One of my favorite US actresses, Lucy Liu, is in Net-A-Porter’s Graphic Issue, which has me all kinds of excited. Because the only thing better than watching Liu at work is seeing her in fantastic frocks and reading interviews with her; she often has sharp, insightful comments on Hollywood and acting, while remaining quite modest and mellow.
So Lucy Liu. At 44, she’s got a fair amount of experience in Hollywood, starting in the time-honored traditions of small guest roles and working her way on to “Ally McBeal.” She’s flitted back and forth between film and television, but as she herself points out, a lot of the roles she’s taken on have been really, really stereotyped.
You see, Lucy Liu is perfectly happy naming, and talking about, the elephant in the room: racism is a problem in Hollywood. Liu’s been cast as a Dragon Lady (Ling Woo on “Ally McBeal” for example), martial arts star(“Charlie’s Angels” and “Kill Bill”), and, of course, mysterious sex worker with links to the Chinese mafia (“Payback”).
What she’s not often cast as is a woman who happens to be Chinese-American, a role where her race could be acknowledged and wrapped into the plot, without turning her into a total stereotype.I wish people wouldn’t just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me.
She rightly notes that race confounds any casting decisions, making it impossible for her to be seen neutrally as an actress who might fit well in a role. Instead, her race is front and center in any discussions about how to use her in film and television:it [becomes], ‘Well, she’s too Asian’, or, ‘She’s too American’. I kind of got pushed out of both categories. It’s a very strange place to be. You’re not Asian enough and then you’re not American enough, so it gets really frustrating.
Liu’s experiences in Hollywood, of course, mirror that of larger society, where Chinese-American women can find themselves in a strange social bind as they straddle multiple communities.
The daughter of immigrants, Liu has close ties to the Chinese community, but she’s also not entirely of the Chinese community, as she tells readers in the Net-A-Porter interview. She defied her parents to pursue an acting career, for example. Yet, at the same time, she’s not viewed as wholly “American” because of her race.
I love that her two favorite roles have been in “Lucky Number Slevin” (well worth checking out if you haven’t already) and “Watching the Detectives,” because both roles mark a departure from what people might think of as Liu’s ouvre, a reminder that actresses are often sandwiched into specific types of roles against their will. It’s not that Liu wants to be an action star or a Dragon Lady, but that these are the roles offered to her, and the ones she’s forced to take.
The fact that she’s getting more established and fighting to be on projects that aren’t pushing her into the stereotype corner is awesome, and I love seeing her in those roles. Her latest project, “Elementary,” definitely doesn’t cover stereotyped ground. As Joan Watson, she’s breaking all kinds of boundaries for an old and much-beloved classic. A companion to Holmes who’s not just a woman, but a Chinese woman?
Her casting in that role wasn’t without controversy, though. While the producers were very committed to exploring the Holmes/Watson dynamic as a friendship, with her race reflective of larger racial diversity in New York, fans were explosively angry about the decision to put Liu in the role. Considerable racial hatred was dredged up by people lobbying against her casting. Liu’s response when asked about it kind of encapsulated the many reasons why I love her:If I didn’t try anything different, I’d still be doing a Calgon ad. You have to be a pioneer, which means doing things that are not scheduled and different. When you do stuff, it’s not always to please other people–it’s to please yourself. For me, the more individual you make something, the more universal it can be. You have to be a pioneer.
Lucy Liu is rocking on with her bad self in an environment heavily dominated by older white male decisionmakers, where white actresses have the pick of the roles and the paychecks, where it’s still acceptable tocast white people in roles of color, and where actors of color often find themselves pushed into boxes it’s very, very hard to escape. She’s fighting all the things actresses need to deal with in an industry where sexism is still a looming issue, plus the tangle of racism in Hollywood.
I love and admire her frankness on the issue, and her willingness to confront it through her career and the projects she works on. Thanks for being a pioneer, Lucy.
One could just as easily say that about 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes, could also be described as generational victims of racist policies, like the ones Kelly and Bloomberg are promoting. One could just as easily say the vast majority of violent criminals in New York city hail from neighborhoods that have — over many generations — been the victims of a national wealth transfer, the remnants of which are with us even today.
We don’t say that. Writers and intellectuals on the Left would much rather talk about class. Same as it ever was. But this isn’t going away. We aren’t going away."
I really can’t with these white people.
Let me start off by saying don’t ever fucking call it “WaHi” you stupid hipster fuck. This isn’t SoHo, NoHo, or Tribeca so fuck all that shit.
I’ve live in the same apartment my entire life. I was born and raised in this sometimes awesome sometimes dangerous neighborhood. I’ve seen it grow and change a lot over the last nineteen years. But what I’ve been seeing in the past couple of years is really unsettling. I’ve been seeing the slow but steady gentrification of my neighborhood. To put it one way, it fucking hurts. As the musical “In the Heights” suggests this is a vibrant Dominican community. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to being in DR. You can’t go one block without hearing a conversation in Spanish. All of the storefronts have Spanish signs and all of the employees speak Spanish, usually as a first language and sometimes their English isn’t that good. Like have you been to 181st? That shit is about as Dominican as it gets. Schools are named after Dominican revolutionaries and heros. In the summer you can see domino games happening outside and it’s fucking beautiful. I love it all It’s what I fucking grew up on. There’s a living breathing heart here
Anyway, today out of boredom I started reading some articles about gentrification in the Heights hoping that I was just imagining things and maybe I really have nothing to be worried about. I came across this NYT article. It’s about how a proposed high story apartment complex was (thankfully) rejected because it was too high for the neighborhood (something like 30 stories in a landscape where most of the buildings are no higher than 10) and because the developer had proposed rents that would be too high for the neighborhood. I’m pissed at myself for even reading the article but I guess I hoped since it was on NYT I wouldn’t find too much bullshit in the comments.
These white people are wilding man.
“Umm the Dominicans weren’t the first people to live there they drove out the Irish and the Greeks!!!!!! Wanting to preserve a neighborhood’s cultural identity? That’s a reach!”
“If the neighborhood was predominately white, and they expressed their discomfature with a rise in Dominican population persentage… the Times and all of its readers would be howling *RACISM*.
Gentrification has a snobby but less offensive ring to it than the word racism, or even “ethnic pride”. So when whites express ethnic pride, it becomes racism. And when Dominicans express fear of white gentrification, it’s simply a matter of understandable and acceptable ethnic pride. ”
^^ That’s an actual quotation.
First of all, discomfature isn’t a word. It’s discomfort, bro. Second of all, no. It’s not racism. Racism = power PLUS prejudice. Even if every Dominican in the neighborhood felt “discomfature” with white people moving in WE COULDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. We have no voice or power as a fucking people. We could lobby all we want but we would get no where. Now if let’s say Dominicans started moving into Yorkville and such and the white people there felt some type of way about it they could definitely move and lobby to put a stop to it and I promise you it would end right there.
Also, wanting to preserve a neighborhood’s cultural identity is a reach? That’s not a fucking good enough reason for you? Look just because the Upper East Side has no cultural significance to speak of doesn’t mean the powerful and overwhelming culture in my neighborhood has no validity. Maybe if was more European it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m sorry just because you grew up with a background devoid of culture, color, vibrancy and bachata doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to not want to lose the things in the place that I have called my home for my entire life.
Seriously, fuck you.
And no one “pushed” the Greeks, Jews, or Irish out of Washington Heights. They all moved on up and out. They found better apartments and you wanna know where all those Jews, Greeks, and Irish live? In Astoria, the Upper East Side and elsewhere. (Also, have you been to Bennett Avenue? No one’s kicked the Jews out of there, they are there to stay). Just to be clear the European immigrants that got “pushed” out of Washington Heights were poor and working class families that were pretty much at the bottom of the rung in the social ladder. And when the Dominicans moved in they took that spot, not by force I can tell you that. When have you ever heard of one disenfranchised group displacing another disenfranchised group? The only group that does the displacing is the group in power.
White people, YOU are pushing us out of our neighborhood. You come and open your new lounge style restaurants that are expensive as shit. You entice people with more disposable income to visit the neighborhood, they wanna move in. Before you know it the rent is through the fucking roof and no one can afford it except the aforementioned wealthier people. So yes, when you come in here and start raising the rent and the price of living you forcibly push my family and I out because we suddenly cannot afford to live in the place we’ve called home anymore.
“Gentrification happens! Get over it!”
OH I’M SORRY. I GUESS I’LL JUST GET OVER THE FACT THAT I HAVE TO UP AND LEAVE THE PLACE WHERE MY FAMILY HAS BEEN FOR YEARS, THE PLACE WHERE I HAVE LAID ROOTS IN, WHERE I HAVE AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH BECAUSE FUCK IT THAT’S LIFE BITCH DEAL WITH IT. FUCK THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO OWN BUSINESSES HERE AND THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WORK TO BETTER THE COMMUNITY. WHEN THE WHITE PEOPLE WANNA FIND ANOTHER TRENDY NEW NEIGHBORHOOD TO NEST IN AND HIPSTERFIY I JUST HAVE TO SUCK IT UP PACK MY SHIT AND LEAVE RIGHT? WE’RE JUST HOGGING UP ALL THIS VALUABLE SPACE IN MANHATTAN. BETTER MOVE ON OUT TO THE BRONX AND BROOKLYN LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
I know gentrification happens and neighborhoods change. But this isn’t just change. This is systematic displacement. As the cost of living rises and the opportunities and wages of PoC in Upper Manhattan stay stagnant we will continue to get displaced because that’s the way the system is set up. Rent increases and people have to move that happens all the time. That’s apart of the housing market. That’s not gentrification. What IS gentrification is the rent and cost of living increasing so rapidly that current residents cannot afford it, meanwhile new complexes and business are constantly being built for the newer fewer wealthier (read: whiter) residents, that’s gentrification.
“Oh, heavens, people of another color might move in!
Is this only a racist statement if the people of another color are darker than the people who happen to already be there?
Are Dominicans so special that they get to keep a particular area “ethnically pure”?
Excuse me, but neighborhoods change. When I was a kid Washington Heights was largely Jewish. So was most of The Bronx.
Get over it”
^^ Another actual quotation.
Are you reading this?
HEAVENS NO! WHITE PEOPLE MIGHT MOVE INTO MY NEIGHBORHOOD AND MAKE EVERYTHING RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE SO I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO MOVE OUT. HEAVENS NO! THE PLACE THAT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE STRONGEST EXAMPLES OF THE RESILIENCY AND BEAUTY OF MY DOMINICAN CULTURE MIGHT SOON BE LOST TO TRENDY LOFT APARTMENTS AND LOUNGES.
GOD FORBID IT.
GOD FORBID WE WANT ONE FUCKING NEIGHBORHOOD TO CALL OUR OWN BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU FUCKERS HAVE THE REST OF THE FUCKING BOROUGH.
I wanna throw up and ball my fists and hit something.
I am livid.
This can’t be real life.
There’s so much more I wanted to say but I’m burnt out.
Look I’m not claiming to know and understand everything about gentrification but I’m speaking on my personal experiences as a PoC. Because I can’t stand the glares I get from these new residents moving in looking at me with distrustful eyes as if I didn’t belong. Because I can’t stand the thought that my family will have to relocate out of the apartment my grandmother’s had for 20+ years.
I didn’t even try to tone down the anger in this post. I am fucking angry. How dare you think you have the right to uproot an entire community and then villify the people who were already living there? I mean I know you white people have based your entire history on that but you guys gotta fucking cool your jets.
On Fridays I work 8:00 PM to 1:30 AM in the sandwhich shop on campus.
On Sundays I work 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM in the bakery.
HELLO MINIMUM WAGE LIFE!
This is going to be so great