Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Wars vs The China Syndrome

A black British actor in the new Star Wars film Episode VII: The Force Awakens has been shrunk in a promo poster in China!
Lead actor John Boyega - who plays lightsaber-wielding Finn - has appeared much smaller on the Chinese ad than the UK version. His image has moved beneath those of Han Solo and Princess Leia, with TIE fighters firing upon the Millennium Falcon filling up the right side of the poster. Other characters are missing, and the droid BB-8 is much larger in the Chinese version.
As expected, the changes are stirring up accusations of racism on socal social media. A message on Star Wars forum reads: "Every Asian poster for the film that I've seen has done this. That this way of doing business went over Westerners' heads is surprising. Everyone was acting as if Disney made those cuts. No, it's the Chinese way." Disney's made no comment at time of writing.
In China, cosmetic surgery is one of the most popular ways to spend discretionary income. China ranks 3rd globally for cosmetic operations performed each year. But unlike Western women wanting boob jobs and liposuction, many Chinese girls want to look more "Western". Perhaps in the Chinese mind, a black man can't possibly be an admired Westerner...? Or is this more than skin-deep?
There is virtually no racial problem in China because the Chinese are essentially one race (the Han race: about 92%). The minorities live mostly in the outlying regions. And Chinese generally like lighter skin. A popular Chinese saying reads: "One white covers up a hundred defects." If a girl has lighter skin, Chinese say she's rather white, even if she has many imperfections. Conversely, if she has darker complexion, Chinese point out that she has the darker skin, even if she is rather pretty. So the lighter-skinned girl often has the edge when looking for a mate.
Another important factor is that Chinese have little contact with black-skinned people. What they know about them is mostly from media and, as people generally only hear/remember bad things, Chinese already have a subconscious prejudice. The poster change may simply be a result of this.
But, as John Boyega said when he was cast in the role: "If you have an issue with a black Stormtrooper, get over it!"
The Star Wars continuation opens in NZ cinemas on 17 December.
Note: And to avoid any confusion, The China Syndrome (1979) was about a cover-up at a nuclear power plant - starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas.

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