Asian American Representation and their Stereotypes

Asian representation in the American Entertainment industry has had some struggles showcasing Asian Americans in popular media. When someone is asked “Who is the most popular Asian actor or actress?” the response is usually Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. These two men are well known for their physical abilities in martial arts and have received popular response from the American public. But does this limit the number of roles that Asian actors can have? Many asian lead roles in popular media have the character being portrayed as a martial arts expert, a nerd, or a doctor. In American entertainment, there has only been one film that showcases an asian male with a love interest in recent years who isn’t portrayed as a typical Asian stereotype. Many films and shows that do showcase asians as the lead roles usually come from asian countries.

In America, there is a diverse community that represents all cultures and ethnic backgrounds but the entertainment industry tends to overlook these minorities. In the youtube video “Why doesn’t Hollywood Cast Asian Actors”, one of the main ideas is that Hollywood is scared to take the risk of not having the bigger Hollywood names in their films, ultimately leading the film to make more in the Box Offices. This then brings up the problem of Asian American kids not having any source of relatability in the entertainment industry for a person of color that they can relate to. Not all shows do this poorly however. Shows like Fresh off the Boat is a great example of a first generation family trying to follow the American Dream and the struggles of being an Asian American in the 1990’s.  But what about the earlier family tv sit

Fresh off the Boat is an experience very similar to my own as an Asian American. The way that the Wong Family is portrayed is not only about an Asian family trying to make it in America, but how the main character, Eddie Wong, deals with being stereotyped as an asian and the difficulties that come with that because of moving to a Primarily white neighborhood. The show does showcase many asian tropes such as having an accent, living with a grandparent, and eating cultural foods. The way that the show is set up, none of these portray the asian culture in a negative spotlight, but how the family deals with difficulties that can be translated to any minority. The family consists of Louis Huang, the father trying to support his family; Jessica Huang, the tiger mom; Grandma Huang, the grandma who lives with the family; Eddie Huang, the rebellious chinese son; Emery Huang, the son who adjusts well to the white society; and Evan Huang, the good chinese son who does well in school. The family might consist of typical asian stereotypes, but there is much more to their characters than just the stereotypes given to them. Jessica might be a tiger mom, who pushes her family for greatness, but only because she wants what’s best for her kids, and there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for them. Eddie, Emery, and Evan are all great representations of a Chinese American son. From personal experience, I always tried my best in school, but my grades didn’t always represent that. Early on in my life, I dealt with the classic asian stereotypes such as always being good in school, being a bad driver, stinky food, or eating domestic animals. I never let these comments get to me, but it was hard dealing with the prejudice showcased in popular media. If a show like Fresh off the Boat was around when I was younger, it would have given me a lot of advice on how to be proud of who you are and not let others ruin that for you, and also showcase the Asian American family as a normal family and not some crude representation often seen in popular media.

Going more in depth about asians in the film industry, many of these roles are seen as the talented instrumentalist nerdy type who is soft spoken, the brilliant surgeon, or a martial arts master. Crazy Rich Asians, is the first film in 25 years to have an all asian cast that isn’t a period piece. In the Washington Post article written by Allyson Chiu, she includes the positives and negatives of the movie in tweets from Asian Americans. None of the actors are “whitewashed” or played by a white actor, but the actors and actresses are all played by East Asian actors. In the American society, asians are generally clumped together into one word, “Asian” and most don’t make an effort to learn the difference in the cultures or will make assumptions on race. In Crazy Rich Asians, there is a lot of asian representation in the movie about culture and having a diverse cast, but there is no representation of Western Asian countries in the film. One of the tweets in Allyson’s article is tweeted by EJ Ramos David. He mentions how the film relates to most Western Films with an all white cast beside the one Black token character, and how in Crazy Rich Asians, there is a Brown Asian token character.  I feel that in the entertainment industry, it is hard to please the entire public, but they are making a step in the right direction on the representation of asian actors that transcend their stereotypes, which is what the film focuses on. The film breaks the stereotypes by having attractive asian male leads, but also showcases the geeky asian girl who has more to her character than just being the typical asian nerd. Variety’s youtube video “’Crazy Rich Asians’ Cast on Hollywood Stereotypes”, Ken Jeong, asian comedian and actor, mentions how the trend of more asian representation in entertainment all plays off of each other and that it is the first steps into more inclusion of asian roles that aren’t solely based around stereotypes.

With shows like Fresh off the Boat and movies like Crazy Rich Asians, the Asian American audience will have characters to relate to that aren’t based off of outlandish stereotypes, but have more depth and a deeper story to who they are as a person. Looking back on my childhood, I would have loved to have seen this movie and watch this show with my own family and how we see ourselves in the characters. I would like to see more in animated shows and video games, but in a few years, I can see this possibility becoming a reality if this trend continues. Check out the videos if you have the time because they go over some other interesting aspects that I did not go into depth on!

Happy Thanksgiving! 😀

Works Cited:

Why Doesn’t Hollywood Cast Asian Actors?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkfrZ91jA_0

 

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Cast on Hollywood Stereotypes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4v2LdlXMc

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/04/26/an-all-asian-cast-and-no-martial-arts-why-the-crazy-rich-asians-movie-matters/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f6a41643bb93

 

American Shows, Korean Animation?

While fans of the popular American show, Bob’s Burgers may be highly knowledgeable of characters, narratives, and long-running jokes, there is lesser known knowledge about where the show is actually animated. South Korea is an answer that may surprise many, which begs the question: how many American shows or networks outsource their material to be animated abroad, and what might be some possible effects?

For one thing, it should be known that the largest driving force for creating material overseas is lower cost of production. Outsourcing was popularized in the 1970s when ABC, CBS, and NBC couldn’t meet demand for new episodes of popular shows such as Scooby-Doo and Fat Albert. Korean artists then proved to be technically proficient and quick, and became the new source for many projects (Mayes). Decreased costs are due to the fact that employees in places such as Soul do not have as many protected creative and working rights, therefore allowing for physical and financial exploitation. This poses an ethical dilemma about sacrificing fair working conditions for the sake of larger profit.  

A large problem which Korean studios have also faced in recent years is a hesitance to turn from paper animation to digital. This is an issue posed in The Atlantic’s article, “A New Age of Animation” by Kate Torgovnick May which describes that the outsourcing has led to a technical divide which has decreased efficiency. Working on paper means that every frame must be scanned individually for delivery to American studios resulting in any revisions taking a week or more. Another problem is difficulty translating American cultural nuances for culturally different, Korean creators. Joel Kuwahara, co-founder of BentoBox Entertainment, a production company in Los Angeles that produced Bob’s Burgers, notes that, “It can be hard to communicate precisely what we want…It can be acting nuances- or dance moves…We have a different perception of humor… We have a different approach to everything, including body language and expressions” (May).   

Another issue that may come about is foreign countries’ lack of understanding about U.S. laws that protect intellectual properties, copyrights, etc (Mayes). This may result in copyright infringements or use of creative property which is not accessible for free use. A large problem that I am personally concerned with is the decreased value of production with foreign animators creating projects of lesser quality due to lack of resources, time, and labor.

The Korean animation industry today works with around 120 studios, including Fox, Dreamworks, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon (Mayes). This means that American audiences have a direct relationship to Korean animators, by consuming their work and acting as the main source of profit. American viewers should be aware and critical of the conditions under which their favorite shows were created. This is not to say that shows or networks should be blacklisted as unethical and never supported again, but rather to say that in order to consume media honestly, we must be socially aware of the entire production process. There should be an appreciation for the time, money, and effort put into creating these shows and people should be rewarded and credited in full for the work that was put in. 

While push for change and proactivity to apply these changes is slow, some have started to make the transition. The largest solution for the technical, cultural problems is to employ “overseas animation directors” to work in the Korean studios overseas and check any animation that is sent back to the U.S (Mayes). This allows for an American perspective to play an active role in the animation process. Others, such as Kuwahara have taken on a more active role. He has reached out to Toon Boom, creators of the software Harmony in order to improve functionality for Korean animators and encourage studios to make the change from paper to digital, which will open the doors for many young animators in Korea who are pulled to the digital aspect.

Overall, it appears that outsourcing American  shows is something which poses some conflict. On the one hand, Korean studios offer extra, quick labor, with the added benefit of decreased cost, while on the other hand this is a direct result of manual exploitation. At the same time, foreign studios face language and cultural barriers which can further prolong the process. Ultimately, it’s a tricky situation which many would rather ignore, but I propose that perhaps until working rights of foreign animators are fully protected, we had better keep animation production domestic.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-outsourcing-animation-overseas-bad-idea-christina-mayes/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/05/a-new-age-of-animation/483342/

Lack of Representation in Tim Burton Films

 

 

 

 

 

Every year in October, I find myself watching a lot of Tim Burton movies to get into the Halloween spirit. I’ve always loved their creativity and eerie nature, but recently, along with many others, I have begun to notice the lack of diversity in the characters being portrayed. This lack of representation is present in both his live action and animated films such as Edward Scissorhands (1990), Corpse Bride (2005), Frankenweenie (2012), Sweeney Todd (2007) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) just to name a few. For a while this seemed to go unnoticed, but with the recent push for diversity in Hollywood, Burton’s films have started to become more scrutinized.

 

Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Barron in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

 

Burton has made upwards of 25 movies now, and the only non-white actor in any major role is Samuel L. Jackson who plays the villain in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which isn’t exactly a victory. The first time a Tim Burton movie has a black character, and he is absolutely evil. Yikes. In a 2016 interview with Bustle on the subject of why there is no diversity in his movies, Burton stated “Things either call for things or they don’t,” which is about the weakest and least articulate defense possible. Essentially, Burton recognizes his complete lack of diversity, but doesn’t plan on doing anything about it. It is not as though he is unaware of the problem, but rather he is making the conscious decision to only cast white people, and his only defense on the matter is basically the equivalent of “because I just feel like it.”

 

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd on the streets of Sweeney Todd’s fictional London

 

One could try to make the argument that many of Burton’s films take place in areas like Victorian London where it wouldn’t be historically accurate to include a racially diverse cast, but seeing as Burton’s films never even approach the idea of being normal or realistic, once again this would be a pretty weak response. If a man can have scissors for hands, Victorian London can have a diverse population. Since Burton’s films include themes of people being different or outcasts, it seems odd to have a cast of people that all look exactly the same.

 

More diversity in Hollywood starts with the people making the films, and people like Tim Burton are slowing down the process of incorporating more cultural representation into the media. It is one thing to not realize that what you are producing lacks diversity, but it is so much worse to be aware of what you are doing and not see a problem with it. I’m sure there are plenty of other directors and producers who share Burton’s mind set. Nothing is going to change unless the people with power in the film industry become aware of the need for diversity, and actually start caring.

Awareness of Exploitation of Women and gender non-conforming people in the Animation Workforce.

In 1941 Disney animators protested Walt Disney Studios. They started the protest because it was impossible to live with the hours and pay Walt was offering. It wasn’t sustainable for their mental wellbeing or to support their families. The protests lasted nine weeks until Roy Disney had to give in because he was compelled by federal mediators, the boycotts, and his Bank of America Financier (Sito). He was forced to recognize the guild. After the guild was established everyone went back to work and money was doubled and the animators actually got screen credits. It is hard to believe there was a time where animators weren’t credited in the films they helped create (Sito).
The Screen Cartoonists guild made one of the largest impacts on the Hollywood animation scene. They helped pave the way for animators to earn a pension, medical insurance, and a higher standard of living (Sito). So, this must mean that, since the guild is in place, everything is fixed, correct? We all know this is false, the one thing they forgot about was women or gender non-conforming people and sexual harassment in the workplace.
After the #metoo movement, a lot of people’s eyes have been opened about the way Hollywood has been treating women. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many women in animation also stepped forward and have started talking about what has happened throughout their time in the animation field. The world has woken up to the fact that sexual harassment in every workplace is actually a thing, even in animation (wow shocker). Especially since the John Lasseter scandal, and especially since he has been fired from Disney and Pixar altogether. Since then, more and more people have spoken up and accused people who have sexually assaulted them, like the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show was accused of systematic sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse of teenage girls over the entirety of his animation career (The dot and line).  Also, Chris Savin who was the showrunner of The Loud House was fired a year ago because of allegations of sexual wrongdoing and threats of retribution (The dot and line).
More and more women are speaking up about sexual abuse in the workplace, which, even though it is difficult, they are making a difference by speaking about it. Studies show that one in three women experience sexual harassment in the workplace (Vagianos). That’s an insane amount of women who have gone through something like this. And sadly studies also show about only 29% of women actually report the harassment, and only 15% feel like they have been treated fairly (Vagianos). Those are staggering numbers. Which is why speaking up and giving a voice to other women is a brave and amazing thing to do and it can help create change. But speaking up can be hard especially from the fear of if you speak up you might be blacklisted. A woman who worked on Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil in 2012 gave an account, at a Women in Animation panel, of what happened to her when she was sexually harassed, “she initially confided in a manager, who discouraged her from reporting the harassment to human resources. The Animation Guild former business agent offered no help, saying, “At least you have a job.” Once she finally met with human resources and sought assurances that she would not be blacklisted or fired for pursuing a complaint, she was told: “I can’t guarantee your job”” ( Chmielewski).
Since this woman was a single mom, and she needed to support her family, she really didn’t have a choice so she kept quiet. But she finally spoke out in 2017 and identified the man who sexually harassed her as Chris Savin, the now ex-creator of loud house ( Chmielewski). Times are changing, and women are a bit more comfortable speaking out especially after the #metoo movement ( even though they shouldn’t have to because knowing that you shouldn’t sexually harass people should be common sense). Such as the 200 female animators, who have spoken out and have written a letter to Hollywood executives insisting on an end to sexual harassment in the animation industry (Kew). This letter makes many demands to improve the workplace for women, including improving sexual harassment policies by amending the Animation Guild constitution to make sure that if someone is guilty of sexual assault they are properly punished for it (Kew). The letter also asked that men in the workplace start speaking up for the women around them if they are seeing them being harassed. Chris DeFaria, the CEO of Dreamworks, and Margie Cohn, head of Dreamworks TV, responded to the letter by reestablishing their policies on sexual misconduct in the workplace (Kew). This letter and people speaking out are taking amazing steps and making many opportunities for women in the animation industry to change the way men treat women in the office.
Change only happens when we band together and speak out. Just like the 1941 protests, the animators protesting knew that if they all didn’t band together and speak out as a whole union, change wouldn’t come if only a few of them stood together, If that happened the people who protested would run out of money would have to come crawling back to their old jobs, back to the old unfair intolerable status quo. But those protestors banded together and the majority supported the cause which caused a change in the industry. History does repeat itself, If we speak up about the sexual harassment in our field, band together and make sure this industry knows that their workforce won’t stand for this, then there is nothing we can’t achieve. I am attaching the note that those 200 women sent and signed, as well as a link to Women in Animation sexual assault resources. If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted you are not alone.
http://womeninanimation.org/sexualharassment/

An Open Letter to the Animation Community

We, the women and gender non-conforming people of the animation community, would like to address and highlight the pervasive problem of sexism and sexual harassment in our business. We write this letter with the hope that change is possible and ask that you listen to our stories and then make every effort to bring a real and lasting change to the culture of animation studios.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many of the women who work in animation have begun discussing more openly issues that we have dealt with quietly throughout our careers. As we came together to share our stories of sexism, sexual harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault, we were struck by the pervasiveness of the problem. Every one of us has a story to share, from tossed-off comments about our body parts that were framed as “jokes” to women being cornered in dark rooms by male colleagues to criminal assault.

Our business has always been male-dominated. Women make up only 23% of union employees, so it’s no surprise that problems with sexism and sexual harassment exist. Sexual harassment and assault are widespread issues that primarily affect women, with women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups affected at an even greater rate.

As more women have entered the animation workforce, it seems that some men have not embraced this change. They still frequently make crass sexual remarks that make it clear women are not welcome on their crews. Some have pressed colleagues for romantic or sexual relationships, despite our clear disinterest. And some have seen the entrance of more women into the industry as an opportunity to exploit and victimize younger workers on their crews who are looking for mentorship. In addition, when sexual predators are caught at one workplace, they seem to easily find a job at another studio, sometimes even following their victims from job to job. We are tired of relying on whisper networks to know who isn’t safe to meet with alone. We want our supervisors to protect us from harassment and assault.

This abuse has got to stop.

The signatories of this letter demand that you take sexual harassment seriously. We ask that:

1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.

2. The Animation Guild adds language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.

3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

It has not been easy for us to share our stories with each other. Many of us were afraid because our victimizers are powerful or well-liked. Others were worried that if they came forward it would affect their careers. Some of us have come forward in the past, only to have our concerns brushed aside, or for our supervisors to tell us “he’s just from a different era.” All of us are saddened and disheartened to hear how widespread the problem of sexual harassment still is in the animation industry, and how many of our friends had been suffering in secret.

It is with this in mind that we resolve to do everything we can to prevent anyone else from being victimized. We are united in our mission to wipe out sexual harassment in the animation industry, and we will no longer be silent.

Signed,

Abigail Davies
Ae Ri Yoon
Alejandra Quintas
Alex Mack
Alice Herring
Aliki Theofilopoulos
Allie Splain
Allison Kim
Allison Perry
Alyx Jolivet
Amalia Levari
Amanda Li
Amanda Turnage
Amber Vucinich
Amelia Lorenz
Aminder Dhaliwal
Angela Li
Angelina Ricardo
Anna Hollingsworth
Anna O’Brian
Anne Walker Farrell
Annisa Adjani
Arlyne Ramirez
Ashley Fisher
Ashley King
Ashlyn Anstee
Audrey Diehl
Aurry Tan
Becky Lau
Bethany Lo
Bri Neumann
Brianne Drouhard
Bridget Ore
Brittany Rochford
Cameron Butler
Careen Ingle
Carly SIlverman
Caroline Director
Caroline Foley
Carrie Liao
Casey Follen
Catharina Sukiman
Chelsea McAlarney
Cheyenne Curtis
Chivaun Fitzpatrick
Christina Faulkner
Christine Liu
Citlalli Anderson
Clio Chiang
Daniaelle Simonsen
Danielle Bonadona
Danny Ducker
Diana Huh
Diana Kidlaied
Diem Doan
Elaine Wu
Elisa Phillips
Elise Fachon
Elise Willis
Elizabeth (Betsy) Bauer
Elizabeth Ito
Elizabeth McMahill
Emily Brundige
Emily Rice
Emily Walus
Emily Quinn
Erin Kavanagh
Eunsoo Jeong
Evon Freeman
Faryn Pearl
Ginny Hawes
Gizelle Orbino
Grace Babineau
Grace Mi
grace young
Haley Mancini
Hannah Ayoubi
Heather Gregersen
Hilary Florido
Hillary Bradfield
Hsuan Ho
Ilana M Schwartz
Jackie Bae
Jacqueline Sheng
Jean Kang
Jen Bardekoff
Jen Bennett
Jenn Ely
Jenn Strickland
Jenna Boyd
Jenny Cho
Jess Marfisi
Jessica Gao
Jessica von Medicus
Jessie Greenberg
Jessie Wong
Jihyun Park
Jill Sanford
Joanna Leitch
Jocelyn Sepulveda
Jordan Rosato
Julia Kaye
Julia Layton
Julia Pott
Julia Srednicki
Julia Vickerman
Julianne Martin
Kaitlyn Ritter
Kaitrin Snodgrass
Karen C. Johnson
Kassandra Heller
Kat Good
Katie Rice
Kayla Carlisle
Kelly Gollogly
Kellye Perdue
Kelsey Norden
Kendra Melton
Kennedy Tarrell
Kiki Manrique
Kiley Vorndran
Kim Le
Kim Roberson
Kimberly Knoll
Kristen Gish
Kristen Morrison
Kristin Koch
Lacey Dyer
Lamb Chamberlin
Laura Hohman
Laura Sreebny
Lauren Duda
Lauren Faust
Lauren Patterson
Leah Artwick
Lily Williams
Lindsay Carrozza
Lindsey Pollard
Lisa Hanawalt
Lissa Treiman
Liz Climo
Lorraine Grate
Lorraine Howard
Lucyola Langi
Lynn Wang
Maaike Scherff
Madeline Queripel
Maggie Kang
Maha Tabikh
Mallory Carlson
Maria Nguyen
Mariah-Rose Marie M
Mariana Chan
Mary Nash
Mayumi Nose
McKenna Harris
Megan Dong
Megan Lloyd
Megan Phonesavanh
Megan Waldow
Megan Willoughby
Melissa Juarez
Melissa King
Melissa Levengood
Michelle Lin
Michelle Thies
Miho Tomimasu
Mingjue Chen
Minty Lewis
Mollie Freilich
Monica Davila
Monica DeStefano
Naomi Hicks
Natasha Kline
Nicole Rivera
Niki Lopez
Nooree Kim
Nora Meek
Patricia Burgos
Phylicia Fuentes
Rebecca Sugar
Rebecca Wallace
Reem S. Ali-adeeb
Rianna Liu
Rikke Asbjoern
Sabrina Cotugno
Sabine Doerstling
Sam King
Samantha Gray
Sarah Johnson
Sarah Marino
Sarah Oleksyk
Sarah Soh
Sarah Visel
Sasha Schotzko-Harris
Shadi Petosky
Sheri Wheeler
Sofia Alexander
Sona Sargsyan
Stacy Renfroe
Stephanie Gonzaga
Stephanie Simpson
Stephanie Stine
Su Moon
Sue Schaller
Sydney Sharp
Talia Ellis
Tara H.
Tara N Whitaker
Traci Honda
Tuna Bora
Valerie Schwarz
Victoria Harris
Wendy Molyneux
Yingjue Chen
Zabrina McIntyre
Zoe Miller

Bibliography

Chmielewski, Dawn C. “One Female Animator’s Emotional Story Punctuates Harassment Panel.” Deadline, 7 Dec. 2017, deadline.com/2017/12/women-in-animation-sexual-harassment-1202221766/.

Kew, Ben. “200 Female Animators Write Letter to Top Hollywood Executives Demanding End to ‘Widespread’ Sexual Harassment.” Breitbart, 21 Oct. 2017, www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2017/10/21/200-female-animators-write-letter-top-hollywood-executives-demanding-end-widespread-sexual-harassment/.

Sito, Tom. “The Disney Strike of 1941: How It Changed Animation & Comics.” Animation World Network, 19 July 2005, www.awn.com/animationworld/disney-strike-1941-how-it-changed-animation-comics.

The Dot and Line. “#MeToo Comes to Cartoons – The Dot and Line.” The Dot and Line, The Dot and Line, 30 Mar. 2018, dotandline.net/john-kricfalusi-sexual-abuse-ab30b6f53b6e.

Vagianos, Alanna. “1 In 3 Women Has Been Sexually Harassed At Work.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/1-in-3-women-sexually-harassed-work-cosmopolitan_n_6713814.html.

Finding the Horizon Line: Intersectionality as a Part of Animated Media

Representation, though intertwined in an intersecting and overarching issue, in any form of media is addressed as several individual movements – where advances may be made in the form of fleshed out and multi-dimensional female protagonists, we as an audience will only address it for its female representation and not for the fact that the character may be straight and white. Where there may be a character that identifies within the LGBT community, it will seldom be discussed that they may be male and white. If a person of color is a protagonist, they are, more often than not, male and straight. This pattern of ignoring the intersectional nature of a large population of people is not one to originate in media – beginning in social movements such as in the feminist movement with the rise of white feminism at its forefront, or the Black power movement displaying a lack of inclusivity towards the experiences of black women. The fact of the matter is that while it is not a new phenomenon in the slightest, the ignorance towards intersectionality is still a problem in media today. Where you may see yourself in a person of color, they may be of a gender and sexuality different to your own, or any of the variations on those combinations. Although many facets come into play in what defines people as inherently intersectional, gender, race, class, and sexuality play a large role in what is largely considered what contributes to an intersectional identity.

 

What is rightly talked about in the rhetoric of media representation is the impact that depictions of various identities has a developmental impact on children of every new generation. However, intersectional representation is more than just cultural representation, or any one kind of background. The act of depicting one form of representation and leaving it at that is flawed – varying personalities and three-dimensional characteristics are all well and good, but seeing multiple facets of oneself reflected in characters specifically designed to pose as heroic figures towards children is incredibly influential. I know for myself, someone who identifies as a mixed-race, LGBT identifying woman of color, having a distinct lack of characters who even somewhat resembled me led to a severe disconnect with my own race and culture, sexuality, and even femininity and comfort in my body as a woman. It is not only catering to one identity at once, but reaching towards many, and growing up in a climate that depicts characters and backgrounds that reflect one’s own experiences as a child shape the way that we as people interact and identify with our varying cultures, identities, and looks. Intersectionality, in itself, finds itself in a small, less discussed, subset of the rhetoric of the diversity conversation, and it is important to address that where it is shown, we as media and content creators not only address the multiple identities of people in lieu of inclusivity, but also that in doing so,in the name of diversity, we do not shoehorn these many identities together into stereotypical pairings.

 

For instance, while the intersection of characters is seldom addressed in the general scope of media representation as a whole, animation’s involvement in it is even less so. And specifically, with larger, streamlined animation companies such as Disney perpetuate the stereotypical couplings of two r more of those facets. Thus, even in the few instances of intersectional characters, there is inherently the emphasis on the co-construct of certain gender and races being inherently linked with certain dispositions, classes, and backgrounds. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, in her 2002 dissertation Practicing Intersectionality in Sociological Research discusses the varying complexities of specific intersections of American labor classes and citizenship in the United States as institutions that are “co-constructing systemic inequalities” within the identities that they appeal to. Glenn also goes on to discuss how while intersectional representation is on the whole an important part of representation of the whole person, it can be portrayed in a negative way: when it further perpetuates stereotypes and social constructs as a means of “representation” and under the guise of diversity and inclusion, intersectionality can be used to insinuate that harmful link between identities such as people of color and lower classes are the norm, or queer women being linked with a given body type/image, etc.

 

Instances of intersectionality portrayed poorly include the link between femininity in Euro-centric women in Disney films, and the juxtaposition of racially diverse women to  their race as being indicative of their class, and not as a facet of their personality as their cultural background. Examples of recent developments in intersectional characters done well include the women portrayed in shows such as Steven Universe, which, while showing women of color and of varying sexualities, does not prescribe to shoehorning these identities together into harmful stereotypes.

 

Quality of Animated Kid Shows and Movies

I’ve recently had a discussion with my friends about the quality among animation movies and shows that are targeted towards kids around the age of 10. This came up when I believed most kids are more mature than we were when we were their age; however, my friends did not agree for the content that has been and will be created within animation kid movies and shows reflects the kids. I thought this because I have a younger sister who I consider to be mature for her age and have friends similar to her. However I changed my mind when my friends gave me examples of current content that have and will be put out.

Although kids currently have so much access to information due to technology, I believe there has been a bit of a digression among the story content created within animation.

Within these past few years movies, such as The Angry Birds Movie (2016), The Boss Baby (2017), Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017), Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018), and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018), have came out. I have not seen many of these movies, but in my opinion it seems that the quality of the story is not as ambitious or creative as it used to be in my generation. Don’t get me wrong; there has been great animated movies that have come out these past years, but I believe majority of the content isn’t what it could be. Companies seem to be creating movies that aren’t great stories with meaningful concepts but rather for the comedy aspect, such as The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019), Frozen 2 (2019), How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), and Minecraft (2019). As one can see many movie just seem like a “fun” movie to watch had a high gross or will have remakes done.

 

 

 

It seems that content being created are not taking ambitious or daring steps and are comfortable making a certain kind of story. This could also be said about animated kid shows. There are a good amount of amazing animated shows, such as Steven Universe, The Amazing World of Gumball, and Adventure Time; however, on the other side there’s shows, such as Teen Titans Go!, Powerpuff Girls (reboot), and Ben 10 (reboot).

There seems to be a trend of reboots and certain “XD RANDOM LOL humor and memes” comedy within current animated kid movies and shows because that’s what is appealing within current pop culture (Barnfield). Movies and shows are just being created like this due to the profit it will bring in. However, it is important that good stories are also being created. Kids are influenced by what they watch. Kids can take these content and unconsciously act upon or similarly to what they have watched; therefore, creators need to be careful about what they put out there. There definitely can be a way that appeals to kids with this current humor while talking about serious issues like The Amazing World of Gumball.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Barnfield, Oliver. “The Problems with Modern Animation.” Canyon Echoes, 20 Mar. 2018, canyonechoes.org/9682/showcase/the-problems-with-modern-animation/.

Mann, Court. “Court Mann: PG Films Have an Animation Problem – and Vice Versa.” DeseretNews.com, Deseret News, 22 Aug. 2018, www.deseretnews.com/article/900028956/court-mann-pg-films-have-an-animation-problem-and-vice-versa.html.

 

 

The Hollywood Wage Gap

Closely following the #MeToo movement, the wage gap issue has risen again as a major point of discussion within the Hollywood community. Recently, multiple actresses including Claire Foy, Ellen Pompeo, and Octavia Spencer have spoken up about not receiving equal pay to their male, and in Spencer’s case even white female, counterparts.

In one of panels held during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, actress Octavia Spencer spoke of her struggle against wage inequality throughout her career. For actresses of colour, who encounter fewer job opportunities than white women, the pay gap is even greater. At the panel, Spencer revealed that recently, she and her close friend and fellow actress, Jessica Chastain negotiated for the two to be paid the same for costarring in their upcoming comedy film. The result of this pushback, was that both women were paid five times what they were originally offered.

Here’s the video of Spencer speaking about her experience at the “Women Breaking Barriers” Banel at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival:

Chastain and Spencer are both advocates for the Time’s Up Now movement. Time’s Up is a Legal defense fund formed this year by hundreds of Hollywood women to fight sexual harassment and inequality, and targets companies that permit pay disparity in all industries. One of the things that’s come out of the Time’s Up movement is HBO closing its pay gap. Reportedly, HBO has gone through all their shows to see if there were any inappropriate disparities in pay,  and correcting any if found. This is just one step in the right direction for correcting the pay inequality in the entertainment industry.

Though animation may have started out as a boy’s club, for many years, many women and men have worked to fix the inequality in the workplace. However, for all the progress we’ve made, there’s still more work to do. According to the Animation Guild, in just Los Angeles-based studios in 2015, only 10% of producers/directors, 17% of writers, 21% of art/designers, and 23% of animators were women. According to award-winning game designer Kim McAuliffe, the pay gap is hard to quantify, but “the environment tends to favor aggression and negotiation and some women either don’t want to or don’t feel like they can negotiate when it comes to salary or promotions.”.

There’s always hope though. Here is some advice given by My N. Tran and Kim McAuliffe,  both talented and successful game designers, to young women thinking about starting their careers in games:

  • You are responsible for yourself and your happiness. This is never going to change.
  • There will be awesome and awful people – judge individuals based on their actions. Surround yourself with good people, don’t concern yourself with toxic people.
  • Get everything down on paper. Serious. Everything. Never depend on verbal agreements. Things that were promised to you, every goal your manager said you needed to hit for a promotion to happen, acknowledgement of great work, etc.
  • Negotiate hard and don’t be afraid to put up a fight. Document your accomplishments and successes and have metrics that support them.
  • If the company exhausted all of your goodwill and has treated you badly – start looking for a new place that is worth your time, energy, and effort.
  • Lastly, when you feel like you are no longer learning something new at your job, it is time to move on because you’re wasting your time.
  • Work hard to develop the skills you need to be marketable, but also work to connect with other women as mentors and friends.
  • Don’t put up with micro-aggressions. Don’t be afraid to use HR when a situation calls for it, but know that their primary interest is protecting the company.
  • Do what you have to to make sure your voice is heard and you get credit for your work and ideas. Make sure you give credit to others when due; not enough people do this and it will be appreciated.
  • Don’t feel like you have to be “one of the boys” to be liked.
  • Your direct manager will have more impact than anyone else on your work happiness and career growth, so cultivate a strong working relationship with them focusing on communication and transparency. This will allow them to step in and help with potential problems early, as well as to share the great things you’ve been doing with the levels of leadership above them.

I’m going to leave you all with a few more videos that speak about the wage gaps between white women, men, and women of colour, along all platforms.

Animated Characters and Cultural Diversity

As the world is rapidly progressing towards becoming more culturally diverse, there is an increase in demand for the types of characters shown in media—in particular, animation—to be diverse as well. Although there has been significant progress in the past 20 years with regard to the types of animated characters portrayed on screen, there is still substantial room for improvement. We not only have to move towards having more representation in media but also have to push for accurate and respectful representation in the media.

The big question is: why does it matter so much? Why are so many people consumed with the issue of cartoons not including characters and stories of other cultures?

As animation is a form of media consumed by an increasingly young audience, it takes on the responsibility of shaping young minds and creating a space in which children can begin to understand the world. When the world is presented in such a way that does not encourage the existence and the value of cultural diversity and representation, the subconscious message is that other cultures are not as important or that some are better than others. This is why it is crucial that children are exposed to a wide variety of diverse media images.

In an article published in the “Journal of Social Issues”, Dana Mastro emphasizes that it is important that all children be able to see and connect with characters that look and sound like themselves and their family. However, not many people can say that as children (or evennow), they had a cartoon hero that they felt they could connect to on that level. In a TEDx talk at Brigham Young University, animation professor Kelly Loosli says, “We all relate better to people and things that look like us…when you see characters that look like you, that’s going to be appealing”. With the abundance of different looking Caucasian characters, it is easy for someone of Caucasian descent to have a wide range of characters to connect to, whereas people of any other cultural group have a much more limited spectrum of characters to choose from.

As stated before, we not only must broaden the spectrum of characters we see portrayed in animated films and television, but we must also make sure they are portrayed correctly and respectfully so that the viewer is not left with a misunderstood understanding of the culture the character embodies. Again, children are highly influenced by what they watch in the media and misrepresentations in the media of characters meant to portray a certain group could potentially be dangerous because it could shape how children see these groups. Not only that, if a film or television show portrays the viewer’s own race in a negative or demeaning way, it can have detrimental effects on the way they view and identify themselves and their own culture. For example, Apu is an Indian character in the very popular television series The Simpsons. However, he is given a very degrading personality and perpetuates many of the Indian stereotypes that exist today. A younger Indian child watching Apu could infer that his or her culture is embarrassing or shameful. In addition, many villains in animated media are given accents that portray them as “the other”, while the main hero with all the redeeming qualities is most likely Caucasian and familiar. It is imperative for the audience—especially children—to note that a certain cultural group is not bound to one type of character, that the world is diverse with all kinds of people that look, sound, and dress differently, and that those people can be heroes and admirable characters as well.

The animation industry certainly has come a long way in regard to having more cultural representation with the release of movies such as Moana (2016), Coco (2017), and the recent Pixar short Bao (2018). If this trend continues, and more animated films and television series continue to display the different cultures that make up our world, then we will hopefully move past the very weak and stereotyped characters that both children and adults alike have been exposed to for so long.

Mental Health, Animated

The past decade has provided a variety of animated pieces centering on the topic of mental health. From features to music videos to experimental shorts, these animated works illustrate cognitive functions better than live action ever has. While united in the broad theme of mental health, the three pieces I will discuss (Inside Out, Mary and Max, and Thought of You) are varied not only in their specific mental illnesses and disorders, but also in their artistic approaches to representing the experiences. Because there is still so much we do not understand about cognitive functions, we need the experimental and surreal nature of animation to fully grasp the complexities of mental health.

Pixar’s Inside Out

With a budget of 175 million dollars and the ability to consult leading personality psychologists throughout the writing process, it’s no wonder this film received unprecedented acclaim—not only within the animation industry, but also within the fields of psychology and neurology. The film’s depiction of depression managed to maintain appropriateness for young audiences while delving into the world of what it feels like to lose one’s identity. The story utilized “personality islands” as the primary (yet fragile) aspects of the protagonist’s (Riley’s) individuality. As Riley endures insolation—and eventually depression—these islands begin to collapse. If this film had been made as a live-action drama, we would have watched Riley become irritable and disinterested in previous hobbies, but it would be up to us as viewers to decipher the backdrop to her behavior. The genius of Inside Out is that it recognized the general effects of depression but found a more abstract and universally relatable way to explain them. This artistic reinvention of mental crisis and loss of self is fantastical, dramatic, but still familiar to anyone who has ever endured an intense bout of depression. The film made mental health accessible to a wide audience without ever over-simplifying the topic.

Melodrama Picture’s Mary and Max

The protagonists of Mary and Max are some of the most cognitively complex characters of any movie I’ve ever seen. While similar to Inside Out in that it is a feature discussing the effects of depression and cognitive breakdowns, Mary and Max displays the effects of depression, loneliness, and social anxiety in an entirely different way. A 44-year-old New Yorker, Max, has Asperger’s Syndrome and finds companionship in his only friend—his 8-year-old pen pal, Mary, from Australia. As their lives (as well as their friendship) become more and more turbulent, Mary loses all desire to go on living. Her breakdown is arguably more experimental than Inside Out’s depiction with the islands. Mary spins around a dark room, surrounded by the images of those she knows, drowned out by a dissonant version of Que Sera Sera. It’s a very disturbing scene and one that only animation could achieve. To enter a character’s brain and be immersed in abstract images of grief—that’s a task only animation can take on.

Ryan Woodward’s Thought of You

This music video has haunted me since the day I discovered it. The primary reason being that every time I watch it, I have a new interpretation of the story. At times, it’s a story of lost love. Then, it’s a heart wrenching depiction of loss, grief, and suicide. It’s not just me who has struggled to understand the video. Woodward himself stated, “Rather than creating a narrative animated piece that communicates a well defined story, this piece allows for each individual who views it to experience something unique and personal that touches their own sensibilities.” In this way, the music video allows viewers to connect the piece to their own lives. As I experienced loss in my life, I began to interpret the video to represent death and grief. As I healed, I found the ending to be more hopeful than I had ever assumed. The characters were animated in such a way that their own mental wellbeing became visual (through color, movement, and style). Animation encourages various interpretations far more than live action does, particularly due to its ability to minimize and maximize detail in every part of the frame. In Mary and Max, Mary is singled out from the pure black background during her breakdown. In Thought of You, the characters are the only objects contrasted against the brown backdrop. Without the context, viewers can decide for themselves what the story is about.

This is especially important when dealing with the topic of mental health, as every person’s experience is entirely unique and every person will therefore have a totally different interpretation. Live action is limited in what it can say about mental health because it cannot contain such abstract, open-to-interpretation images. It will be taken at face value, while animation can transcend the limits of our understanding and help viewers experience the complexities of mental health.

INSIDE OUT – Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness and Disgust look out upon Riley’s Islands of Personality. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.