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A very thoughtful article about the casting choices in Star Trek Into Darkness

bunkey

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Report this May. 28 2013, 6:10 am

I'm happy that this has evolved from a canon debate to a social issue debate, which was my intent. I want to get people in fandom discussing this openly in a real world context.   

bunkey

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Report this May. 28 2013, 6:32 am

fireproof78

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Report this May. 28 2013, 9:07 am

Thank you for the slides. Interesting history. Some is sad, most is just funny to me that they thought it was a good idea. Just reading it makes me groan.


Bunkey, you mentioned earlier that normally you don't know what to do in these situations except sign the appropriate petition. I find that interesting since you have done more to make people aware of something you are concerned about as well as made Paramount aware.


I think the next step is to supply contact information for Paramount and Bad Robot available so that others can make contact and express themselves.


 

bunkey

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Report this May. 28 2013, 1:14 pm

I shall. Let me look through my bookmarks and sent emails.  Good idea!

Catholic.Fan

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Report this May. 28 2013, 6:24 pm

I've just seen the movie a second time, and I kept this topic in mind while watching it.  As such, I've come to a couple of opinions on the topic.


First off, I think I can go along with it being whitewashing... provisionally.  Two kinds of racism have been identified in this thread as regards whitewashing: one being direct, manipulative whitewashing, and the other being institutional in nature.  I would suggest the former is present in a film like Prince of Persia, where the bulk of the cast is white people with tans and make-up, made to look like Middle-Easterners, for the sole purpose of putting "star" power into a big-budget film.  


I think STID is a case of the latter.  While institutional whitewashing can indeed be just as harmful, it is important to consider intent.  The quotes from the writers in those linked interviews illustrate this point perfectly; it wasn't that Khan's race was a particular issue, it's that his background as a whole was a problem for accessibility.  He needed to be as generic a villain as possible so that the wider audience of NuTrek wouldn't feel alienated by a reference to previous iterations of the franchise.  They wanted to use the idea of Khan sans his "baggage" of prior canonicity.  His background as a person of color wasn't any more important to them than the idea of the Eugenics Wars in the late 20th Century when Khan was put into stasis.  It seems a bit ironic, but Khan's whole role in movie illustrates beautifully what it is that we're here discussing: they wanted his savagery and his intellect, but couldn't care less about the actual character's diversity. He filled a fanboy desire for them, but they didn't respect what he represented, and tried to obfuscate what was important to a lot of people about Khan.  


The whitewashing in this case wasn't necessarily vindictive (or even intentional), but I would certainly classify it as a problem with the system because it didn't consider the depth brought to the character and how discarding that shallows the whole thing.  I'd suggest that in this instance, it's the callousness and carelessness of Hollywood that whitewashed Khan.

fireproof78

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Report this May. 28 2013, 8:30 pm

Quote: Catholic.Fan @ May. 28 2013, 6:24 pm

>

>I've just seen the movie a second time, and I kept this topic in mind while watching it.  As such, I've come to a couple of opinions on the topic.

>First off, I think I can go along with it being whitewashing... provisionally.  Two kinds of racism have been identified in this thread as regards whitewashing: one being direct, manipulative whitewashing, and the other being institutional in nature.  I would suggest the former is present in a film like Prince of Persia, where the bulk of the cast is white people with tans and make-up, made to look like Middle-Easterners, for the sole purpose of putting "star" power into a big-budget film.  

>I think STID is a case of the latter.  While institutional whitewashing can indeed be just as harmful, it is important to consider intent.  The quotes from the writers in those linked interviews illustrate this point perfectly; it wasn't that Khan's race was a particular issue, it's that his background as a whole was a problem for accessibility.  He needed to be as generic a villain as possible so that the wider audience of NuTrek wouldn't feel alienated by a reference to previous iterations of the franchise.  They wanted to use the idea of Khan sans his "baggage" of prior canonicity.  His background as a person of color wasn't any more important to them than the idea of the Eugenics Wars in the late 20th Century when Khan was put into stasis.  It seems a bit ironic, but Khan's whole role in movie illustrates beautifully what it is that we're here discussing: they wanted his savagery and his intellect, but couldn't care less about the actual character's diversity. He filled a fanboy desire for them, but they didn't respect what he represented, and tried to obfuscate what was important to a lot of people about Khan.  

>The whitewashing in this case wasn't necessarily vindictive (or even intentional), but I would certainly classify it as a problem with the system because it didn't consider the depth brought to the character and how discarding that shallows the whole thing.  I'd suggest that in this instance, it's the callousness and carelessness of Hollywood that whitewashed Khan.

>


Quoted for emphasis. This is well said, and I too am provisionally onboard with the whitewashing label, for the reasons you listed. I have agreed with Bunkey that it should be acknowledged, but it does not diminish Cumberbatch's performance or the canon nature of his character.


Well written!

OtakuJo

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Report this May. 28 2013, 11:25 pm

Quote: wissa @ May. 27 2013, 3:11 pm

Quote: /view_profile/ @

>

>ok That is kind of weird. How many fans of Star Trek aren't going to know Khan's story?

lots and lots and lots of casual fans who have watched a single series or a few movies.  We are surrounded by such fan boys/girls all the time that we forget about the legions of people who have seen some star trek or been to a few movies but can't quote chapter and verse about canon or dialogue or anything else.  Sure they can pick out Picard, and Kirk and Spock, and the borg and klingon, but they will not necessarily know the complete back story of every villain that has ever appeared.  They pay just as much money to see a movie as we do, they deserve to enjoy it just as much.


Agreed. That was leagues away from my intended suggestion, and I don't know everything about Khan's backstory either.


But what I'm saying is, to have made this film with the assumption that Khan is unknown (He isn't -- most long-time fans might not know him in detail, but they at least have some notion of who he is) Khan may be the closest thing to a "known" villain that Star Trek has, aside from "the Klingons", and my only implication was that it was a bit peculiar to assume that a fair percentage of the audience wouldn't have some preconceptions. (if not through space seed, then certainly through WOK.)


You seem to imagine that this is some kind of elitist complaint on my part. If that is the case, then I assure you that it is not. I saw nothing wrong with Cumberbatch's performance in the role. He bore almost no resemblance to Montalban, but as I said, that's not a deal-breaker. JJ's quote just struck me as odd given this kind of history.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

wissa

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Report this May. 29 2013, 10:41 am

Quote: OtakuJo @ May. 28 2013, 11:25 pm

Quote: wissa @ May. 27 2013, 3:11 pm

Quote: /view_profile/ @

>

>

>ok That is kind of weird. How many fans of Star Trek aren't going to know Khan's story?

lots and lots and lots of casual fans who have watched a single series or a few movies.  We are surrounded by such fan boys/girls all the time that we forget about the legions of people who have seen some star trek or been to a few movies but can't quote chapter and verse about canon or dialogue or anything else.  Sure they can pick out Picard, and Kirk and Spock, and the borg and klingon, but they will not necessarily know the complete back story of every villain that has ever appeared.  They pay just as much money to see a movie as we do, they deserve to enjoy it just as much.

Agreed. That was leagues away from my intended suggestion, and I don't know everything about Khan's backstory either.

But what I'm saying is, to have made this film with the assumption that Khan is unknown (He isn't -- most long-time fans might not know him in detail, but they at least have some notion of who he is) Khan may be the closest thing to a "known" villain that Star Trek has, aside from "the Klingons", and my only implication was that it was a bit peculiar to assume that a fair percentage of the audience wouldn't have some preconceptions. (if not through space seed, then certainly through WOK.)

You seem to imagine that this is some kind of elitist complaint on my part. If that is the case, then I assure you that it is not. I saw nothing wrong with Cumberbatch's performance in the role. He bore almost no resemblance to Montalban, but as I said, that's not a deal-breaker. JJ's quote just struck me as odd given this kind of history.


You could never be elitist hon ((hugs))  I think what JJ meant by that comment was that you didn't need to know the plot of space seed or wok to understand the villain.  I suspect everyone with a passing interest in star trek has heard the name khan.  But the movie was 30 years ago now.  It would be foolish to assume your entire audience would be familiar with it.  


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bunkey

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Report this May. 29 2013, 11:01 am

But Benedict Cumberbatch isn't "star power".  He has a cult group of fans from Sherlock, and was not widely known outside of the UK.  That is not star power.  He was cast because JJ Abrams liked Sherlock. 


 


Accidental racism is still racism.

Catholic.Fan

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Report this May. 29 2013, 3:52 pm

[quote]


But Benedict Cumberbatch isn't "star power".  He has a cult group of fans from Sherlock, and was not widely known outside of the UK.  That is not star power.  He was cast because JJ Abrams liked Sherlock. 


 


Accidental racism is still racism.


[/quote]


 


I'm not sure if you're referring to my post or not, but I pretty much said that.  Please re-read my post if you were indeed replying to what I said because it would appear that you missed my point entirely.  If you weren't referring to what I said specifically, a quote to who you were referring to might be helpful. 


I said that STID is not a case of replacing a racial character with a white actor for his/her star power.  I said it was an example of institutional racism where Khan's background (race included) was irrelevant to the writers from the beginning because it supposedly would have made him too complicated.  They didn't care enough to keep it in.


You can be quippy by saying accidental racism is still racism (a point I already made by calling it just as harmful), but intent truly is something to consider.  There's a reason motive is argued in courts of law and punishment is mitigated to a lower degree based on something happening aside from the perpetrator's intent.  We have categories of murder and manslaughter (not to mention degrees of each) to reflect that fact.  Did someone die in each instance?  Yes.  Should we judge each scenario the same?  No.  The same approach can and should be taken in regards to issues of race.  While it's important to recognize and, indeed, be critical of racism occurring, there needs to be a thoughtful response to each individual instance.  Stock responses to every instance of racism (boycotting, panning, etc.) can be more harmful than ignorance if your aggressiveness turns people away from the message you're trying to convey.

bunkey

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Report this May. 29 2013, 4:02 pm

The mere fact that they kept Khan's identity under wraps is suspicious enough for me to believe that they knew very well about the backlash that would occur if they revealed Khan to be a white actor.  They left advocasy groups no time to organize or have a dialogue with Paramount. They cast Cumberbatch and knew that there would be a problem.  They have yet to address the situation in any interview.  That to me is intent enough.  

fireproof78

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Report this May. 29 2013, 7:29 pm

Quote: bunkey @ May. 29 2013, 4:02 pm

>

>The mere fact that they kept Khan's identity under wraps is suspicious enough for me to believe that they knew very well about the backlash that would occur if they revealed Khan to be a white actor.  They left advocasy groups no time to organize or have a dialogue with Paramount. They cast Cumberbatch and knew that there would be a problem.  They have yet to address the situation in any interview.  That to me is intent enough.  

>


It seems to me that you find a conspiriacy theory behind everything that Abrams and Co. do.


I get that you don't like the movie, or Abrams or this new Trek, but there is an underlying hostility that I honestly cannot place.


I have agreed with you that the racism is bad, but, as Catholic.Fan so artfully put it, the message you are trying to convey is lost due to the hostility in your statements.


I'll not justify Abrams decision but I'll not condem them either except to say, I'm disappointed and will make contact with respective companies.


The hate I'll leave to others

DS9_FOREVER!

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Report this May. 29 2013, 7:54 pm

Quote: bunkey @ May. 29 2013, 4:02 pm

>

>The mere fact that they kept Khan's identity under wraps is suspicious enough for me to believe that they knew very well about the backlash that would occur if they revealed Khan to be a white actor.  They left advocasy groups no time to organize or have a dialogue with Paramount. They cast Cumberbatch and knew that there would be a problem.  They have yet to address the situation in any interview.  That to me is intent enough.  

>


I don't think that has anything to so with it.


I think they kp "Khan" under wraps because they knew the storm that trekkies would bring.


I just found this great Star Trek MB!!  photo ac1685424929087bf1b7e7e0d734f861.jpg

OtakuJo

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Report this May. 29 2013, 9:53 pm

Quote: wissa @ May. 29 2013, 10:41 am

>

> I think what JJ meant by that comment was that you didn't need to know the plot of space seed or wok to understand the villain.  

>


Ah. If that is the case, then it makes far more sense. I would agree that you wouldn't have to know who Khan is in order to "get" the movie -- although the big reveal would naturally not have been quite so dramatic.


Hugs back.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

OtakuJo

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Report this May. 29 2013, 9:55 pm

Quote: fireproof78 @ May. 29 2013, 7:29 pm

>

>It seems to me that you find a conspiriacy theory behind everything that Abrams and Co. do.

>


Wouldn't be much fun otherwise.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

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