How Far West?

How did a telly series based on a Chinese classic end up not having a single Chinese actor?

Should we even be surprised at the casting decisions for Netflix’s The Legend of Monkey, which is based on the sixteenth century novel Journey to the West? Probably not, considering how Scarlett Johansen was given the role of Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tilda Swinton played the Ancient One in Dr Strange.

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Sun Wukong and gang go West … to La La Land.

The book tells the story of Xuanzang, a Tang dynasty Buddhist monk who travels to the ‘West’, meaning Central Asia and India, in search of sacred texts. He is given three friends who function as helpers and body guards of sorts: Sun Wukong (the monkey king); Zhu Bajie (the Pig of Eight Prohibitions – a half-man, half-pig); and Sha Wujing (a hideous immortal).

emilieWhile you could argue that monsters and immortals could be any race, Xuanzang is definitely Chinese. However, there is no Buddhist monk in this version of the tale. Instead, there is a teenager called Sandy (this is confusing because Sha Wujing is called Friar Sandy or Sandy in English translations of the novel) and Emilie Cocquerel [left], the actor who plays her, is definitely white.

There is no further information about the series, like where it’s set and how the three companions of Xuanzang end up hanging out with a white girl instead – I don’t know if Sandy is even supposed to be white. I notice that she is shown bald and with a tan in the promo pic – perhaps in an attempt to give her a more ‘edgy’ appearance.

Anyway, the series is supposed to be release in 2018. I guess we’ll have to wait til then to see just how bad it is. Of course, it may be good in terms of script, direction, acting etc, but I feel it’s failed already due to its casting decisions.

One Each, Please

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I can relate! Used to be if I found anything that fit and I liked it, I’d buy one in every available colour. I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to it being difficult to find clothes my size. I’m trying to break the habit, but it’s hard. However, an outfit sometimes does justify getting ‘one in every colour’.

Sorry, Not Sorry

A number of years ago, I was asked to participate in an ad campaign for Origins’ new skincare range. Participants were invited to fill answer questions about our skincare regime, what we disliked about our skin and what we wanted to improve.

We were then given Origins’ new products and asked to test them out for a month before answering more questions, this time about how we’d found the skincare range. We were then made-up and photographed. We were asked to rate the products from 1 to 10, and we were (supposed to be) photographed holding up the corresponding number of fingers to show our approval of the range.

The plan was to use our pictures in Origins’ local (Malaysian) promotional campaign for the products, but mine were never used because I didn’t rate the products. The reason for this was I didn’t actually notice a difference in the way my skin looked and felt. Mind you, I’d not expressed any dissatisfaction with my skin during the first round of questions. My skin care regime has always been just to wash with whatever soap I happen to be using in the shower and then slap on the ‘moisturiser of the moment’, i.e. whatever I can afford to get, usually Johnson’s Baby Lotion. I have never spent more than a minute on my skin and don’t pay it much attention, so I really would not have noticed even if the products had resulted in any changes.

It’s been said that the beauty industry would collapse if women were happy with themselves. Cosmetics companies depend on us finding fault with our appearance. Not noticing wrinkles, pigmentation and goodness knows what else women are supposed to stress about with regard our skin meant that I wasn’t an effective tool in persuading other women to part with their cash.

I never had a single pimple growing up, and I’ve been told how lucky I am in that respect, but I wonder if dealing with spots would have been easier than worrying about what others identified as my ‘weight problem’. Acne seems a more acceptable adolescent challenge than being overweight: Apparently, no one asks to be pimply, but you only have yourself to blame if you’re fat.

 

Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

things-fall-apartTHINGS FALL APART

By Chinua Achebe

(Anchor Books, 209 pages)

THIS was not my first reading of the book, but my third. I read Things Fall Apart for the first time in my teens, but I admit to only skimming then. The second time I read it was in 2014. For some reason, it was a hurried read and I did not retain much of the story.

Certainly, the first time I read it, I was a very silly girl who only read white authors. My Pinterest record of the books I read in 2014 has me completing the novel on 22nd Feb. Later that year I read other African authors like Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta. I believe that was the year I decided to make a big effort to read out of my comfort zone, i.e. more Asian and African authors. However, as it was early days, the part of my brain that handles reading was stuck in a rut. It still had to be kicked in the rear out of its literary ditch.

Three years on and I think I’ve succeeded in getting to a place where it’s not just stories by dead white women that make sense to me. And yes, my ‘problem’ with Things Fall Apart was that I couldn’t ‘make sense’ of it. The writing style, the content – including setting and characters – the language, nothing about it was what I was used to. Thus, I found it hard to relate to, or made no effort to try. Sure, I had read and loved Maru by Bessie Head twenty eight years before, but that was probably due to it being an A-level text, i.e. reading it maybe fifty times over, and discussing it with my tutor would have ensured that that story made complete sense.

chinua achebe
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

My partner, Don,  is Igbo, which is the ethnic group of the characters in Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe was also Igbo). I think this has made a difference to my recent reading of the book. This time round, the story seemed familiar. I recognised details from what Don has told me about Igbo cultural traditions. The way of life described was still strange, but it was easier to empathise with the characters and not completely dismiss their actions as outrageous or nonsensical.

It also helped being able to discuss the book with Don. He offered a different perspective and put things into a context I would have found it hard to imagine on my own.

The story is heartbreaking, on the level of it being the tale of a man’s downfall, and also in a larger historical and social context, as the story of the colonisation of Africa. The final sentence of the novel struck me to the core. It sums up the reality of the situation – in the novel, in history, and in race relations today.

Vaginal Kung Fu

When was the last time you shot ping pong balls out of your vagina?

Sorry that this is yet another vagina post, but I think I spent a bit too much time on Kim Anami’s Instagram. Her posts are mostly (unintentionally) crazy-funny, her hashtags even more so: #fuckfood; #thingsiliftwithmyvagina; #amazingplacestofuck … but then I visited her website … OK, still funny, but I also now think this dame is seriously batty.

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Well, can you? The likelihood is you haven’t ‘mastered this essential life skill’, especially if you’re from the West, where the women mostly have ‘numb, under-functioning vaginas’. However, if like me, you’re from South-east Asia, it’s likely you can shoot ping pong balls out of your vajayjay as easy as spitting melon seed shells.Because, as she says in the video on this page (at 01:25), in many South-east Asian countries the art of vaginal ping pong ball shooting is ‘quite a popular sport’. Yes, we do it during PE at school, at family gatherings, on Sunday afternoons in the park, etc.

Could she be taking the mickey? I would like to think so, but no, her insane expression tells me she believes what she’s saying.

Incidentally, if there’s anything that might convince me to start exercising those Kegels, it’s the first item on Anami’s list of all the things a properly functioning vagina should be able to do. Now that would be worth even forking out USD199 for an Elvie.

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