Month: September 2017

Protest: As American as Football

Protest: As American as Football

Perhaps we should have paid due attention to Colin Kaepernick the first time he knelt on the sidelines of an NFL game. Perhaps we should have acted the first time a young black man was shot simply for the color of his skin and for […]

Skin for All Seasons

Skin for All Seasons

Autumn is now upon us. The time to put swimsuits away and to embrace fluffy sweaters and silk pyjamas has come, a cup of hot tea in hand and our favourite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on screen. It is not, however, the time to […]

Hollywood’s Whitewash

Hollywood’s Whitewash

In August of 2017, it was announced that Ed Skrien would be portraying Ben Daimio as part of a reboot of the Hellboy franchise. In the original comics, Daimio was portrayed as a man of Asian-American descent. Unfortunately, the casting of Skrein clearly pandered to an all too common occurrence in today’s Hollywood: whitewashing. This seems particularly common in instances where characters are intended for actors of Asian or part-Asian descent but the roles end up going to white actor after white actor. It is racism at its most stealthy and at its most dangerous.

Skrien’s response to his casting was initially positive as he retweeted one Hollywood Reporter tweet announcing him as a new cast member on 21st August and then tweeting his own excitement at the news shortly the same day. However, a week later he then tweeted the image of a longer statement announcing that he would be withdrawing from the role, stating that he was ‘unaware that the character in the original comics had been of mixed-Asian heritage’ and that ‘it is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity’. Clearly, his withdrawal and then public statement made an impact on the casting directors for Hellboy as very recently it was announced that Daniel Dae Kim would be taking up the role instead.

More than anything, this change in casting has shown that eradicating white-washing and racism in Hollywood is just as much a responsibility of the actors that take up the role as it is of the casting directors that cast them. High-profile cases of white actors taking specifically Asian roles have been rampant these past few years, increasing the invisibility of Asian people in popular culture. In Aloha, Emma Stone played the role of Allison Ng, a character intended to be of one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian descent. Tilda Swinton took on the role of the Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, portrayed as Celtic in the film but a Tibetan monk in the original comics. Scarlett Johansson played Ghost in the Shell’s heroine Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese character from a highly successful Japanese anime film.

The case for these actors taking roles not meant for them is often that actors need all the work they can get and that they can’t afford to turn down a job. That seems almost hilarious in the light of Stone, Swinton, and Johansson being huge stars with big-money projects probably running into their open arms. If any of these high-profile actresses with incredibly established careers had considered their morality or the insidious racism that they were supporting and spoken out against their casting, then perhaps Hollywood would have been forced into making better decisions. Instead, the call came from Skrein whose star power was nowhere near as bright (his more famous projects include a brief 3-episode stint as Game of Thrones’ Daario Naharis and Deadpool’s bully-villain: Ajax.) Thankfully, Skrein valued more than the way his status would have soared in a big-budget reboot. However, we must remember that he is not noble or heroic for doing so: he simply did the right thing. Asian actors have been outspoken about this issue for years, if not decades, highlighting the fact that roles meant for them are snatched away by white actors and that often the roles they do manage to get are offensive stereotypes.

The overwhelmingly positive online response to Skrein’s decision may bode well for the future. At the time of writing Ed Skrien’s twitter account (@edskrein) has 64.1k followers but the image of his statement leaving the Hellboy role has over 160k likes. Countless articles (including this one) have been generated in favour of his judgement. However, white actors and white people working in the film industry must continually challenge and reject whitewashing and racism. A pat on the back for this one instance is simply not enough.

Bookshops in Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Bookshops in Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Whenever I visit Istanbul, I like to stay in Beyoğlu. Hilly, historical, and packed with turn-of-the-century buildings and much, much older landmarks, it makes me feel alive. Cats wander the streets and check in on you as you eat meze and drink cocktails to your heart’s content in […]

Ode to Autumn

Ode to Autumn

Last week September came rushing into our lives. To me it felt like some kind of drowsy spell had broken and I was finally motivated to do all the things I had told myself I would do over the summer months. While I doubt there […]

A Shortage of Long-Term Compassion

A Shortage of Long-Term Compassion

Two recent disasters – the inferno at Grenfell Tower in London and Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas –  have reminded us anew of the destructive capabilities and sheer powers of the elements. A massive fire ravaged the twenty-four-floor London apartment building on the 14th of June, sparked by a faulty refrigerator explosion. Just over two months later, the swirling hurricane made landfall on the Texas shoreline, bringing “unprecedented” and “never-before-seen” levels of flooding to Houston, one of America’s biggest cities. In the following days of both tragedies, Britons and Americans alike had a common cause around which to rally. There have been football matches and concerts to raise funds “for Grenfell,” and Twitter is overflowing with links to charitable organisations and phone numbers and addresses of shelters for Texans (humans and pets alike). We have much to be proud of in our responses to crises, but I am left wondering if we have really learned anything at all.

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Campus Novels Off the Beaten Path

Campus Novels Off the Beaten Path

There’s something seductive about the campus novel. Even those of us who have made careers of academia are attracted to the esoteric, cabalistic worlds contained between its pages. There are the obvious examples—A Separate Peace, The Secret History, even Harry Potter—but the genre is much […]

Rossano Ferretti Hairspa, Verona: A Royal Treat

Rossano Ferretti Hairspa, Verona: A Royal Treat

If you google Rossano Ferretti, you stumble upon two things: a list of celebrities with flawless hair, like Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge; and, of course, information on the man himself, the creator of the Method for cutting hair in a more natural way.

What John Donne May or May not Have Don(n)e for Feminism.

What John Donne May or May not Have Don(n)e for Feminism.

What needst thou have more covering than a man?

As an actor, usually of Shakespeare’s plays, I am well-acquainted with the patriarchal backdrop of Western literary tradition. Despite Good Queen Bess and her 45-year-reign, Elizabethan England was unquestionably a patriarchal society, one in which Lewd, Idle…and Unconstant Women was the title of a non-fiction bestseller and the reigning monarch’s sex life was a matter for public debate.

It is unsurprising, then, that 16th century literature was a man’s world, fuelled by love poetry in which the speaker compares his virginal, unattainable muse to a series of desirable (and silent) physical objects. As literature students past and present know, John Donne is no exception at first glance. Flicking through a not-yet-well-thumbed anthology of his works for the first time, I distinctly remember raising an eyebrow in equal parts apprehension and mockery, ready to passionately condemn yet more high-profile celebration of a double standard which blighted the lives of women for centuries and continues to do so today (President Trump, I am looking at you). How very wrong I was.

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