Diversity Starts From The Top

This is something I wrote that I intended to add onto The Dragon Prince review, but it no longer fit so I’ll post it here on its own.

While it’s no secret that high fantasy and Sci-Fi are entrenched in the densest forms of whiteness, this has always confused me.

In my own personal outlook, fantasy to me is an interpretation of the past (in various distances), while Sci-Fi is an outlook towards the future.

And all some people can see is…the same tired structures of whiteness?

This is severely off topic, but it’s a memory that surfaced while writing so I’d like to talk about it. In college, there was this real SOB of a professor that literally everyone in the course disliked. A few even decided to wisely transfer out within the first week of the class and switch to another. I didn’t, opting to sit towards the back and not say much.

He had a few supporters, but all of that changed quickly when we had a particular assignment. In groups, we had to pitch a film and try to sell it. Since I decided to get my producing minor credits out of the way all in one go, almost every course I was enrolled in that semester was doing the same – so it was boring to say the least at this point. The only male in the group was coincidentally already working on a project, so we just pitched that and raked in an easy A.

After that segment was over, the professor allowed us to ask any questions we had. I don’t remember the question a fellow classmate asked, but I do remember our instructor’s response.

Pertaining to independent film he advised the students not to bother making “black films or anything ethnic, as they don’t do well overseas.” Needless to say, he didn’t catch the atmosphere in the room change – and continued drooling the purest forms of ignorance out of his mouth.

Continuing that “those films” rarely make money and are simply a waste of time, and it was better to stick to “tried and true methods” aka – white films with all white casts.

He’d left early that day after lecture, and I remember everyone just hung around looking at each other and spoke in hushed voices. It was too late to switch out now so nothing could really be done. There was no point in reporting him – he used to be one of Hollywood’s top producers.

I’m sure if you heard projects he worked on you’d recognize the multi-million dollar box office hits. So for the most part, everyone kept their mouth shut about it and just had a general disdain. There were some who really enjoyed his ideologies and kissed up for industry connections – the male who was in my group being one. Last I heard, they had made the film and things are going well for him.

Needless to say, I believe this is why Hollywood and the movie theatre industry are dying as a whole. They refuse to adapt and release their toxic ideologies of racism, imperialism, and general tyranny. Instead of fighting against tides that you cannot swim in, many have opted to go the indie route – myself included.

If you can envision a story that needs to be told, who better than you to create it? It is the harder route but more rewarding in the long run. You’re not begging powerful individuals for funding in exchange for producing credits, then, in turn, having the audacity to be surprised when they think they own your film and can dictate every minuscule and minute detail to fit their narrative or agenda.

Its things like this that lead to a piss poor portrayal of cultural diversity in the media and its further outlets.

This sort of mindset however seems to thrive anywhere there is power. This extends to any given industry that has gone mainstream, anime included. One last story before I finish up this article.

I was working an event, and the crème de la crème of the American – Japanese publishing industry were in attendance. I noticed for a while that when it comes to Japanese culture, anime, etc. – it is very hard to be “let in” to these circles.

And once you’re in, it’s just one big circle jerk to please the next person due to the personalities this line of work tends to attract.

Anyway, I had always wondered why it was the same people at the same exact events and the same exact companies. Japanese business model of 過労死 (karoshi, or working until you die) aside, from my observations people really did not leave their positions unless they were promoted or well…died.

There was a networking hour, and as soon as I was off the clock I decided to speak to the only person in the group who was not outwardly nasty to me earlier.

I’ve encountered a lot of unpleasant people who have treated me unfairly unprovoked. I’ve never known if it was due to my skin color or feelings of inferiority. Judging by the amount I’ve been talked down to, I tend to favor the latter – but that could be my own arrogance talking.

Which don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of the experiences I’ve had. More often than not I’ve met very kind people who I never dreamed I would. The common pattern I speak of always came from the subordinates or those insecure about their positions or station in life.

[Which btw, if you want to know how to deal with these types of people there are two options: be nice and play coy, or act as pretentious as possible. In other words, talk down to them back, act disinterested in anything they have to say and bring in your well-developed poker face. They will be caught off guard most of the time and wonder why you are not recognizing their self-importance and suddenly – you become the most interesting thing in the world. This always works well on the haughty wealthy folk, overbearing celebrities, politicians or any situation where ego is involved. It’s just a little something I picked up going to school with rich kids and finding myself in…foreign spaces lol.]

Anyway, I chatted him up (he happened to work for my favorite publisher at the time) and decided to casually ask if they were hiring. I was working at one cultural hub so to speak, and it would be poor taste to just jump ship for another one so it was mainly out of curiosity.

Japanese office ladies and salary men are some of the fiercest gossipers I’ve ever met and I say this with as much kindness as possible. If I left for another company like that (provided they even let me in) the reputation of ‘disloyalty’ would no doubt follow me.

After asking, he laughed in my face and said that they did not hire. Provided he was tipsy on libations I didn’t take the laugh as something malicious.

Writing this, I also realize just how desensitized I’ve become regarding my interpersonal reactions.

I then pushed my luck even further, inquiring why his company head had given this grand speech about “following your dreams” and that with enough practice and studying of Japanese language and culture, you could be where he was? Why did he get all of those teenagers and young adults – some decked out wearing anime merchandise like licensed T-shirts and official gear from said company – excited and accept their applications after the presentation when he had no intention of even looking at them?

He just shrugged, looked over my shoulder and seen a friend (I’m assuming, I honestly just took the hint) and walked away. I think that was the first time I realized that in every industry, there is a bunch of bullshit.

At a certain point, you have to wonder – when does it all become too much? When are you tired? What goal were you originally working toward?

People leave industries all the time after they grow disillusioned or grow too tired, and decide to mentor or start their own production studios.

About two years after that incident with the professor I mentioned, one morning after I had already graduated he was on the morning news. He was now basically at the top in that department, overseeing admissions of the incoming classes and dictating courses.

On the news he was being awarded and he gave this grandiose speech about “the importance of diversity” and how “minorities needed their own unique voice in Hollywood”. Beside him was a young girl, his ‘mentoree’, beaming and idolizing him as if he were some god.

I swear to you I would have spit on my TV if I could. Instead I called him a motherf*cker and walked away cursing while my mom asked in confusion what was wrong. I didn’t even explain, I just laughed.

This world is amazing.

It’s something, how these powerful people decide to take a different route and seemingly downgrade their life. There are those who really do mean well, but there are even more like this professor – who has decided to spread his ilk from the top to the bottom to the next generation of eager, bright-eyed filmmakers.

I’m turning this review into something else, so that’s all I’ll say on this matter. I applaud The Dragon Prince for reflecting the diversity of our world and normalizing differences. People of color in power, members of the deaf community in positions of power, blended families that don’t hate one another, all wrapped together in an epic storytelling that seeks to restore balance back to their world. I applaud it, and I’d like to leave this article with a video clip that I often think about. It may seem random, but it’s Dave Chappelle speaking on Hollywood and knowing your price. This is a topic often spoken of in cryptic language – or doublespeak- as I have just used.

But it’s important and I’m glad he said it. The more beautiful the image of an entity, the more insidious its underbelly really is.

I’d also encourage you all to watch Misaeng: Incomplete Life. I did a review on it and eagerly look forward to its second season. It focuses on corporate culture at one of South Korea’s top companies, and shows the psychological and emotional effects of a toxic workplace.

Have you ever encountered something unfortunate in your workplace? Can you really separate society and culture? What would you like to see changed about media?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow our blog and other social media such as Twitter and Instagram!

Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

9 thoughts on “Diversity Starts From The Top”

  1. This was a gripping post that I couldn’t stop reading, and I will be re-reading in the future. It’s so true about the sci-fi industry and all industries in general that there is some BS once you start throwing in the ‘business politics’. I had a similar thing happen to me, I worked for this company after high school, and had this idea that one day I could be a manager or VP, just by working hard. Well, long story short, they booted me for having a ‘lack of enthusiasm’, and left me with anxiety/depression.

    Mind you, I did everything I was told to do, kept my nose clean, and tried to learn as much as I could about the business. Fast forward a few years later, the feeling of being booted from the position helped me to put effort and importance back into myself and other creatives.

    I don’t believe in the ideals and hopes and lies that were fed to me by the corporate world here in America. What I do believe in is God and myself. That’s about it.

    Oh BTW, if you were wondering, I’m a black female in my mid-twenties, but you’d think I was a white chick if we spoke on the phone, lol. On a side note, could you give a hint about who the “producer” teacher was? It’s killing me to know. Message me if you don’t want to spill the beans! XD LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad this post resonated with you, and I am sorry that happened to you. It seems especially nowadays, jobs have all kinds of excuses for letting good people go. Which is why no one puts a lot of stock in corporate loyalty anymore.

      Things have to change.

      I personally feel like america has really good propaganda and pr, but the reality is far from it.

      lol it’s all good (= And sorry, no names. That’s my rule. All I’ll say is that there are a lot like him, he isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last if things continue this way. There are a lot of snakes in the industry, just have to carve your own path out and keep your head up…

      Thank you for your comment, it was fun to read (=

      Liked by 1 person

  2. FLOORED. I just finished my BFA in film production, and the focus of my program was mostly for independent filmmakers with a direction more towards studying films overseas so I’ve never had a prof with an attitude like that. I do, however, see it in some films I’ve been asked to read the scripts for in critique, and it’s my major goal to always be brunt and educating in my feedback to those people. This is a really really important post not just for filmmakers but people around the world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you haven’t experienced anything like this! Unfortunetly because the school I went to is closely connected to the industry, stuff like this wasn’t uncommon. Its just that no one talks about it.

      Like

  3. I agree with you about diversity. It is unfortunate that there are still people out there who are jerks just because you’re from a different background. You’re definitely better off somewhere else. I work in a male-dominated field but never let anyone step over me. I am quick to clap back hard.

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    Liked by 1 person

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