Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: A Real Character

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  • Emma Hart, in reply to JackElder,

    but mostly it's basic Mandarin spoken with a somewhat odd accent.

    And if it's being spoken as widely as English, it'd be in as wide a variety of accents.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Chances are you'll only need English.

    I understand so - but really, how hard is it to be a gracious guest and learn how to say "excuse me", "please" and "thank you" in the local lingo? You can't choose whether or not to be born into any number of positions of cultural privilege, but whether you stay there or not most certainly is. Not so far off-topic as you might think.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Richard Aston,

    I have been make a part time study of curses - they can be more poetic that cussing and it surprises me as a English speaker how mild some seem

    The variety of euphemisms Americans have developed for well-known phrases that usually use swearwords is both impressive and vaguely annoying - okay, technically you're saying "Shut the front door" or "Kicks and giggles", but let's stop pretending that's what everyone is hearing...

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I thought Mandarin was being used as a lingua franca in Firefly, and so that's why no one was speaking it _without_ an accent? Just like for Global English.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    <q>ou compare swearability of languages, though.

    Maori had only one ‘swear’ – upoko kohua. It was unpardonably rude (it associates
    that most sacred part, the head, with cooking) and could lead to death/s. It’s usually translated as ’Go boil your head” -which doesnt carry the punch that the words
    actually have i te reo.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    The variety of euphemisms Americans have developed for well-known phrases

    They are such prudes, we struggled in the south to find a polite way to ask where the toilet was - even bathroom raised eyebrows

    So I took to saying "man I need a rest that coffee went straight through me"
    "I'll be at the seminar in a second I need a rest first" etc

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    There's some amusing pieces on the extras with the cast talking about how hard it was to be speaking these words without any idea of their meaning, They did get coached with pronunciation but the question was raised about what a native chinese speaker would make of their efforts. My guess is it's something like hearing a US actor attempt a kiwi accent.

    This is a pretty common issue for classical singers, who end up getting very good at reading gobs of Italian at high speed without understanding more than a word or two. OTOH, one very rarely sings in a non-Indo-European language, or one written in a non-Latin script (I did spend a few weeks learning Cyrillic once, for one concert).

    It can be quite illuminating hearing a non-native English speaker singing English. When Andreas Scholl - who speaks very fluent, but accented, English - was here last year, he sang a song by Purcell. His pronunciation was almost flawless; but he messed up the vowel in "the", always pronouncing it "theh", when it should be "thee" or "thuh" depending on the first syllable of the next word. When was the last time you thought consciously about that?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Nat, in reply to Kracklite,

    and Ursula LeGuin's much-reprinted essay, Science Fiction and Mrs Brown.

    Thanks, I really enjoyed that!

    Auckland • Since Jun 2011 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    so what did you say when you actually needed a lie down? #puritans

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15718 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Yet they have no problem with calling their boy children "Randy" ! 8>)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Very easy, and I completely agree with you.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And if it’s being spoken as widely as English, it’d be in as wide a variety of accents.

    Which is actually true of real world Mandarin as it is spoken in the here and now.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    Swearing is one of those things that really just don't translate very well at all - one of those things where the 'translation' is really more 'finding the local/L2 equivalent'. I think only humour and poetry would be harder to translate, and puns impossible.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Chinese: May you get everything you wish for

    Really? Not one I've heard. The most common swear words around Beijing involve somebody's mother and an intimate part of her anatomy.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And if it’s being spoken as widely as English, it’d be in as wide a variety of accents.

    And supposing English was still the dominant language would we understand it? Probably about as well as you’d understand 15th century English, heck I don’t understand 99% of song lyrics now :(.

    It of course relies on providing enough of a cardboard facade to allow you to suspend disbelief. Which, to circle the wagons, leads to the question how do we know that River Tam isn’t an amazingly strong character for her culture.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    If she's part Chinese, then she's got Wu Zetian, Hua Mulan, and Cixi as models...

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kracklite,

    The Bechdel Test and Ursula LeGuin's much-reprinted essay, Science Fiction and Mrs Brown.

    Great link to LeGuin, thanks for that one Krackster. As I read it I applied the memory test, with some interesting results. The Dispossessed scores well. Unfortunately, so does the work of David Eddings, which also passes the Bechdel test, unlike LOTR. Shows that if a weak writer like Eddings (and most likely his wife is a big part of this) can get it right, the bar isn't that high.

    I think her point about discovering characters is pretty important, though. Characters forced through the plot are boring. Characters that make the plot happen aren't, so much, and that's very hard if you plan the plot out and stick to it.

    On George Lucas, I have to say he made the very worst director's commentary I've ever heard for A New Hope , when it was finally released for DVD. I had to stop watching it, he was boring me so badly. It was almost like he hadn't actually directed the film, and was just giving a hackneyed interpretation of it by some old and not particularly bright fanboi who hadn't watched it for 10 years. No wonder the prequels sucked, if he had turned into such a boring person.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Probably about as well as you’d understand 15th century English

    surprisingly well. no idea why

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15718 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Ok so thinking more randomly.

    Since we are looking at fiction, then surely the question is not "did the writer/director/etc create a strong female character?" but rather "did they create enough for the viewer/reader/etc to believe that character to be strong?"

    I always admire writing that allows me to see just enough to fill in the rest of the details myself.

    That of course sets aside the problem of not having a female role at all or a role so small there is no possibility of the viewer seeing what the character is really like.

    One advantage male characters have is there are so many of them written that by dumb luck some of them are good, we can forget (mostly) the weak terribly formed characters. Whereas so few female characters exist that we need them all to be good/deep/strong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Jeanette King, in reply to Kracklite,

    There are often fewer women than male characters in movies, and, when they do appear, women characters are often just foils for storylines which revolve around male characters and their interests. As Kracklite notes, the Bechdel test is a pretty good indication of whether in any book/film/TV programme/etc women are treated as people with independent lives worthy of interest. Just three simple tests - a surprisingly large number of movies fail to pass even the first or second step.
    1. The movie has to have at least two named women in it
    2. Who talk to each other
    3. About something besides a man
    BTW, passing or failing this test doesn't make any judgement on whether the movie is 'good' or not, just how well rounded and complete the female roles in the movie are.

    Edgeware • Since Oct 2010 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    So I just had a wee look on Youku (no GFW or IPR worries) at one small clip from Firefly, roughly 2 1/2 minutes worth. Four snatches of Mandarin thrown into otherwise American conversation, 3 out of 4 easily understandable, I suspect sound quality and/or lack of tones and/or knowledge of the wider context of Firefly may be why I missed the other one. It's Modern Standard Mandarin/Putonghua as pronounced by American beggining-level students. Certainly not the worst attempt I've ever heard. For instance, a lot of the Americans I met out in Taiyuan seemed to think they came from Měiguā (beautiful melon?) rather than Měiguó (USA).

    Oh, and the Firefly clip included a Mandarin swearword, for those who may be interested: 他妈的/tāmāde (often written TMD on the internet), a fairly mildish exclamation roughly equivalent to 'shit' or 'bloody'. It can stand alone like 'shit', or it can modify the following word, like 'bloody'. Literally it's 'his (or hers or its, but I've written his up there) mother's, with 'cunt' implied. Tāmāde is probably one of the most common Mandarin swearwords. But for crying out loud, don't swap the tā for 你/nǐ unless you're ready for a hell of a fist fight. 'Your mother's...', as I think we can all imagine, is several degrees of magnitude more serious.

    As for strong female/minority characters, there is a quantity issue, but there's also definitely a quality issue. I remember in the course I did on Le théâtre de Jean Giraudoux at university one lesson my classmates and lecturer started talking about how well Giraudoux wrote female characters, made them behave like real women, and how rare this is for a male writer. That was one of several lessons that ended with an apology to me for any discomfort I may have felt as my classmates and lecturer forgot there was a man in the room (actually, never felt any such discomfort, their discussions were most enlightening).

    Comparing the book and film versions of To Live (original book by Yu Hua, film by Zhang Yimou) shows a similar sort of phenomenon. I made the mistake of watching the film before I read the book, and another mistake of reading lots of Lao She and Lu Xun before I read To Live (I'm not the only one to complain that contemporary Chinese writers absolutely cannot compare to the Moderns (late Qing, Republic of China period)). But one thing about the book that really disappointed me was that the characters were all so flat. Nothing more than names that shit happened to. They didn't grow, didn't develop, just had shit happen to them. Not even Fugui, whose story the book very much centres around. The film, on the other hand, brings the characters to brilliant, vivid life. Partly that's the acting talent - Fugui is played by Ge You, and it's one of those films in which Gong Li turns in a splendid performance. But it's also a dramatic improvement in sheer story-telling skill. So it turns out to be one of those rare films that is actually better than the book it's based on.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1729 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Only if your hovercraft is full of eels.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to James Butler,

    When was the last time you thought consciously about that?

    Every time I hear some clueless "reporter" say "thuh animal" - fair makes my blood boil.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jeanette King,

    BTW, passing or failing this test doesn't make any judgement on whether the movie is 'good' or not, just how well rounded and complete the female roles in the movie are.

    Indeed, it's neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a good film, but it does measure something about any film claiming to give female roles as much credit as male ones. There are awful films that pass the test, and plenty of films that could be good without passing it. Lord of the Flies would not be a story about what it is about if it had any female roles in it at all. Phantom Menace would not have been improved, nor made less tokenist, if there had been a scene in it with Queen Amidala talking to Mommy Skywalker about needlework while they washed the Jedi's dishes.

    But it's still a pretty amazing test, as you say, purely on account of how few films pass it. If you swap woman for man and man for woman in the test description, most films would pass it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    I have to say he made the very worst director’s commentary I’ve ever heard for A New Hope , when it was finally released for DVD. I had to stop watching it, he was boring me so badly.

    There’s an art to good commentary track, and most directors aren’t terribly good at it. Some just don’t bother – David Lynch says he won’t do them because it “demistifies” his films and I think he has a point. What matters more: Eating a tasty sausage or know how it was made in exhaustive, and exhausting, detail?

    That said, my DVD of the “final cut” of Blade Runner includes the feature length “making of” documentary Dangerous Days. Watched it several times, and it’s a model of its kind. Never bothered with the commentary tracks on the film itself, because I’d rather get lost in the film without Ridley Scott, (or the producers or the writers or a good chunk of the FX crew) yapping away in my ear.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

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