Friday, August 31, 2018

The ABC experience on the big screen

ABC can mean American born Chinese or Australian born Chinese.  Because of the large similarities between America and Australia, The experience of the Chinese people concerned will be very similar as between the two countries.

Australia has only one large minority and it is the Han, people from the major race in China.  Almost all overseas Chinese are Han so whether they come to Australia from any part of the world (Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.) they will for that reason also have similar experiences in Australia. 

My son and I and some of my friends are all Sinophiles.  We see the Han as good and admirable people.  So I was both sad and glad about the story below:  Sad because the Han in Australia feel not fully accepted and glad that a movie did such a lot to alleviate that feeling.  I certainly would support more use of Han actors in Western world movies if it enables good people to feel more accepted.

I note that Hollywood often includes black actors in usually unrepresentative roles so surely Han people in realistic roles is not too much to expect.  With the commercial success of the movie below we may finally see that.

A small point of interest: As I have pointed out previously, there are a lot of partnerships in Australia between young Han women and Caucasian Australian young men. But you rarely see their progeny around.  Why?  Because Eurasians tend to have eyes that are not obviously Asian.  Their eyes are of a shape that falls  within the Caucasian range.  So a lot of the "Caucasians" you see about the place are actually half Chinese!  And since they also behave in a way that falls well within the Caucasian range, they should feel different only because they choose to, not because of any differential treatment by others

As one instance of that see below a picture of a recent "Miss Australia" winner, Francesca Hung.  She is half Chinese but that is not at all obvious

Wenlei Ma

WHEN I was younger, I loved to argue, which led to people asking why I didn’t become a lawyer.

I’d tell them I hated legal studies in high school. But what I left out of that answer is the other part, the part where my dad said to me years earlier, that it would be hard for an Asian woman in Australia to be a successful lawyer. That stuck with me.

It wasn’t a case of bad parenting — he never told me not to do something I wanted to and I was far too obstinate to listen even if he had. And I would never have had the discipline to make it through law school — when lawyers talk now, I start slipping into a microsleep.

What it was, and still is for many migrant families, is that sense of never quite belonging to the culture you live in, of never being comfortable enough to stick your head up and make yourself a target.

That has as much to do with how you see yourself as how others see you.

Growing up in Australia, I didn’t see myself on screen very often — it pretty much started and ended with Lee Lin Chin.

If you don’t see yourself represented in popular culture, you feel invalidated, consciously or subconsciously, and that’s regardless of whether a customer in Myer says to your face, “Asians are so cheap,” when you wouldn’t give her a free coat hanger (true story) — she’s getting pissy demanding a free coat hanger but sure, I’m the cheap one.

Desperate to fit in, to “assimilate” like so many other migrant kids, I set out to suppress my cultural background, never self-selecting as different, hoping no one will notice I wasn’t “one of them”. I was actually proud of being bad at maths because it meant I defied a stereotype.

That’s why Crazy Rich Asians is such a landmark movie for people like me — it gives us a sense of being seen, of being heard, of being mattered.

The multitude of Asian faces in a Hollywood movie isn’t something I’ve ever seen in a film before on a big screen in Australia, not since The Joy Luck Club, and 25 years is a long time to wait.


Starring Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh and Henry Golding, the movie tells the story of Rachel Chu, an Asian-American woman who visits Singapore with her boyfriend, who happens to come from one of the richest families on the glitzy island.

The existence of a Hollywood-funded high-profile movie starring a cast of actors with Asian heritage, telling the story of an Asian-American immigrant is so significant. Ever since its American release, the internet has been swamped with personal stories of viewers crying in the theatre out of happiness, of feeling emboldened to reclaim their heritage.

“A lot of us internalise not being represented and we render ourselves invisible,” Constance Wu says over the phone from LA where the actor has resumed production on her sitcom, Fresh Off The Boat. “But by centring a major Hollywood movie around this experience, it sends the message that your story is worth telling, you’re not there to support everybody else’s story, you can have your own.

“I hope Asian-Americans and Asian-Australians, wherever, start to really take some pride and ownership of their stories because they’re great stories.”

Wu says it is important to stress the difference between Asian experiences and the experiences of the Asian diaspora across the world.

“I’ve had many people tell me, ‘My whole life, people assumed my culture was like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and it’s not,’” Wu says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Chinese culture but it feels a little off when someone is telling you what your identity should be and it doesn’t fit.

“That’s why it’s such a relief to find a story that does sort of reflect your experience. Rachel is very American but she has Chinese roots and it’s the struggle between both of those elements which forms her identity.”

Even though the book the film is based on is more preoccupied with designer labels, flash cars and shiny baubles, the movie cleverly focuses on Rachel’s journey and the relationships she has with boyfriend Nick (Golding), friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina), Nick’s mother Eleanor (Yeoh) and her own mother Kerry (Tan Kheng Hua). The narrative choice grounds what could’ve been a fanciful tale, and makes it relatable.

Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu tells me: “Rachel’s journey felt very personal — an Asian-American going to Asia for the first time, and that could be anyone going to their ‘homeland’ for the first time, has this experience of going there and being seduced by scenes of food and people who look and talk like you.

“They welcome you as their family but they see you as different, you’re not a part of them. Then you come home with these two different identities and you feel the pressure to choose. That, for me, was the movie. It wasn’t about crazy rich Asians, it was Rachel’s journey, coming to grips with her own self-worth.”

Like Wu, Chu is an American-born second-generation immigrant whose parents hail from Asia, his from China and Taiwan, hers from Taiwan. Previously, he’s worked on movies that haven’t dealt with his heritage, most notably two Step Up films and Now You See Me 2.


For Chu and many of the cast, it was the first time they had been on a set full of people who looked like them.

Along with local Singaporean and Malaysian actors, its main cast came from all over the world: Golding, Gemma Chan, Jing Lusi and Sonoya Mizuno from the UK, Wu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang, Nico Santos and Lisa Lu from the US and even Ronny Chieng, Chris Pang and Remy Hii from Australia.

“We all implicitly understood each other,” Wu says. “You could just mention one thing about an audition and what kind of character they described and none of us had to explain the rest of the story because everyone on the movie got it, they’ve experienced it.

“Community is important because it makes you fearless, because you have a groundswell of support.”

For Melbourne-born Chris Pang, the cast became family. “We were instantly bonded together by the background of our history growing up,” he tells me. “As an Asian growing up outside of Asia we all share the same experience. We all share this desire to change the landscape and be part of a conversation. It’s a responsibility and if you’ve got the power to change it, you should.”

For Chu, working with Asians from all over the world also facilitated a kind of dialogue that enhanced the script as he was filming.

“We listened to each other. We took time and didn’t just bypass something because we didn’t understand it — it was a safe spot to talk about those things.

“With Constance, there was a line in the book about how her character Rachel says she didn’t date Asian guys. It’s funny in the book and there’s a context to it. But in the movie, it’s a throwaway one-liner, and it was in the script and she called me and said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable about this joke.’

“I said it was just a joke and it’s beloved in the book and fans will be upset if we cut it. And then I read it and was, ‘Oh, you’re right.’ And that’s the kind of conversation you can have when you have people involved who can call it out.”


Of course, with a movie like Crazy Rich Asians with the kind of hype, marketing and expectations it has, it’s not going to be without controversy. By being visible as a vehicle for Asian representation in the West, it’s come under criticism for not being diverse enough of the pan-Asian experience, a continent that stretches from East Timor and Indonesia in the south to Pakistan in the west to Mongolia in the north.

When the film premiered in Singapore, local critics slammed it for not being inclusive of all Singaporeans, especially the non-ethnic Chinese who make up almost a quarter of the population there.

That the movie is somehow expected to represent billions of people is unrealistic, but it also demonstrates how much Asian audiences in the West were crying out for this movie. When one movie finally comes along, everyone wants it to be part of their experience and is inevitably let down when it isn’t.

The commercial success of Crazy Rich Asians is proof movies don’t have to anchored by the same old crew to make money. When it opened number one in the US, it became the first rom-com in three years to make more than $US20 million ($A27 million) that first weekend.

It’s already raked in $US76 million ($A104 million) at the American box office over two weeks. Most significantly, its second week was almost as successful as its first, tallying only a 6 per cent drop in takings. For comparison, blockbusters typically drop more than 50 per cent on the second weekend.

But strong word-of-mouth has carried Crazy Rich Asians and while Asian-Americans made up almost 40 per cent of its first weekend audiences, non-Asian viewers were packing it in by week two.

The movie’s studio Warner Bros (Crazy Rich Asians is distributed in Australia by Roadshow) has already greenlit a sequel, presumably to be based on the second book of Kevin Kwan’s trilogy.

Commercial viability is often cited as the reason why Hollywood won’t gamble big on movies that don’t have caucasian stars, though Black Panther with its $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion) global box office has certainly blown a hole in that argument.

“Crazy Rich Asians is another example of diversity being a commercial success,” Pang says. “There have been so many examples recently and it paints a clear picture that audiences want something new. They don’t want the same thing over and over again.

“There are communities out there that want to be included and represented. There’s a hunger there and if you’re not paying attention to that hole in the market, then that’s a bad financial decision.”

Best known for playing Lee in Tomorrow When The War Began and as Arban in Marco Polo, Pang moved from Melbourne to LA five years ago because he didn’t think a career as an actor in Australia would be sustainable.

“Australia has stepped up its diversity game since I’ve been gone and all these shows have come out. There are a lot more opportunities now than when I left but there’s still a long way to go.”

Here, while the ABC and SBS have launched a slew of projects starring Asian faces including Benjamin Law’s The Family Law, Ronny Chieng: International Student and Anh Do’s Anh’s Brush With Fame, you’d still be hard-pressed to find Australians of Asian heritage on commercial free-to-air TV outside of MasterChef or other talent-based reality TV shows.

A 2016 Screen Australia report into diversity on screen found that people with non-European backgrounds (namely Asian and Middle Eastern Australians) made up only 7 per cent of characters on Australian drama series, compared to 17 per cent of the actual population.

Pang is capitalising on the momentum created by Crazy Rich Asians and producing his own film, Empty By Design, which has just finished filming in Manila.

“It’s my way of taking the next step. I don’t want to rely on other people to come up with the next project.”


The reactions to Crazy Rich Asians have left the cast and their director pretty emotional. “It’s very moving to be part of something that means something to people,” Wu says. “I can’t even believe it. I feel so lucky.”

Lots of actors say they feel lucky to be involved with something but for Wu, when she says she’s feeling emotional, it’s genuine, there’s a hint of her voice breaking over the phone. It’s personal — she has real skin in the game.

And that’s why this movie is resonating so deeply. Because it touches at our very sense of self.

“Cultural identity is a difficult task to come to terms with whatever your nationality or background is,” Pang says. “It just makes it that much harder when you never see your own image. It gives you a complex and I know all my friends and peers have dealt with that in some way or other.

“When you’re growing up, you don’t know what’s right or wrong, you just know what is, and that you don’t see yourself represented so you feel like you don’t measure up, you feel lesser and that should never be something people feel, it’s outside of your control and it’s unfair.”

Overwhelmingly, those involved in the making of Crazy Rich Asians and those who have seen it feel a sense of hope — hope that it’s changing, that more stories like this will make it to screens both big and small.

Yeoh, who has worked on both sides of the Pacific in her native Malaysia, in big-budget Western movies including Tomorrow Never Dies and on TV as a starship captain in Star Trek: Discovery, tells me: “This is one of big early steps and I hope the steps will turn into sweeping strides.

“I think in the past, we didn’t speak out because we thought, ‘OK, to integrate into society, let’s just keep our heads down and do the right thing’ and people have had enough of not being proud of their heritage, not being able to share it.

“We have learnt to embrace our differences and our cultures and that’s what Crazy Rich Asians is touching on. Tradition and culture is important to each person, whether they’re Asian or African-American or of Latin descent or whatever it is. That will always be a part of your identity and you should be proud of it.”

Chu is already set to direct the sequel and with the glow of commercial success attached to this project, there’s no going back.

“We’re here. Our stories are going to be heard,” Chu says. “All the world’s eyes on us and it’s a rare opportunity to make a statement like this, for people to show up and make their voices known.”


The Royal family keep traditional British country pursuits alive

As a boy of 11, Prince Charles wrote breathlessly to his much-loved ‘honorary grandfather’, Earl Mountbatten, of his growing love for blood sports.

‘I have been having great fun shooting lately,’ he said. ‘Yesterday I got 23 pheasants and today I got ten and a partridge, a moorhen and a hare.’

He was, by then, already something of an old hand. From the age of eight, he had been allowed to accompany ‘the guns’ on shooting parties, walking with the beaters, listening to their conversations and learning the ways of the countryside.

While timid and withdrawn in many other areas, the young Charles was at home in the outdoors. He did not recoil from the sound of gunfire, nor from the death throes of a downed stag. As for Balmoral, where life for the Royal Family revolves around guns, stalking and fishing, there was nowhere else he would rather be.

So when it emerged this week that the Prince’s grandson, five-year-old Prince George, had attended his first grouse shoot on the heather-clad hills above the Queen’s Scottish summer retreat, it was the clearest sign of the passing of a royal tradition from one generation to another.

It was, after all, how George’s father Prince William had been introduced to the sport. William was just four when Charles and Princess Diana took him to his first shoot on the muddy fields of the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

As a teenager, William was deluged with complaints from anti-fieldsports campaigners after he brought down his first stag with a single shot, prompting the late Labour MP Tony Banks to brand it ‘disgusting’ that a 14-year-old boy was indulging in ‘blood lust’.

But, even allowing for such hyperbole, shooting has, for years, polarised opinion in Britain.

Prince Philip — who, in his younger days, was dubbed the ‘trigger happy prince’ — has never been allowed to escape the furore after he shot a tiger on an official visit to India, even though it was at a time when big-game shooting was both legal and an important part of fraternal diplomacy.

For the royals, of course, shooting is rooted in understanding the countryside and the delicate balance that is best protected by active management of the land. That means culling deer and hunting game. Without that, a lot of our countryside would fall into decay and disuse. In time, Prince George, a king-in-waiting, will come to learn about that balance, as both his father and grandfather did as young men.

When a short-trousered Prince of Wales took to the landscape around Balmoral, the gamekeepers and ghillies discovered in the young Charles not only a willing student, but a shared enthusiasm. It was also the one place where he got to spend time with his parents, riding out with his mother and accompanying his father on his shoots.

At nine, Charles shot his first grouse. A year later, Philip had taken him on his first duck- hunting expedition to Hickling on the Norfolk Broads. He was already a promising shot, having downed an elusive woodcock, when, aged 13, he bagged his first stag. It provoked uproar — as William’s did 35 years later — with letters in the Press attacking the royals.

While still a boy, Charles became adept at ‘bleeding’ and cleaning the carcass of a deer, before dragging it to a pony that would carry it down from the hillside.

William got his shooting eye potting rabbits on the Highgrove estate, before graduating to a 20-bore shotgun to shoot pheasants. To celebrate his admission to the University of St Andrews, Charles purchased a handmade sporting rifle for his son. The .243 calibre weapon was designed for a skilled shot. Left-handed William had already proved his ability with his first stalking kill on the Spittal at the western end of Loch Muick during a stay with the Queen Mother at her Birkhall home.


Hungary and Italy launch anti-migration plan and vow to 'exclude socialists and the left' in a bid to change the way the EU is tackling the crisis

This is a big step forward.  The Eastern European countries of the EU also oppose immgration from outside Europe but tend to be dismissed as "backward, due to their history of Soviet domination.  But Italy is not in that class and was one of the founding members of the EU.  And no-one can dismiss Italy as uncivilized  or unimportant

Hungary and Italy has launched an anti-migration manifesto with the aim of 'excluding socialists and the left' in next year's European parliament elections.

Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italy's hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to work together to try to push for a more hardline approach to immigration within the EU.

The pair cemented their political ties in talks in Milan today, where hundreds gathered to protest their right-wing policies.  

'We agreed that the most important issue is migration,' Orban said, praising his own and Salvini's restricted approach on allowing asylum seekers into their respective countries.

Orban praised far-right Salvini was his 'hero' and claimed that 'the security of Europe depends on his success.'

Salvini said they were working to create a future alliance 'that excludes socialists and the left, that brings back to the center the values and identity' that their respective political parties represent. He said: 'We are near a historic change on a continental level.'

EU countries are expected to go to the polls in May, and Salvini has aligned himself with the right-wing 'Visegrad' countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Hungary.

Salvini's meeting with Orban came shortly after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's more low-key summit with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis, which also focused on migration.

'At the heart of the talks between the two prime ministers was a safer and fairer Europe as a common objective to work towards ... beginning with the key issues for European citizens: the fight against illegal migration, growth and work, and socio-economic stability,' a government statement said.

Salvini has repeatedly shot barbs at the EU ver immigration, accusing the bloc of having abandoned Italy as it struggles to deal with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived on its shores since 2013.

His antagonistic stance has drawn support from key figures of Europe's hard-right including Marine Le Pen and Orban, and critique from the centre and left, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron has sharply criticised countries who refuse to cooperate on migration saying those who benefit from the EU but 'claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants' should have sanctions imposed on them.

Tuesday's meeting in Milan came just days after Italy's latest standoff with Brussels over immigration, which led to scores of migrants being held on a coastguard boat moored in Sicily for days until a relocation deal was struck enabling them to disembark on Sunday.

Salvini said he would continue to refuse NGO ships with migrants access to Italian ports, and brushed off an investigation into 'abduction' launched against him by prosecutors in Sicily. 'They won't make me take one step backwards,' he said.

Orban told reporters that he would not allow migrants to enter Hungary, and insisted that help should be 'taken to where people are in trouble, rather than bring trouble to us'. 'We need a new European Commission that is committed to defence of Europe's borders,' he said.

Migration is a hot-button issue in Italy. According to a study carried out by research body Instituto Cattaneo, 70 per cent of Italians believe that the percentage of non-EU immigrants among Italy's population of 60.5 million is nearly four times that recorded by Eurostat - seven percent as of the start of 2017.

Salvini's meeting with fellow hardliner Orban has exposed fractures in Italy's ruling coalition, which joins Salvini's League with the populist Five Star Movement.

His fellow Deputy PM and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has stood alongside Salvini in opposition to Europe's handling of migration from Libya.

Last week he threatened to pull Italy's EU budget contributions if more help didn't arrive and backed Salvini as he waited for nearly a week before allowing 140 migrants to disembark a coastguard ship docked at the Sicilian port of Catania.

But Five Star includes within its broad political ranks a left-wing faction uncomfortable with the party's alliance with Salvini.

Di Maio blasted Orban on Monday for putting up 'barbed-wire barriers' and refusing to do his part to help with migrants.

'As far as I'm concerned countries that refuse allocation of migrants should not be entitled to European funding,' Di Maio said in an interview in daily La Stampa.


Military finally drops charges against chaplain accused of anti-gay discrimination

In a surprising win for religious freedom in the military, the Army is finally letting a chaplain off the hook for refusing to violate his conscience and facilitate a marriage retreat for same-sex couples.

Scott Squires is a chaplain in Fort Bragg, N.C. As part of his job he conducted marriage retreats for couples called "Strong Bonds," but several months ago he declined to conduct a marriage retreat for same-sex couples. He believed this would violate his religious beliefs. Like all chaplains, Squires must follow the guidelines his endorsing agency establishes. In this case, his agency (the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) forbid its chaplains from facilitating marriage retreats that include same-sex couples, due to their core religious beliefs.

Despite his refusal, Squires made sure another chaplain could help the soldier who wanted to be involved in this particular retreat. Still, the Army vowed to investigate and he was to face disciplinary action on the basis of sexual discrimination, if such discrimination was proven. Originally, an Army investigator recommended that Squires be found guilty of "dereliction of duty," a court martial offense that could result in prison time.

Last week, the Army announced that it has rejected the findings of an investigation and will abandon charges of "dereliction of duty" for Squires and his assistant, SSG Kacie Griffin. In a statement, Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs to First Liberty, the firm that represented Squires, said, "The United States military is no place for anti-religious hostility against its own military chaplains. Chaplains like Scott Squires assistant Kacie Griffin do not have to give up their First Amendment rights in order to serve their fellow soldiers."

It’s unfortunate that members of the military, who fight to ensure our country’s liberties remain intact--and the chaplains who aid in this effort, of encouraging and preserving the spiritual and mental health of members of the military--even have to face discrimination charges when they’re only practicing their faith. Cases like this, and the investigation that followed, demonstrate a waste of funds and resources in the name of political correctness.

It’s imperative that the military and its resources remain focused on the task at hand – defending this country, here and abroad – rather than concern itself with whether a chaplain is discriminating against someone else’s right to a marriage retreat in violation of his own conscience. These issues are not only a distraction from the purpose of the military but a frivolous effort that cloaks political correctness in discrimination and requires members of faith to violate their conscience for another’s demands.


Australia: 'Would they do this if he was Muslim?' Public broadcaster is slammed for using taxpayer dollars to mock Prime Minister's Christian faith in comedy show

The ABC has been slammed after its comedy show Tonightly with Tom Ballard targeted new Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Christian faith.

The skit, performed on Monday night by comedians Bridie Connell and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, tried to connect the nation's refugee policy to Mr Morrison's religious beliefs.

A song by the duo, who dubbed themselves the 'Shadow Ministers', featured lyrics such as: 'ScoMo is under the spell of Jesus' charm, and kids are under safety watch for self-harm.'

Other controversial lyrics included: 'We love Jesus, Jesus, but not refugee-us' and 'to do what pleases Jesus, deny them all visas.'

Mr Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal Prime Minister, and vowed in December last year to fight back against discrimination and mockery of religious groups. In his maiden speech, he said: 'My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.'

However, some have been quick to use it against him.

Many on social media were quick to defend the new Prime Minister, who is less than a week into his term.

On a Facebook response to the Tonightly act, one wrote: 'This is abhorrent editorial garbage. Completely disrespecting the views of many Australians and faith.' 'Would they do this if he was a Muslim?' another asked.

Their sentiment was seconded by Peter Kurti from the Centre for independent Studies.

'The show would probably not mock the ­religious beliefs of Ed Husic, Islam, or Josh Frydenberg, Judaism,' he said, the Daily Telegraph reported.

NSW opposition education spokesman, Jihad Dib said: 'I think once it gets into a personal issue about someone's faith … then I think we're going down the wrong path.'

According to the Daily Telegraph, an ABC spokesman defended Tonightly, saying it regularly satirised 'people in positions of authority, regardless of their race, gender or religious beliefs'.

Tonightly was earlier cancelled after two seasons, with its final show scheduled for September 7.

'Tonightly deliberately pushed boundaries to inform and entertain,' an ABC spokesperson said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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