i remember having feels about Inara being called “the ambassador” in the pilot as a joke
it’s hard to figure out though
because in-universe i think we’re supposed to ignore how Asian cultures are commodified, misrepresented and fetishized
if it’s utopia for America-China relations we don’t have to talk about it
How I know that the ‘Mandarin” in firefly just isn’t linguistic drift?
The rhythm. Intonation. Yes. Pronunciations change. But all of the actors do not parse the *words* correctly. And that, more than anything, is why they are really hard to understand. Because… with the poor accent and inability to really say the words distinctly, you just don’t know what the fuck they are trying to say.
Also, the English is still recognizably modern English, even umpty thousand years in the future. They’ve picked up some shiny new (and in some cases, old) slang but it’s still intact. Why would one of the two official languages of the alliance have stayed so static while the other drifted beyond recognition?
See, even in-universe, there doesn’t seem to be a plausible explanation. Out-of-universe… it’s pretty damn disrespectful.
a lot of the Chinese in Firefly is the Western equivalent of badly-translated subs
ETA (18/10/2012): I was feeling charitable that day… I really hope they weren’t mocking poor English-to-Chinese-to-English translations.
after listening to my dad talk about colours in Mandarin - actually a pleasant experience - I want to pair colours with [each?] main character on Firefly
I’ve forgotten most of what he told me and I haven’t had time to open a dictionary to “remember”
red - hong2, which is the standard/positive name, and [something else] with a more negative connotation - which is used in an idiom about being Red-brainwashed?
green - lu4, standard, and qing1, which is fascinating like “livid” because it means unripe and “green/raw” and bruise-blue [cyanosis] (although it doesn’t mean red and green at the same time like that word Delirium has in her pocket)
blue - lan2 - and just today I read the line 青出于蓝 “green [qing] out of the blue [lan]” in a great Watchmen fic (Boxing Days by radishface)
青 qing likely goes with River, who I wish we’d seen overcoming the hands of blue
black - hei1, I don’t know how to fit this into the Black of the opening credits which is a very poetic concept
and there was some stuff about Peking opera stock characters, how unwarlike scholars wear black robes (and also ridiculous hats), so black (if that’s the same character) probably matches Simon
and this might be problematic for Jayne & gender issues, but I was thinking some idioms that sound feminine in English
hua1lian3, a warrior type in Peking opera with the iconic variegated fierce face (or maybe “florid face” after I checked the etymology, cause hua1 is flower)
and there’s an idiom about powdering one’s face that means deceiving, casting oneself in a good light
the word is fen3, pink - rouge - powder/flour
so yeah, pink for Jayne who is a man
I also learned two words for orange
ju2zi - Mandarin orange/satsuma
cheng2zi - orange
ju2 is the normal colour word and cheng2 is the variant (more yellowish, I think?) - interesting the different reference points
didn’t even get to brown or purple - or nighttime glowing flying insects :P
there could be gifsets in my future if this doesn’t look problematic/make an utter ass out of me
Alright, I’ve come back to a crapload of things on this blog, but I just wanted to clarify some points that I’ve seen people reblogging on my Firefly answer.
1) I realise that the Chinese was used to circumvent TV censors. As I literally ran out of my room to get to work and didn’t think of it until I was in my car, there was no way for me to change my answer in that respect.
2) To everyone who says that it’s in the future and thus the two cultures have mixed - let’s take a look at the populations now. The Unites States of America, as of 2012: 313,790,000. The People’s Republic of China, as of 2011: 1,347,350,000. China makes up nearly 20% of the world’s population at this moment, whilst America barely reaches 5. And this isn’t even counting the number of Indian people who are slightly above 17%. Firefly is set in 2517, nearly 500 years from now. Exponentially, the populations would grow. Therefore, I would expect at least 2 of the 9 main cast members to be of some Asian descent. This isn’t a ‘well, it’s in the future…’ kind of thing, it’s merely math. Instead, they try to pull off the Tams as being Asian, when neither of the actors were. Also, originally, Kaylee was supposed to be an Asian character, but Jewel Staite was cast instead. This is not ok.
3) If you’re going to incorporate an Asian culture into your show and then not cast any Asian people or have any Asian-based input, then that’s cultural appropriation.