Lea Salonga is currently affiliated with a new musical called Allegiance that is trying to make it to Broadway. It’s a musical near and dear to my heart about the experience of a Japanese American family through events just prior and through World War II, focusing in particular on the Internment- essentially my family history.
I would love it if more people got interested it, because this bit of history is too important to forget, and simply because the musical is amazing- I was lucky enough to see an early production of it in San Diego which reduced me to tears. So to promote it here on tumblr, here’s one of my favorite songs from the show, recently made available in a new mini-EP you can get on iTunes and Amazon. Enjoy.
“There were the innocuous comments like Does his race really matter?” and “Who cares about his skin color? It’s his character that’s important!” Wonderful sentiments each, but ultimately if benignly ignorant of the social scaffolding that still places non-white characters at a disadvantage in mainstream media, as well as the need for representation among an audience filled with often overlooked people of color.
Worse, however, were the accusatory and the insulting: “You’re just projecting, stop it,” one person said, “Star Wars doesn’t need your PC trash” said others in one fashion or another, and “He doesn’t need to be black…“—as though that were the only alternative to being white—”…to be a baddass, people. Go watch Roots and stop trying to take Star Wars from white people.” was the response of one all too memorable commentator on Facebook which I had the personal displeasure to witness.
So, you see, when fans turn to people like [Lucasfilm VIP Pablo] Hidalgo, many aren’t just hoping for answers, they were hoping for a shield. They wanted to hear that it wasn’t just all in their heads, that they weren’t projecting. They wanted to hear that there was actually someone who represented them in this new series, and that they wouldn’t need to squint and tilt their heads to see themselves in a new Star Wars hero. They wanted to stand up proudly in the fandom and assert their feelings without fearing venom and fire for daring to think that a man of color could lead a Star Wars show.
"We need protagonists like Sabine. We need a powerful young Asian woman to stand for the oft-neglected Asian women in the vast and diverse Star Wars audience. To light a new fire in the hearts of young Asian children, and little girls of all sorts so that we might share Star Wars with them. We need a character who takes us back to the Mandalorians’ roots as an omni-inclusive culture of soldiers after the singularly white, nordic group The Clone Wars brought to television viewers. And we need a protagonist like Kanan, a strong man of color in whose heroics a wide range of fans can see a reflection of themselves. We need a character that can inspire fresh awe in young boys of color, someone who can show them that they too can be the heroes of a galaxy far, far away.”
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.
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.
The movies I made, I wasn’t even trying to make them diverse. It’s just when you’re a filmmaker of any ethnicity, you’re going to write from your own experience. So all my scripts started with “Hispanic character…” then I’d be like, “Oh, gosh, now I have to find an actor to play this,” and then I’d find there were no actors in Hollywood. It was puzzling.
When I was doing “Spy Kids,” the Weinsteins asked me — not that they were being jerks at all, they were just wondering — "Why are you making the characters Hispanic? It doesn’t make any sense, isn’t this supposed to be for everybody?" “Well, it’s based on my family.”
They’d just never seen it. Hollywood is very much… no one wants to do it first, because what if they screw up? If someone else does it first and it’s successful, then that’s something we can imitate. It just makes business sense for people not to constantly be putting themselves out there.
[Weinstein] said that, and it really put me on the spot to come up with a reason. “Why not just give them American names? It’s America, it will confuse people.” I said “They are American — they’re based on my family, so they’re Hispanic, but they’re going to be speaking in English. It’s going to be for everybody.” But no one had done it before, so there was nothing to point to.
"But why?” They couldn’t understand why I was doing it that way, and I couldn’t come up with a good answer. And I realized, wow, if I wasn’t Hispanic, I would have folded, I would have changed the name. That’s why there weren’t more scripts like that. Somebody would have asked them at some point “Why are you doing it that way?”
Finally, I came up with the right answer. I said “You don’t have to be British to watch James Bond. Making him British actually makes him more universal because it makes him very specific.” And they were like, okay, that makes sense. And we did it, and “Spy Kids” was a big hit. And those who were Hispanic, it really meant a lot to them. People have come up to me for a lot of years since and said “You changed my kids’ whole life. They see little kids who are Hispanic that are spies and they saw your name as the writer and director and you changed their idea of what their future could be.” The ripple effects of that one movie were enormous.
Because jailing individuals is a public cost, it is no surprise that U.S. and state governments have chosen to outsource in response to prison overcrowding. But this study brings up another point. Cutting costs and generating revenue at the expense of people of color is a tradition deeply woven in the fabric of American history.
Join Community Leaders and Organizers Fighting for Justice in Asian American Communities.
The National Fellowship Program for Asian American Organizing develops the leadership of a new generation of activists and organizers who are deeply invested in building the power of and improving the lives of working-class Asian immigrant communities.
During ten weeks of intensive training, ground work and reflection, Fellows will learn about and support struggles at their host sites in Boston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, work to connect the larger API Movement across the country and build lasting relationships with peers, mentors and community members. The fellowship is coordinated by the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco.
This is an intensive full-time, volunteer program for the summer. Applicants are also encouraged to seek additional and alternative funding sources (include campus work-study programs, scholarships and stipends). All cost (including travel to host site cities and housing) will the responsibility of each Fellow. A limited number of scholarships ranging from $500 – $2000 are available.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old. The applications are due March 10th, at 5:00pm EST.
The work of countless black trans warriors have made significant impacts on equal rights and visibility throughout history. These pioneers forged ahead despite intersecting challenges and oppressions. Here are just five of the many black trans women whose influence has helped shape the transgender community as it is today.
“When I go to contemporary Asian restaurants, like Wolfgang Puck’s now-shuttered 20.21 in Minneapolis and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York City, it seems the entrées are always in the $16–$35 range and the only identifiable person of color in the kitchen is the dishwasher. The menus usually include little blurbs about how the chefs used to backpack in the steaming jungles of the Far East (undoubtedly stuffing all the herbs and spices they could fit into said backpacks along the way, for research purposes), and were so inspired by the smiling faces of the very generous natives—of which there are plenty of tasteful black-and-white photos on the walls, by the way—and the hospitality, oh, the hospitality, that they decided the best way to really crystallize that life-changing experience was to go back home and sterilize the cuisine they experienced by putting some microcilantro on that $20 curry to really make it worthy of the everyday American sophisticate. American chefs like to talk fancy talk about “elevating” or “refining” third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist?”—Craving the Other by Soleil Ho [Bitch Magazine] (via thisisnotindia)