- oh-ohkay asked
"Never. [Are] there any transgender actors?" he said. "I’m not aiming for the real thing. I’m aiming for an experienced actor who wants to portray the thing."
- Of the films, 209 starred a straight white man, or had a straight white male voice actor. This translates to 83.6% of all these films having a straight white male protagonist.
- This left only 41 films with a protagonist who was a person of colour and/or woman (no films had an LGBTQ+ protagonist). This translated to 16.4% of all the films.
- "So what? Straight white men are the majority group in America." a) no, the largest demographic group in America is actually technically straight white women, and b) not by 83.6% they fucking aren’t.
- If we look at American demographics (America is where these films are being made and mostly marketed for, after all) we find that only 31.3% of people in the USA are straight white men, while 68.7% are not.
- This means that 31.3% of the US population is recieving 83.6% of the representation, and the remaining 68.7% majority are squabbling over the remaining 16.4%. That’s unbelievably, amazingly shit.
- 10 starred a straight black man. (8 of these leads were played by Will Smith.), making up 2.5% of all the films.
- 26 starred a straight white woman, making up 10.4% of all the films.
- 2 films starred straight South Asian men, making up 0.8% of the films.
- 1 film starred an East Asian man and 1 starred a Middle Eastern man - 0.4% of the films each.
- A grand total of ONE of the 250 highest grossing films of all time stars a woman of colour. Scraping in at number 242, and made in 1995, it’s Pocahontas; which is racist as fuck and demeans the memory of a real Native American woman. Fantastic. It’ll also probably have fallen out of the top 250 by the next year, while no other films with WoC leads seem likely to replace it.
- This means that huge demographic groups are missing. 16.3% of people in the US identify as Latin@, and not a single film on this list has a Latin@ protagonist.
- Roughly 10% of the US identifies as LGBT+. None of these films has a LGBTQ+ protagonist.
- The reason that these films are so high grossing is because of the marketing they recieve. Studios are putting all of their money into films with straight white men, preventing casting of women and people of colour and just generally fucking people over; but this isn’t any necessary indication of what people are willing to see at all. It’s worth noting that the single most successful actor on that list is Will Smith. People are clearly willing to pay out money to watch Will Smith doing stuff, and studios are backing this and enabling more and more films of Will Smith (and his son) doing more and more stuff. His popularity shows fairly clearly that cinemagoers are definitely willing to watch (and probably actively demanding of, seeing as people of colour and white women are more likely to go to the cinema) men of colour in film, and the success of franchises such as Twilight and The Hunger Games shows audiences backing white women (women of colour have yet to be given a real chance). As such, we can definitively say that this is especially a problem with Hollywood, and withe the people making these films - a problem which obviously needs to change.
- Straight white men are 31.3% of the population, 83.6% of the leads. Lucky bastards.
- People of colour are 28.6% of the population, 6.4% of the leads (2.8% if you remove Will Smith, thanks Will.)
- Women are 51% of the population, 10.8% of the leads.
- There’s no intersection here. If you’re a woman of colour, an LGBTQ+ woman and/or LGBTQ+ person of colour, then you’re getting fuck all.
I’m not sure what difference this necessarily makes because regardless of how many trans women Jared Leto “beat out” for the role (and who was doing the judging? Cis producers?) there are still a lot of problems with this casting and the subsequent “Best Supporting Actor” acclaims.
If only 5 trans women auditioned for this role, then the production did not look hard enough before settling for a cis actor. If 2000 trans women auditioned for this role and the production still thought Jared was better than all of them, then that says more about the production and Jared’s cis privilege than the quality of his acting. I suspect the number was closer to 0 than 2000. There is no way to justify that Leto was the best actor for the role without also invalidating the work of every single trans actress as less talented. And, as trans advocates have pointed out, Leto’s gender as a cis man “is important to the perception of the role. He is perpetuating the ‘man in a dress’ trope.” The quality of his performance does not buffer against the reinforcement of this stereotype.
While there isn’t public information available about who else auditioned for the role of Rayon, Jared Leto has spoken about his audition experience. Leto believes that the director “may have seen Rayon more as a drag queen or someone who enjoys pushing a gender envelope or dressing up in women’s clothing.” In that case, it is more likely that cis actors auditioned fro the role of a drag queen, and Leto chose to interpret this character as a “transgendered" (not even the right language coming from someone who claims to be an ally) "beautiful creature.”
"There was a Skype meeting set up with the director [Jean-Marc Vallée]. It wasn’t really an audition, but it was kind of an audition, you know, underneath it all. But I decided to use it as a test really for myself to see what I had to offer. So I said hello via Skype, we were in Berlin, and it was wintertime. We were playing one of the biggest shows of our lives that night, I remember. I reached out and grabbed some lipstick and started to put it on, and you know, his mouth fell to the floor. I was wearing — I think this jacket — and I unbuttoned it and had on a little pink furry sweater, and I pulled it down over my shoulder and proceeded to flirt with him for the next 20 minutes and then woke up the next day with the official offer. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, baby." - Jared Leto on his audition for the role of Rayon.
Director Jean Marc Vallee said of this audition:
Do you know this actor Jared Leto? I just Skyped with him and he hit on me; He was feeling me up through the screen! I don’t know, it was very uncomfortable but I think we found Rayon.”
It’s sad, because it seems like from the start Rayon was an amalgam of cis men’s stereotypes of a provocative trans women. So of course the perfect Rayon is overly flirtatious and sexualized in a way that makes people uncomfortable. Of course the perfect Rayon is someone who gets the job by playing up the sexuality by hitting on a cis straight man.
The director stated in a CBC interview he never thought once of getting a trans woman and dismissed the possibility.
Here’s the quote:
Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed Dallas Buyers Club, spoke to CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, who asked whether he ever considered casting a transgender actor.
The director did not even bother to take a quick second to google to see if trans actors exist and did not even consider the possibility of casting a trans person in this role. (Also, an unfortunate use of the word “thing” given the context.)
To me, this doesn’t even seem like this is something that should be controversial. This information speaks for itself. Whatever Leto’s performance was or meant, they continued marginalizing the experience of trans women so that they could continue giving voice to a cis man and then bathed him in hero worship for being willing to put on lipstick. It should be enough to be allowed to say into the universe that this is problematic and that continuing to celebrate Leto’s ability to wear “trans” as a costume is to say that you’re only brave for being visible as trans when you’re pretending. He now gets to step away from that identity and continue being a white cis man in a society that thinks he’s brave and sophisticated, while simultaneously continuing to shut out the experiences of women who cannot remove themselves from that identity.
Say what you will about his performance, but it should not be controversial to say that the production choices, the director’s mindset, and Leto’s new status in Hollywood due to this role are all problematic. That should be an ok part of the discussion.
Also, fuck anyone who calls any human a beautiful creature. What the fuck is that?
bolded for emphasis
Jared Leto has been winning multiple awards for playing the transgender character of Rayon in the film “Dallas Buyers Club.” The transgender community has then watched him throw them under the bus.
1. LETO: "It was the role of a lifetime," he said. "It was an incredible thing to represent this group of people who largely are ignored."
Ignored. Leto ignored criticism from the trans community and allies who don’t want him representing this group of people in the way he has been. "wouldn’t it have been better if the starring role had gone to an actual trans person" - La Times. Despite complaints and Leto having one of the most powerful publicists in Hollywood, Leto claimed in December that he had never heard criticisms that trans roles should go to trans actors. When asked what research he did for the role he said “a lot” but he did not formally engage, pay, or study under any trans people.
Transgender roles should go to transgender actors and if that is not possible (for whatever reason) productions should hire transgender consultants to “get it right” instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Jared ignores this:
2. LETO: "you wouldn’t want to stick a transgender person with only transgender roles, so it goes both ways."
Transgender people DO NOT GET cisgender roles. It does not go both ways due to systemic oppression. Cisgender people take transgender roles then do what Leto is doing instead of the advocating and “possibility modeling” of Laverne Cox in “Orange is the New Black.” She represents trans people beyond the screen role in the media in positive ways never experienced before. This creates “teachable moments” as Katie Couric put it after her problematic questioning. When a cis person takes a trans role, trans stories are exploitation, not representation.
Meanwhile, Trans Hollywood’s experience is that trans people are often told they do not have enough experience for key roles. It’s a systemic problem, cis people take trans roles, trans actors are left with nothing.
3. "I thought I’d look pretty good in a skirt."
No Jared, the character of Rayon is fictional in this film “based on a true story.” She was ahistorically written in order to be the “most gay” and visually problematic for Matthew McConaughey’s character Ron Woodroof. You removed your eyebrows (?) and played her with intense makeup, hair, and clothing to make Ron uncomfortable and a very unlikely ally.
You weren’t there to look good, you were there to look bad. You are perpetuating the “man in a dress” stereotype of transgender women.
What if the role had gone to these transgender women? Would the theater laughed as hard at Ron ripping down Rayon’s photo while masturbating? How would the supermarket scene have played out if Ron was just seen walking around with a beautiful woman vs. a straight cis male playing….what…..
4.LETO: ”This wonderful creature who was unfortunately addicted to drugs and dying of AIDS and fighting for her life.” and “beautiful creature….”
While you’ve made it clear in interviews that Rayon was living life as a woman and wanted trans related medial care but you don’t talk about playing a woman or trans woman. You talk about playing a “creature.” USE THE WORDS “TRANSGENDER WOMAN.” Again, how do you feel you are representing “this group of people” if you never use the terminology? If you call one of us a creature. We don’t want you up there Jared if you are just going to be a bro about it.
5. LETO: ”It’s wild, even putting on lipstick is a very shocking thing, [and] putting on heels is a very shocking thing, putting on tights is a shocking thing” “. One of the things I did was wax my entire body including my eyebrows,’ 'I'm just fortunate that it wasn't a period piece so I didn't have to do a full Brazilian [wax]. 'Ladies, you know what I'm talking about though…and so do some of you men, I think.'
All superficial gendering. People are not giving the award to rockstar Jared Leto who talks about how weird it is to do things femme cis women and femme trans women do every day. They gave it to what seemed like a serious actor in a demanding role. Jared did not use the role as a learning moment to be forever changed by trans struggle. Instead he jokes about it like a cis man does, it’s trans misogyny. When asked about leaving the role behind….
6. LETO “I tucked those balls firmly away… I’m still coughing them out.”
Come on, is he our drunk uncle making fun of us? And on criticism for his Golden Globe’s speech…
7. LETO “obviously I didn’t prepare a speech.”
But he did! He gave nearly the identical speech at the Hollywood Film Awards.
Hollywood Film Awards Speech:
Golden Globes Speech:
This led to proper criticism over the transphobia and exploitation:
Jared Leto and Michael Douglas’ Homophobic Acceptance Speeches
The Golden Globes gave Jared Leto an award for playing a trans woman because Hollywood is terrible.
So is anything changing? YES!. Leto’s SAG AWARD Speech dispensed with the cheap jokes and had some class, dedicating the award to the groups he borrowed emotional equity from instead of being about himself, his waxing, and his return to film after six years, and the great parties:
8. LETO: " I’d like to share it with the Rayons of the world. To the people who have made a choice to live their lives … as they have chosen to dream it. I’m so proud that i’ve been able to glimpse the world through your eyes."
There is learning happening but it seems more as a response to backlash than actual learning or community. What is next? We do not identify as “Rayons.” Say the word “TRANSGENDER.” We appreciate the attempt at recognizing a marginalized group but Leto is avoiding our self identity, making up his own point of view on what we are and should be called. We are organizing so this learning curve never happens again. We need trans actors in trans roles for visibility, representation, and positive models instead of wanting to vomit listening to a cis man make fun of us. We don’t want to be writing Tumblr posts and articles defending ourself from a person who thinks they are representing us. While in this period of civil rights, we want to see ourselves truly represented and moving forward.
Cis men like Jared Leto have their pick of roles in Hollywood. Meanwhile, trans actors are rarely considered, and when substantial roles are written as trans they are almost always cast with cis actors. The cis actors are celebrated as the trans actors are shut out, and this is wrong.
are you cis i can see that asterisk actually get it away please?????? ew???? ew
Yes, I am cis, and I have a lot to learn and am still learning. I want to apologize for not doing my due diligence and doing my research before using the word “trans*” with an asterisk. I have since googled and read articles on the submit and I see now how it is often an invalidating term under a veneer of inclusiveness. It was ignorant and thoughtless and bad allyship and I apologize for causing you pain. I will be going through the reblogs on my site with the asterisk and editing them out. Thank you for being willing to be vulnerable to call me out and to remind me of my privilege. I will not use the asterisk in the future.
Cis men like Jared Leto have their pick of roles in Hollywood. Meanwhile, trans actors are rarely considered, and when substantial roles are written as trans they are almost always cast with cis actors. The cis actors are celebrated as the trans actors are shut out, and this is wrong.
Or maybe they chose him because he’s an amazing actor, who they thought could do the part …
I was expecting at least one person to naively respond with this exact argument. On the surface it sounds really compelling—believe me, I used to spout defensive stuff like this all the time. Pretending it is all a meritocracy, prioritizing an actor’s “talent” over the representation of marginalized people…
When we say things like this, we are basically saying that the best people to portray trans characters are people who are not trans. As if good acting and being trans are mutually exclusive, and that is good enough of a reason to justify leaving them out of stories about them.
And the arrogance, the enormous arrogance of us cis people to think that we can portray the struggles of trans people better than they can—better than the people who have to live in the cissexist world that we create that they have to live in!
Jared Leto played trans in a movie and tonight he’s taking home that golden statue. Tommorow he will wake up and field a ton of phone calls offering him roles to play exciting cis characters. Meanwhile, trans people will continue to struggle for representation in the scarce amount of films about them. They’ll continue to struggle for basic rights while Dallas Buyers Club and the Academy’s Best Supporting Actor award for a trans woman character reinforce to the average cis person that the gender identities of trans people are not real, that the best actors to play trans characters are cis actors, and that trans people are not needed in movies with trans characters.
despite the fact that women and nonwhite individuals are more likely to identify as LGBT, regular/recurring LGBT characters on broadcast and cable networks are are 72% and 71% white, respectively, and overwhelmingly male. It seems likely that onscreen representation reflects the demographics of television creators, not of the television audience.
I finally processed the information on the leads for the top 250 grossing films (I’m going to do 500 in all), and I have some really, really great facts:
BUT: The world isn’t split into straight white men and everyone else, so let’s break this down further. Of the 41 films left over for the rest of us:
Tl; dr: Representation in Hollywood is really, really shit.
[Mary Poppins author P.L.] Travers was a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual — a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse. Now that’s a character worth slapping on-screen, instead of this stiff British stereotype determined to steal joy from future generations of children. With her longtime girlfriend and then-adult son erased, this frigid Travers seems like she may not even know how babies are made. Maybe Mary Poppins could sing her a song about it.
Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there’s something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter. (Another battle she lost — Mary Poppins’ opening credits list Travers as merely a “consultant.”) Just as slimy is the sense that this film, made by a studio conglomerate in a Hollywood dominated by studio conglomerates, is tricking us into cheering for the corporation over the creator.
"it’s unrealistic for EVERY character to be queer" yeah well it’s also unrealistic for EVERY character to be straight & cis. and it’s also unrealistic for giant monsters from another dimension to suddenly attack earth and for a little talking animal to grant girls magical powers and for people to get superpowers from radiation and for some random person to become a pop sensation overnight and do u see where i’m going with this
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
Actress Michelle Rodriguez recently told Entertainment Weekly that she doesn’t like talking about what she does with her vagina, so naturally, that’s all the media wants to talk about today.
This morning, the Internet was abuzz with reports siting Rodriguez’s admission to EW that she has gone “both ways.” SEO-friendly headings all but shout at readers about Rodriguez’s sexuality, playing up the bisexual angle of a story that actually has a lot more to do with Rodriguez’s incredible career and her desire to create empowering media content for Latinas. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at most of the posts that have spawned from the original EW interview. All you’d know is that she thinks both men and “chicks” are “intriguing.”
Well, don’t you fret, because we have got you covered. Here are a few highlights from Rodriguez’s candid interview that say a lot more about her ambition, her character and her strong personality than the handful of quotes describing what she likes to do with her vagina:
Determined to not be a “lowlife,” admitted “knucklehead” Rodriguez took a chance and auditioned for the lead role in Girlfight, despite the fact that she did not have any formal training.
After a night of partying, it seems, her best friend wound up in jail. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be a lowlife,’” she says. “I was always that kid who’d look up at the stars and think, ‘I don’t belong here. Where do I belong?’” Then she hopped a train to New York City for the audition that would change the course of her life. “I walked into the room and told them the truth,” says Rodriguez. “‘Never graduated high school, never been to school for acting — but I can beat girls up and you want a boxer.’”
Michelle wants to be a symbol for female empowerment, and considers each role that she takes on as an opportunity to make good on that goal.
“Female empowerment became my torch to bear,” she says. “I won’t ever bend on what I believe in. I don’t care who you are — you can be the best director on the planet. If you don’t get what I do, what I’m good at, I will not bend for you.” She tosses her hair back, taps her fingers along the table. “People don’t understand how important symbolism is. Seeing an image up on that screen can make a difference to somebody. It can make a difference.”
Rodriguez was sexually assaulted by a producer when she was 22 years old.
When she was 22, she was at a wrap party in Europe when a producer pinned her against a wall and grabbed her between the legs.
But the Jersey girl defended herself…with a knife!
“Well, get this,” Rodriguez says. “This girl from Jersey City has a knife in her boot. I pulled it out and said, ‘I’ll cut your d— off.’” She sighs. “You know what he did? He laughed at me.” But he never bothered her again.
Rodriguez doesn’t work with just anyone, especially if their view of women does not align with her own.
The actress says she gets grief for not making more movies with Latin filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez: “Most Latin directors don’t understand female empowerment at all. Culturally they’re in the archaic caveman days.”
Rodriguez has aspirations to change the way Hollywood portrays women and Latinos in the media. She’s even written a few new projects!
After she shoots Fast & Furious 7, she has a few writing projects: one a kids’ movie and the other about a secret society of women.
Also, Rodriguez wants to create a Latina superhero!
“She should be, like, a South American Amazon princess,” she says. “I just need to figure out what her superpower is.”
But all anyone else is writing about is this:
“I don’t talk about what I do with my vagina, and they’re all intrigued,” she says of the media. “I’ve never walked the carpet with anyone, so they wonder: What does she do with her vagina? Plus, I play a butchy girl all the time, so they assume I’m a lesbo.” When EW points out that that’s not a fair assumption, Rodriguez laughs. “Eh, they’re not too far off,” she says. “I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too f—ing curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.” She shrugs.
So there you go! Ultimately, Rodriguez talks about a lot more than her sexuality in her EW interview, and guess what? It’s all very interesting! She’s a kickass Latina on a mission to diversify Hollywood’s image of Latinos and women in the media. Oh, and she happens to have hooked up with both women and men.
via LatinoRebels.com http://bit.ly/17tzoM9
MRod reminds me of Korra.
By Malinda Lo
[Image: The book cover for Inheritance (left); the author, Malinda Lo (right)]
Yesterday my novel Inheritance, the sequel to Adaptation, was published. Inheritance picks up minutes after the end of Adaptation, and I think of the two books as one big story cut in two halves. They’re X-Files-inspired science fiction thrillers about a 17-year-old girl, Reese Holloway, who has to uncover what exactly happened to her and her friend David Li while they were unconscious at a secret military base in Nevada following a freak car accident.
My first two novels, Ash and Huntress, were YA fantasies about queer girls. Ash was a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and Huntress was inspired by Chinese and Japanese traditions. I am both a lesbian and a Chinese American, and the subject of my identity comes up often when I do interviews or panels. So, when Adaptation came out, I was known for writing YA about nonstraight, nonwhite characters. That’s fine — up to a point.
Last fall, I did several events to promote Adaptation. At one of them, someone in the audience asked, “Is Reese white and straight in order to make Adaptation more mainstream?”
(Talk about a loaded question!)
I answered, firstly: “What makes you think Reese is straight?”
The person who asked that question had only read the first paragraph of the jacket copy, which described Reese’s feelings about David: “Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens.”
She hadn’t read down to the end yet, when a girl named Amber is mentioned: “When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction…”
The jacket copy didn’t spell it out because we didn’t want to spoil the plot (although personally I think it’s pretty suggestive), but let me tell you: Reese is not straight. This is an assumption you should never make — not in fiction, and not in real life.
But the question of whether I made Reese white in order to make the book more mainstream has a much more complicated answer.
Was I tempted to make her white because … well, everybody knows that books about white people sell more? To be honest, of course that thought crossed my mind. It probably crosses the mind of every author out there writing about people of color. And if it doesn’t cross their mind, someone will suggest it to them.
But let me ask you this: Should authors who have written about people of color in the past never be allowed to write about white people?
And here’s another question: Since I’m a person of color, should I only write about people of color?
The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no. As a writer, I’m allowed to write about whatever the hell I want. As a writer of color, I’m allowed to write about people who are not like me. The same goes for every writer out there.
Also: It is not a crime to want your book to do well in the marketplace. Some writers write only from the heart; others write almost entirely thinking about the bank. I’m going to bet that most writers fall somewhere in between, like me. I need to be creatively inspired to write, but at the same time, I know that the creative decisions I make can push a book in various directions: literary, niche, commercial, somewhere in between. I’m lucky that I’m married to someone who has a “real job,” and I don’t need to depend wholly on the income from my writing to support myself.
Because of that privilege, I have the luxury of writing the books I want to write. In Adaptation, the main character is white. Does that make the book more mainstream? I don’t know, because not only is she not straight, she’s involved in a bisexual love triangle with another girl (Amber) and a boy who is Asian American (David).
And there are so many racist stereotypes about Asian men.
In Hollywood, Asians are rarely if ever leading men because Asian men are either kung fu experts (who still don’t get the girl) or nerds. Bruce Lee or Long Duk Dong. There’s no in between. And in real life, plenty of women — women of all races — embrace these stereotypes by saying they would never date an Asian man.
[Image: Bruce Lee (left) and the character Long Duk Dong (right) from the movie Sixteen Candles.]
I have a father who is half Chinese. I have a Chinese American brother. I’m married to a woman now, but my ex-boyfriend, whom I was with for five years, was also Chinese American. Those stereotypes about Asian men make me really angry. That’s why I wanted to write a book in which an Asian American boy was a romantic lead. I wanted him to be sexy and strong and smart.
And I admit I thought his desirability would be underscored if he dated a white girl. I would be flipping the established, often very racist practice of white men being with exotic Asian women. I was purposely subverting that stereotype.
For me, the decision to make Reese white was tangled up in all of these complicated things. It wasn’t a simple, white = commercial success decision. And while I do think Adaptation and Inheritance are more commercial than my previous books, it’s not because the main character is white. It’s because the style I wrote it in is more commercial. It is, frankly, less literary than Ash or Huntress. It’s a science fiction thriller, and things actually do explode in it. There are conspiracies, and men in black, and Area 51, and a love triangle that I think is pretty darn sexy.
Whether or not it’s “mainstream” is for the market to determine, not me, though I freely admit that I’ve always written more for the mainstream than for the experimental fringe. I know that mainstream can have connotations of blandness and whitewashing, but it can also indicate acceptance and success. I don’t think it’s wrong — especially not for an Asian American lesbian — to hope for some of that.