There's basically 3 things I wanna hit and quit in this article:
1) Hollywood is a Big Huge Business now and it's not necessarily about the content any longer but about expanding its brand.
2) People Always rag on America being racist but I think Other Parts of the World need to realize how racist their countries are too.
3) Race and skin color in Asia is something that society has issues with as well.
Gonna write about those three things and then wrap it up together in the conclusion part. Don't worry, if you're gonna read this, don't worry I'm going somewhere with these three seemingly unrelated matters.
Hollywood is Not about the Content Anymore
I used to always think "things were better back in my day" like entertainment was better when I was a kid and whatnot. I realized maybe it was just me though, I was just getting older and every generation feels that way and things weren't better back then it was just that my generation was over and a new one was starting. So, I admitted to myself that I was wrong and that things were not better back in "my day" ... I came to the realization that I was just old now and grumpy about the kids these days.
Then I heard someone say something that made me do a U-Turn on that mental conclusion. I was listening to the Late Rowdy Roddy Piper's podcast and he was interviewing someone (I can't recall who now ... I think it was King Kong Bundy though). Anyways, Piper was saying that things were "better in his day" and that WWE was better back in the 80s and 90s ... and I was thinking "no, you're just old bro" ... but he said something that really made me think. He explained WHY it was better in the old days and it made sense to me. I'm gonna paraphrase what he said because I can't find in it the podcast archive (I think they took them down after he passed away) where he said this but he said something along the lines of ...
...That the WWE was better in the 80s and 90s because it was a company trying to brand itself and become big ... and to do that they needed to provide quality entertainment and content. Yet, now in today's world of 2016, the WWE no longer has to build its brand because they already did that. They have a huge brand to work with and now their main goal is to spread their brand to other markets (China, India, South East Asia, etc) in order to gain more viewership and make a lot more money.
It is now the BRAND itself that sells and they want to get this BRAND into other markets to make more money ... and the content? It's no longer what sells the brand. The content is just conveyor belt re-hash of old content. The content is no longer even needed, it has been uniformed, pitch corrected and corporatized to be ready to serve to the market. The content and quality of the entertainment value is now a NON FACTOR.
I have to agree with this. I really do. Rowdy Piper was right, he was. The WWE when it was trying to get noticed and trying to build itself into a big company had to rely on pure entertainment value and good content to do that ... and now that it is a huge corporate entity with a humongous Brand loyalty ... the entertainment value and content has definitely been put onto the back burner. All they worry about now is how to get their logo and brand into new and profitable markets ... and that's ALL they worry about.
Now, is Hollywood in the same boat? For sure. Hollywood movies are big budget things and that money comes from some very big corporations. It is no longer about the art or the content ... it is about "giving people what they want" and "entering new profitable markets."
You do a few opinion polls to see what the movie goers want and you make conveyor belt products based on those opinion polls ... the movies pretty much make themselves ... all the special effects are outsourced to electronic plantations in India or somewhere where they do all the boring editing work.
The movies are now PRODUCTS and they are not ART. The execs want to move these products like any other product. Like, a guy who runs a juice company ... he'd look at the market test research and say ... "okay so mango juice sells well in this region, so let's discontinue grape juice and focus on exporting and advertising mango juice to this region now" ... and that's the same way movie products are dealt with now. An exec will say, "Okay, so product 22B Generic Super Hero Action Movie sold well in the South East Asia market, ok great, let's start churning out more of those for that region because we can move that product easy."
If you read the Sony emails that were leaked, in my opinion, the most telling one, and the one which proves that this is true was the one about Denzel Washington. The email stated that his film "The Equalizer" didn't sell in Asian Markets and thus only made 200 million instead of 350 million. So, next time they'll find a guy for the movie who will sell in Asia.
Now, you probably know where I'm going with this. Basically, Hollywood not casting black actors and actresses is not because they are necessarily racist and hate black people ... it's because ASIA doesn't like movies with black people!
Rest of the World? Maybe you should stop hating on America and Hate on Your Own Selves for a bit.
First of all, I'm not trying to say there's no racism in America, there is. Groups like the KKK, and the like are still active and racism is very alive in America ...
I will go ON RECORD and state that race relations in America might be the best on EARTH. America is trying to create a nation which is the Best of the Best of all the cultures in the world, and yes at times the groups don't mix and they faction themselves off ... but in many cases the groups are mixing and inter-breeding very well.
Try this on for size, the people of America ... elected a visible minority ... a black guy ... Barack Obama ... to be their official leader and represent them in global affairs. They did that. Twice.
What about you Europe? Where's the visible minorities leading your countries? No where.
England's national dish is Curry, but in all honestly, do you think there will ever be an Indian visible minority elected Prime Minister? No. Why? Because British people would never do that. They are more racist than Americans. You think they never had slavery? They had slaves in Jamaica. Fuck, under British law ... all people are "subjects of the Queen" .... everyone's a fucking slave in England.
France? Will they ever have a black guy or arab guy as their leader. Nope. Probably never. You think they didn't have slavery? Go look up the history of Haiti if you think France never enslaved black people.
Germany? Oh shit... you think there will ever be a visible minority as Germany's leader? Yeah right. Germany is like the most racist country in history. It's Nazi Central. You know what would be cool down in Germany? A Jew President in Germany ... now that would be cool. Would it ever happen? Sadly, never.
Everyone singles out America as being like the most racist and uncivilized country but Europe has as bad or even worse ghettos than the USA nowadays ... all the Arabs in England and France have been relegated to the poorest parts of town and Arabs have a difficult time in Europe.
If a non-white in America asks his or her Mom ... "Mom can I be President someday?" his or her mom can say "Yes, honey, Barack did it ... so you can too" .... but in Europe? You think an Indian or Pakistani kid in England or France can ask his or her mom that question and be told the same answer? No, because that child has ZERO chance of becoming president in those countries. The majority population of those countries would never vote him or her in ... let alone twice in a row.
Canada is the same thing too. Canada operates on this sort of "There's No Problems in Canada, Canada is Perfect" attitude that ensures change cannot occur in its boarders and problems can't be solved. Canada elected a guy who's seen as a "change" because he's only in his forties. I don't call that change ... elect a chick or a black dude or a chinese guy ... that's more of a change than a white guy who's in his 40s instead of his 50s. Will Canada ever have a visible minority as leader like the USA had? No.
Anyways, gotta stay on topic here, back to Denzel Washington not being able to sell Hollywood's products in Asia ... I'm not here to talk about Europe or Canada ... today we're talking about ...
Race and Skin Color in ASIA
I don't think many people would know about this if you don't live there or whatever. I have read some accounts on this matter, mostly by accident, and can form a decent opinion on it, I guess. Things I've read over the years provide me some insight on this even though I wasn't really ever trying to study skin color obsession in Asia.
I read Warren Cromartie's book a long time ago, "Slugging it Out in Japan" about a "gaijin" playing baseball in Japan and it is interesting. I didn't realize that racism isn't just an American thing ... like, people tend to think we have the monopoly on racism but America doesn't at all ... every country is scared of people who look different than they do.
Cromartie is a rare success story though, as he won an MVP in their baseball league and helped their biggest franchise win a championship ... so he is pretty much Super Famous in Japan. He learned the language quite well, appeared in sketch comedy shows, wrestling matches, and formed a band (Climb) where he was the drummer whilst in Japan in addition to his baseball fame.
Alright, well if we wanna to get to the bottom of why Asia isn't big on black actors in movies we shouldn't focus on one of the lone success stories of "gaijins" in Asia. Let's go deeper.
First of all, forget about actual like Black Guys when you think of "black guys" in Asia, in Asia there really isn't very many at all ... their qualification for who is black and white is very different ... so having dark skin color and being known as "black" in Asia means being slightly darker than other Asians. An Asian guy in Asia who's skin is slightly darker than average is known as being "black."
This goes back a long time in Chinese History, if you read Outlaws of the Marsh, the leader of the band of heroes is Song Jiang and this character has two nicknames in the book. He's known as "Timely Rain" to his friends (translates basically to "the guy who's there when you need him") and Song's second nickname is "Blacky" because of his dark skin. There's another character Li Kui who's known as the "Black Whirlwind." This book is where Robin Hood was stolen from and it's about these heroic bandits who steal from the rich and give to the poor. This book is a very "counter-culture" sort of book in China and the depiction of these heroes as being dark skinned was rare for the time period and very likely upset the ruling class.
|Tat is apparently a "black guy" to Chinese people.|
To give you a modern example of what China considers a "black guy" we can look at Man-Tat Ng, a character actor who shows up in many a gambling movie and many a Steven Chow movie. Man-Tat's nickname in movies and in real life is "Blacky Tat" because his skin is apparently very dark.
Alright, I think Man-Tat is a good example of race in modern China. Just ask yourself this ok .... If you want a quick crash course on skin color down in Asia just understand this ....
.... If China thinks Man-Tat Ng is a Black Guy then what would they consider Denzel Washington as?
Look China, I don't know how to break this to you but Man-Tat Ng is NOT a black dude, okay? If your skin color qualifications are THAT obsessive to the point where you'd qualify that man in that photo above as having "black" skin then your obsession with skin color is much more fucked up than America's melanin obsession. Almost 1000 times more fucked up.
This obsession of light skin has its roots in old texts of famous thinkers and government officials in China who spoke of light skin as being a sought after trait. Either way it's not important where it started but the notion that "light skin is good" is VERY ingrained in current Chinese life, and they view light skin as desirable in both real life and in movies.
That's the reality of this race problem and since Hollywood wants to enter into these Asian markets, they have to deal with a skin color obsession that's more pronounced than it is in America.
Honestly though, I don't think Hollywood should try and cater to the Asian market because Asia makes their own entertainment for themselves anyways. Chinese movies are getting fucking amazing, they are. They are big budget products these modern Chinese movies. Hollywood should fucking worry about losing the American market to Asia more so than trying to conquer the Asian market.
I don't think Hollywood should actively not cast black people because they are scared Asians won't watch the movie.
Before we hate on Hollywood too much, it should be known that Hollywood is not in the Arts business anymore ... it's in the conquering all global markets and making a lotta money business now.
When it comes to people wiggin' out about the dumb Oscars. Look, the Oscars isn't important, at all. The only reason any sane person ever watched the Oscars was to see Joan Rivers making fun of celebrities and calling people ugly ... and now that Joan is gone ... there exists no more reason for any sane individual to watch the Oscars.
As bad as race relations are in USA, it is STILL better than any other country on earth. It really is almost achieving a Buckminster Fuller envisioned Best of the Best Global Human Society and I don't think any other place on earth has even come close to what America has achieved in the last 50 years.
How do you get more visible minorities in acting roles? In the current state of Hollywood ... you'd have to convince China that a guy like Man-Tat Ng's skin color and people with skin darker than that are cool ... so ... yeah ... this is a very difficult and uphill battle. If they consider that actor as having skin that's too dark and only cast him to play buffoons and villains then good luck getting Asian markets to watch movies with people who are actual literal sexual chocolate caliber black people.
All factors considered, Hollywood is a business that wants to maximize profits and black actors are not being well received in the markets they want to try and sell their products to.
Look, Hollywood is not what it used to be, ok? It's an arm for Sony and some other businesses and that's the cold hard facts. Why would anyone care if they didn't win the "You Moved the Most Units for Sony Award."
Also, last but not least, if Spike Lee thinks "Chi-Raq" deserves an Oscar then Spike Lee is legit crazy.
(End Note: I was googling more about Skin Color obsession in China and this article seems like a good exmaple if you're interested in further understanding the subject: (http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/china-long-tradition-dodging-sun-photos) . If you google the subject of light skin in China you'll find a lot of data on it.)