June 27, 2011

Asian Indian cast as Navajo

Luna?  Who is Luna?  Inside True Blood Reveals

By LividityThe too sexy Janina Gavankar plays Luna, the new shapeshifting character in True Blood season 4. Gianna, over at the HBO’s Inside True Blood blog tossed around a little Q&A. Check it out:

Gianna:  Can you tell us about your role on the show? Who are you? Where do you come from? What’s in store for your character this season?

Janina:  I play Luna. I grew up on Navajo Nation, and I’m now a schoolteacher.

Comment:  I imagine the Luna character is supposed to be a Navajo skinwalker. That's only been done a hundred or so times, so what's once more?

I guess Tinsel Korey wasn't available? She would've been perfect as an Asian Indian pretending to be a Navajo.

Natives rip casting decision

This posting generated the following comments on Facebook:Not the first time. Seems vampire films love East Indian female leads to play Native American.

Ugh. Terrible....



ANOTHER HUGE FAIL IN CASTING!!! Ugh! Dammit!!! WTH with these people. I'm trying to stop this!!

How messed up is that.

Yeah W T F ????

Sooo not cool. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Hollywood obviously thinks all brown people are interchangeable. Or they don't know the difference between Asian Indians and American Indians.Typical. I like the way Edward James Olmos said it best. Hollywood is all dollars and no sense!

"Theres a old saying about Hollywood, that they will do anything for money."
Actually, as we discussed here:

Minorities buy more movie tickets

Hollywood won't do anything for money. Specifically, it won't make films starring minorities. Even though many minorities buy more tickets than whites.

So the "bottom line" argument is misleading if not false. Hollywood is racist, not just money-oriented. If it were money-oriented, it would make more movies with indigenous characters like Avatar or the Twilight movies.They would never cast white actors as black slaves in a Civil War epic, how can they even think that this is right, or acceptable?

First whites, usually Italians playing Indians, now this. Get rid of these impostors wherever they maybe.
For more on the subject, see (Asian) Indians Get TV Roles and Fox Eliminates Diversity Department.


Lucy said...

"Hollywood obviously thinks all brown people are interchangeable"

Yup. I'm still angry at the Maori as Inuit casting in "Green Lantern". Yeah, yeah, I know, Maori are also indigenous, but all indigenous people are no more interchangeable than all brown people are.

Besides, for all its many faults, New Zealand has plenty of opportunities for Maori actors. When is someone going to give Inuit actors a chance? They're not even given a chance to play very explicitly Inuit characters, let alone roles of non-specific ethnicity.

Lucy said...

Oh, and I almost forgot this gem:

Waititi said that he wasn’t aware from the script of Kalmaku’s heritage until he researched the character. In order to get a wider breadth of understanding, Waititi spoke to a Inuit friend who helped him develop Tom.

That's just great. Next time I'm cast as a black person, I'll be sure to ask all my black friends to help me with the role.

Oh, and... what a crafty way to say "some of my best friends are Inuit", Mr. Waititi.

Lucy said...

Sorry, here's the link for the quote:


Anonymous said...

I'm sure racebending will have about this. But yeah, skinwalkers have only been done a thousand times. At this point, it seems to be the standard Indian villain. And the only one.

Lucy said...

I doubt that, Anonymous. Gavankar seems to have been cast a while ago, and I can't remember it being mentioned much over at Racebending. The folks over there seem to have a very high tolerance for minorities playing other minorities, and don't really grasp that, even though it's difficult for both, it's not the same thing to be eg. black in Hollywood as it is to be eg. Native American in Hollywood. It's all the same to them, no nuance whatsoever.

dmarks said...

Well, that's the second popular modern vampire/romance franchise to case an India Indian as an American Indian (Twilight was first, as far as I know).

That leave's CW's TV show "The Vampire Diaries". Have they done this yet, and if not, how long before they do?

Jaine said...

yikes Lucy, Waiti should know better than to pull the "some of my best friends are..." line, given it's used against Maori frequently in NZ.

I don't know that I would say Maori actors have "plenty" of opportunities but I can believe they have more than other indigenous groups.

Lucy said...

It's definitely not easy being Maori in NZ, as an actor or in general, and I honestly didn't mean to suggest it was. NZ is in many ways a more openly racist society than the States. But compared to minority groups elsewhere, Maori actors do have a lot of opportunities.

NZ's small film and entertainment industry is surprisingly diverse (nowhere close to perfect, of course). Most of NZ's highest-grossing and most iconic domestic films are Maori (with Maori actors and mostly Maori writers and directors) - Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, and, of course, Waititi's own Boy.

It's a completely different climate to the one Inuit actors, and Native actors in the States in general, have to face. I just don't get how Waititi, who is very much an established artist back home, can nonchalantly take an Inuit actor's role and talk about how it was "kinda cool" that the character was stripped of all specific ethnic clues (even his surname), while at the same time talking about how important it is for Maori to see themselves on the big screen. I realise a Hollywood gig is hard to refuse, but he could've at least avoided all that hypocrisy in his interviews.

dmarks said...

Any idea how many Maori were employed in the making of far and away the most famous and lucrative NZ films, "Lord of the Rings"? I think some had to have been behind orc masks, and Maori singers were used as the dwarven choir in Moria, but no Maori were featured prominently.

Lucy said...

I don't really put LotR in the same 'local' category as the films I mentioned, since it was an NZ-USA co-production.

I've no idea how many were involved behind the camera (I'd check imdb, but that wouldn't help, since many Maori have Pakeha names), but you're right, I don't think there were any (unmasked) in front of it. But that was to be expected in a film depicting Tolkien's Middle Earth (not that I would've personally minded non-white actors in LotR).

Jaine said...

Lucy, agreed that is it all relative regarding opportunities for Maori actors.

On your point about the most successful movies are the ones you mentioned - it's interesting that ones about Maori written by Pakeha don't fare so well eg River Queen (which was quite bad imo).

As for Maori in LOTR, word on the street in Wellington at the time was that any big Polyneasian could be an extra as an Uruk Hai (the big half man half orcs bred by Saruman). Lawrence Makoare playing Uruk, Orcs and the Witchking. There were a few Maori faces in Star Wars too.

Can I ask Lucy if you are a kiwi or if you have lived in NZ for a time? I don't know that I would say NZ was more 'overtly' racist than the States, I tend to think it depends on location and social circle within both countries.

I completely agree about Waititi, I certainly would have expected him to have more sense.

Lucy said...

Not a kiwi, Jaine. Years ago, back after high school, I spent several months in NZ staying with a kiwi friend. I don't think NZ is more racist than the US, but my impression is that white people feel somewhat more free to express their racist sentiments in NZ than they do in the US. And at the same time so many are convinced that there's no racism in NZ.

Sentiments like "but it's all ok, because we never treated the Maori like white Americans have treated blacks/Indians" were something I heard quite often. From what I've heard (only been there a couple of times), I think Canada is quite comparable, in that many people exhibit quite a bit of open racism and still brag about how superior Canadian race relations are compared to the US.

Of course, that's just my impression, and my experience is obviously quite limited. And this

I tend to think it depends on location and social circle within both countries.

is also definitely true.

Yes, definitely disappointed in Waititi. I think "Boy" was amazing, and he said some great stuff on the subject of race, culture and representation in the couple of interviews I'd read before learning of his involvement in Green Lantern.

Jaine said...

"we never treated the Maori like white Americans have treated blacks/Indians"
you are right about that and unfortunately it still gets said today (and we never treated Maori like Australia treated Aboriginals). Unfortunately many Kiwi's are appallingly ignorant of their history and still espouse colonial ideology whilst denying their own racism.

I was a little suprised last year when arguing with an American on FB who told me that "at least the Indians weren't as badly treated as the Jews and what about the treatment of the early Chinese in America". I'm not sure it's arguable that these groups suffered worse and I hate the kind of justification - it's like raping someone and then saying well I least I didn't beat you as much as I could have.

Daz K said...

As a Maori living in Australia for many years, my 'ignorance' stemmed from growing up 'exactly' like the children portrayed in the movie, "Once Were Warriors" - the difference being that, when presented with an opportunity to move to Australia, and break the cycle, I did.
I do not live a life of 'regret'. My wife is a beautiful, red-headed Australian. And love and understanding reign supreme in our marriage. We are both on our second marriage, and laugh that we needed our first marriages to understand what our wedding vows were really about. :-)

I enjoy watching NITV (Native Indigenous), and our multi-cultural network channel SBS (a truly internationally flavoured kaleidoscope of television and movies from races other than English-speaking) - and I agree, whole-heartedly, in 'Natives playing Natives', whenever possible. I realise it can be 'insulting' when someone of 'another culture' is singled out to play a part that could have well deserved an indigenous actor, and possibly launched their career. I find that 'Hollywood' itself has a narrow-bandwidth when it comes to selecting 'any' actors. They tend to choose from a 'Hot List', as if only 'Brad Pitt', 'Johnny Depp' (especially in 'The Lone Ranger') and 'Meryl Streep' can play in their movies - so, you have to be competitive, or stereotyped, to get your foot in the door.
The truth is, any indigenous actor (male and female), has to shine above others, and also nurture their 'own' directors, producers, and assistants. A 'bad' example of this (and it's only my opinion) is Bollywood; but they have a numerous, subjective market. But we all know, when a Native issue is brought to light, we'd like to experience it through the eyes of that culture.
So, no matter what race YOU represent, make it positively memorable. Yes, let people know you have not been an overnight success. But show them how great you can be, and how the industry is 'lesser' in it's knowledge, for not selecting you first.
Actor Songstress CHER - WES STUDI - SONNY LANDHAM - NATAR UNGALAAQ - ERIC SCHWEIG - JAY SILVERHEELS didn't always get the roles they wanted, but (to me) shine fantastic beacons into my memory for being 'larger than life' - and I thank them for those memories. The most burning of those was from the late FLOYD KANGHI DUTA 'RED CROW' WESTERMAN - the look he gives before he is summoned into the arena during the WILD WEST SHOW in the movie 'HIDALGO', to the scorn of the incensed crowd, will live with me forever.

So? Dust ourselves off. Try again. Dust ourselves off. Don't despair at not being there. Try. Then try harder. I'd never say "they didn't hire me because I was Maori.." - NO - I'd say "they didn't hire me because I didn't want it - I didn't feel it - I didn't show it - but LOOK OUT when I do!"

Peace friends!