Friday, February 1, 2013

An Apology






READ THIS FIRST

I often say that much of porn's appeal (for me) is its cultural impact. I'm usually referring to the way it shapes 'our' views and trends in regards to sexuality.

My role as a performer is – I believe – to openly discuss the impact. However, I don't really fight the trends (whether harmful or not) when I'm on set.

Time and again, I've discussed the dynamics and ramifications of playing out rape and other non-consensual fantasy scenarios. I feel I have a grasp on the greater cultural conversation and enough empathy to take part in such scenarios without straying from the boundaries of my own moral compass.

Yet, I've put myself at the center of another controversial topic without giving much thought to what it means.

I'm honestly quite embarrassed to have posted a few pictures of my first published (in print) essay on 'feminism in porn' only to follow it up with pictures of myself in yellowface makeup. Any way you cut it, it looks bad.

There are a million rationalizations I have for why I don't feel like I acted in the wrong. However, they don't really matter. My intentions, and the intentions of those on set, are no longer relevant. The image is out there.

I wrote in my previous blog entry, “Is my portrayal of Glenn racist? I honestly don't know.” What I should have asked was, “Is my portrayal of Glenn a socially acceptable form of 'racism?'” The question is, I think, more honest and relevant. Because to a set full of white pornographers in the year 2012, the answer was, “Yes.”

I remember asking myself and others on set what the difference was between what I was doing and blackface. I don't remember coming to any conclusion. Even right now, I can't tell you what the difference is. Only that a $200 million budget movie called Cloud Atlas and a cheap porno parody of The Walking Dead were both pushed through production in 2012 with white people playing Asian roles. And neither film was stopped in order to consider the cultural implications.

As of now, much criticism exists of both. Yet we still exist within a system of institutionalized racism where there is a continuum of what is deemed 'acceptable enough' and not. In porn, this continuum is far more extreme than in what I would consider 'everyday life.' I've performed in plenty of films where the entire premise is a racial or ethnic stereotype. As Peter Warren points out in his article for AVN, “Just have a glimpse at some of the titles that have graced adult retail shelves in the past few months: Shrimp Fried Pussy(Wicked Pictures), Fortune Cookie Pussy (JustinSlayer International), Dim Sum Pussy(Vouyer Media), Yellow Fever(Exquisite Multimedia), Sum Yung Ho (OGee Studios), Sushi Sluts(Legend Video), Thai Teens: We Masturbate for You(DreamGirls). The list goes on.”

Why would I feel okay performing in a movie called Yellow Fever? My answer really is, “I don't know,” and, “It's just a stupid porno.” But it's a racist porno. The title is racist. And if there is an Asian girl in the film, she is most likely going to be playing a masseuse or geisha. The concept is based entirely on an ethnic stereotype without any social satire or commentary. Such is the nature of porn.

I exist in a system that perpetuates these stereotypes. By default, I perpetuate these stereotypes. I have conceded to this fact and become comfortable. Because I also grasp another social understanding, which is that – by and large – pornography is not to be taken seriously.

Do I actually believe this? No. Porn is my job and I take it very seriously. However, I have to hold these two conflicting ideas in my head. Most people think my job is a joke. And so much of the time, I act like it is. When I perform most of the lead-in scenarios for porn films, I do not feel emotionally or intellectually engaged. Ninety-percent of this stuff is completely trivial. We're putting fluff at the beginning of a sex scene so that there appears to be some sort of production value and fantasy element context. It has no bearing on how I treat people or interact with people in my everyday life.

That is really why I feel like my role as Glenn is not that a big deal. Because it doesn't feel like it to me. I gave no more thought to that role than I did to my usual appearance on an update of My Friend's Hot Mom.

But that ended up being the problem. No thought was given to a makeup job that portrayed me as an ethnic stereotype. There was no need to give me yellow-tinted makeup or tape my eyes back. And I don't believe it was a direction given by anyone on set. However, once it happened, there was no direction to take it off either. I certainly didn't demand it or walk off set. 
 
In some ways, I think this dose of criticism is actually healthy for porn. Because it means that our industry is starting to be looked at as a legitimate form of entertainment that must be held accountable. If we're always tucked away in the back room, we can do whatever we want because no one's going to blow the whistle. If unacceptable behavior is pointed out, it comes with an admission that enough people are watching this stuff that it should at least have some mention in the foreground of cultural conversation.

So do I owe an apology for wearing yellowface in The Walking Dead parody? According to a horde of anonymous internet comments, the answer is, “Yes.” And my explanations (or excuses) are just more proof of my white, male privilege.

Maybe that's true. Certainly, as a white male living in the United States, I benefit from white, male privilege. My subjectivity is, in part, formed by this experience. I cannot deny it. However, I would argue that the way in which I dealt with the situation had more to do with the fact that I was on a porn set than with my 'whiteness.'

I have spent seven years working a job on which it is okay to be 'kind of racist.' In fact, being 'overtly racist' has proved for some to be quite lucrative. As a society, we have tolerated racism within pornography to an incredible extent. As a result, I admit to having become complacent.

The reason I'm not on my hands and knees begging forgiveness is because I sincerely believe that the author of the Jezebel article is not completely naïve to the rest of the pornographic world. It is out there. The racism is obvious. And for anyone who's consumed 'Asian (or any other ethnic group) porn' as a fetish or genre, there is a form of complicity in porn's ethnocentrism.

So my gut reaction is to say, “Hey, this isn't fair! Don't pick on me! Look at all the other bad shit out there!” Which is to protect my ego. I don't like looking like an idiot. And in this scenario, I certainly fit the role well.

But that is not my point. I don't want to stop criticism of porn or any other medium. Please do tell us (or me) when we're fucking up. But also then start to take us a little bit more seriously every once in a while. Especially when we make great efforts to change.

I truly am sorry for offending people. That's not the kind of thing I want to leave behind with my work. At this point, however, I don't know what else to do. There's an image out there of me that looks pretty fucking cringe-worthy. It's attached to a movie that's being put out by my friend's company, that stars many of my friends, that required a lot of work from many of my friends. I still want to support it because I want to support my friends. At the end of the day, that's what we have in porn: a community. For the same reason that I understand getting pissed when people bash porn for less legitimate reasons, I get why it sucks for any group to be made fun of.

So this is my lesson and my apology. I obviously can't just do whatever I want in a porno and say, “Hey, it's just a stupid porno.” People are paying attention. Thank you for paying attention. I hope I don't disappoint you again.


Sincerely,

Danny Wylde

14 comments:

  1. For me, this is somewhat different from, say, "interracial" porn or Asian fetish porn or what have you in part because those movies are playing on the eroticism of these race-based (and yes, sometimes racist) tropes in the same way that rape fantasy porn or porn in which women are subjugated by men plays on the eroticism of sexist tropes (not that sexism is inherently sexy, but I think the power play inherent in it is certainly something that a lot of people find erotic, as evidenced by much of the porn that sells). A geisha porn--racist or not--is a geisha porn because people find the geisha trope sexy; in contrast, your make up in this movie wasn't really the point, it was just a careless aside.

    Which is to say: I could potentially see a situation in which, say, some sort of racial transformation being treated as erotic in and of itself might make this sort of thing, if not "okay," then at least more inherent to the work itself. But for it to just be there as a way to treat Asian (or black, or Indian, or whatever) ethnicity and identity as fashion, as something that can be adopted and discarded at will, with no further thought....*that* is what I found most troubling about the whole thing.

    [I recognize that what I've said above has the potential to be read as an endorsement of "racist" porn; my point is not to condone the promotion of stereotypes so much as to recognize that many people eroticize things that are taboo or uncomfortable for them, and that that is why things like incest porn and rape play and age play and race play exist in the first place.]

    So, um, now that I've veered totally off course: I appreciate you taking the time to give this situation a great deal of thought. I think you fucked up, to be sure, but I appreciate the apology and sincere contrition you've demonstrated over the offense you've caused people.

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  2. Danny-boy, you wore the makeup so take the flak. Trying to support the movie, because it was produced by your 'friends' isn't adding any nobility to your apology. Joanna made a mistake here, and from knowing her personally, I totally believe it was an innocent one. Still, having Peter Warren write a defense piece under the AVN banner is where all of this has become totally unacceptable and here's why: you can't tell people to not be pissed off, to not overreact. That's our right/priveledge as emotional animals. For Peter to come down the AVN mountain and DEFEND your appearance in yellowface for Joanna is an outrage.

    Please ask yourself; what does that article do for anyone? Does it make all of you in the movie feel better now that fucking AVN is on your side on this matter? Does it point out that this WAS a bad idea? Does it condone future 'paint-ups' in xxx productions? It sure doesn't do anything positive because now if you all do feel a little better about yourselves then what does that fucking say?

    Danny, I know you and most of the BA crew and have never beefed w/any of you, and dont consider this to be one now. What happened was, again, a hurtful, but innocent mistake, so LET people be pissed and all of you please just take your lumps and learn. OWN the mistake or all of this writing/purging your doing is only half-hearted and doesn't help anyone. Not even yourself.

    And also Danny, if for one second while you were 'paitned up' you thought "this might be in bad taste", well now you have your answer. Regards, ~ T.Von Swine

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  3. Tim, I appreciate your comment. But I am not trying to defend Peter Warren's article nor the makeup in the movie. I didn't ask Peter to write anything.

    But you would rather me just say, "Sorry," and back off instead of give an explanation as to why this happened, and more specifically, why this happened in porn? If this was a simple mistake, it probably wouldn't have happened. If everyone on set said, "This is crossing the line," why do you think it ended up in the movie?

    Listen, you participate in this industry and have taken part in many things other people consider offensive. If you've participated in any ethnic "niche" porn, there's a pretty high chance you've condoned some sort of racist activity.

    Lux has made the argument that if race is erotic and therefore inherent to the product, the racism becomes a part of the pornographic universe and is therefore somewhat acceptable within the context of the film. However, when the racism is incidental, it is MORE offensive because it serves no purpose.

    It is an argument with a structure, but it is also highly subjective.

    Both of you know full well that a large portion of the feminist movement still views most pornography as offensive because of its vulgarity towards women, its racism (whether inherent to the film or not), its patriarchal structure, etc... Those people have every right to be offended too. But I believe strongly enough in the counter-arguments that I don't feel bad or wrong with my participation in porn.

    In the case of the Walking Dead parody, it simply came down to the goofy aspect of porn parodies and a lack of consideration for what we were doing.

    I'm taking the flack, Tim. But I don't think you can sit there on the other side of your computer and say - objectively speaking - that what I did is the 'bad' form of racism in porn, and all the other shit is okay. I obviously crossed the line. It's pretty fucking clear. But there is most definitely still a discussion needed over what the line should be when it comes to other forms of racism, sexism, etc... in porn. And not even in porn. In all media.

    If you think it's just a matter of yellowface=bad and we've all learned our lesson, then yeah... I feel like Joanna and I are just scapegoats for a bad press day at Jezebel.com.

    So if I am going to make an apology, I would like to be given the grounds for some explanation. It is entirely necessary.


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    1. Does anyone remember when Ted Danson showed up w/his then wife, Whoopi Goldberg, to some dinner, or function in blackface? The dude got HAMMERED in the press, even though he was there w/his wife who's black/African American. He didn't think it was in bad taste at the time, and w/the both of them being comedians, thought it would 'lighten' the mood of said function,..wrong. Same for NHL player Raffi Torres last year who decided to dress up as Jay-Z, blackface and all, to a team Halloween party.. again, HAMMERED in the press.

      This isn't about the lesser or greater forms of racist portrayals, in or outside of porno. It's simply about a bad call on set, that's what I was getting at. For me personally, yes, I would just like an honest apology, without all of the pontificating about who, what, why, when, and where, because that's where the 'apology' can feel disingenuous, and therefore worthless.

      I see you taking the flak and repelling what you can back at your critics, like myself, because you never INTENDED, to offend anyone. Ok, I get that. But you still did. Am I guilt free in my tenure/travels over the years in XXX? Who knows or cares, because regardless of what flak will, wont, or has come my way, I can just dish or wax on about how I really didn't mean any of it to be offensive and it will eventually go away, just like this will. ;)

      I didn't mean to imply that you or any of the BA crew had Peter write his piece, so apologies (honest ones!) if that's how you read into that. Keep making porno and paying the bills Danny, because that's really the only substance this business/industry is EVER going to share w/you. Regards, ~ T.Von Swine.

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  4. I have spent seven years working a job on which it is okay to be 'kind of racist.'

    Exactly. That's why it makes sense to me that you didn't think much of the make-up, that you didn't storm out or demand it be taken off.

    Your articulate and sincere response to this should be taken as such. You can only do your best at the time and apologize when you've fucked up.

    You're right, though, this does mean people are taking a closer look at porn. But I guess it's easier to criticize this than it is the blatantly racist titles that have always been around.

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  5. I hired Danny for my movie because he could carry the role. An intelligent, dynamic actor, Danny is perfect. It would be no different had I used someone else. This was not done in ill-will, this is a comedic parody after all folks. Please read more here and let's stop using violent words such as 'yellow face' -it is ugly and disrespectful - something that was not part of my vision. http://whoistommypistol.blogspot.com

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  6. I think Steven Yeun would be happy with the portrayal of his character.

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  7. FindingMiddleGroundFebruary 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    It's really interesting where we draw the line. It seems that people are generally ok with the Asian character being portrayed by a white guy, because there were legitimately no Asian people available for the part (whether much effort was made to find such a person, who knows, but certainly I understand that finding an Asian person willing to play that role in a porn film for that budget may have been unfeasible). Also, while the character's Asian-ness may be important to the show being parodied, it probably is not very important to the porn film (if the porn film were about racial fetishizing, for example, then an actual Asian person probably would have been necessary). The Asian-ness was relevant to the porn only because it was that way in the original show, and the porn was just copying the original show. So, in copying an Asian character, where does one draw the line? If Danny had worn a black wig but not painted his face, would that be ok? Why? Because blackface has been used in incredibly racist ways in the past? People wear make-up in films to look like characters. They add wrinkles and scars, hide blemishes, etc. It's about making someone into something they are not. There are many reasons to argue that perhaps roles should be played by people of the same race as the characters being portrayed, and I can certainly get behind that. But, if, as in this case, there's a reason to use someone of another race to play a part, then why is using make-up the issue? Yes, blackface has a terribly offensive history, which should be taken into account, and I assume yellow face may as well (I'm not familiar with other instances of this in media), but this is not what is going on in this particular context. If you want to make a young person look old in a movie, you use make-up to give them some wrinkles and liver-spots. Not all old people have liver-spots. Some have very few wrinkles, some have a lot. Some Asians have more whitish skin, some have more yellowish skin. But if you want everyone to get that it's an old person, the clearest way is to add the wrinkles, and if you want everyone to know that the character you're portraying is Asian, doesn't it make sense to draw from common conceptions (stereotypes) of what people generally believe Asians look like? Because many Asian people do have a yellowish tint to their skin (while others do not). Maybe we need to reexamine the ways in which we combat racism so as not to demonize good people doing good work. Personally, I think doing the make-up was not essential to portraying the character, but it was an over-the-top effort to compensate for not actually being able to find a suitable Asian porn actor. It seems audiences would prefer to fill in the blanks with their imaginations rather than have it done for them with makeup. That's not surprising, considering how charged issues of race are and how a lot of the people who watch this porn are probably also people who engage in social analysis and activism. Using make-up to pretend that someone is of a race that they are not has become a taboo. Is this taboo socially healthy or unhealthy, socially justified or unjustified? Can it be reclaimed? Is now the time to reclaim it? I don't know. If this film had been a conscious attempt at engaging with this taboo, I might have called it brave. Instead, it was thoughtless, but serves to demonstrate how quickly we turn on each other. It's sad to me that all people seem to want is an apology, when what is being offered is genuine and respectful dialogue. I find the latter to be more respectful and productive.

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  8. Let me start with this. Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers and Christopher Lee three british actors whos names stand for quality all played asian characters at one point. I'm pointing this out because they were all cast because oftheir acting abilities not there race. Were Charlie Chan, Dr. Fu Manchu and Murder by death racist? Yes they were, and its a sad fact that the main reason for casting them was that no asian actors could give better portrayals of asian characters. In this case i see the same reasoning, great actor over race. My point is this is a movie...
    The casting reflects the wish to get the movie out there with a certain level of quality. like with the above it may not havebeen the best decision but it certainly wasn't a racist one. I think Danny can pull of anything his hart to and maybe woe should wait and see the thing before we go bashing it out of blind internet hate. We do that far to quickly these days, we have an opinion about everything. We have to learn to over think our opinions, because otherwise the good points we should be making, get lost in anger and tomato throwing.
    Anyway I just wanted to say that there are always 1000 points of view wether a thing is good or bad and in this case i think the web completely overreacted.
    Racist? I don't think so but it dose shine a light on the lack of asians in porn. Now thats something we should talk about...

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  9. Not that my opinions matter as Anonymous Blog Commenter, but I think that the movie should not be released with your scenes as is, despite the costs Joanna has incurred paying cast and crew.

    I very much believe the sincerity of your apology, but if you're embarrassed about the still photo floating around, do you really want the video out there. Obviously, no one had any racist intentions and "it was all in good fun" but the end product, with you with slanty eyes, is a racist product.

    It isn't nearly as violent as the history of American blackface in theater and cinema, but there is a disgusting history of brownface and yellowface that exists today. It isn't because there was a lack of qualified Asian actors that white actors played gross Chink stereotypes ilike Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan, but that the studios never thought to find actors of Asian descent, or actively didn't want to. There aren't a lot of big name Asian American talent in the industry, but I'm sure there are some serviceable stuntcocks that fit the bill. I wouldn't be against you playing the role in a simple black wig plus the costume, or even just a hoodie and a ball cap. I wouldn't be against an Asian woman (of which there's NO shortage in pro- and even alt- porn) rocking the same, recognizable, identifiable costume, but the scenes should be reshot or cut.

    Some things are wrong. Saying, basically, 'Yes. In retrospect it is a racist thing, but we already did the work and spent the money," is just contributing to a culture of acceptance of racism, looking the other way, and kicking the can down the road. You're taking your lumps, which is respectable, and I know the final decisions are out of your hands, but I think the team should probably take a loss on this one.

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  10. Porn is an inherently racist industry. It takes in the white supremacy we have in society that we learned not pay attention to and pukes it up on the screen. And no one says anything because most of them are white and it doesnt outright offend them. Not the actors, film crew, producers, directors. I think the part I loved the most about the last two posts was no one knows who gave direction to do it and no one gave direction to stop it... It was like the wind or something.

    oh and, intentions dont mean sh*t when the impact is immense.

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  11. Honestly, everyone on here bashing Danny for doing his job, no matter what your personal opinion of his occupation might be, he does it well and he does his part perfectly. Yes, while your immediate reaction may be "that's racist",you all also need to understand this man was simply doing his JOB. It was like he said, he was hired for the part not because he had any "Asian characteristics" he was a regular they chose for the part because he is an incredible actor who captivates his audience. His makeup artist was very talented in my opinion and the clip was great. Cut the kid some slack, his intentions were purely for pleasure, not discriminatory.

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    1. How about making a parody porn "Walking Dead" with Lori cast by Asian porn star? or Rick with Keni Styles? because after all, porn industry is for pleasure, not for discrimination. We don't even need in this premise that so-called "Walking Dead Parody" because it's all for pleasure or don't even need to add "fluff" to the flavor of porn movie genre.

      It's been so fu cked with every possible movies/films industries in US. Caucasian males just simply takes up any roles Asian males have on real life. The only excuse or better yet apology comes afterwards is "I don't know." Didn't they know beforehand when they are fed with the scripts and roles they're casting for?

      In hindsight, they would have simply discussed or brought up the topic to the producer what would be the best scenario if they all proceed ahead. If they're run out of options, that's acceptable. But that's just BS in 2013 where much information is easily available at your fingertip.

      The bottom line is those Whites (supposedly holding privilege) never bother to think twice before they takes up roles for any races except Blacks whom they owe much of their history for enslaving them. Any form of misdeeds on Blacks will get pounded in their asses like there's no tomorrow. For Asians, it seems they can get away easily.

      Look at "21", the story based on real life, played by White guy. The guy who invented counting card and exploited in Las Vegas is Asian American.
      Look at "Dragon Ball", the japanese comic story, Goku was played by a White guy?
      Look at "Extraordinary Measures", the story based on discovery made by Taiwanese American Doctors, and it was played by for god sake "Harrison Ford"?

      Brainwashing American Audiences that "Whites" are doing good, in fact, they're just lazy butt who don't bother to think twice, because after all, it's for

      Pleasure.

      Don't worry. Judgement days are coming. Now Hollywood kowtowing to China. Look at Iron Man 3.

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