Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Is This Man Angry?

Here's a color pinup I did for SECRET IDENTITIES:The Asian American Superhero Anthology.

SECRET IDENTITIES is an anthology book featuring Asian-American superheroes by Asian-American creators.  It is the brainchild of editor-in-chief Jeff Yang ( who wrote the books Eastern Standard Time, and I Am Jackie Chan:My Life In Action ), editor Keith Chow, managing editor Parry Shen ( lead actor in Better Luck Tomorrow ), art director Jerry Ma, and 
senior artist Jef Castro.
The character pictured is named "Jimson", from a short story written by Jeff Yang and drawn by me called DRIVING STEEL. DRIVING STEEL is a supernatural western that takes place during the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
I had originally submitted a story of my own that took place during that same period, but it was rejected. Fortunately, Jeff ( who is the editor-in-chief of the book ) had written DRIVING STEEL, but there was no artist assigned to it, so I was able to step in. I had already done quite a bit of research on that time and setting, so I'm glad it was not wasted. 
I'm still planning to do my own Chinese western at some later date. I always thought it would be a great idea to do something akin to Bruce Lee's original television concept The Warrior, ( a whitewashed version of which would later become Kung Fu ) in comic book form.
And speaking of whitewashing,  there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the casting of M. Night Shylaman's The Last Airbender.  Based on the animated series, this film screams "asian-ness" , but they have decided to cast all caucasian actors in the lead roles. We've seen this type of thing throughout the history of film, whether it's white actors dressed in yellowface, or a blatant disregard of the character's Asian ancestry.  

We're nearly a decade into the 21st century, we've just elected the first African-American president, yet the makers of this film still believe that audiences can't handle the idea of actual Asian actors portraying Asians and would rather see caucasians playing Asians.  It's based on the mistaken belief that people won't buy tickets with Asian faces in the lead roles. This is complete and blatant discrimination against actors of Asian ancestry.  In no other profession would this complete and blatant discrimination against actors of Asian ancestry be tolerated. 
The filmmakers can try to hide behind a claim of artistic interpretation, but if you look at the source material, the race of the characters is obvious.  It's hard to believe that there were absolutely no qualified Asian actors for the roles.  We always hear Asian actors talk about the lack of roles for Asians, and when there are roles, they are given to caucasians or the roles are altered to accommodate caucasian actors.  This type of casting discrimination needs  to end. Write a letter to the makers of this film to show your disapproval.  More on this subject can be found here, here, here and here.


At Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:40:00 PM PST, Blogger Peter Breese said...

Dig the illustration, very nice. Thank you for highlighting this issue.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 6:39:00 PM PST, Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Sweet , great colors too.

At Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 8:55:00 PM PDT, Blogger crazy_asian_man said...

Illustration is awesome-

About M. Night's casting: that sucks, but so does much of M. Night's work. ;)

At Friday, March 13, 2009 at 4:08:00 PM PDT, Blogger WCG Comics said...

Sorry I'm coming in a little late to this conversation, but the one thing that makes the casting of Airbender particularly bothersome is the fact that the director is himself Asian!

At Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 12:59:00 PM PDT, Blogger benton jew said...

Peter- Glad you liked the illustration. And I'm glad to help people become aware of the issue of the blatant racism in the movies. It shocks me that this behavior is still happening in the 21st century.

Dominic-Glad you like the color work. It's always a challenge making something work with a limited palette. I've certainly seen you make it work beautifully in your illustrations.

crazy-Thanks for coming by Harv. The sad thing about this is that ( although you may disagree with me ) I think M. Night is actually a very good director. I thought "The Sixth Sense" was a really excellent movie. "Unbreakable" was also pretty good until the last 10 minutes. There was also some good work in the mixed bag that was "Signals". I've not seen his subsequent films, but I've heard they've gotten progressively worse. If he can tap into whatever helped him create "The Sixth Sense"-- greatness is in his reach. It's sad to say, but if Airbender continues as it is, it will probably ruin his once promising career. The anger in the Asian community ( and beyond ) on this issue is pretty intense. There's no way to avoid the negative publicity this film will generate. Because even if he gets his mojo back and does a half decent directing job, he will be forever tagged with
this racist label and lose a huge part of his shrinking audience. Once the film is shot there's no way you can turn that around.

WCG-No such thing as "late" on this blog, Randy! I'm just happy when folks want to come by and comment.

In terms of Airbender, it just goes to show that these type of discriminatory practices can come from anywhere and anybody. And M. Knight should certainly know better. "With great power comes great responsibility" to quote a damn comic book. Once released, this film will remain in the public consciousness forever. As an Asian-American with a huge amount of power and the ability to enact change in that public consciousness, he has a responsibility not to promote and further racist hiring practices. The fact that he's Asian adds an authoritorial stamp to the acceptance of this kind of behavior. If he ( especially as an Asian ) lets something like this slip by, he opens the door for others to do the same in the future.

At Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 11:36:00 AM PDT, Blogger Roberto Zaghi said...

Tremendously powerful illustration Benton! Great work, expression, action, composition are perfect.

At Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger benton jew said...

Thanks! I was happy with the way this turned out.

At Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 1:31:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've already decided not to see the live version of the Avatar. I'm a huge fan of the Avatar animation and I was pissed when I heard about the casting. I'm African American and I agree that this type of blatant racism is ridiculous. I was disappointed with M. Knights choice of casting. The truth of the matter is the American public has been ready for diversity in cinema for quite some time. With the success of movies like Crouching Tiger and the like, there was no need to take the route of casting that they did.

At Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 6:54:00 PM PDT, Blogger benton jew said...

jereboamjump-It's sad that the country can elect an African-American President, but Hollywood producers still can't envision an Asian-American in a lead role. So much for "liberal" Hollywood. What really kills me is that it that in the latest two incidents, Asian-Americans were in the director's chair.


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