Saturday, May 26, 2007

Shorter Steven Soderbergh: "Chinese man = Wookie = Comedy"

There's laughter at 'Ocean's Thirteen' news conference, but seriously … - Los Angeles Times:
"On a slightly more serious note, a Hong Kong reporter said that the Chinese are not thrilled with the way in which [Shaobo]Qin's character, Yen the grease-man, has been portrayed throughout the series. Soderbergh was visibly shocked when the reporter asked why he is made to seem like a 'clown' and why a joke is made of him only speaking Chinese.

'I think we're an equal opportunity offender,' said Soderbergh. 'The joke is that everyone can understand him. It's like Chewbacca. He talks and everyone acts like they know what he's saying. I think if you get to the point where you have to explain comedy you're in trouble. But I'm really sorry.'

Wow - I could not believe this statement.

"Ha Ha, we offend everyone so it's okay!"

Um, no. Perhaps if he had made some joke about Don Cheadle (comparing his character to a Jar Jar Binks, say - yes, it's a stretch, but I'm illustrating a point) this might have made waves - it would have sounded wrong to people and there might be some repercussions. But a Chinese guy? Who doesn't even speak English? No problem, it's hilarious.

Saying "I'm an equal opportunity offender" makes you a self-deluded bigot. What does that mean? He makes "women sure do get bitchy when it's their time of the month" jokes right after "boy, hispanics sure talk fast" and "wow, aren't those jews good with money" gags?


To be clear, I think bits like this, where one character speaks a different language (or in the case of Benicio Del Toro in The Ususal Suspects, an unintelligible dialect), but the main characters get it is actually funny most of the time. But Steven Soderbergh isn't the most subtle of filmmakers and Qin's character isn't really an equal to the others in the film. That I can let go, seeing as the balance of the ensemble is maintained for a certain effect and considers the star power of the actors involved. It's that Soderbergh is blithely comparing Yen to Chewbacca.

I'm just saying. Comparing a non-human character to a human one in this way shows more than he realizes.

Seriously, dude, think about that one before you repeat it.

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