Sep. 13th, 2012


Sep. 13th, 2012 12:22 pm
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
This IGN review of the new Cloud Atlas movie kind of irked me:
Having the same actors play multiple roles in the movie was a bad idea. It's not only confusing to keep track of who's who (you may find yourself relying on dress code for a quick reference as the film progresses) but the makeup, especially the makeup used to give the illusion of ethnicity, just does not work that well. Faces just look weird. We've been conditioned to understand that a epicanthal fold on the eyes is an Asian facial feature, for example, so seeing an Asian actor like Xun Zhou play Caucasian is perceptibly wrong.

Firstly, epicanthic folds are not solely an (East) Asian feature. Just speaking anecdotally, off the top of my head I can think of two friends of completely Anglo-Saxon descent who have epicanthic folds. And a quick google on the topic (I know, I know) suggests that they're not completely uncommon in at least some European populations.

Secondly, I dispute the idea that we're conditioned to make assessments of someone's race based on eye shape above all else. Again speaking anecdotally, I have epicanthic folds (albeit with a double eyelid), and I almost always pass for white. My skin and hair colour easily trump eye shape when strangers attempt to determine my ethnicity. When I dyed my hair black or dark brown, markedly more people would ask if I had some Asian heritage. And then there's the author's assertion that "[racially ambiguous] faces just look weird". So mixed-race people with features that are both white and Asian make you uncomfortable because you can't pigeonhole us into one race or another? (Was it Mary Douglas who had that theory that things betwixt and between are unclean, dangerous, to be shunned?) ... And I'm just going to leave that one there.

Thirdly, I can't read the sentence, "seeing an Asian actor... play Caucasian is perceptibly wrong" and not immediately think of the longstanding and still continuing tradition, in Hollwood and elsewhere, of blackface and yellowface (Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, anyone?). I don't presume that the author necessarily supports the corollary of his statement, i.e. that it's less "weird" or "perceptibly wrong" for white actors to play other races, but given context, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. [ETA: Actually, I do presume, because apparently there's yellowface in the movie and somehow the author doesn't see fit to mention the weirdness of that! h/t [personal profile] liviapenn]


I totally want to see Cloud Atlas, despite not having read the book (Youtube trailer). I love the trope of reincarnation, and the idea of people repeating their mistakes over and over through the ages. (Redemption, ha!) Perhaps I imprinted on too many Katherine Kerr books back in the day.

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