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Why is Hollywood responding so strongly to actors criticisms regarding Game of Thrones predominately white cast with the big upcoming epic fantasy adaptations?

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7 hours ago, red snow said:

I think a lot of people unconsciously go "English accents this is a fantasy/old setting". There's probably equivalents in other language films. I wonder if there's a "sound" for chinese history/fantasy? Probably.

I think it's more that if people hear American, Australian, or other colonial accents, they unconsciously go "this takes place somewhere that was colonised in the last few hundred years" - and that's obviously jarring if the setting is medieval or earlier, or an analagous fantasy world. Even if the setting isn't actually English-speaking and is only translated for the benefit of the audience, it helps if the accents used are from places that existed at the time. Obviously people weren't actually speaking modern English back then, but the bulk of the audience can't be expected to have an instinctive understanding on how accents have changed over the centuries, they just associate accents with places.

I assume this issue wouldn't have a direct counterpart in China, though my knowledge of Chinese history is limited. But I'd guess there'd be similar issues with say Spanish-language historicals made in Mexico?

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2 minutes ago, felice said:

I assume this issue wouldn't have a direct counterpart in China, though my knowledge of Chinese history is limited. But I'd guess there'd be similar issues with say Spanish-language historicals made in Mexico?

Absolutely the case. Viggo Mortensen was criticized by some for his Argentinian-inflected Spanish in Alatriste.

I'm not sure why people are riled up by the factual claim that British accents read "historical" or "fantasy" appropriate to most Americans and, I suspect, most Brits as well. And I think you're right that it is entirely to do with the history of colonization and that the language of the "colonies" is necessarily newer even if linguistic history can show there's more relations between colonial accents and the historically contemporaneous dialect of the colonizing state than the contemporaneous language of said state now.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Pecan said:

When looking at the WOT cast list, it does seem like someone was checking off boxes on a diversity checklist, and that's kind of annoying. There's no indication anywhere in the books that the area where the heroes are from (I forget the name) is anything other than lily white in ethnicity. So why are the actors for Egwene, Nynaeve, and Perrin all darker skinned? Now, if the actors are great in the roles, it won't matter. But it seems forced, and that's unfortunate because the world Jordan created has different ethnicities built in as a feature. There's plenty of room in the story for non-white characters. 

But honestly, I'm not optimistic about this series. I have this sinking feeling it's going to a be a YA angst-fest and will get canceled after one season. 

Someone should take on Malazan. Certainly no problem with diversity there!

 

Exactly my feeling on the show. Hopefully they'll be able to pull it off for the fans who have waited near thirty years for it instead of trying to please some bitter and ignorant actors criticisms. But if the actors casted previous performances are any indication, it's looking more and more like they were just checks in boxes, with quality thrown out the window.

Edited by Mwm

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Wrt English accents, I think we can on the one hand acknowledge that this is an established shorthand while at the same time recognising that it is a hugely Anglocentric one and not necessarily an unchangeable thing. Lots of established shorthands in film (and literature, for that matter) are problematic for one reason or another but still useful. 

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45 minutes ago, felice said:

I think it's more that if people hear American, Australian, or other colonial accents, they unconsciously go "this takes place somewhere that was colonised in the last few hundred years" - and that's obviously jarring if the setting is medieval or earlier, or an analagous fantasy world. Even if the setting isn't actually English-speaking and is only translated for the benefit of the audience, it helps if the accents used are from places that existed at the time. Obviously people weren't actually speaking modern English back then, but the bulk of the audience can't be expected to have an instinctive understanding on how accents have changed over the centuries, they just associate accents with places.

I assume this issue wouldn't have a direct counterpart in China, though my knowledge of Chinese history is limited. But I'd guess there'd be similar issues with say Spanish-language historicals made in Mexico?

That's quite a good theory with english as england being the "motherland"/oldest place. Ran says Mexico has a similar practice with spanish, so maybe Brazil uses modern portuguese accents. I guess China doesn't have that (and I guess accents are very different in tonal languages where the sound can change the meaning - I find that fascinating/confusing).

I guess it's also the same thing with how barbarians always come from "the north" (actually it's weird just how many fantasy books have the further north/more barbaric rule of thumb) and tend to speak with a northern english or scottish accent, while non england english speakers may not be able to recognise all UK accents they can usually distinguish general scottish/northern/southern accents. I think GOT pretty much did that with beyond the wall, the North and King's landing

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2 minutes ago, mormont said:

Wrt English accents, I think we can on the one hand acknowledge that this is an established shorthand while at the same time recognising that it is a hugely Anglocentric one and not necessarily an unchangeable thing. Lots of established shorthands in film (and literature, for that matter) are problematic for one reason or another but still useful. 

A bit like I was suggesting earlier - it'd actually be quite novel and interesting for TV shows to play with that set up.

Again it maybe fits in with the setting but in general SF is much better in this regard. Firefly had elements of mandarin/cantonese in the language, the Expanse does an excellent job particularly the pidgin used by belters, I think books, like Luna have a lot of portuguese reflecting a future where Brazil is a power. It's almost like SF has to admit that the present is anglocentric but the future will change depending on the relative influence of a given nation or language.

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, red snow said:

Ran says Mexico has a similar practice with spanish,

To be clear, Alatriste is a Spanish film set in Spain in the 17th century, but Mortensen’s Spanish was critiqued for being out of place as he grew up in Argentina and so has a “colonial” or  New World accent rather than Castillian.

But I know that in Mexico, historical films often do use castizo — the “correct” Castillian Spanish — for characters representing aristocratic historical figures and so on.

 

Edited by Ran

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Posted (edited)

Brasil's Portuguese is intoned and inflected quite differently from that in Portugal (and let's not forget Angolan Portuguese, which is the language of official Angola) -- they open their mouths, they say. People in Portugal. Brasilians  laugh at the way Portuguese speak, with their mouths closed and all prissy and uptight -- just like the Portuguese themselves, -- to their perspective. Mexican Spanish generally is a lot more like Spain's (speaking VERY BROADLY,) while Cuban Spanish is considered slovenly and hard to understand -- and spoken very fast --by both (white) Mexicans and Spaniards (nevertheless both love Cuban music).  If one learns Spanish from a Castillian and goes to Matanzas, Cuba, for instance, trying to understand the rumberos, would be like someone learning English as a second language from an Oxford posh teacher and going to Mississippi and trying to interview somebody in Parchman.

There are whole states in Mexico where Spanish is spoken very Castillian by everybody.

I have personal experience with Spanish and Portuguese in all the above  mentioned locations -- am not just repeating what others have said or something I read.

Both Spanish and Portuguese are far more anciently (relatively speaking) stable languages too, than English ever has been.  Let's not forget, among many other elements, the Great Vowel Shift!

 

 

Edited by Zorral

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2 hours ago, Zorral said:

Brasil's Portuguese is intoned and inflected quite differently from that in Portugal (and let's not forget Angolan Portuguese, which is the language of official Angola) -- they open their mouths, they say. People in Portugal. Brasilians  laugh at the way Portuguese speak, with their mouths closed and all prissy and uptight -- just like the Portuguese themselves, -- to their perspective.

The Portuguese speak the "closed" vowels, while in Brazil they speak with the "open" vowels, it makes it seem to the Brazilians that the Portuguese speak very fast, in a casual conversation it is difficult for a Brazilian to understand a person from Portugal. And there is also the Portuguese of the Azores, an archipelago in Portugal, which is practically imperceptible to a Brazilian.

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14 hours ago, red snow said:

Firefly had elements of mandarin/cantonese in the language

But notably few actual Chinese people cast, of course - making it another example of a cast arguably being 'wrong' culturally but nobody cared because it was white people. 

 

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37 minutes ago, mormont said:

But notably few actual Chinese people cast, of course - making it another example of a cast arguably being 'wrong' culturally but nobody cared because it was white people. 

 

That's a very good point because they can't even argue "bottleneck colonising of planets" because how would the other language infiltrate? something the expanse has handled better.

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I also find it interesting in LOTR the range of accents that are used, and the differing meanings behind them, which I think reveal a lot about how we view differing regions.

For instance Sam is going for an odd West Country accent, signifying being a country bumpkin, good honest, but a bit thick persona. Gimli is a gruff Scot, Elves all speak in the queens English.. and orcs and goblins are basically cockneys. None of it felt out of place. However I wonder if they'd thrown in a Brummie or Liverpool accent whether that would feel completely strange? Probably, because Liverpool or say Manchester feel like more modern places comparatively. 

Of course, none of this makes any actual sense if you want to sit down and try and look clever and intellectualise it, because accent is one of those things that has subtle meanings behind it. 

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, felice said:

I think it's more that if people hear American, Australian, or other colonial accents, they unconsciously go "this takes place somewhere that was colonised in the last few hundred years" - and that's obviously jarring if the setting is medieval or earlier, or an analagous fantasy world. Even if the setting isn't actually English-speaking and is only translated for the benefit of the audience, it helps if the accents used are from places that existed at the time. Obviously people weren't actually speaking modern English back then, but the bulk of the audience can't be expected to have an instinctive understanding on how accents have changed over the centuries, they just associate accents with places.

I assume this issue wouldn't have a direct counterpart in China, though my knowledge of Chinese history is limited. But I'd guess there'd be similar issues with say Spanish-language historicals made in Mexico?

Well, that can make sense if we're talking about, say, shows or movies set in medieval England, where I can see why most people would find it more natural  - not having enough knowledge about history to know that the language has changed over time (or that English royalry and nobility in 12th-14th spoke a variant of French, not English - which you wouldn't know based on movies llike Braveheart where French princesses speak French *unlike* everyone else in court)...

But when we're talking about Ancient Romans...or 15th century Italy as in Borgia...or fantasy set in fully fictitional worlds...eh... not really.

People don't think RP is more "natural" for characters in period drama set in Ancient Rome because they think colonial accents are "newer" or whatever. They think so because they're used to hearing RP in the movies and shows and maybe Shakespeare productions they've seen.

If it was really about people's opinions on the historicity of accents, then everyone would be mocking the American accents of the Jewish characters in Ben Hur.

Edited by Annara Snow

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Quote

 

Jordan's "ethnic" picture of the characters in the Two Rivers was Caucasian, but perhaps more in the "Mediterranean" direction. OTOH, when one sees his casting ideas, every single TR character is being played by someone white (surprisingly whiter than I expected, even, to the point where 'dark' just means dark hair and eyes and maybe a propensity to tan...)

 

True, but Jordan was riffing off actors he knew and had heard of, which was informed by his own movie knowledge and preferences (I don't think he ever claimed to be a movie buff), and in the 1990s when he discussed these things it would have been taken as read that every character in the books could be black and they'd played by white actors in a film or TV version. That idea was still in force in 2004 during the Earthsea debacle.

Quote

 

Indeed. Same people who read the TR characters as black, apparently, which baffled me what with the book covers...

 

No-one's said that the Two Rivers characters as "black" (itself an unhelpful, very broad term). Tuon, who is really dark-skinned, contrasts against Mat, but then Mat contrasts against Rand. Putting Mat and the other Emond's Fielders in the category of Southern European/Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern to North African is reasonable, saying they're like Nigerians is as unreasonable as saying they're like Finns.

The book covers mean very little. Trollocs are ordinary men in funny helmets, and Darrel Sweet didn't read the books at all. He was sent individual scenes to base his images on, and sometimes ideas from the art director at Tor.

The same characters also look radically different on different books. On the cover of the YA edition of The Great Hunt, Egwene appears to be very dark skinned.

There's also the fact the WoT world is distinctly and continuously multi-ethnic in its approach, with core worldbuilding reasons why this is so (all ethnic groups and races being jumbled together in the Age of Legends and then by the Breaking), unlike other settings where there are less convincing reasons for this to be the case (i.e. if the Starks in GoT had been cast with actors from India, that would be more questionable).

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Pecan said:

If you read the wiki, the Emonds Field crew are described as brown-haired and brown-eyed, except for Rand. It doesn't say skin color in the wiki and I can't recall what it says in the books. Okay, fine. Whatever. I still think the most common interpretation is that these are dark haired white people. But in putting the show together, I think someone simply decided that they wanted the cast to look more like a modern day teen angst drama. Hopefully I'm wrong about that. I would like for the show to be good. 

 

But why would you think that the most obvious interpretation of the description  "brown haired, brown eyed" is that it's a white person with brown hair and brown eyes?

Also, what does the casting in terms of race/ethnocity have to do with genre and whether it's about teens and teen angst?

Edited by Annara Snow

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, mormont said:

But notably few actual Chinese people cast, of course - making it another example of a cast arguably being 'wrong' culturally but nobody cared because it was white people.

I think calling the cast of Firefly "white" is rather funny.
I mean, most of the crew was white, yes, but it was hardly an all-white crew...

Edited by Rippounet

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1 hour ago, The Worm's Hole said:

I remember the criticism that the Mysha episode of Game of Thrones got for changing the Yunkish slaves from multi-ethnic to primarily people of color, the idea being that it turned Dany into kind of a white savior. There were so many articles written about it, and i can't help but feel there's something a little off about the whole affair. The Yunkish slaves were mostly people of color because that's who shows up when you put out a call for extras in Morocco, and productions like this are actually a really big deal for people in places like Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Morocco, etc. in terms of jobs and such. Nobody gets their big break from being an extra on Game of Thrones, but maybe it gets them interested in acting, in film-making, maybe its just a paycheck.

There's something really obscene about ostensibly left-leaning media attacking a production that's providing jobs to people of color in some of the poorer places in the world because it mirrors a trope that makes, maybe not a white audience, but an audience privileged enough to afford HBO more comfortable.

 


The reasons for it happening may have been entirely practical (though let's be honest even just bringing in a few out-of-town actors to avoid completely embodying that trope on-screen shouldn't have been beyond them)  but the complete lack of care in presenting that situation to avoid those tropes and others spoke huge howling volumes about the way GoT creators thought, or didn't, about perceptions of race. It's an awful visual.

The argument that it was fine because Morrocco is so poor that a few pieces of extra work, that wouldn't necessarily need to be replaced by any out-of-town extras brought in anyway, just added to, are a generous addition to their economy is frankly absolutely laughable and more than a little leaning into the very white saviour idea that caused the problem in the first place.

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8 hours ago, Heartofice said:

I also find it interesting in LOTR the range of accents that are used, and the differing meanings behind them, which I think reveal a lot about how we view differing regions.

For instance Sam is going for an odd West Country accent, signifying being a country bumpkin, good honest, but a bit thick persona. Gimli is a gruff Scot, Elves all speak in the queens English.. and orcs and goblins are basically cockneys. None of it felt out of place. However I wonder if they'd thrown in a Brummie or Liverpool accent whether that would feel completely strange? Probably, because Liverpool or say Manchester feel like more modern places comparatively. 

Of course, none of this makes any actual sense if you want to sit down and try and look clever and intellectualise it, because accent is one of those things that has subtle meanings behind it. 

Given Tolkien's association with Birmingham and it's influence on him it's a shame there weren't any Brummie accents present.

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5 hours ago, Werthead said:

 

True, but Jordan was riffing off actors he knew and had heard of, which was informed by his own movie knowledge and preferences (I don't think he ever claimed to be a movie buff),

Pretty sure he knew enough of film to be able to pull in more ethnicity-appropriate actors if he had intended the TR to not be generally Caucasian in appearance. I mean, he names actors from several different eras, several different continents and ethnic backgrounds, without too much trouble. Most notably of all, the characters who are clearly intended to be black (Tuon, Semirhage) are cast by him by black actors (well, Naomi Campbell was more model than actor, but then this is about appearance more than anything) rather than non-black actors who just had the right face appearance.

 

5 hours ago, Werthead said:

No-one's said that the Two Rivers characters as "black"

The initial thread about casting here, or perhaps it at was at Tor.com, literally had people saying all the actors looked exactly like how they imagined or some such. I know that's not what you're saying, I'm just referring to the fact that some people did read "dark" TR people as "black" despite the evidence otherwise.

5 hours ago, Werthead said:

(itself an unhelpful, very broad term). Tuon, who is really dark-skinned, contrasts against Mat, but then Mat contrasts against Rand. Putting Mat and the other Emond's Fielders in the category of Southern European/Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern to North African is reasonable, saying they're like Nigerians is as unreasonable as saying they're like Finns.

Agreed.

5 hours ago, Werthead said:

The book covers mean very little. Trollocs are ordinary men in funny helmets, and Darrel Sweet didn't read the books at all. He was sent individual scenes to base his images on, and sometimes ideas from the art director at Tor.

Jordan happily pointed out that Trollocs didn't look like Sweet's covers. He never felt the need to say the characters didn't look anything like Sweet's covers beyond a nod to the weirdness of proportions and so on, even though it'd be a pretty big thing not to note if he had intended the TR to be very dark rather than just dark haired and a little more olive toned. Between his silence on that and his personal fan casting, the TR is ... well, "black Irish" probably.

 

5 hours ago, Werthead said:

The same characters also look radically different on different books. On the cover of the YA edition of The Great Hunt, Egwene appears to be very dark skinned.

Yes, she looks good and southern European there. 

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8 hours ago, Annara Snow said:

But why would you think that the most obvious interpretation of the description  "brown haired, brown eyed" is that it's a white person with brown hair and brown eyes?

Also, what does the casting in terms of race/ethnocity have to do with genre and whether it's about teens and teen angst?

Why wouldn't I think they're white? It's the obvious interpretation. The books were written primarily for western audiences where authors, if they are writing about non-white characters, will typically point that out more clearly. If you can find something in the text that says they aren't white, I will happily cede the point.

The cast looks like something you would see in a CW show. But maybe I'm wrong and they're all brilliant. 

 

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