Tales from the Racist?

Tales From the Orient

Tales from the Orient, written by Jamie Ford and illustrated by A.L. Baroza, at first glance is an overtly racist and offensive depiction of Asians.  The context of this story being in the graphic novel Shattered is a good clue to this story not being as offensive as it seems.  This caused me to notice that this comic is really an attack on authors rather than Asian Americans.  Clearly, by “attack,” I mean that it is a comic set to make fun of and shed light onto the racial depictions in art/ media in America.  This comic takes the idea of old fashion dramatic horror film/tv and uses that as a tool to parody stereotypes by directly pointing them out.  The best proof of the parody was from the intro of the TV show “Tales from the Darkside”

This show is “a horror anthology series where the viewer is taken through ghost stories, science fiction adventures and creepy, unexplained events.” (IMDb).  The key here is “fiction.” So, this specific parody Tales from the Orient, is a parody of fake stories that are heavily dramatized to increase effect.  The effect of this parody is clearly different than the original, but they are both intended to be entertaining.

Jamie Ford

To show that this piece isn’t intended to be offensive, I looked into the author of this work, Jamie Ford. Ford is from a culturally mixed family.  His father was Chinese and his mother was of European descent.  Ford himself is a Chinese American.  He spent the early years of his career writing for the mainstream audience without Asian characters because he felt that no one had an appetite for it (video below).  This shows that Jamie Ford has a diverse background, culturally and artistically.  With this in mind, it brings a new lens to the work.  Ford clearly has a rounded view of the material covered in this piece and uses that to give a stronger message.  By using dialogue like “No tickee, no shirtee”, Ford gives the reader obvious flags of stereotyped behavior and is easy to tell that the piece cannot be taking itself too seriously.  It is designed to be from a dramatic retelling of an old time story, with some cheesy lines to wrap it all up.

(Start from 5m33s – http://youtu.be/HMfhC2eYXC0?t=5m33s)

To define the timeline even more, it is important to look at the artist’s work, A.L. Baroza.  Baroza first gives the idea of the timeline by showing the “10 cents” symbol next to the title.  This is to show that the piece is dated and could potentially house some dated stereotypes or references since the price of this comic is valued less than the paper it’s printed on (by modern standards).  Baroza also strengthens the timeline by showing some older fashioned wardrobe and old time cop cars.  This timeline is important because it sells the idea that this piece was meant to be “dated” and helps sell the idea that this piece was designed to poke fun at old racial depictions of Asians, by using another dated type of media (i.e. old time comic book).

Collectively, the author and artist of this piece show use a dated style to show a historical struggle Asian Americans have had with media.  This is a way for a subordinate group to use media and redefine boundaries set by the dominate group in America.  This comic sort of says “Now can you see how silly and offensive these depictions were?” and also manages to do this in a comedic and playful way.  The comic points out the ignorance of a lot of racial stereotypes by playing directly into them and using a style that was designed by the dominant mainstream of America.

This piece is a fantastic depiction of racial stereotypes and pointing out how silly they are.  This gives the audience the message in one of the most efficient ways since the piece is short, yet contains plenty of information.  This helps appeal to mass culture as its intended, while hiding a wonderful satirical piece that highlights the ignorance of the historical mainstream by using dated historical mainstream devices.

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