I’ve always had a soft spot for finding familiar tropes, archetypes, and Easter eggs on TV and movies – like catching everyone Lord of the rings Bits in a sequence of Bob’s burgeror a ship called the Serenity in an episode of The wide. Disney films make this process especially entertaining: the studio has a knack for monetizing references in its huge franchises. Marvel movies are always full of moments of fan service for those who have kept up with the cinematic universe. Ralph breaks the internet featured Disney’s entire princess cast, and Pixar animators subtly show characters from one movie to another other than Easter egg cameos.
So I really appreciated the new animated film from Disney Raya and the last dragon gave me the opportunity to play on-site, whether on purpose or not. I was related to the film Mulan, the Disney classic I grew up with. Both films feature an Asian woman driven into battle to protect a beloved father with a dragon buddy who provides comedic relief. Both films use plucked flowers floating on still water to convey grief. Even so, I don’t want to suggest that they are the same – especially as Mulan takes place in China, while Raya’s story takes place in a fantasy world based on Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.
When RayaThe early trailers came out, fans found one visually similar character
But after looking Raya and the last dragon, the Avatar: The last airbender Comparison got out of my head. Raya reminded me more of the emotionally distant but physically strong archetype of a heroine The hunger Games‘Katniss Everdeen – Fight through a divided post-apocalyptic world. I was glad that others who covered the film largely dropped the comparison as well. But a few pieces drew links between Kumandra’s warring factions and cute, inventive animal mashups to those in Avatar: The last airbender. Both are hardly specific to the tropics Last airbenderHowever, they are common themes found in science and fantasy fiction.
As the conversation continues to diversify, we will keep encountering this gray area between archetypes and characters who feel alike because they are of the same race or cultural background. It’s a particularly important question for speculative fiction stories known to have well-established tropics. New releases are characterized by an intensive discourse on recognizing references such as scoping WandaVisionMarvel’s Easter Eggs. People kept comparing new heroes and stories to their favorites from the past.
Some predominant archetypes have surfaced in speculative fiction, often raising questions about whether a particular character is based entirely on a predecessor, like Harry Potter’s wizarding headmaster Dumbledore, who looks suspiciously similar Lord of the rings‘Gandalf. But these historical passages tend to be the origins of white characters because so much of the speculative canon – and even more recent science fiction and fantasy films – has focused on white characters. The original texts of modern science fiction and fantasy blockbusters tended to reinforce the idea of White as neutral
Western high fantasy continues to reckon with a racist legacy. Classical texts written during eras when racist depictions were the absolute norm often propagated these beliefs in the form of vicious fantasy races and character classes, such as JRR Tolkein’s depictions of orcs and goblins. The attitudes of the British colonialists that were common for the time and which he incorporated into his work have brought all kinds of modern fantasy entertainment to a standstill. Dungeons & Dragons publishers, for example, are now counting on the racist stereotypes of role-playing games.
In this setting, people of color in prominent roles are more likely to be labeled or hyper-visible in a way that allows for more immediate comparison, and they suffer severe setbacks for not conforming to the historical cast of a science fiction or fantasy quality. This applies to Asian Americans who are cast in leading roles, for example when Kelly Marie Tran was molested by racist and misogynistic trolls after playing Rose Tico The last Jedi. The severity of the harassment led her to deactivate her Instagram account.
At the same time, Hollywood has a long history of selectively integrating a mixture of Asian architecture, art, language and fashion into speculative fictional worlds – or those perceived by television and filmmakers as “Asian” without populating Asian actors . Like cyberpunk movies Blade runner
For years Avatar: The last airbender was one of the few cartoons written by Americans aimed at children, set in an Asia-inspired fantasy world that actually featured Asian characters. I love the show and I am impressed with how well its politics and characters hold up over 15 years later. But it’s fun to compare it to Raya when his structure of the world was strongly oriented towards East Asian influences. While there are still relatively few massively popular Asian-themed cartoons in the American media written by Asians in the American media, there is an even greater shortage of animation shows and films that specifically focus on Southeast Asian characters.
When I watched Raya and the last dragonI was thrilled to see how this fantasy world was prepared to reach large audiences thanks to the Disney name, and I looked forward to including Raya and Namaari in the pantheon of the Asian action princess. And while I enjoyed comparing Raya to other Asian action stars, I was just as excited to relate her story to other recent tropes in children’s fantasy media. Raya has its similarities with Mulanand to Last airbender. But the comparisons don’t end there. In Namaari and Raya I saw Catra and Adora She-Ra and the Princesses of Powerand thought about readings from FrozenElsa is queer. I’ve often joked that certain characters had to run in order for others to run, like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline Adventure time Make room for other queer girl relationships on the screen. I look forward to seeing the characters Raya could inspire – the action-adventure heroes who, thanks to their time, can run in the spotlight.