I finished off my free one-month subscription at Netflix with The Lorax. First, I would just like to say that it was a horrible movie tainted with adult perspectives of how to appeal to children and their imagination. The movie also features random appearances of Zac Efron and Taylor Swift as the main characters as well as numerous awkward musical numbers that did not appeal to me at all.
I came upon one particular character, however, that I found interesting: Aloysius O’Hare. He is the greedy man who owns the large corporation that sells clean air to the residents of Thneedville, often using violence or coercion to make sure his business is profitable. He runs his company and its factories at the cost of the environment.
Is Aloysius O’Hare Asian?
Despite his Irish last name, the maybe two-feet tall, tiny, angry business man is oddly East Asian-looking with his straight, slick hair. There has been some debate on this — most will perhaps lash out at me and tell me to stop trying to fit him into a racial category. That the character is racially ambiguous. But the point is that to me, he instantaneously looked Asian (perhaps it’s because there was a vague resemblance to Edna Mode from The Incredibles).
The vague association with the Asian race is reaffirmed when you put his character into the context of the storyline. Even though the man who actually chopped down the trees and killed the environment was the Once-ler, O’Hare is the one that seized that opportunity to sell clean air to people and the clear villain in the story. His disregard for environmental concerns, seeming dictatorial “confinement” of the Thneedville people, constant surveillance, and withholding of the truth from the people seems similar to the American portrayal of Chinese or North Korean governments. At one point, O’Hare says to the main character:
You’ve got a beautiful town here, Ted! I can’t think of any reason you’d want to leave town again. Ever.
It Doesn’t Matter If He’s Asian
A fellow blogger posted a reply to the suggestion that O’Hare is an Asian character:
He’s a shorter person with straight, shiny black hair, and I guess that fits the standard expectations for an animated Asian character, but his facial features aren’t racialized. His name’s a long way from Chinese, too: Aloysius O’Hare. Plus he has no accent in the movie.
Before we even address anything I should note that this blogger’s argument against O’Hare being Asian is incredibly flawed. He puts forth an invalid argument that a character (1) without stereotypical chinky eyes, (2) with a “white American” name, and (3) a lack of an “Asian” accent could not possibly be Asian. We should not rely on heavily stereotyped images of Asian people to determine if O’Hare’s portrayal is indeed racially Asian or more importantly, has any impact on the Asian/Asian American community.
So let’s take it back a bit. Yes, there is a possibility that O’Hare is not an Asian portrayal — but then why did I think it was? Maybe there’s still something there. Seeing that all the regular residents of Thneedville were mostly white and not a single Asian character was featured in the movie, maybe I thought Aloysius O’Hare was Asian because he is possibly the closest looking character to an East Asian person in the entire movie. Or perhaps the comical emasculation (via his incredibly short stature and frequently ridiculed status) was an all-too-familiar depiction of Asian men in the media.
This is a bigger problem than just this cartoon of a racially-ambiguous evil environment killer. Certain familiar portrayals of Asians in the media is what even sparked my initial connection of this man to being Asian. And that’s not just me being racist or hypersensitive — it’s the media that’s the problem.