Thursday, December 22, 2016

When Well-Intentioned People Fight

By now you've probably heard about the kerfuffle between Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho that stemmed from the former's asking the latter for some advice on handling the backlash to Swinton's being cast in the superhero flick "Doctor Strange," in a part that Marvel changed from a Tibetan man into a Celtic woman. If you missed it, Swinton thought they'd had a productive email conversation only to later hear Cho describe it through a different lens, saying she felt like she was being treated as a "house Asian." A stunned Swinton then released the full exchange, only -- surprise! -- that did little to change people's minds as to who was "right." The short answer is they both are. Swinton's heart was in the right place (despite naively pointing out that people like her aren't sufficiently represented in movies, either) and is open to learning and advancing the cause -- and was understandably caught off-guard that a private discussion became a public matter. (It's also worth noting she's an actor who took a part, not the studio/writer/producer/director who allowed an Asian part to be whitewashed. But knowing that they did, she should have realized people would take it out on her.) And Cho is right that Asian characters should be played by Asian actors, period, and she had every right to feel "a little weird" about the entire exchange, being put in a position to represent "Asians.". But since each of them is smart and sincerely looking to make things better, even in a "dispute" it's a win-win situation for diversity.

Naturally, the internet is exploding with opinions about the whole thing. But nowhere has the discussion been more entertaining than in my mixed-race friends' house, pitting Scott (evil white man) vs. Daniel (house Asian). A quick scroll through some of this and you will surely agree that they really need to adapt this to at least a web series, unless of course they're not being as tongue-in-cheek as I assume they are! Although I see Scott's point -- Cho completely took something Swinton said (in response to a suggestion by Cho) out of context to make it sound like Swinton was essentially saying "I have black friends ..." -- I ended up "siding" with Daniel by mocking Swinton's reaction to the whole situation by saying: "I can't believe this over-the-top comedian who is prone to exaggeration for comedic effect I called for advice on a sensitive topic is being so over-the-top and exaggerating for comedic effect." (Come on, Tilda. If you didn't see this coming, you really didn't know anything about Margaret so definitely shouldn't have pretended to be a fan reaching out for help.)

Truth is, I'd much rather two smart people struggle to make things better than have people deny there's a problem at all ... 

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