Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gratuitous Diversity

Gratuitous nudity and violence in movies is a bad thing -- it doesn't advance the plot, it isn't integral to the story, it is nudity and violence for its own sake.

But gratuitous diversity? I LOOOOVE it! We just saw the movie Up, and there are two main characters -- a crotchety old man and Russell, an Asian boy. AND ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION is made of the fact that he is Asian. He could be any race and the movie would not change one iota. He isn't in the movie to be the Asian representative in a group of kids a la United Colors of Benetton. He is not stereotypically Asian -- NO GLASSES! NO BUCK TEETH! He's a Boy Scout, not a computer geek. He's chubby, not a stringbean with high-water pants! (OK, I'm going to wear out my exclamation point key here!!!!!). He's voiced by an Asian American kid, Jordan Nagai, but he doesn't "sound" Asian! No pidgen English, no Charlie-Chan accent. He just happens to be a kid. Who happens to be Asian. In a Disney movie.

Wow. This is main-streaming at it's best.


Lisa said...

I loved this movie, wasn't it great? And your point is well taken!

Wendy said...

It is about time Disney did something right.

Kim said...

We just saw it the other day. It didn't even dawn on me that the little boy was Asian. His eyes were a little more pointy on the ends, but nothing else made me think he was.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you know Boo in Monster's Inc. was Asian?

(Who is to say she wasn't?)

Mahmee said...

HELL yes!!!!

SB said...

I thought Boo was Asian too, and very cute character when I first saw Monsters Inc.

Then, I couldn't believe it when I adopted by 3 year old daugther from China last year. She "looked" just like Boo when I first saw in in the room, with the little pigtails, and her little voice and laugh matched too.

I think my first thought was, I'm adopting Boo.

I have to agree. It is very nice to see Asians represented in "mainstream media" without the "stereotypes".

malinda said...

That's great about Boo -- sounds like she meets the definition of "gratuitous diversity," too. We haven't seen Monsters, Inc. We'll have to take a gander.

Note I never claimed Russell was the first Asian gratuitously diverse character in a Disney film!

And I love the idea of adopting Boo! I had to keep reminding Zoe not to jump out at Maya and say "BOO" when we first got her, since "bu" means NO in Chinese. I'm sure it was pretty confusing to Maya to have Zoe sneak up on her and randomly yell NO at her for no apparent reason!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my post came across as kind of snarky sounding! I should have added a :-) Anyway, afterwards I was thinking of the Asian Disney characters and remembered Lilo (Hawaiian) and of course Mulan. Also, the Brother Bear character is Alaskan--I think he is maybe Y'upik (??)

You'll want to be careful watching Hercules--we started watching it and it talks about adoption issues.

malinda said...

Oh, yes, we watched Hercules recently and I was surprised to find adoption issues (I hadn't seen it since it was first released, what, 20 years ago?!). I blogged a bit about my kids' reactions:

I'd love to hear what your kids thought.

And for Lilo and Mulan (I don't know Brother Bear), I guess I'd call that deliberate diversity, which is, of course, very good to see in movies! (my girls are much into Mulan, though they prefer Mulan II these days (I'm not so fond of II) because it isn't as scary).

It just seemed more surprising to see an Asian character who could just as easily been caucasian, but they chose to make him Asian. Especially since I had no idea walking in that there was an Asian character, and usually when there is such the blogosphere buzzes about it and I hear it somewhere . . . .