December 4, 2004
Written by C.N.
Originally posted August 2002
Missed Opportunity: How “Blue Crush” Continues the Tradition of Cultural Theft, by Jeff Park.
What comes as no surprise is that “Blue Crush” is a surfing movie that is based in Hawaii, has a female blonde, blue-eyed lead, her love interest is a White quarterback, and the villains are island boys, here a hodge podge of “other” ethnicities – just not White. And of course the White star is a leading exponent of surfing as far as this movie goes. It’s no surprise, and nothing new. The hit film “The Fast and the Furious” also stole an Asian cultural phenomenon – import racing – dropped in White leads into the story, and made up an Asian gang as the villains.
What should not go unmentioned here is that “Blue Crush” was produced by Brian Grazer, who also did the Oscar winning “A Beautiful Mind.” In that movie, he also showed a knack for cultural ignorance by casting Jennifer Connelly as John Nash’s wife, a native Salvadoran. Connelly’s star would later shine as she picked up the “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar, a major slap in the face to the many hundreds if not thousands of struggling and able Latina actresses. Talk about insult as well as a missed opportunity.
So an insult and missed opportunity it is again with “Blue Crush.” In a state that is overwhelmingly populated with Asian/Pacific Islanders, we see instead an Asian woman who is the nagging boss of the lead and her two friends (one of whom is a mixed Asian/White, the other Latina), Asians as bell hops, Pacific islanders dancing the hula at the obligatory and trite luau scene, and, of course, as the aforementioned villains.
Think about it: If White producers made a movie about hip-hop and denuded it of Blacks, then installed Whites as leading lights of hip hop, and relegated Blacks to inconsequential side roles, what do you think would happen? Chances are that the public would get an earful from any number of spokespeople on behalf of Blacks.
With the way the political climate is, White producers wouldn’t dare displace and “dis” Blacks. However, White producers such as Brian Grazer evidently feel okay with culturally looting Asian Pacifics and installing White leads as the heroes/heroines while demonizing Asians. Worse, they may even play the part of the “good White liberal” by maintaining their “commitment to diversity” by dint of just having made the movie at all. If, like me, you scratch your head at that kind of rhetoric, just file it under “that sounds like it makes sense, but it doesn’t.” It’s next to the “Miss Saigon” file.
But there are plenty of other fingers left for pointing. For instance, Asians feed right into this mess with their complacency and lack of a strong voice that says “You wouldn’t do this to Blacks, so why are you discriminating here against Asian Pacifics???” Until Asian Pacifics learn to stand up and demand to be heard, they can’t expect things to change, because the mirror of reflection and shame isn’t being held up. They aren’t holding it up. So, the one-two punch: “The Fast and the Furious,” and now “Blue Crush.” As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
About Jeff Park
Jeff Park is the co-president of the Media Image Coalition (MIC), a program of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations that advocates fair representations and hiring practices for all under-represented groups in mass media, particularly film and television.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "A Review of “Blue Crush”" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2004/12/a-review-of-blue-crush/> ().
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