The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 July 2007

Quote of the week

Andrea Harris scalps Ursula K. Le Guin:

Le Guin clearly prefers Indian culture (especially that of the California tribes she grew up being told about by her anthropologist father) to that of her own people. She has one of the worst wannabe complexes in the country. (I wonder if the fact that Ward Churchill has actually had a successful career as a pretend Indian drives her nuts.)

This leads me to another Le Guin topic. A couple of years ago, the SciFi channel did a trashy miniseries based on her Earthsea Trilogy book. It was clear from the trailers that it was going to suck, so I gave it a miss. Le Guin hated it, of course — but the funniest reason she had for hating it was that they didn't hire Indian actors to play the parts of the Earthsea-ers, all of whom (except for the Kargad, who were a blond, white, Viking-like tribe) she had described as being brown-skinned and black-haired (though the fantasy culture she cooked up for them was clearly European; castles, merchants, prices, wizards, etc.), and revealed were her way of writing about her beloved Indians in her favorite genre. Though except for skin color there was nothing remotely "native American" about any of the fantasy people in the novels. This is a turnaround of the usual liberal/progressive argument that actors can play anyone no matter their skin color — we can have an all-Chinese cast do Macbeth in clown suits and speaking Gujarathi and it will be just as profound and meaningful as in Richard Burbage's day. It's funny how, suppress it how they may, the Judeo-Christian underpinning to a multicultural academic's worldview will pop out.

Point of order: if the Chinese do Macbeth, do they still refer to it as the Scottish Play?

Posted at 1:02 PM to QOTW

I forgot to look up and link to the article where she slammed the tv show -- but it's online somewhere, including her own website I'm sure. (She does have a website.)

And here is an entire collection of Earthsea-miniseries commentary from the website. Looks like I have some reading to do... I suppose I gave the impression that I couldn't stand her, but as a matter of fact I do like her, or at least her early writing; I just think she's gone of the deep end lately. Some writers don't get better with age.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 5:51 AM on 7 July 2007

I also want to add that I actually think she was right to be pissed off about the disregard the tv series producers had for the way her characters were supposed to look -- their "ethnicity," as she called it -- and I think they should have chosen actors to more closely resemble the characters (if not Native Americans, than Hispanic or any others would do). Just as at some level a Chinese Macbeth wouldn't really work unless they did what Kurosawa did for Ran; when you take a story in which the main hero is carefully (if not subtly -- she didn't knock you in the head with it) described as having red-brown skin and dark hair and eyes "like all his people" and have him portrayed as by a blond, blue-eyed white guy, you have lost something. The tv show's writers also reportedly made a hash of the story line and the moral behind the story, apparently, and I think that's even more important, but the clodhopping attempt at "colorblind" casting just added to the chaos.

I'll write more on this later.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 6:29 AM on 7 July 2007

On a much more mundane level, rather a lot of overwrought fanboys raised hell over the casting of the Fantastic Four films, mostly over the fact that Jessica Alba, with a few Latino roots on her family tree, really shouldn't be playing an icy Nordic blonde, especially since she doesn't much resemble the guy who plays her brother. Of course, Sue Storm wasn't written as an icy Nordic blonde: she was merely drawn that way.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:41 AM on 7 July 2007