and the acting chops they each brought to their roles. I mean, you have Adam Baldwin basically reprising his Animal Mother role from Full Metal Jacket IN SPACE, which is pretty funny, but still not worth buying.

Borrow it or rent it, don't buy it.



+1.  I found it pretty much unwatchable.  Whedon's typical pseudofeminism and squicky approach to gender politics are turned up to eleven on this show.  He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).  It's like he's never actually met a woman, judging by his writing.

One of the things I like about QC is that Jeph doesn't fall into this trap.
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Odin

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« Reply #5 on: 02 Mar 2011, 06:25 »

+1.  I found it pretty much unwatchable.  Whedon's typical pseudofeminism and squicky approach to gender politics are turned up to eleven on this show.  He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).  It's like he's never actually met a woman, judging by his writing.

One of the things I like about QC is that Jeph doesn't fall into this trap.

I will admit that I can watch Jewel Staite eat strawberries all day long, though.

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #6 on: 02 Mar 2011, 10:09 »

+1.  I found it pretty much unwatchable.  Whedon's typical pseudofeminism and squicky approach to gender politics are turned up to eleven on this show.  He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).  It's like he's never actually met a woman, judging by his writing.

One of the things I like about QC is that Jeph doesn't fall into this trap.

I find it interesting that you link to OTI given that the site has an exposé (based around Dollhouse, admittedly) about how Whedon isn't a bad feminist, and in general seems to like Firefly.

I also am very willing to bet there's at least half of the internet that disagrees with you on that last little note. Why, we could start with how every major female character in QC thus far has a mental disorder and can't be in a stable relationship without therapy. We could start. But I'd rather not. ;)

(note: I am not saying Jeph has never met a woman or can't write female characters for God's sake no. I am saying you can find sexism if you look hard enough and also distort the lens through which Jeph intends you to see the comic. You can also do this with Firefly! Or pretty much any other beloved mass media thing.)


They are not worth paying for. The show features some of the worst cliched writing ever by Joss Whedon and the only reason anyone still thinks the show is good is because it was canceled long before the normal idiocy Whedon pulls in every single thing he writes had a chance to crop up (seriously, Google up and check some of the concepts for the show Whedon was planning on before it got canceled, like the quasi-incest sub-plot in Season 2 between Simon and River *shudder*).

The show survives purely on the magnificent casting job that was done for each character and the acting chops they each brought to their roles. I mean, you have Adam Baldwin basically reprising his Animal Mother role from Full Metal Jacket IN SPACE, which is pretty funny, but still not worth buying.

Borrow it or rent it, don't buy it.

I'm gonna have to disagree with you pretty fuckin' strongly on it being Whedon's worst writing, but, whatever, opinions. I do think there's some credence to the fact that part of the reason everyone loves Firefly is because it didn't get a chance to go downhill; the plot was wide open on the last episode, the mystery of River was compelling, and people like to dream "what could have been". I actually thought Serenity, while a fun popcorn movie, was a huge disappointment compared to the series.

Honestly, the fact that it's still one of the best sci-fi shows to ever air is kind of sad, because it speaks to the fact that TV writers just cannot do speculative fiction for some reason.

But it's a lot of fun, and the DVD set is cheap as fuck, so it's not like you're dropping huge amounts of money or anything.
« Last Edit: 02 Mar 2011, 10:35 by Dr. ROFLPWN »
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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #7 on: 02 Mar 2011, 11:57 »

Okay, this comic made me sign up, because all I can think of when looking at the second panel is the chibi-AnthroPC's comment about live eels.  :-P

If this isn't a one shot joke, I can see Hanners explaining her dream, and Marigold getting upset/depressed because it sounds like she's saying she thinks it would be a nightmare to be living her (Marigold's) life. Marigold needs some self confidence booster shots, stat.


They are not worth paying for. The show features some of the worst cliched writing ever by Joss Whedon and the only reason anyone still thinks the show is good is because it was canceled long before the normal idiocy Whedon pulls in every single thing he writes had a chance to crop up (seriously, Google up and check some of the concepts for the show Whedon was planning on before it got canceled, like the quasi-incest sub-plot in Season 2 between Simon and River *shudder*).

The show survives purely on the magnificent casting job that was done for each character and the acting chops they each brought to their roles. I mean, you have Adam Baldwin basically reprising his Animal Mother role from Full Metal Jacket IN SPACE, which is pretty funny, but still not worth buying.

Borrow it or rent it, don't buy it.



Are you saying that the only reason people still like Firefly is because they never got to see what might have happened in the next season(s)? I may be alone here, but isn't it better to critique a show, or any artistic creation, by what was actually put forth, rather than what was conceptualized? Condemning a creative fiction because the storyboarding has not been to your liking pretty much stomps on a creator's ability to learn and grow as an writer. To put it another way, I don't believe there are bad creative ideas, only ideas that help you be more creative.

I know you probably didn't mean to say that this was the only reason it was bad (you mentioned cliched writing which, yes, it does, in my case it didn't detract from my enjoyment very much but I respect your opinion that it does). I hope you'll agree with me though that the finished product shouldn't be judged by the outline, or even the rough draft.
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cabbagehut

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« Reply #8 on: 02 Mar 2011, 15:11 »


+1.  I found it pretty much unwatchable.  Whedon's typical pseudofeminism and squicky approach to gender politics are turned up to eleven on this show.  He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).  It's like he's never actually met a woman, judging by his writing.

One of the things I like about QC is that Jeph doesn't fall into this trap.

That's one of my favorite things about QC, too.  The women in this comic often sound like people I know - especially 20-something women.  They make jokes about periods and farts and make media references.  I like that.  Even if I don't always like the storyline or the characters or whatever, it still feels genuine, and not just total cheesecake or fantasy fulfillment. 

I don't personally care for Whedon's writing, but I know a lot of people really like him.  I'm clearly missing something, but I don't know what it is.
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Odin

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Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #9 on: 02 Mar 2011, 18:15 »

Are you saying that the only reason people still like Firefly is because they never got to see what might have happened in the next season(s)?

No, I'm saying the only reason people still like Firefly is because they don't pay attention to what they've just watched (or in the case of the hardcore fans, they completely ignore the insanity in Whedon's commentaries about the moronic things he wanted to do in the show but Fox stopped him from doing before getting tired of his shit and canceling the show). Basically, I liked Firefly right up until the point I decided to watch it more than once. The show just does not hold up well on repeat viewings (where actually paying attention to what is going on makes everything fall apart).

Firefly was the perfect storm of great actors (excluding Summer Glau, because seriously, she is a one-bit actress with no range whatsoever), interesting world concept and possible storylines and wonderful soundtrack direction (outside of that fucking lame opening theme), but fucked up in the head creator at the helm that is essentially a friendlier version of Kevin Smith in terms of how much he knows about directing other people. He couldn't decide what to make Firefly outside of the very basic outlines put down in the pilot episodes and it shows.

Akima

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #10 on: 02 Mar 2011, 21:58 »

:police: Why did this thread suddenly start talking about Firefly? That's one hack of a tangent. Pull over immediately.  :police:
It's my fault. I can rarely resist an opportunity to slam Firefly for its ignorant and pointless ripping off of Chinese language and culture. And the fact that only one East Asian actor was given any lines. In one episode in the entire series. In a minor role. As a prostitute. Yes, I am prejudiced by Firefly's neo-colonialist (to put it generously) attitude that "stuff" from China, Japan etc. is cool (though not so much that they get it right of course), but the people are not. The show's other failings, such as the lazy, clichéd world-building and too-cute-to-be-true dialogue, bother me less.

I may be alone here, but isn't it better to critique a show, or any artistic creation, by what was actually put forth, rather than what was conceptualized?
What a refreshing and excellent idea! My experience of Browncoats is that, if they can be brought to accept that Firefly has any flaws at all, their usual cop-out is that if the show hadn't been cancelled by nasty old Fox, Whedon would somehow have "fixed" the problems in later episodes. Judge the work by the work; the creator by his creation.

Edit: I moved this over from the comic thread, because I stupidly posted it there after the Moderator had moved everything else here. My bad.
« Last Edit: 02 Mar 2011, 22:02 by Akima »
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Is it cold in here?

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #11 on: 02 Mar 2011, 23:29 »

In xkcd 561, the Well of Uncomfortable Truths points out Firefly was oddly short of Chinese characters.

EDIT: the thing I could never make sense of is that the Caucasian characters cussed in (what was intended to be) Chinese. That would imply that Chinese was their first language, but there was never any other evidence of that.
« Last Edit: 03 Mar 2011, 00:04 by Is it cold in here? »
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ayvah

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #12 on: 03 Mar 2011, 00:25 »

Hey guys, I've been a fan of QC for some time now, and I thought I'd check out the forums.

Personally, I'm a big fan of Firefly. I can't really say I'm a fan of shows like Buffy or Angel. I did have a Buffy phase when the series was brand new, but in the long run I felt the shows were unconvincing. Vampires weren't very well developed overall, Spike was an interesting character but his character arc made no sense, etc. Regardless, I respect what it did as an artform. When it was made, it was still unexpected to have a romance plot between a vampire and a human. It generated a massive fandom based not just around the strong female lead, but around the dynamics between the characters. I haven't really seen much of Whedon's newer stuff, but I'm willing to give it a shot when I can get around to it.

I understand some of you don't enjoy Firefly, but geez, lay off the hyperbole. Why spend all this energy hating Firefly when you could spend it hating something worthwhile, like Two and a Half Men?

Quote
He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).

Um... Yeah. Marge Simpson? Lucille Ball? Belle from Beauty and the Beast? The definition seems kind of subjective. Realistically, it feels like you're arguing that Whedon writes "female weak characters", when your point is that he writes weak characters in general. That's definitely not a point I agree with.

Quote
the only reason anyone still thinks the show is good is because it was canceled long before the normal idiocy

It is definitely true that one of the things I like about Firefly is that it ended. I would have liked for it to have lasted longer, but one of the main reasons I've tended to prefer anime over American TV shows is that they tend to have an ending. American TV shows either get cancelled half way through an arc, or they just keep on going for so long that they jump the shark and I just stop caring. I remember enjoying the first season of Heroes, but due to their poor planning, the subsequent seasons have been so awful that I just can't stand to watch any of it anymore.

Regardless, Whedon's general skill as a writer is irrelevant. Some of the best parts of Firefly were actually put in thanks to executive meddling (the prostitute Inara is an example). Writers don't exist in a vacuum. If he eventually releases a second season, then we can judge that second season for what it is. As it stands, we have a bunch of episodes that were to a standard much higher than much of what I have seen produced for television, even though it still has plenty of flaws.

Quote
Yes, I am prejudiced by Firefly's neo-colonialist (to put it generously) attitude that "stuff" from China, Japan etc. is cool (though not so much that they get it right of course), but the people are not.
You're really reading too much into it. Watch some foreign films and you'll find a mirror image of the same problem. Evangelion has Nerv, an organisation with deep international ties, including close ties to the US. It's tasked with protecting the entire planet from attack and yet all the key personnel are Japanese. Foreign (especially German) references abound but the closest they get to a foreign character is someone who's 1/4 German played by an actress who couldn't pronounce German to save her life. I don't think that means we should accuse it of racism, even though it could certainly do better.

Actually, one TV series I thought was really interesting was Legend of the Seeker. It was an American TV series, but like Hercules it was made in New Zealand. While the main character were played by Americans, practically every other actor was drawn from the local pool of actors. This meant it had a high proportion of Maori actors, and most of the actors had New Zealand accents. I loved that about the show. But my point is, when working to a budget, you have to consider whether your priority is to get actors who can perform well in the role, or actors who "look" right for the role.

Most of the actors in Firefly were actors who'd worked with Whedon in Buffy or Angel in the past and had demonstrated themselves to be capable actors. Personally, I think this show was more progressive to show an interest in Chinese culture than Charlie's Angels was for casting an actress of Asian descent.
« Last Edit: 03 Mar 2011, 00:44 by ayvah »
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frogfactory

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #13 on: 03 Mar 2011, 01:14 »



He writes a lot of strong female characters, and no female strong characters (see: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/).

Um... Yeah. Marge Simpson? Lucille Ball? Belle from Beauty and the Beast? The definition seems kind of subjective. Realistically, it feels like you're arguing that Whedon writes "female weak characters", when your point is that he writes weak characters in general. That's definitely not a point I agree with.
[/quote]

Well, no.  Joss Whedon is a bad writer full stop.  However, it's the way he writes women that is incredibly uncomfortable to watch.  For the record, I wouldn't necessarily argue that Belle is a well-written female character, but Marge generally is.
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Akima

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #14 on: 03 Mar 2011, 02:25 »

You're really reading too much into it. Watch some foreign films and you'll find a mirror image of the same problem. Evangelion has Nerv, an organisation with deep international ties, including close ties to the US. It's tasked with protecting the entire planet from attack and yet all the key personnel are Japanese. Foreign (especially German) references abound but the closest they get to a foreign character is someone who's 1/4 German played by an actress who couldn't pronounce German to save her life.
I have only seen a few episodes of Evangelion, and only in English re-dubs, so I don't claim to be expert, but I never got the impression that the makers tried to pretend that their imaginary world was a fusion of Japanese and German culture. I don't recall the non-part-German characters scattering their dialogue with gratuitous German swearing, or remember badly-written German signs posted in shops etc. I don't mind Creator Provincialism in TV; Godzilla always attacks Tokyo, Dr. Who aliens always attack England, America always saves the day. The offensive thing about Firefly is that it claims to include Chinese language and culture in its world, makes a big deal about it, but then handles it incompetently, and doesn't include Chinese people except in the background. As far as Firefly is concerned, Chinese people have "cool stuff" to appropriate, but nothing to say.

I don't have a problem with any one casting decision in Firefly. On the whole, I think the core cast were pretty good (apart from their inability to master basic Mandarin pronunciation, for which I don't really blame them). It is the cumulative effect of *all* the casting decisions through the entire series, which resulted in one East Asian actor getting a speaking part. A minor role in one episode. I'm not saying half the cast should have been Chinese or anything, but was more than one actor with lines in the entire series too much to expect in Firefly's universe? Apparently, from the Firefly team, yes. Other TV series that do not make a big deal about including Chinese culture in the basic structure of their universe manage to find East Asian actors for significant speaking roles right from the first episode. Star Trek and Hawaii Five-O managed to do it in the 1960's. Joss Whedon and his team couldn't do it more than thirty years later. So much for progress.

Quote
Personally, I think this show was more progressive to show an interest in Chinese culture than Charlie's Angels was for casting an actress of Asian descent.
Charlie's Angels?! Oh WOW! Way to hold Firefly to a high standard! :lol:  The creators of Firefly showed no real interest in Chinese culture at all. They rolled out a bunch of Western stereotypes about a mish-mash East Asian culture as window-dressing, threw in some butchered Chinese language for flavour and family-friendly swearing, and carefully pushed any actual Asian people into the background. Where, it is hard to avoid concluding, they think we belong.
« Last Edit: 03 Mar 2011, 02:30 by Akima »
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Nodaisho

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #15 on: 03 Mar 2011, 02:49 »

Akima, read that last paragraph again. You just accused a large group of people of conspiratorial, malicious racism rather than merely accidental lack of casting diversity. This is why you have the reputation of being that person that only ever posts when she has a chance to yell about racism. It isn't true, I know you post about a lot of other stuff, but the most notable ones are when you do a backflip off the deep end.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #16 on: 03 Mar 2011, 03:32 »

I think we may be asking a lot from a series of which only thirteen episodes were ever made, only nine(?) of which where actually shown during the show's original run.

Firefly didn't depict Modern Chinese or even American culture directly, but used Chinese influence to create a speculative universe in which the human race has abandoned our Solar system and set up a new civilization around a new Sun. Such a process would take centuries, if not millenia. It stands to reason that whatever was left of any cultural heritage would be mangled, mixed up, beaten into submission and burned beyond recognition.

The Chinese culture that Firefly represents is supposed to be different from what exists in the world today.

Firefly was pitched as a "Space Cowboy" series, but you don't see any Native American or Hispanic cultural references, the only cultures that have survived the ordeal that got the Human race to Firefly World are Chinese and American, and in this universe, they have been mooshed together in a way that they are only beginning to be in the real world.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #17 on: 03 Mar 2011, 03:54 »

I think we may be asking a lot from a series of which only thirteen episodes were ever made, only nine(?) of which where actually shown during the show's original run.

Firefly didn't depict Modern Chinese or even American culture directly, but used Chinese influence to create a speculative universe in which the human race has abandoned our Solar system and set up a new civilization around a new Sun. Such a process would take centuries, if not millenia. It stands to reason that whatever was left of any cultural heritage would be mangled, mixed up, beaten into submission and burned beyond recognition.

The Chinese culture that Firefly represents is supposed to be different from what exists in the world today.

Firefly was pitched as a "Space Cowboy" series, but you don't see any Native American or Hispanic cultural references, the only cultures that have survived the ordeal that got the Human race to Firefly World are Chinese and American, and in this universe, they have been mooshed together in a way that they are only beginning to be in the real world.

Right, the only culture that prevails with any notable parallel is that of the Confederate States of America, what with the Malcolm Reynolds (and other characters) spouting Confederate catch phrases on multiple occasions (the most blatant being the "I think we'll rise again" line in one episode where he's ejected from a bar and getting his ass handed to him by the locals).

Hell, if you put any serious analysis to the show, you'll find far more parallels to that racist society than you will to the mythical American-Chinese society fans of the show keep trying to claim it has.

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #18 on: 03 Mar 2011, 07:36 »

That actually always bothered me about the show, even though I like it: if you analyze it purely as a Western, the Alliance is the US, the Independents are the Confederates, and the Reavers were Native Americans.

...yeah some really really unfortunate implications there.


...Um. Anyway! Akron's got some good points.

And honestly part of me is glad it didn't continue, part of me would really like to see the continuation. I worry it'd end up like Battlestar Galactica, though, where the first season is a perfect storm and the seasons proceeding start to fluctuate wildly, so you have episodes that make you honestly invested in the Fleet sandwiched with episodes that just make you want to throw your TV out the window.

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #19 on: 03 Mar 2011, 12:12 »

I said I don't particularly care for the show, but still, if you're interested it can be had on Blu-Ray for $31 on Amazon.com right now (and hopefully give you a better menu interface than the atrocious DVD set).

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #20 on: 03 Mar 2011, 12:59 »

I have only seen a few episodes of Evangelion, and only in English re-dubs, so I don't claim to be expert, but I never got the impression that the makers tried to pretend that their imaginary world was a fusion of Japanese and German culture. I don't recall the non-part-German characters scattering their dialogue with gratuitous German swearing, or remember badly-written German signs posted in shops etc. I don't mind Creator Provincialism in TV; Godzilla always attacks Tokyo, Dr. Who aliens always attack England, America always saves the day. The offensive thing about Firefly is that it claims to include Chinese language and culture in its world, makes a big deal about it, but then handles it incompetently, and doesn't include Chinese people except in the background. As far as Firefly is concerned, Chinese people have "cool stuff" to appropriate, but nothing to say.
Fair enough. It's not a great comparison, but it's something I've watched recently. Regardless, I do feel it's a similar phenomenon as Nerv is run by the UN and it has deep international ties, and there's really no reason why only there should be just one token foreigner. (I should also correct myself regarding Asuka, as she is explained to be 1/4 German, but 1/2 "American" and only 1/4 Japanese.) Naturally, animation is not going to provide the best examples -- considering that making someone foreign is as easy as drawing them that way. (On a related note, it seems to me that the people in QC's new bakery are conspicuously black, as if to make up for the low black presence earlier in the comic.)

Due to the lack of convenient analogies immediately coming to mind, I think I'll just emphasise Legend of the Seeker's use of New Zealand actors because it was in New Zealand.

Regardless, my point with the Charlie's Angels reference is that casting an actress with Asian heritage does not somehow mean they're showing respect to her Asian heritage. That said, I don't think Asian actors should have to be typecast into playing "Asian roles" and vice versa. It is disappointing that Firefly didn't have something resembling an Asian presence, but I can only come to the conclusion that they got unlucky when they got to casting.

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the only culture that prevails with any notable parallel is that of the Confederate States of America

Shows like Star Trek portray the future as a sort of super-America, and the idea here was to portray that in a more morally ambiguous way. I do feel that the story was intended to provide a metaphor to the American civil war and the struggle of ex-Confederates without the spectre of racism. Starship Troopers was a film I enjoyed, which similarly was a metaphor for Nazi Germany without the spectre of racism. I wouldn't accuse either story of having a secret racist agenda.
« Last Edit: 03 Mar 2011, 13:04 by ayvah »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #21 on: 03 Mar 2011, 17:06 »

Was the background Chinese in Firefly wrong, or just different?

In other words, was in in the realm of stupid and careless mistakes, or was it a conceivable variant, as was the show's English?
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #22 on: 03 Mar 2011, 18:02 »

Fair enough. It's not a great comparison, but it's something I've watched recently. Regardless, I do feel it's a similar phenomenon as Nerv is run by the UN and it has deep international ties, and there's really no reason why only there should be just one token foreigner. (I should also correct myself regarding Asuka, as she is explained to be 1/4 German, but 1/2 "American" and only 1/4 Japanese.) Naturally, animation is not going to provide the best examples -- considering that making someone foreign is as easy as drawing them that way. (On a related note, it seems to me that the people in QC's new bakery are conspicuously black, as if to make up for the low black presence earlier in the comic.)

IIRC, the show focused on the Japanese branch of Nerv - I think I remember them mentioning various branches in Germany, China, and the US.  I haven't seen the show in a while, but I was always under the impression that there were a lot of branches of Nerv, and we only got to see the one, which just so happened to have founded the organization and has all the interesting things happen to it.  Correct me if I'm wrong, please!

As for unlucky casting, I don't really believe in the "getting unlucky" thing.  If you want a specific ethnicity, you can find it.  The debacle with The Last Airbender showed that it's pretty easy to whitewash a cast when you feel like it.  The way you word a casting call is important, and if you have the idea that white casts do best, you might choose white actors instead of equally-talented, but non-white actors.  It may not have been important to Whedon to have an East Asian cast member.  He might not have been fully aware of how it looked to other people.  I don't think he was evilly cackling away, going, "MWAR HAR HAR HAR, I SHALL ONLY HAVE THE WHITE PEOPLE IN HERE!", but when you've got so many East Asian influences in your work, it seems weird not to have a single main cast member that's Asian.  Akima makes these points more saliently than I do.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #23 on: 03 Mar 2011, 18:14 »

Was the background Chinese in Firefly wrong, or just different?

In other words, was in in the realm of stupid and careless mistakes, or was it a conceivable variant, as was the show's English?

It was horribly, horribly wrong from the standpoint of someone supposedly reverting to that language when swearing (as one would if it was the first language you learned growing up), and when it comes to languages, horrible mispronunciation in that context is a terribly condemning point against any possibility of realism or whatever you want to call it.

It's akin to the gibberish Indian/"injun" languages you would run across in older westerns and moronic shows like Bonanza.

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #24 on: 03 Mar 2011, 19:03 »

How about the signs in the marketplaces? That's an area Akima flagged as problematic.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #25 on: 03 Mar 2011, 19:43 »

Considering they couldn't even get correct British accents in the characters that had them, the Chinese stuff isn't even in the cards for me.

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #26 on: 03 Mar 2011, 21:39 »

It was horribly, horribly wrong from the standpoint of someone supposedly reverting to that language when swearing (as one would if it was the first language you learned growing up), and when it comes to languages, horrible mispronunciation in that context is a terribly condemning point against any possibility of realism or whatever you want to call it.

As I understand, the Chinese used in Firefly was all quite good on paper, but unfortunately the actors couldn't handle pronouncing it. But it's not alone. This is DEFINITELY a problem in Evangelion and 90% of anime that involve English in any capacity whatsoever. The new Rebuild of Evangelion movies had excellent translations to English, but the actor who played Kaji (the character was apparently fluent in English) mangled it so badly when speaking it, that no one who understands English has any idea what he's saying. Lots of Japanese TV shows, songs and movies love to inject a bit of English here and there, and get it wrong. I'm sure you've all heard of the website Engrish.

I'm not going to get offended by their failure to use English properly. I laugh and I move on. I don't see a need to use my serious face.

IIRC, the show focused on the Japanese branch of Nerv - I think I remember them mentioning various branches in Germany, China, and the US.  I haven't seen the show in a while, but I was always under the impression that there were a lot of branches of Nerv, and we only got to see the one, which just so happened to have founded the organization and has all the interesting things happen to it.  Correct me if I'm wrong, please!

In addition to tender's comments: Nerv originated from the Katsuragi Expedition, which was lead by a Japanese guy who is a father to one of the main characters. They were all employees of Gehirn (a private organisation contracted by the UN). Gendo, who would later be the boss of Gehirn's successor Nerv, was part of the expedition, but left before things turned ugly, with all of the critical research that would later lead to the construction of the Evangelions. Also, they happened to find the geo-front in Japan, leading to the construction of Tokyo-3 (a fortress) in that location.

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As for unlucky casting, I don't really believe in the "getting unlucky" thing.  If you want a specific ethnicity, you can find it.  The debacle with The Last Airbender showed that it's pretty easy to whitewash a cast when you feel like it.

I may have missed the "debacle" you're speaking of, so I might need you to fill me in. I remember there was quite a lot of controversy about the actors not all being Asian, and to an extent I agree, but I don't know whether you're saying they actually did something that specifically limited their ability to choose Asian actors. If so, please elaborate.

Anyway, while I do agree that Avatar didn't do a great job of casting people racially, at the same time I'm cautious because it can be a double-edged sword. After all, you don't have to be Asian to learn karate and I'm wary of casting decisions that help to encourage stereotypes and typecasting, like "All Asians know martial arts". In all honesty, in Avatar, race was never really explored or even mentioned. To an extent, the assumption that Aang was Chinese was slightly racist too. Especially considering there's no China.

But it really was such a bad film to make out of such a groundbreaking TV series.

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I don't think he was evilly cackling away, going, "MWAR HAR HAR HAR, I SHALL ONLY HAVE THE WHITE PEOPLE IN HERE!", but when you've got so many East Asian influences in your work, it seems weird not to have a single main cast member that's Asian.  Akima makes these points more saliently than I do.

Ah, finally we've touched something where my Evangelion reference actually fits a bit better. Eva is littered with Christian and Jewish references, intended to feel exotic to the show's Japanese audience. The UN is also technically in charge. It's the UN military forces who constantly get their arses handed to them by the Angels. Firefly shows a strong interest in Chinese culture, just as Evangelion shows a strong interest in Western culture. Does the fact that Asuka is 3/4 not Japanese make any difference to my perception of the show? Not really.
« Last Edit: 03 Mar 2011, 21:46 by ayvah »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #27 on: 04 Mar 2011, 00:26 »

Thanks for the info on NERV!  I had forgotten so much of that.

As for The Last Airbender thing, the casting calls asked for "caucasian and other races", which puts a preference on the caucasian part.  The East-West Players protested this, along with other groups, saying that it wasn't a fair casting call.  The people who did the casting itself used some less-than-accurate racial terms (not slurs or anything, just some stereotypes).

I'll keep this short so I don't thread-jack, but the creators of the cartoon have specifically stated that the characters are intended to be Asian - you can see it in their world.  The whole thing is basically Asia and some Inuit-inspired characters.  At the very least, they could have cast darker-skinned actors for Katara and Sokka.  The very least.

A site that is clearly biased in my opinion, but has a lot of information is racebending.com, which explains in more detail about the timelines and why people consider it racist.

My arguments on Firefly are weak, since I haven't seen the show.  However, it's my understanding that they actually use the Chinese language and parts of the culture.  It's not just bits and pieces, but an integral part of the story?  That lens, to me, feels different than NGE, which acknowledged a world, but focused on a part of it.  The culture of the UN wasn't important to the story - they're there, but lack the technology to fight Angels, so instead, it's about the company that DOES have the technology.  I should probably bow out of this, because I'm obviously not equipped to make any good arguments!

I could see the haphazardly-used religious imagery bothering people, and I think that's legitimate, but I don't have the theoretical background to really present a case on that.  I do think the religious imagery is different than cultural imagery, though.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #28 on: 04 Mar 2011, 00:58 »

Akima, read that last paragraph again. You just accused a large group of people of conspiratorial, malicious racism rather than merely accidental lack of casting diversity. This is why you have the reputation of being that person that only ever posts when she has a chance to yell about racism. It isn't true, I know you post about a lot of other stuff, but the most notable ones are when you do a backflip off the deep end.
I am fully aware that the makers of Firefly are not the only ones who prefer Chinese people to stay in the background. If people are sufficiently bothered by my comments to resort to misrepresenting my  posting history, it says far more about them than about me.

Speaking of misrepresentation, I made no accusation of conspiracy or malice in my final paragraph. I described what I see on the screen when I watch Firefly. I don't imagine the creators of the show sat around cackling evilly in a dark room when they made the collective decisions that resulted in what appeared on the screen, but I do hold them accountable for the result of those decisions. Television casting decisions are not "accidental". They are made by professional people making choices about what they think is important to put on the screen. The makers of Firefly made choices that put Asian actors and Asian people in the background. I can see that on the screen, because that is what they put there. I don't need to imagine conspiracy or malign intent to think that is a problem. I assume that what the Firefly creative team put on the screen is what they intended, or at least what they thought was "good enough".
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #29 on: 04 Mar 2011, 03:08 »

Was the background Chinese in Firefly wrong, or just different? In other words, was in in the realm of stupid and careless mistakes, or was it a conceivable variant, as was the show's English?
As regards spoken language pronunciation, the Chinese was many orders of magnitude more "variant" (to put it kindly) from modern Standard Mandarin than the show's English was from modern American English. The spoken Chinese is simply bad, and is where the show really falls down in terms of in-world realism and suspension of disbelief. For example, the cast didn't come close to getting the tones right (which is crucial to meaning), or mastering retroflex consonants (notoriously tricky). Their bad pronunciation makes them very hard to understand in places, but you know what? I don't blame them at all. Chinese is difficult for English-speakers, and the actors just didn't have time to learn the sounds. In terms of what was said, rather than how, the record is mixed. Some phrases are correct and idiomatic, some are "dictionary correct" but sound unnatural, some phrases sound like gibberish even on multiple listenings. In at least one episode, some of the "Mandarin" was actually Cantonese.

Written Chinese in Firefly is also a mixed bag. Some is correct. Some is actually Japanese. Sometimes the creators couldn't make their minds up which characters to use and used different ones for the same meaning in different places. In the TV series the ship had 平静 (píng​jìng) painted on the side, while in the movie it was 宁静 (níng​jìng​). The words have slightly different meanings in Chinese, but both can be translated as "Serenity". "Blue Suns" was sometimes written with characters that mean "Green Suns". Then there are the real blunders like characters written back to front, upside down, lying on their sides (particularly on signs with the characters written top-to-bottom, but then hung sideways by the set-dressers, and vice-versa). And some of the characters are just gibberish pseudo-characters as far as I can tell, with no meaning at all.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #30 on: 04 Mar 2011, 06:02 »

I'm no Brownshirt, who probably have developed some long winded thesis about the socio/political/economic evolution of the Firefly 'Verse. But I'd say the Chinese tid-bits spoken are what Joss Whedon thought would be the American mongrelization of Chinese words as they are incorporated into their spoken English. That is how English develops - by borrowing words and imposing English pronunciation and grammar rules (such as they are) on them. Heck, look at what we've done with French words and Native American words.

The Firefly 'Verse is essentially American - the economic fusion with China may have affected the business culture and the totalitarian politics of the core worlds, but clearly the system was colonized almost exclusively by Americans - or at least the outer world that are the setting for the show.

Akima probably has a good point about people only swearing in their native language, and Chinese is obviously not native to the Firefly 'verse.

But this is probably being way over-thought.  In a prime time network television show it is useful to have the frakking swear words in a different language.

Don't be too cool to see the show - it is great fun and among the best SF on TV.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #31 on: 04 Mar 2011, 08:09 »

"English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

And American English goes further than that. It... well, let's just say when American English is done with a language, somebody is asking it to point at which part of the doll was touched...
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #32 on: 04 Mar 2011, 09:40 »

Gotta love American English, one of the most difficult languages to learn simply because it is so jumbled and screwed up.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #33 on: 04 Mar 2011, 09:47 »

The worst part is that the native speakers don't even know the language. 

Now excuse me, I have some grading to do...
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #34 on: 04 Mar 2011, 11:09 »

Some is actually Japanese.
Good lord.

I can't imagine how offensive that is, but I do know _some_ history. Also found out via a friend's Marine dad, who did intelligence work in occupied China, that things were even worse than what's in history textbooks.

OK, that's not a matter of imagining some odd-looking future version of Chinese.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #35 on: 04 Mar 2011, 14:43 »

I'll keep this short so I don't thread-jack, but the creators of the cartoon have specifically stated that the characters are intended to be Asian - you can see it in their world.  The whole thing is basically Asia and some Inuit-inspired characters.  At the very least, they could have cast darker-skinned actors for Katara and Sokka.  The very least.
That was actually the part that bothered me the most. I mean, they cast the vast majority of the water tribe with actors who seemed somewhat Inuit, but the main characters were not. It kind of undermines the whole argument about the TV show not being explicit about the characters' races when you've cast a particular race for every single member of the tribe except for the characters of consequence. *headdesk*

I guess we should just agree that that movie was a whitewashed trainwreck.

The UN is also technically in charge.
Indeed.
If the point you're making is that the UN is a puppet of Seele (of which Gendo also happens to be a member), then yes. This is true.

Television casting decisions are not "accidental". They are made by professional people making choices about what they think is important to put on the screen. The makers of Firefly made choices that put Asian actors and Asian people in the background. I can see that on the screen, because that is what they put there. I don't need to imagine conspiracy or malign intent to think that is a problem. I assume that what the Firefly creative team put on the screen is what they intended, or at least what they thought was "good enough".
I think you're on a different page from what I've been trying to argue, and that may be a consequence of his use of the word "accidental". The casting choices themselves were certainly not accidental.

However, as I explained earlier, Whedon had worked with many of the actors before, and that history is somewhat accidental. Also, while you certainly can choose your actors, if the best actors who've auditioned for the role happen to be not Asian, then that's also something that's not under your control (as long as you've been inclusive up until that point, of course). In such a situation, you do have to consider whether your priority is to have the best actors or the Asian actors. Considering that the actors played such a big part in making the show as popular as it was, I really think they chose to cast actors based on their ability, and not because they fit into any kind of racial mould.

With the work that Whedon has done, I find it difficult to imagine him as anything but progressive. I feel he deliberately tries to write "outside the box". Hence, Buffy the vampire slayer. Hence the Chinese references. The show certainly had actors "of colour". I find it difficult to imagine such a person would suddenly draw the line at having Chinese actors.

Firefly is also different from a film like The Last Airbender in that it has a tighter budget and demands more commitment from its actors. There's the danger that it could end up massively successful, but with a toxic actor (like Charlie Sheen), or actors who struggle to maintain their commitment (like Star Gate SG1). The original actress for Inara, Rebecca Gayheart, was apparently a disaster. There's a lot that goes into the selection of an actor beyond race and appearance. I don't know about the opinions of people on this forum, but I felt that Kevin Sorbo and Gordon Woolvett were horribly miscast in Andromeda. To me, Kevin looked like a captain, but he didn't fill the shoes.

It's hard to speak to the process that went on behind the scenes in Firefly. It's certainly possible that Whedon was very interested to have a Chinese actor in a prominent role, but someone else drove away Asian actors without him even realising. There are plenty of ways that the production could have been racist overall, without it implicating everyone in the production. I'm certainly open to the idea that the production was racist in part or as a whole, but until there is evidence, aside from there simply being a lack of Asian actors, I can't take those accusations seriously.
« Last Edit: 04 Mar 2011, 15:18 by ayvah »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #36 on: 04 Mar 2011, 17:12 »

With the work that Whedon has done, I find it difficult to imagine him as anything but progressive. I feel he deliberately tries to write "outside the box". Hence, Buffy the vampire slayer. Hence the Chinese references. The show certainly had actors "of colour". I find it difficult to imagine such a person would suddenly draw the line at having Chinese actors.
I prefer not to use the word "progressive" in this context, because it comes with a whole raft of very debatable assumptions, but I have a real problem with the idea that you can somehow separate a person from their actions, or a creator from what he puts on the screen. I'm well aware that a TV show is a team effort, but with the way people assign credit to Joss Whedon for Firefly, he can't avoid blame for its shortcomings.

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It's hard to speak to the process that went on behind the scenes in Firefly. It's certainly possible that Whedon was very interested to have a Chinese actor in a prominent role, but someone else drove away Asian actors without him even realising. There are plenty of ways that the production could have been racist overall, without it implicating everyone in the production. I'm certainly open to the idea that the production was racist in part or as a whole, but until there is evidence, aside from there simply being a lack of Asian actors, I can't take those accusations seriously.
Whedon has been quoted as saying that the character Kaylee was originally intended to be "Asian", but that when Jewel Staite read for the part she was so good that the Asian characterisation was abandoned. I don't have a problem with that; Jewel Staite was excellent in the role. As I've said before, the problem with casting in Firefly is not any specific role, it is the consistent pattern of casting and hiring which resulted in only one East Asian actor getting a speaking role of any kind in the entire series. If we're going to assume a level playing field in TV casting, that would imply that the creators of Firefly could only find one East Asian actor competent to play even the most minor speaking part, when other TV shows that don't make a song-and-dance about Chinese culture manage to find them. I don't find that credible, so I'm disinclined to believe a level playing-field existed. I'm sorry you don't find the casting of Firefly a problem, or evidence of anything to be taken seriously, but I do. Leaving aside all the out-of-universe issues of cultural appropriation, or career-opportunities and pay-cheques for Asian actors, I think it missed an golden opportunity to add depth to Firefly's world.

Good lord. I can't imagine how offensive that is, but I do know _some_ history.
Despite how abominable the actions of Imperial Japan in China were, I'm prepared to leave them in the past, though I admit I'll probably never have 100% warm feelings towards the Japanese. Firefly runs with a mish-mash "cool Asian stuff" model that treats East Asian cultures as indistinguishable and interchangeable. That is a bit annoying, but so routine in Western pop-culture as to be "background noise". Bladerunner did the same thing, and a similar jumble of Chinese and Japanese writing appears in that film (though, unlike Firefly, along with several speaking parts for East Asian actors...). But in a future fusion culture, that's not such a big deal.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #37 on: 04 Mar 2011, 18:51 »

Whedon has been quoted as saying that the character Kaylee was originally intended to be "Asian", but that when Jewel Staite read for the part she was so good that the Asian characterisation was abandoned. I don't have a problem with that; Jewel Staite was excellent in the role. As I've said before, the problem with casting in Firefly is not any specific role, it is the consistent pattern of casting and hiring which resulted in only one East Asian actor getting a speaking role of any kind in the entire series. If we're going to assume a level playing field in TV casting, that would imply that the creators of Firefly could only find one East Asian actor competent to play even the most minor speaking part, when other TV shows that don't make a song-and-dance about Chinese culture manage to find them. I don't find that credible, so I'm disinclined to believe a level playing-field existed. I'm sorry you don't find the casting of Firefly a problem, or evidence of anything to be taken seriously, but I do. Leaving aside all the out-of-universe issues of cultural appropriation, or career-opportunities and pay-cheques for Asian actors, I think it missed an golden opportunity to add depth to Firefly's world.
I certainly agree that it would have been beneficial for the show to have had a Chinese actor in a prominent role. However, I think that where we differ is in how we perceive these other shows who have Asian actors in them. Do I believe that when they made Bones, that they deliberately looked for an Asian (half-Chinese) actress to play the part of Angela Montenegro; or do I believe that she just happened to be the best actor for the part? Does having an Asian actor make that show better than another show that would have been just as happy to take such actors?

When casting for a TV series, the creators often start with an idea of what they want their characters to be, but often they will write the roles to fit the actors.

Which is why the terminator in the Sarah Connor Chronicles learned ballet, a trademark of Summer Glau. When they cast Claudia Black in Stargate SG1, she was meant to be a minor character, but she was loved so much that she became the fifth member of the four-man-band. During the production of one episode, Michael Shanks was had to go to hospital to have his appendix removed, so they wrote him out of the episode with the excuse that his character needed to have his appendix removed. When they were casting for the role of Mohinder Suresh for Heroes (which had a serious budget to play with), they knew they wanted an Indian actor, but originally they wanted a much older actor. Ultimately, when they were impressed by Sendhil Ramamurthy's performance, they rewrote the role to suit the age of the actor they liked. Unfortunately, I can't find much background on the casting behind the Japanese character Hiro. From what I've read he was originally envisioned as a geek who loved having powers, and I'm not sure whether he became Japanese before or after casting.

I have the impression that with Firefly, they started with the intention to cast some Chinese characters, but ultimately chose the best actors for the roles. I don't think they actively looked for Asians, they just had a preference. Once you've got a good actor, stop looking; I think that's the same attitude that Bones had when it cast Angela Montenegro, and I think that's a good attitude to have.

P.S.
I have this impression that you consider Asians to be "the" oppressed minority in the US and/or Hollywood. No racism is appropriate at any time, but surely black people, Indians and Middle-Easterners cop it a lot worse than South-East Asians? As a non-American, perhaps I am making some incorrect assumptions here. Still, I have to admit it really adds to the difficulty of looking at Firefly to see racism when the cast is far from exclusively white.

P.P.S.
I'm certainly ready to admit that Firefly has shortcomings, and that Joss Whedon is responsible for some or all of them. I would be happy to discuss Firefly in general, but at the moment the subject appears to be race.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #38 on: 04 Mar 2011, 21:34 »

Regarding the appropriation/misappropriation of various cultures in fictional settings: American culture and the English language get butchered all the damn time in anime, and it doesn't really bother me that much.  I don't get mad when Japanese voice actors can't speak intelligible English (and they often can't).  In fact, sometimes the "funny white guy" characters are pretty awesome.  Maybe I'm too laid-back or something.  *shrug*

Quote from: ayvah
I have the impression that with Firefly, they started with the intention to cast some Chinese characters, but ultimately chose the best actors for the roles. I don't think they actively looked for Asians, they just had a preference. Once you've got a good actor, stop looking; I think that's the same attitude that Bones had when it cast Angela Montenegro, and I think that's a good attitude to have.

This is how I feel about it.  I mean, if you find the right actor for the part, should it matter what race they are?  "Oh, well, your screen test was awesome, but you're white/black/green so you can't play this character."  I guess if race is relevant to the character's backstory somehow, it might be okay to tell an actor, "you're the wrong color for this character", but if they want an actor of a certain race for a part, then they should specify that from the beginning. 

Anyways, back on the subject of Firefly: Could some of you specify some of these shortcomings the series supposedly has?  I've seen it five times and have yet to spot any real flaws worth mentioning.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #39 on: 04 Mar 2011, 23:41 »

My gosh this thread has become deep.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #40 on: 05 Mar 2011, 04:31 »

I certainly agree that it would have been beneficial for the show to have had a Chinese actor in a prominent role. However, I think that where we differ is in how we perceive these other shows who have Asian actors in them.
You may agree that it might have been beneficial. I might agree. The makers of Firefly plainly did not, since they hardly cast any Chinese or other East Asian actors at all, never mind in prominent roles. The only reason I raised the other shows that do include East Asian actors is to show that some exist and it is possible to cast them, even when the background of the show's universe has nothing to do with China.

Quote
I have this impression that you consider Asians to be "the" oppressed minority in the US and/or Hollywood.
This isn't about me, it's about Firefly and the people who made the show. If Whedon had set a TV series in Kenya and cast only one African actor in the entire run, that would be just as bad. The issue here is that Whedon chose to define the imaginary world of Firefly as part Chinese, and then he and his team chose to push East Asian people into the background as anonymous extras. They chose to give lines to only one single East Asian actor in the entire series. I see that as a serious issue for Firefly, and Joss Whedon and his team. You don't. We'll have to agree to differ.

I guess if race is relevant to the character's backstory somehow, it might be okay to tell an actor, "you're the wrong color for this character", but if they want an actor of a certain race for a part, then they should specify that from the beginning.
The backstory of Firefly's entire universe is supposed to be part Chinese. This doesn't mean that any one particular character should be played by an East Asian actor, but I believe that there is a serious problem with only having one minor East Asian character in the entire series. As I said above, if you were setting a TV series in Kenya, it wouldn't mean that any particular role should be played by an black actor, but if you only gave lines to one black actor in the entire series, and otherwise limited black people to extras, I'd say you were on the wrong track. Badly wrong.
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ayvah

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #41 on: 05 Mar 2011, 14:47 »

Regarding the appropriation/misappropriation of various cultures in fictional settings: American culture and the English language get butchered all the damn time in anime, and it doesn't really bother me that much.  I don't get mad when Japanese voice actors can't speak intelligible English (and they often can't).  In fact, sometimes the "funny white guy" characters are pretty awesome.  Maybe I'm too laid-back or something.  *shrug*
What's that? I couldn't hear you, I was too busy being an American.

Quote
Anyways, back on the subject of Firefly: Could some of you specify some of these shortcomings the series supposedly has?  I've seen it five times and have yet to spot any real flaws worth mentioning.
I said I was "open to the idea" that the show has shortcomings, but the worst I can come up with on my own is just a technical nitpick. In one episode where the ship lost power, the ship suffered rapid heat loss (in a vacuum, where you'll only lose heat via radiation) but never lost its artificial gravity. Physicists everywhere must have cried themselves to sleep. :P

I'm going to need someone else to come up with real shortcomings, because I love the acting and the scriptwriting and the visuals. With perhaps the exception of the old war buddy. He kinda annoyed me.

This isn't about me, it's about Firefly and the people who made the show. If Whedon had set a TV series in Kenya and cast only one African actor in the entire run, that would be just as bad.
[...]
The issue here is that Whedon chose to define the imaginary world of Firefly as part Chinese, and then he and his team chose to push East Asian people into the background as anonymous extras. They chose to give lines to only one single East Asian actor in the entire series.
Your argument is that while they had black and Latin American actors in major roles and wanted to cast at least one major character as Asian, the show is racist because they ended up casting non-Asian actors.

And to clarify: You believe that when they found a good actor who could play the part -- they should have turned that actor down and actively looked for someone Chinese. You believe that their failure to do this makes the show racist. Is this accurate?


On a related note:
It could easily be the US that's responsible for the majority of space-faring while China became the dominant superpower on Earth. All that's really made clear is that the Alliance is formed from a combination of the US and China, and that Western culture has been influenced by bleed-through from Chinese and other South-East Asian cultures. They use Chinese to swear, but that's just colourful censorship. The show never had the chance to explore the multicultural aspects of the setting so it's hard for me to argue about how Chinese the setting really was.

Still, there's really nothing about the show that's overtly Chinese. In Japan, for instance, you'd find you're very likely to see signs in English. Japanese people also use plenty of English words. They will even quote lines from films and songs, like the famous, "I'll be back." Other times they'll use English just because they feel like it.
« Last Edit: 05 Mar 2011, 14:50 by ayvah »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #42 on: 05 Mar 2011, 16:06 »

I just did a search for the word "racist" in this thread, and Akima has never used it unless I missed an occurrence.

"Colonialist" is a related and overlapping concept, but it's not the same.

(moderator)Everyone's being civil and focusing on the topic. Pat yourselves on the back!(/moderator)
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #43 on: 05 Mar 2011, 21:16 »

Your argument is that while they had black and Latin American actors in major roles and wanted to cast at least one major character as Asian, the show is racist because they ended up casting non-Asian actors.
I do believe that the result of the casting process is the only important thing, because I believe that what people do is more important than what they say they intended to do. Good intentions that are never put into practice don't count. I judge Firefly simply by what I see on the screen, and the result of multiple casting decisions, made throughout the production of Firefly, was one solitary East Asian character in the entire series. It apparently never occurred to anybody that there was any problem with including Chinese "stuff" while all but excluding Chinese characters. I don't claim they set out with a sinister plan to exclude Chinese characters, but their decisions certainly had that effect. No alarm bells went off. Nobody apparently said: "Wait a minute... Y'know films and TV have a long history of yellowface... And we're putting in all this Chinese stuff... Giving characters names like Tam and Wing... Maybe it would be a good idea if we cast some East Asian actors?" Or at least, if anyone did, it had little effect.

Quote
Still, there's really nothing about the show that's overtly Chinese.
So Chinese language, written and spoken, is not "overtly" Chinese? But in a way, you are quite correct. Firefly never did anything important with the Chinese "stuff" it scattered about in the background. None of the stories really brought the Chinese fusion thing into the foreground, or did anything interesting with it. I don't think any of the stories would be changed if you stripped Firefly of its Chinese trappings, replaced the "Mandarin" dialogue and Chinese writing with Farscape-style gobbledegook, took out the paper fans, big "Asian" hats etc. That's why, in my first posting in this thread, I called the ripping-off of Chinese culture in Firefly "pointless". If it was ever intended to be more than cool set-dressing and family-friendly swearwords, nothing in the show gave any evidence of it. That's why I said in an earlier post that the creators of Firefly never expressed any real interest in Chinese culture.

Who knows, maybe Firefly would have addressed these issues if it had run longer, but it's difficult to see how, when the creative team never seems to have thought there was a problem with the casting or the cultural appropriation. I see the problems as linked. If the creators had not included the Chinese stuff in the back-story and set-dressing, the casting would not have been problematic. If the cast had included more East Asian characters/actors, the Chinese stuff wouldn't have seemed so pointlessly appropriated. Stories fleshing out the background could certainly have been rolled out in later episodes, but Firefly had deep structural flaws right from the outset.
« Last Edit: 06 Mar 2011, 00:17 by Akima »
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ayvah

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #44 on: 06 Mar 2011, 23:15 »

It's racist to set a film in Kenya, and then say you want actors from Kenya, just as it's racist to set a film in medieval Europe, and say you want European actors. It's a racism we accept as necessary, because we want the films to seem realistic. One of the problems we have is that we have a history of white-male dominated literature that we can't escape. Make a film about King Arthur, and you can pick whatever hair colour you like, but don't you dare make him black... or female. Only recently have we reached the point where we could portray God as a woman (Dogma), or a black man (Bruce Almighty). It's a good trend.

Roll a die 50 times. No matter how you change your attitude, or how you choose to roll the dice, you can't choose the outcome. There isn't a 1:1 relationship between actions and results. There are great Asian actors out there, but that doesn't mean they'll be at your audition.

I'm pretty neutral about positive discrimination, generally. It's a bad solution to a bad problem, but I accept it may be necessary to help us move forward. If you see Firefly as a missed opportunity for some positive discrimination, then I can appreciate that. But I don't believe that at any moment, they chose to not cast Chinese actors. Their fault is their lack of racial discrimination.

But realistically, think about the drooling, smelly Browncoats that everyone's complaining about. After seeing characters use Chinese in their favourite show, they're likely to show an interest in learning the language. I, myself, am more likely to show an interest in learning Chinese. Considering this means Chinese people are more likely to be stuck in a conversation with a drooling, smelly Browncoat, I can certainly appreciate why a Chinese person might prefer the show featured no Chinese whatsoever.

Firefly is a low-budget sci-fi show, and thinking that they'd be in a position to pick and choose actors is optimistic. If you expect Firefly to be the Martin Luther King of TV shows, then maybe you expect too much.

Edit: Made some minor changes to improve clarity.
« Last Edit: 06 Mar 2011, 23:43 by ayvah »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #45 on: 06 Mar 2011, 23:32 »

It's not positive discrimination to hire actors who reflect the premise of your series.
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ayvah

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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #46 on: 07 Mar 2011, 00:01 »

Quote
Whedon developed the concept for the show after reading The Killer Angels, a novel chronicling the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. He wanted to follow people who had fought on the losing side of a war and their experiences afterwards as pioneers and immigrants on the outskirts of civilization, much like the post-American Civil War era of Reconstruction and the American Old West culture. He intended the show to be "a Stagecoach kind of drama with a lot of people trying to figure out their lives in a bleak pioneer environment." Whedon wanted to develop a show about the tactile nature of life, a show where existence was more physical and more difficult. After reading The Killer Angels, Whedon read a book about Jewish partisan fighters in World War II that also influenced him. Whedon wanted to create something for television that was more character-driven and gritty than most modern science fiction. Television science fiction, he felt, had become too pristine and rarefied.

Whedon wanted to give the show a name that indicated movement and power, and felt that "Firefly" had both. This powerful word's relatively insignificant meaning, Whedon felt, added to its allure. He eventually wound up creating the ship in the image of a firefly.

Wikipedia

My favourite episode of Firefly was the one where they visited the Forbidden City.
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #47 on: 07 Mar 2011, 03:14 »

If you see Firefly as a missed opportunity for some positive discrimination, then I can appreciate that. But I don't believe that at any moment, they chose to not cast Chinese actors.
I see Firefly as a missed opportunity to cast actors consistent with the background that the series creators decided upon. I see Firefly as an example of a long-running tendency in American (and Australian is worse) TV and film to exclude Asian characters and actors from stories in which they might have been expected to appear. I see Firefly as a product of a creative team that simply did not think that there was any problem with furnishing their world with Chinese stuff while including next to no Chinese characters. Above all, I see in Firefly evidence that the creators never thought it was important to have any Chinese characters.

Comparing casting for a TV show to rolling dice is simply an evasion of responsibility. Casting is not a random process. Effort, time and resources are needed to recruit a cast and create a TV show. Regardless of the budget, these are necessarily limited, so I assume (I've never worked in the field) creators prioritise and spend those resources on what they think is important. For the Firefly team, creating Chinese characters, and casting East Asian actors, were just not important enough to do. Except once. The evidence is in what they put on the screen.

The message I received from Firefly's treatment of the Chinese elements in its universe was: "We think Chinese stuff is cool, but Chinese people are not important." This echos Orientalist and colonialist attitudes towards Chinese people which have a long and ugly history. I'm pretty sure nobody involved in the show ever intended that, or even considered it, or engaged in some sinister conspiracy, but that is perhaps the most worrying thing of all. That the near-total exclusion of Chinese characters, and denial of roles to East Asian actors, happened because of shared unspoken assumptions and priorities. That the production team apparently never saw a problem, never thought about the history, never considered that there might be issues of cultural respect and appropriation involved. The Firefly fandom apparently shares the same assumptions, and sees no problem either.
« Last Edit: 07 Mar 2011, 03:59 by Akima »
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #48 on: 07 Mar 2011, 05:11 »

I'll just preface this with stating that I've never seen Firefly or anything else Whedon has done (I've been TV intolerant for the last decade or so, only seeing things my kids happen to be watching over their shoulder, mostly crime stuff - my younger daughter's apparently planning a perfect murder). 

That being said, I have to agree with Akima.  There are more  than enough hot, young and talented asian actors available for a show like this, you see them all over TV and movies - mostly cast as LA gangsters or asian mafiosi, playing right into the stereotypical casting that's been done to every racial minority since Hollywood began. 

Unfortunaltely, "fan" is short for "fanatic", and by definition, such people won't be convinced that the object of their fandom is wrong in any way.  They'll rationalize and/or defend it to the bitter end, and that's what we're seeing here.  It's not a matter of agreeing to disagree - the Firefly/Whedon supporters who think nothing's wrong with a show that appropriates such culture not having culturally consistant actors really don't have a leg to stand on here.  The same was true for Airbender, and even though my kids loved both the movie and TV show, they at least acknowledged that the lack of asian faces in the movie was really jarring. 

Using "colorblindness" as an excuse is no better - anti-racism, or progressive casting, or whatever you want to call it leads to some pretty silly decisions as well (the hubbub over Thor comes to mind, though I'm not sure of the details - at first blush, a black Thor sounds a bit silly).  When race is important to the story, even tangentially, it should be incorporated. 

My favorite example was a local college production of a musical called Once on this Island.  It's a tale set on a French Colonial carribean island, and the majority of  the cast was to be black lower classes, with a few white colonials.  Thier interaction was crucial to the plot.  The college has (like the rest of the area) a much smaller black minority than the national average, and so a deliberate race reversal was done - the villagers were cast white, with the colonials cast black.  A deliberate race reversal is usually done to challenge stereotypes (which may be the case with Thor), and make the audience think more carefully about such things.  I'd expect nothing less from a college production, and it worked surprisingly well.  But casting them all white (for a "lack of talented black actors") or casting racial mixes in both groups (colorblindness) would have been disastrous.  Well, at the very least, just plain silly looking. 

It really sounds like something broke in Firefly's creation, and if I ever do  see it, the racial makeup will certainly be in my thoughts, rather than just being a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that somethig's wrong. 
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Re: Firefly and/or Joss Whedon
« Reply #49 on: 07 Mar 2011, 13:04 »

I think the majority of Firefly's problems were due to the fact that they were trying to make a space opera for network television.

That rarely works, and the fact that the network in question was owned by Rupert Murdoch probably didn't help.

The show had many good ideas, including the Asian fusion design concept, which were not followed through with.

What resulted was a mediocre show with decent special effects and a better than average ensemble cast, but was never able to carry through with its potential due to not being able to live up to unreasonable network expectations.

If it had been done three years later and on a cable network, it could have been Battlestar Galactica.

Would Firefly have been better had they cast Grace Park rather than Jewel Staite?
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