Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where I Try To Explain Why I Look Like An Asshole

I would have never thought I'd end up in this position. But here I am.

About a month ago, I participated in a porn parody of The Walking Dead for Burning Angel. I played the character, Glenn.

On the show, the role belongs to a Korean American actor, Steve Yeun.

So I was put in what is essentially yellowface makeup. The pictures were posted to the Internet. Now, the owner of Burning Angel, Joanna Angel, and I are facing accusations of racism.

Walking Dead Porn Parody Relies on Yellowface via Jezebel.

Before going into the ramifications of what was done. Let me just start by explaining why it was done.

Joanna and I are friends. She tries to cast me in most all of her movies. It's a good business relationship. I do good scenes for her. She keeps hiring me.

When this movie came up, apparently Glenn was one of the last roles that needed to be filled. As has been pointed out many times in the past, there aren't many Asian men in American porn. In fact, I can think of only one US-based, Asian male porn star. For a number of reasons, he did not make it into this film. Therefore, I was cast as Glenn simply because I am a Burning Angel regular.

I don't think any more thought was put into it than that.

Now comes the makeup part. There I am in yellowface.

When I got to set, I was told I would be playing Glenn. I don't watch Walking Dead so I didn't know who Glenn was. Then I found out.

I was told I would be put in Asian makeup. I said something like, "Really?" and then sat down in the makeup chair. Joanna Angel didn't outline specific makeup tactics. There was no discussion about what this would look like. Just that I would be Asian.

Then I got up and looked basically like what you see in that picture.

It was weird. It seemed silly. Everyone on set had their own reaction, which was mostly laughter.

A few conversations did take place on the topic of racism, but they all ended with something like this: "Well, we're not actually making fun of the fact that he's Asian. The rest of the movie doesn't even mention that he's Asian. And really, it's a porn parody. Who cares?"

I suppose you could then ask, "Why bother to make him to look Asian in the first place?" The only real answer I have is that everyone else sort-of resembled their characters, so I was meant to sort-of resemble mine. Could we have done without the taped eyes and makeup? I think, "Yes." Why didn't we? I don't know.

There was no sinister intent. But I suppose there never is with such things. They are released to the world where a greater cultural context is applied and one must face the consequences.

Is my portrayal of Glenn racist? I honestly don't know. If it were blackface, I feel like I could definitively say, "Yes." But on the heels of Halle Barry going in whiteface and Hugo Weaving portraying an Asian character for the movie, Cloud Atlas, it seems as if there is at least a public scale of acceptability for such things.

There was no cultural commentary associated with The Walking Dead XXX parody, and perhaps little cultural sensitivity. However, it is out there now and I have to live with whatever it means to other people.

As a white male living in the United States, I am fully aware that I have had to face little prejudice at all. I am - in this country - essentially one social class away from being "the man." So it is probably easier for me to say, "This really isn't that big of a deal." For someone who's been the victim of racial prejudice, I'm sure the response is different.

This isn't exactly an apology or an excuse. I still don't really know what I think about the situation. At its worst, I believe a series of events took place that weren't given much thought.

Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. I am a fan of blind casting for all movies but when it's blind... it should be kept as such. Glenn is Asian. You are not. If you are cast then portray you as you look (black hair if needed) wearing clothes he wears. I am sure porn audiences can suspend their disbelief that you are that character. Hopefully they'd be distracted by other things happening in scenes...

  2. Your lack of thought into this is indicative of privilege and you should be profusely apologizing for what you chose to do. But instead you're chosing the 'white guy' response and just blowing it off as no big deal. You even go so far as to say that it'd be bad to pose as a black dude, but not an asian person.

  3. Let's not forget that public acceptability for something doesn't justify it . . . and there was plenty of criticism for the yellowface in Cloud Atlas, too.

  4. One of the reasons porn is crucial is because it's a free zone where the unhinged Id is allowed to run wild and all socially questionable fantasies are openly represented. Also, in porn we're all pragmatic bricoleurs, cadging things together however we can in order to get the thing made. If you were performing this part in a play or a non-porn indie film, the issue of racism in your playing an Asian role would likely be central. But the fact that this is porn--or if it were comedy--means that it's just as important to do the questionable or the distasteful as it is to critically appraise it. As often as not, when you work in porn doing the wrong thing is not only right, it's also essential.

  5. Paul- but the unhinged id isn't running wild and free and there are no socially questionable fantasies represented here. If there's any sin here, it isn't racism via fetishism (even if I take issue with the idea that porn is immune from criticism)- it's thoughtlessness and apathy.

    Danny's character wasn't put in yellowface in order to fill some Asian fantasy- it was because the folks didn't think through the racial implications of trying to make their performers resemble their characters, and then even when they did give it some thought, shrugged it off.

  6. Did you miss the insane amount of criticisms for yellowface in Cloud Atlas? There was ton.
    This is just as bad as yellow face. Personally I think most the fault here lies in Joanna but I wish you would of just apologized and not tried to defend it(although with money on the line, its understandable sort of). I hope you take some more time to really think about this, your not a terrible dude or anything you just made a poor judgement call.I normally really enjoy what you have to say here and respect you as a performer but I've found this incident very disappointing and disturbing.

    Also FYI anyone who has watched the walking dead - the baseball cap and tee shirt would of made you more than recognizable as Glen, the yellowface was unnecessary, and grossly offensive.

  7. As soon as we start worrying about something being 'unnecessary, and grossly offensive' in either porn or comedy the function and vitality of the genre is lost. How many times have I seen 'unnecessary and grossly offensive' caricatures of all races and sexualities presented in, say, SNL? Or any number of times in Adult Swim? Or in porn of all kinds through the ages? As to whether it was wrong to give the make-up 'some thought' and then shrug it off, this again begs the issue of the essential role of porn. It must shock, offend, caricature, be tasteless and ignore the limits of social and political correctness. Had this been an indie film with political pretensions, it would have been a deeper question as to the motive of the producers and participants.
    But the meaning of the shrug in this case was to say "This is porn. Fuck it." And that's the correct and necessary (and intelligent) attitude. Anything short of that is censorship. Don't censor porn, don't censor comedy. So long as they're offensive they're doing their job.

  8. I love The Walking Dead and you. I don't find it racist at all, I see it as a parody. A whole movie making fun of the original with tons of cheesyness and sex.
    I think it's funny, but I might have a weird sense of humor. But it's funny all at the same time.
    People need to calm their shit down.

    1. What an amazingly white name you have Cassie Lou.

    2. As a African American woman I take extreme offence to your name-related prejudice!

  9. Danny, you have worked hard & earned your Success ! NEVER apologize for your Race , your state or your country!

    1. When someone says "NEVER apologize for your Race , your state or your country!" we know they're a friggin right winger!

  10. Not racist, but definitely insensitive. No problem with you being Glenn. But it's lame that just said make him look Asian instead of make him look like Glenn. Glenn's skintone is pretty pale throughout the show, a person would hardly need to yellow up their skin to play home unless you go with the general idea that all Asians are just that shade of yellow.

  11. It probably should have occurred to someone on set that this would be perceived and seized upon as racially insensitive and simply unnecessary. The yellowface makeup in particular is a total head-scratcher and in poor taste. However, I've been following your blog for awhile and I think you're an incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, insightful guy who made a mistake. I don't think you should be raked over the coals for it and I don't believe you, Joanna or BurningAngel had any malicious intent. Nor do I believe this blog entry is blowing the incident off. I respect you for addressing it here and being open to the comments of others, whether they support you or not. I hope the offended reactions being expressed by some are illuminating and cause the people involved in the production to think twice and not make the same mistakes again. It is a porn parody, but you're a progressive person so you should "get it". Good luck to you. I remain a fan.

  12. In case anyone gets linked directly to this, I've followed up with a response here:

  13. I hired Danny for my movie because he could carry the role. An intelligent, dynamic actor, Danny is perfect. It would be no different had I used someone else. This was not done in ill-will, this is a comedic parody after all folks. Please read more here and let's stop using violent words such as 'yellow face' -it is ugly and disrespectful - something that was not part of my vision.

    1. Please! It is what it is - yellowface - and I don't care what your "vision" is. What you DID is ugly and disrespectful and it's being called out for what it is. Don't try to pin the "ugly and disrespectful" on the truth of your actions. Geez! White people never cease to blow my mind with their audacity!

  14. You don't want people to call it yellowface, shouldn't have used the technique then.

    You don't get to try and 'calm people down' when they're outraged at the representation. If it was really a parody you were going for, why aren't the actors just caricatures of the people they're trying to spoof? For that matter, why include the kids from the original? Do they need to be parodied too?

    Sorry, I get that at least one of you is realizing that this shit has hit the fan, but only one of you is ballsy enough to admit that shit was wrong. And even that, not with the best of apologies.

    You can't make it right, (you'd lose $ from your bottom line) but you can sure as fuck learn your lesson and try harder, next time. If you get a next time.


    This is a classic case of libs turning nothing into something. It's not racially insensitive for someone of one race to dress up as someone of another race for a part in a movie, even if it's porn. Or should I say for a white guy to dress up as someone of another race...I feel the same wouldn't be said if a black man were portraying an Asian actor.

    This is one man portraying another man for a movie, period. It wasn't done to make fun of Asians. It wasn't done out of hatred for Asians. Get the fucking sticks out of your asses people!

  16. How this is in any way different from Derrick Pierce dressing up in costume & makeup to play the Mandarin in one of Axel's comic book movies, I'll never know. No one gave a shit when the Wayans bros. dressed up like spoiled white chicks. Fucking get over yourselves people. Lets not pretend you never had at laugh at Ms. Swan on MAD TV.

    1. Thats because its white people.... When they experienced slavery, genocide, and other forms of systematic discrimination based soley on the colour of their skin then and only then will that be considered equal to yellowface, blackface, red face or arabface. And even then it would have to have at least 3000 years impact on the cultures and civilizations around them.

  17. I get that people call this insensitive and not very well thought through, but let's be honest:
    1. It's only a parody, and there is never even once made fun of the fact that the character is Asian.
    2. If there is made fun of anyone then let's all admit it was the white guy: he was the one that got painted yellow and got his eyes taped.
    3. There would have been reactions on this anyway: if they had excluded the Asian character from the movie, then that would have been called racist too. Now they made a white actor look yellow, because of lack of Asian actors in the industry and it's not good either.
    This was all just a decision that hadn't been thought through well enough but that's okay, everyone makes mistakes.
    and btw: to the creators of this parody: you did a pretty good job, just a shame you can never make everybody happy about what you create or about what you decide upon.

  18. So this is a little late, but still a bit useful. I am a white female, and I may not have the race card under my belt, but I have an alternative look (tattoos and A LOT of piercings) so I am stereotyped by society in that way.
    When I see pictures of models and actors/actresses in movies that have painted on tattoos or fake piercings ( and for the most part, I can tell when it's fake) I get a little upset because of the social stigma that's attached to it, except for the rare occasions that it's deemed okay by the higher society.
    Something like this is a bit different... Everyone has their reasons for making the decisions that they made, and the issues has now been presented. This is just a stepping stone for the porn industry to become more socially acceptable, and therefore needing to keep these 'politically correct' boundaries in mind.
    The mistake has been made, the act cannot be taken back, and even apologies have been presented. It's just something to learn from, and this film will be recognized as one that changed something in the way of the industry, and I think Danny and everyone else should be proud of this!