[Discussion] On Television, Cinema and Race

Thread for race issues in media.

Birth Of a Nation
This movie isn't do so good. I think this is because black people are tired of slave type movies, white people don't want the white guilt, and everybody else is turned off by the rape case. I mean this in general. This is just a perfect storm for the downfall of the movie.

Surviving Compton
Straight out of compton left out the ladies. This lifetime show means to correct that. I believe all of the production was done by women.

Mulan live.
All Chinese cast. Maybe the dumb choices of Gods of Egypt are over.

Mixolyde wrote:

A friend of mine from college wrote heavy blog post about cosplaying while black, the sh*t she has had to deal with, and the state of the fandom right now.

That's a great post, thanks for sharing.

Lovecraft Country Panel. They get into it about race.

Wow. Been a long time we've seen one of these in the wild.

I've been debated whether or not to post this for a while. This is more music related, but seems to be within the scope of this thread. I've been a Kpop fan for a couple years now, and one of my favorite groups (and one of the most talented groups, IMO) is MAMAMOO. Lately they've been getting a lot of hate online for a few instances of problematic behavior in their past and a lot of misconceptions. Here's some of the facts as I know them:

1) Blackface - unfortunately a few years ago when performing a tribute to Bruno Mars, they decided to wear makeup to darken their skin to simulate the the skin of Bruno Mars and his dancers. Fans were quick to let them know the problematic nature of this and educate them of the history of blackface. The group apologized online that day, and in person to fans the next day. And they said they'd educate themselves on the subject so it wouldn't happen again.

2) The n-word - while on a live stream, member Hwasa was singing along to a song that was in English. She doesn't speak English. The song had the n-word in it and she sang it without knowing the meaning. Again they apologized and said they'd work to be better.

People can choose to forgive them for these things or not. To me these seem to come from ignorance and a lack of knowledge of issues from a culture that foreign to them.

Other instances that often get pointed out as problematic seem more like misconceptions and misunderstandings. Like the following:

3) Member, Solar, appeared on a comedy skit as a homeless person. She had makeup on her face to show that it was unwashed. People claimed this was a repeat of the blackface incident. Her character was Korean, and there were no mentions of race in the skit.

4) A fan once called member Hwasa, "black unnie". Hwasa has a darker natural skin tone, and has bucked the trend of kpop stars who sometimes appear lighter skinned on stage because of makeup. She has told her makeup artist they need to get makeup to match her skin tone, and has famously said "If I don't conform to other's beauty standards, I will make my own standard of beauty". But she has never made any claim of "blackness". Nevertheless, this "black unnie" comment has since been attributed to her, and not as something coming from a fan who should have thought before they spoke.

5) Most recently, Hwasa appeared on a Korean TV show called "I Live Alone" which is a comedy/slice of life type of show. On she wore a robe and headwrap as she was supposed to be returning from a spa. People instantly assumed this was mocking African traditional dress, in particular, they claimed she was wearing "colors" from Nigeria, and appropriating their culture. This spread fast on Twitter and was often spread with less understanding takes of the past instances listed above, with claims that Hwasa is racist and evil and many folks quickly "un-staned" (stopped being a fan) and started becoming very vocal in attacking any post from or about Mamamoo.

Of course, when Mamamoo fans who where actually from Nigeria spoke up and said these colors weren't any traditional dress from their culture, and the style was not traditional dress from their country, they were ignored. When the TV show gave a statement that stated that is was an extra fancy take on a traditional Korean spa look and had no other cultural meaning, they were ignored.


This is the outfit in question (Hwasa is the one on the right side of the photo).

This comes on the heals of Mamamoo's song, Hip, which is basically a clapback to the haters who feel the need to nitpick everything Mamamoo does (like dressing 'too casually' at an airport for one real example). And Hwasa's song Maria which tells the character in the song, Maria, not to listen to the haters, she's already beautiful. Hwasa was given 'Maria' as her baptismal name when she was baptized, so the song is basically a letter written to herself to stay strong. The video uses images of mental health of someone affected by constant hate from others.

Mamamoo is exceptionally talented, and take a different path than most Idol groups, partly in that they don't try to conform to the traditional beauty standards. This may be where a lot of the hate comes from, when "fans" want just a traditional cute concept and nothing more. And while I only mentioned problematic past events of Mamamoo in this post, this is something that MANY kpop groups have gone through, mostly because of a lack of understanding of western cultures and its history of racism. Some have apologized like Mamamoo has, other have been less transparent after their mistakes, but none seem to receive the hate that Mamamoo does.

Mamamoo always shows a lot of respect for others. On a recent reality show that pitted a number of girl groups against each other to compete for 1st place, Mamamoo when asked to criticize the worst performance of the week would constantly praise everyone else and criticize their shortcomings and say they'd work to be better. It bothers me that the respect they're putting out there isn't being returned to them in kind.

Finally, thanks for anyone who has taken the time to read this far. I've been watching this unfold on Twitter and needed a place to vent and sort my thoughts out for myself. Disclaimer: I'm white and I've got no first hand knowledge of Korean culture or the racism that black people face, so if I said anything wrong in all this let me know.

Informative and interesting, thanks!

3. I saw a caricatured tinker character during a festival in Anyang-shi. Little blotches of schmutz on their face. Maybe it was something like that. Problematic, just not for reasons of race.

Thank you for that. There's a LOT going on with K-Pop and race, which I am not nearly well-versed enough to be an expert in to discuss, although I will openly admit I always looked slightly askance at how much they took from black pop culture while being a country that, as far as I've seen, if 20 black people showed up looking for asylum and permanent residence, they'd change the immigration laws in a weekend.

That said, I am fully against Stan-culture, pro or anti, in all of its forms and the way it absolutely flattens nuance in the form of who can have the most all-or-nothing over-the-top take in all situations, so I'm unsurprised how a possible teaching moment could be just turned into a chance for people to yell for clout on social media.

Speaking as an African-American, there is a whoooooooooooooooole lot about the nuances of race in America that frankly, I'm just not going to expect Koreans to understand. That's not a "they can do whatever because they're ignorant" pass, as I'm fairly sure no-one in Korea would give me a pass if I said some dumbass sh*t about Comfort Women (and I should not be!) But there are intricacies and nuances there I'm just not expecting them to understand the entirety of, and again, I say that as someone who is, at best, skeptical of how much K-Pop appropriates black culture.

But modern Fandom and social media really allows the worst actors in these situations to take the bully pulpit and go Social Justice Clout Chasing.

Prederick wrote:

I say that as someone who is, at best, skeptical of how much K-Pop appropriates black culture.

Yeah, Kpop literally became a thing because someone visited the US from Korea in the 80s, saw pop/r&b music, and said "we should do this". This begs the question is all cultural appropriation bad? If some is good (or at least acceptable), and some is bad, how do we draw that line?

Likewise with the spa outfit controversy, the question is raised; What is fashion and what is culture? And if it is culture, is it okay for others to wear? If the answer is it's sometimes okay to wear cultural clothes (kimonos for example) and sometimes not (Native-American headresses), how do we draw the line?

While I may have some broad understanding (or at least think I do) I don't think I can even come close to addressing the many nuances of these questions.

Tscott wrote:

This begs the question is all cultural appropriation bad? If some is good (or at least acceptable), and some is bad, how do we draw that line?

I've found this an interesting question to dig into, since if we're going to live in a globalized society, there will always be a level of cultural appropriation that will not meet the requirements of wokeness.

However, I'm always going to be skeptical of instances of loving black culture, but not black people. And from what I've read, SK loves it some black culture. The actual people?