Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bedlam, is right (UPDATED)

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I haven't yet chimed in on the atrocious viral video that's been making the rounds in South Korean sites and now has hit the US via the Washington Post. Frankly, it's just too obnoxious for me to want to write about, and lots of people are confused about where to place their outrage.

For sometime now, Westerners in Korea (and elsewhere in East Asia) have occasionally been depicted in stereotypical, offensive, or even racist ways by Western actors putting dollars before ideals. While this is a relatively recent phenomenon for Westerners in Korea, it's almost as old as movies themselves for Blacks in America, as well as Hispanics and East Asians.

Last year, in fact, there was the infamous case of the "yellow girl" political ad depicting a Vietnamese woman. The actress who played the part, Lisa Chan, apologized for her role, but strangely she didn't think anything of it before the outrage.

Ditto for this video (which has outraged many South Koreans and others who complain that the kind of treatment of Korean women depicted in the video is far too common), if the latest unsubstantiated speculation news is to be believed:
A third man claiming to have been involved in a video appearing to show a Korean woman being harassed by a group of Western men has said the footage was staged.

The video, which has caused outrage online worldwide in recent days, appears to show a number of men sexually harassing and insulting an intoxicated Korean woman. The men are shown cursing at the woman, filming her chest and legs and forcing her own finger up her nose and into her mouth.

A Korean film studies graduate told The Korea Herald on Wednesday, however, that he was one of the makers of the video and that it was “totally fictional.” On Tuesday, two other men, who identified themselves as the Western men in the clip, had separately claimed that the video had been edited and was part of a series of short films shot in January 2011.

One of the alleged actors said that the video was supposed to depict the harsh way society treated people with physical imperfections. In the video, the men are seen ridiculing the woman over the condition of her teeth.

He also provided a screenshot from a Facebook conversation with the film studies graduate, claiming that he was the director. In the conversation, the film graduate said he had uploaded the video several years ago but that it had been taken down and he was unsure how it had resurfaced.
So we've gone from this being a bunch of definitely obnoxious, certainly misogynist, and possibly racist hoodlums to this all being staged.

If it really was staged, then WTF? Who in their right mind would sign on to do something like that? (See discussion above.) There needs to be a moratorium on hiring people who have appeared in this kind of nonsense (although temporarily visiting Russians or Nigerians are sometimes the ones who depict Americans) just so there is a solid disincentive against taking such work, for the ethically challenged.

That is, if this really was staged by Infamous & Andy actors.

With sh¡t hitting fans across Korea, who wouldn't want to try to nip this in the bud by saying, "Hey, it's all fake!"? Has The Washington Post or the Korea Herald or anybody actually verified the identity of these people who are coming forward? It shouldn't be terribly hard to do a visual check.

The WaPo's Max Fisher, who earlier wrote about this, has given us reason to doubt claims of a hoax. (It has also been written about extensively by Matt at Popular Gusts herehere, and here).

Either way, there's a lesson to be had: don't be a douchebag. That has two axioms here: (1) If you're harassing Koreans in public, then stop, and if you are unable or unwilling to stop, don't record it electronically for all to see later*; and (2) If you're out of work and someone asks you to depict somebody in a stereotypical, offensive, or even racist way, take the high road and bow out, and possibly even give them a piece of your mind.

Oh, and don't forget: If you're not on the proper visa, doing this kind of thing might be a visa violation anyway. One more reason not to do it.

UPDATE:
The Korea Herald has looked at evidence that makes their reporter John Power believes that it is in fact a staged event (even The Marmot thinks so). He has seen alternate takes of the same scene, after several people claiming to be involved in the project came forward to say it was staged. Still, as I mentioned, that doesn't absolve anyone of any stupidity (the "actors") or malicious intent (the director).

Below is the video, perhaps NSFW (but I don't know where you work):


*A reference to Blackout Korea, which is still going strong and which I wrote about here and here and here,  and about which I made an homage site here.

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