Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homefront: The Face of Xenophobia

Several days ago, I got an audition for an internet ad campaign called "The Journey" where they needed Korean men. At first, I was extremely excited and also because the gig paid $300 a day. But then when I looked closer, I realized that the internet ad campaign was for the upcoming video game Homefront.

Homefront, we meet again. The last time I saw you, I was a North Korean marching soldier for the 2010 e3 convention promoting you several months ago. For those of you who don't know, the story of Homefront takes place in the near future, in a world where N. Korea takes over South Korea then all of Asia, and then proceeds to invade America. It's basically the premise of the "Red Dawn" remake that's coming out next year but loftier (and written by the original Red Dawn scribe John Milius).

Even before its release, this internet ad campaign and the game itself will bring incredibly troubling depictions of East Asians, especially Koreans for the mainstream video gamer consumption. Down below is an audition slide for the Captain role I was called for. The second side after that is another side I found that gives you a good idea what kind of game "Homefront" is:

This surburbia has gone to rot with overgrown lawns, garbage
and decay. A large army truck is in the background and a
ragtag group of AMERICANS are getting on it, carrying ratty
suitcases. KOREAN SOLDIERS oversee the operation.
Its evident that the camera is hidden and recording from an
unseen vantage point.
The camera shifts and zooms in as two KOREAN SOLDIERS are
pulling a dirty HOMEOWNER out of his broken down house.

I’m staying! This is my house. I
paid for it! Get your fucking hands
off me.

The soldiers pull the man into the street and then hold him
as a KOREAN CAPTAIN runs up to the altercation.

What is the problem, soldier?

He refuses to leave his home.

American comrade, you are being
relocated to a better place where
you will have food and shelter.

Fuck you, I ain’t no comrade! This
is my home. This is America. I can
live where I want!
The homeowner spits on the Captain and struggles against the
soldiers holding him.
The Captain wipes the spit from his face, calmly pulls a
pistol from his belt and shoots the American in the head.
The soldiers walk back to the truck as the body bleeds out.

---- Here's the other side -----
The Korean hostage sits against a concrete wall between two
masked American resistance members. He wears a Korean army
uniform that is dirty and torn and has bruises on his face.
His left arm lies broken in a dirty sling. When he speaks he
is emotionless, almost as if he’s reading from a script.

My name is Lee Yang and I am a
solider of the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea. My blood type
is A+. I was captured five days
ago by brave American freedom

What was your personal mission?

I was sent to Montana to make sure
that the Americans who lived here
did as they were told. It was also
my personal duty to help oversee
and supervise the loading of train
cars filled with minerals for
shipment to San Diego.

What do you think now?

I know what Korea is doing is
wrong. I understand that I was a
bad person, a bad soldier. I wish
nothing more now than to help the
Americans by telling them
everything I know about army
movements and what we are doing in
the area. Long live America.

America is fighting back. This
will be the fate of any Koreans who
try to stop us. We will take as
many hostages as we can. Save
yourself. Get out of our country. Long Live America!

I looked at the sides over and over again and then politely turn the audition down. Here's the thing. The Captain role pays $300 per day and in this economy, money is no joke. At this point in my life, I know I'm not a starving artist because I have a job that helps with paying the rent and food so I have the luxury of turning this role down. I know that where I am in how I see myself, I choose how I want to be seen and if it means turning down a role that makes me feel sick to my stomach, I will uphold that integrity. I am aware of that fortune that I have, a fortune that cannot be shared with many actors here in Los Angeles. There will be Korean actors, East Asian actors, who will take these roles even if they know they will be the face of xenophobia simply because they want to have a paycheck and to be able to eat and pay for their electricity bill. I cannot judge them for that because in this cut-throat business, you do what you got to do in order to stay alive and move ahead.

But in my personal opinion, to be in this internet ad campaign is like having a huge banner sign over your head saying that All Koreans and Asians are not to be trusted and that in the end, you are a dangerous foreign yellow menace. From these audition sides and intention of this game, I am reminded of WWII propaganda where the American government posted flyers of Japanese people as inscrutable dangerous beings and in turn was one of the major reasons why over 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.

And that's what this game reeks of. Propaganda to promote American superiority when confronted with fear and paranoia of the Asian foreign menace (whether it be North Korea or Muslims). People may brush this aside and say that I'm being too negative and pessimistic over a game. Relax, they say, it's just a video game. But in this day and age, you cannot underestimate the influence of video games and, more importantly, the power of human stupidity. Media depictions of minorities, especially violent ones, often paved way to hate crimes as people are unable to differentiate between fiction and reality. If the media says so, then it must be true.

In the end, the choice is yours. You do what you believe is right and nobody, let alone a kid blogging about protesting over an internet ad campaign for a video game, can stop you.

But ask yourself:

Is it worth it to be the face of xenophobia?

1 comment:

SJ Gethsemane said...

Blog again! :-) I just found your blog. :-( Not sure what life circumstances occurred, but hope you blog again. I'm going to subscribe in case you come back to blog. :-)