How to avoid white washing if my MC's caucasian martial artist?

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TheMyst7885, Sep 17, 2019.

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  1. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    I don't really see how the Karate Kid would be white-washing. Or even Bloodsport. Martial arts became super popular in the 80s and plenty of white guys did get into karate and kung fu. Besides, who says that all Asians practice martial arts? Or even that all people who practice martial arts are Asian? Plenty of martial arts disciplines, as others have mentioned, originated in non-Asian countries completely independent of Asian martial arts.

    I think white-washing is more placing a white character in a scenario that would be completely unrealistic. Like if the leader of an ancient Amazonian tribe was somehow a white guy named Bill. That's not only historically inaccurate, it doesn't even really make sense to do, unless there was some very compelling story to tell there. The weird thing is, people don't really seem to care if it happens the other way around, i.e. replacing a traditionally white character with a person of color. But I suppose that's an entirely different conversation.

    Most of my friends are black, and I have to say, I've never heard talk of white-washing or any of these buzzwords that people like to use today. In fact, we don't even ever talk about race; it literally never comes up. It's a non-issue among us. Yet, racial tensions seem to be high today among a lot of different groups. But, I suppose times are changing, and a lot of it is for the better. I think the idea is not to downplay the importance of a culture by needlessly making a character a certain race, just because that's what you would identify with.

    But yea, I hear what you're saying. You are going to make sort of an underdog type character who gets into martial arts. Nothing wrong with that.
     
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  2. TheMyst7885

    TheMyst7885 Member

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    Oh I agree. It was just a small crowd being nitpicky about it, which is why I won't be paying attention to them. The 80's was such a huge success after Bruce Lee, with many martial art stars that were white or really any race for that matter. My story will focus on Asian and non Asian martial arts because there will be parts in the story that other arts get involved.

    This makes a lot more sense. I guess it really matters the setting and how it's done. So I should be fine since there are many white martial artist and other races that are martial artists that perform, demonstrate, fight and travel around the world.

    That's a good thing then. I have many characters in my story of different races that will have martial art skills, good or bad. I'm actually basing some of this on real events that happened in my life or things I witnessed around me so none of the races of the characters is being done purposely to represent anything, especially if it relates to what really happened but with my own twist like how Steven King has done with his novels based on events in his life. To be honest, I'm actually more concerned with how some will react to some of the villains who are martial artist being white as some might say I'm giving a bad name to white martial artists being seen as evil and corrupted but these are based on or influenced by real people who happened to be white so I hope it doesn't cause any weird backlash lol. The MC is a martial artist and white and he's on the good side even though he was a manipulated anti hero.

    Exactly, I think I can use a few influences off of characters, not just based on real life but fictional characters like the new Johnny Lawrence from the new Kobra Kai show. He's similar to him in that he was bullied by other kids as a child growing up and always fought with his dysfunctional family until he then joins this dojo or "kwoon" which is a kung fu school and meets the bad "sensei" or "teacher" who trains him and manipulates him into corruption as he got older, which ends up destroying him over the years and finally regrets what he'd become and finally plans redemption and face and defeat the still ongoing antagonist teacher after meeting him again all those years later after finding his way.

    He's also a bit like Ryu from Street Fighter who was kind of that underdog sort of wanderer that lost his way and finds it. Batman in a sense who was broken down and risen again, and I think a bit like Van Damme's characters as he struggles to fight the bad guy after being beaten down. And of course like Guts from Berserk who is very influential of the MC who was destroyed like him in many similar ways. Are these good characters for inspiration?
     
  3. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Absolutely, all of the characters you mentioned have a great wealth of awesome characteristics and qualities you can draw from. Just make sure you're using them as inspiration and not blatantly copying them.

    Outside of that, sounds like you should be good!
     
  4. TheMyst7885

    TheMyst7885 Member

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    Yep! Just a few influences here and there, not direct copycats but a few similarities. I'm all about using nostalgic influences and as some references like a nod to Street Fighter and Karate Kid, even a nod to Liu Kang from the Mortal Kombat franchise who was a champion in the story then got crushed and severally beaten and deceived then made a comeback.

    The only problem is one of the main antagonists might sound very similar to John Kreese from Karate Kid :(

    I'm actually basing him off a real person I knew that was a bad and cruel martial arts teacher and in real life he did have a military background, was very abusive and a loudmouth to some of his students, even irrational towards others outside the training school, would lie and be very manipulative to others. Even would tell his stories of how he was a badass spec ops soldier that could kill anyone with his bare hands and never lost a fight in his life and was better than anyone else and believe in dirty tactics, even would hit on females inappropriately because he thought he was the best of the best "another reference lol". He's literally a Kobra Kai version of Kreese lol. How can I avoid the similarities?

    I was going to say this bad guy was a Vietnam vet who later then continued missions through the 80's and 90's like Panama Bay and Operation Desert Storm or just go with he joined the military between the 80's and 90's around Desert Storm mission. In real life I think he said he was in the U.S Army or Israeli spec ops which he mentioned in real life. I could say he was in the Israeli military and was trained in Krav Maga martial arts before becoming a martial arts instructor?
     
  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    That's not white washing, that the Mighty Whitey/White Saviour trope. White washing would be if the village that captured him was inexplicably cast as white for whatever reason. Tom Cruise being white actually serves an important part in the narrative of the film.
     
  6. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Wikipedia defines white washing as the "casting practice in the film industry of the United States in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles... By downplaying the roles that such figures have had in cultural events.."

    It's a perfect example of white washing. The Satsuma rebellion, which is what The Last Samurai was based on, had nothing to do with an American solider leading a Japanese army of samurais. Furthermore, they're downplaying the accomplishments of the Japanese fighters who actually fought that war by making the story include a White Savior (they also used that trope) who comes in and shows them how to win. The two tropes are not mutually exclusive; you can have both in the same film.

    So, by definition, the creators of that film white washed the story by making the lead role a white, American character. They could've easily told the the story of the Satsuma rebellion with a Japanese lead role, and without altering the factual accuracy of the story. Then again, it's Hollywood, so some dramatization is expected. But the addition of the white lead role being the American leading the Army literally does nothing for telling the story of the Satsuma rebellion. They white washed it to make it more palatable to American audiences. This wasn't some keen literary choice. LOL.

    But that's sort of beside the point, as it's not really central to what the OP is talking about. This thread isn't about whether the creators of The Last Samurai used white washing. It's about the OP wanting to avoid that stereotype in his/her story, so let's stick to helping them with that.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  7. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Whenever you suspect that you're blatantly copying, you probably are.

    Then again, if you know someone in real life who was really like that, don't shy away from telling that story. And sure, that could work. Krav Maga could and sometimes does set the stage for later martial arts training. There's nothing wrong with that idea.
     
  8. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Simply having a white lead in a foreign country does not make it white washing. There were white people in Japan during the Meiji restoration. Tom Cruise's character was actually based on a person named Jules Brunet, (who was French, not American) who for his entire life was a white person portraying a white person, so since the character was never traditionally portrayed by someone who wasn't white it's not white washing. It's simply a heavily fictionalized telling of a white persons experiences in a foreign country. It's like how when we tell stories about how we went of vacation in a foreign country we're not white washing the story by having ourselves as a main character.
     
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  9. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    LMAO. And Jules Brunet had nothing to do with training an army in the Satsuma Rebellion, and certainly didn't lead a Japanese army in any war. The Satsuma Rebellion, which is what the movie The Last Samurai was about, happened much later in history and Brunet had zero to do with it. It was led by Saigo Takamori, a Japanese man.

    Honestly, call it whatever you want, even though it is, by definition, white washing. I don't really care. That's not what the thread is about. Seems like you're just looking for a debate.

    I'm not here to debate. Message me in a private message if you want to talk about this further (though honestly I don't have much interest in the topic), this has nothing to do with the original post or the question that the OP asked.

    I'm done replying now. A moderator is going to swoop in any moment and charge us with derailing the thread. Not interested in that. Thanks.
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If you want to ignore historical documents, then you're right. But Wikipedia and other more reliable sources disagree with you, like this encyclopedia entry that states:

    "...Meanwhile, the leader of the Shogun's navy, Enomoto Takeaki, refused to surrender all his ships. He remitted just four ships, among them the Fujisan, but he then escaped north with the remnants of the Shogun's Navy (eight steam warships: Kaiten, Banryū, Chiyodagata, Chōgei, Kaiyō Maru, Kanrin Maru, Mikaho and Shinsoku), and 2,000 members of the navy, in the hope of staging a counter-attack together with the northern daimyo. He was accompanied by a handful of French military advisers, notably Jules Brunet, who had formally resigned from the French Army in order to accompany the rebels."​

    Hopefully any mod swooping in her will realize that a discussion about white washing entails some sort of understanding or what white washing is and that embellished accounts of historical events do not count so long as people didn't magically become white in the telling.
     
  11. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    LMFAO.

    The Boshin War =/= the Satsuma Rebellion. Wow. Lol. Have fun arguing semantics while blatantly misstating historical facts and missing the entire point of the thread. Have a good one.
    Confusing the Boshin War with the Satsuma Rebellion now. Holy shit you're dumb.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Yeah, because I was the one who wrote the script that condensed them both into a single narrative that took place during a single year. You're right, my bad.
     
  13. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    You should also consider Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. It has modern popularity now because of MMA and the UFC, but it was honestly started as a street fighting technique. The object was to literally kill your opponent if you had to, or break their limbs with different holds. Krav Maga is interesting, but you don't really see it used in modern combat sports all that much, though there may be some fighters who have some background in it. And for good reason.

    The most efficient and effective fighting styles are showcased in the UFC, albeit under the strict rules imposed on the fighters. These are the best fighters in the world.

    Not to mention, BJJ is actually taught to a lot of of soldiers in the US.

    Just something to consider for your character!
     
  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    BJJ didn't start as a street fighting technique - it started in 1920 when Mitsuyo Maeda imported JJ from japan, and was developed by the Gracie family starting with Carlos Gracie in 1925 theres a decent history of it here for anyone who's interested http://www.shenwu.com/bjjhistory.html

    To clarify it was (and is) taught for real world self defence as well as sport - but to characterize it as originating in street fighting is just plain wrong.

    Also just to throw in another little known fact - the original Jujitsu didnt start life as a japanese or chinese martial art - it started in India with Buddhist monks, although the modern system was formulated in japan as a battle field close combat system

    Also its laughable to suggest that the UFC are the best fighters in the world - the best UFC champion would last about five seconds against someone from any of the special forces, because in the real world a fight doesn't have rules
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    Thumbs up for beating me to mentioning Jules Brunet. :)

    There's also a difference between *perceived* whitewashing and actual whitewashing. If you presented Hanes Clavell's Shogun to many modern audiences, I'll bet you would get outrage. And yet, the MC is based on a real person - an English sailor named Will Adams who lived in Japan during the 17th century.

    Now, the 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves... ok, it had a giant dinosaur chicken in it, so I'm not sure how much you can call it whitewashing.

    Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson.

    Or even better - John Wayne playing Genghis Khan.
     
  16. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I’ve never heard that term used in a ‘racial’ manner before.

    Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone ... apparently outraged some people because she wasn’t ‘dark enough’. I’ve not seen the film, I love Nina Simone though and the clips I have seen of Saldana are not anywhere near as bad as some make them out to be.

    It’s a shame. I guess the world has changed a lot for the better over the years as well taking a few steps backwards.
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    White washing is a bit of a sliding scale from overt racism - like that car advert where the photoshopped all the black faces out of the staff shot ( I think it was Ford uk but i could be wrong) or casting John Wayne as Genghis khan, through to more the casting didnt think and/or just over reaction as with Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone

    Things like Bloodsport and all the other JCVD movies arent really whitewashing because an ex FFL soldier could easily be a practitioner of the martial arts (although you might expect a bit more savate)

    In regard of the OP's post I don't see anything that's a real concern, although if you're worried you could avoid the whole issue by making said character asian american
     
  18. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    The OP is asking in terms of his written work though - is whitewashing really an issue in books?

    I think people are much more forgiving when reading, because it's not thrown into their faces.
     
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    the only time ive seen it as an issue for books was in regard of cover art - with some big publishers using white models to portray back characters

    like this (old article I know) https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/aug/10/bloomsbury-book-cover-race-row
     
  20. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    John Wayne cast as Genghis Khan is hardly equivalent to modern casting. I doubt there were many famous Mongolian actors in Hollywood back then, let alone any with the pull of John Wayne.
     
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  21. TheMyst7885

    TheMyst7885 Member

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    I do know someone actually. But I'm afraid of being too identical to the real person so I could either change it a little and say he was an army spec ops soldier or Marine during Vietnam, then through the 80's and Deseft Storm 90's did missions. Or I could just say he joined in the late 80's and was in Desert Storm in the 90's but if he had been to Vietnam it might make it more impactful and excuse his psychotic behavior? I dont know enough about the Israeli military and if making him that would become offensive in any way or it could lead to why his psychotic behavior due to his backstory maybe?

    Yes I plan on adding these other styles into the mix as modern and traditional arts will be present throughout the story. Both for the good guys and bad guys!

    Yes correct I heard many stories how India brought over many of the arts and teachings to China, then Japan and so on. I think BJJ started in Brazil as a fighting demonstration back in the 1800s in a carnival or festival, I'm not too sure cause I forgot lol.

    Oh wait it was the Gracie's first one of the Gracie's who went to Japan I think and trained against a very powerful and highly skilled jujitsu master who Gracie's relative lost to but put up a good fight then went back to Brazil and combined Japanese jujitsu with wrestling I think it was? I'm not even sure now as I dont have time took look it up at the moment lol.

    Anyway in my story all these arts will be present, some as mixed hybrid forms of fighting so it's not just kung fu but others that will be in there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    As i said it was Mitsuyo Maeda who came to Brazil from japan in the early 1920s and opened an academy - Carlos Gracie was one of his early students - its all on the link in my post
     
  23. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    As a person of mixed heritage, here’s my personal two cents; take of it what you will.

    White washing is not a policing mechanism for the creativity of writers; it is a complaint about the widespread pattern of thoughtless or wilful neglect of representation from a particular subset of consumers.

    It’s not that there can’t and can never be white protagonists or characters in a story involving other cultural or ethnic groups—it is that these cultural or ethnic groups are so marginalised in media to begin with that it gets frustrating when we only get thrown a bone if a white man or woman leads or else infuriating when the story in fact is a POC story so that the white protagonist is forcefully and inappropriately shoehorned into the role.

    You can have a white martial artist. You can have a white martial artist set in an Asian country or community. You can have a white martial artist superior to all other martial artists, including and particularly the Asian practitioners. That’s fine. Write your story.

    You’re not retelling Journey to the West and making Xuanzang now John Wright. I don’t think you’re making your character a White Savior (and even if you were, it’s still your prerogative to do that).

    Predominantly in my limited experience, the complaint is not so much the taboo of certain stories but merely being fed up with a repetitive status quo and the default bias of writing and casting.

    Does your character need to be white? Can they be Pakistani or Thai or Samoan or anything else, and if so, why not have them be? Does your character need to be male? Can they be female, transgender, etc., and if so, why not have them be? Does your character need to be heterosexual, heteroromantic? Can they be homo–, demi–, a–sexual or romantic, and if so, why not have them be?

    You don’t have to do any of the above things ever or at all, but they are good things to think on to consider personal and cultural biases.

    Typically when people get in arms about whitewashing and white saviours, it’s not really any single film or book but the prevalence overall in the entertainment industry.

    Write your story. Tell it well.

    Maybe some people might be complain, but unless you’re agregiously culturally insensitive, you should be fine.
     
  24. frigocc

    frigocc Senior Member

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    Not to be mean, but it doesn't sound similar to Johnny Lawrence's story, it sounds like you copy and pasted it.
     
  25. TheMyst7885

    TheMyst7885 Member

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    Oops, you're right. Sorry about that :(

    I get what you're saying. I think the important thing is as long as the story is well written and the charactrre are who they are not because of their race but are martial artist who happen to be said race I should be fine. (A lot of the characters I'm basing on real life people, which helps me create the race that they are) but that's besides the point. Those stories that replace a setting where a white character seems out of place or replacing Journey to The West with a white character I can completely understand how that would come off the wrong way. My story is entirely different and hopefully won't have anything to do with the white savior, especially when it's based on real events turned fictional.

    I think that's a fantastic idea about what you said about making the MC diverse other than white. Sure I could make him any of those. I would love to make an MC Pakistani or even mixed half white Pakistani. I have a bunch of other stories planned with other MC's. Perhaps these are options I could use for them. I haven't thought of a transgender character yet but it is always an option for another character. I have a female MC already planned ..well actually 3 female MC's for other stories lol. And I do plan other races for other MC's. Just this story in particular he was going to be white. Or he could have some South American orLatino mixed heritage. Since not everyone is 100% white, this MC could have mixed heritage but it doesn't nerd to be explained. Also the main villains are white martial artists. One of them who became the head martial art chain business instructor took martial arts during the 70's and this dhen Bruce Lee got very popular and this guy I'm basing off of in real life was white and started training around that time.
     

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