How 'Nimona' explores the model minority stereotype through her romance API Queer

How ‘Nimona’ explores the model minority stereotype through her romance API Queer

(The following story contains major spoilers from Nimona.)

Nimona it’s only Eugene Lee Yang’s second voice acting role, but it’s a “beautiful” role, he says, and already for the history books.

The actor, best known for his work with YouTuber and media production group The Try Guys, is the voice behind Ambrosius Goldenloin, the alleged Netflix animated film hero. Released Friday and based on an award-winning graphic novel by film co-producer ND Stevenson, Nimona follows the titular punk shapeshifter, voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz, as she teams up with an outcast knight, Riz Ahmed’s Ballister Boldheart, after he’s accused of plotting and then murdering Queen Valerin (Lorraine Toussaint).

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Yang plays Goldenloin, a knight of royal bloodline who finds himself cutting off his boyfriend Ballister’s arm as he tries to save his ruler. Eventually, he also agrees to track down and capture Ballister at the behest of the Director (Frances Conroy), who has since risen to power following the Queen’s untimely death. Throughout the film and graphic novel, the duo’s evolving relationship and romance shape their respective journeys.

Nimona Again

Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) and Nimona (Chloe Grace Moretz) in Annapurna Pictures’ Nimona.


“He’s a pretty silly character in the comics. He is a fool, a cretin. Besides, he’s not an exceptional person. The first thing he does is shoot Ballister in the arm and refuse to apologize, and so they had this terrible breakup. This is the comic. It’s the broken hearts and the refusal to apologize, a relationship that is all but irrecoverable, it seems,” Stevenson explained ahead of the film’s June 30 release.

In the comic, Goldenloin is white, a choice Stevenson says was a purposeful exploration of power and privilege. “It’s convenient to cast him in the hero role because he’s a white man with blond hair and classic good looks, and ‘You have everything we need to make this speech – to sell this propaganda – who’s the good guy? boy and who’s the bad guy,’” Stevenson previously said The Hollywood Reporter. “He IS a deeply flawed person who clings to his version of the world that he wants to be true, shutting everything out to the point where he acts evil whether he thinks it or not.”

Nimona Again

From left: Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang).


But for the film, the knight – a descendant of Gloreth, the mythological hero revered for slaying a beast – gets a makeover. And it’s a creative choice that subtly alters the subtextual messages around the character and her relationship with Ballister, which for Yang is a look at how two people work to truly see each other despite (mis)conceptions or stereotypes.

“I am arguing with my boyfriend. We have a very sharp disagreement: ‘I’m right; you’re wrong. You are right; I am wrong.’ There is no middle ground. Everyone experiences this at some point in their life. But there is always a need for a middle ground, to be able to unite,” Yang said on the mat NimonaNew York Special Screening. “And from queer experience, we know sometimes that other people need to take those extra steps to see you, and we as queer people often need to take those first steps.”

According to Stevenson, Goldenloin is one of the roles that has changed the most from book to screen, with story creator telling DAY who likes Yang’s portrayal of the horseman, but that between the original and film character “they serve different purposes in the story”.

“When we came in, we wanted to make some adjustments with the Ambrosius characters, with Ballister, and start expressing a little more of the diversity that we see in the world around us, which was important,” director Troy Quane said during a press day for the film. “But it wasn’t just in terms of the design and the new look of this character, but also the discovery of the personality. We still wanted Goldenloin this larger-than-life, rockstar sports superhero type of personality.

“The epitome of heroism in this realm. But more importantly, we knew this character was going to be the emotional motivation for Ballister,” continued director Nick Bruno. “All the things we do to that poor character, like cutting off his arm and throwing him into the shadows and teaming him up with a little goblin like Nimona, we knew the audience needed to believe in a relationship enough to feel real enough and true enough, and that Goldenloin was the kind of character that would push Ballister to overcome all those obstacles and keep fighting to get back to that connection.

So for the film, Bruno and Quane translated the dashing knight by splitting Goldenloin into two characters and giving some of his less-than-glamorous traits from Goldenloin in Stevenson’s comic to a new character, Sir Thoddeus “Todd” Sureblade (Beck Bennett). With Todd filling the “jerk” role, Goldenloin was left to be “more of a confrontational character like Ballister, who’s just been put in a bad spot,” according to the Nimona co-producer.

Nimona Again

The knights of the Institute and their director in Netflix Nimona.


Bruno and Quane also flipped the script, written by Robert L. Baird and Lloyd Taylor, and matched Goldenloin’s run with that of his voice actor, Korean American Yang. They did the same with Ballister and Ahmed (who is British-Pakistani), meaning two of the film’s main characters are not only gay, but both of Asian descent – a significant moment in representation for animated cinema.

“It was important to have Eugene play him, to have him ambitious, to show the perfect knight of this kingdom as an Asian man. That was an intention that Nick and Troy came in and expressed, and I was absolutely very supportive of that,” Stevenson said. DAY.

“Casting Eugene Lee Yang to help us bring it to life was very important,” said Quane. “He’s charismatic and fun and entertaining, but he brings such a sweetness and emotional fragility to the character that you really get to see the dichotomy of those two playing against each other. And he also has incredibly gorgeous hair.

Nick Bruno and Troy Quane

Nimona directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Netflix

Yang, who said he talked a lot with the co-directors about the meaning behind his character’s redesign, found the change “really serendipitous”. Mainly because it makes the film a “really cool thinking piece about race within the system” as well as being “a weird API love story.”

“Especially in this country, Asian Americans, in some ways, have been used as a racial wedge in places and are essentially put on this model pedestal,” the voice actor said. DAY. “We see it ultimately happening in many different ways. But we are also, and have always been, another. We are all in this together. This was especially touching for me when I learned that Ballister is who Ambrosius knows and loves and everything else should just be brushed aside, but there is still that feeling of being indebted to an oppressive system, a force – a white woman. It’s so powerful when I look at it from my Korean-American point of view.

That woman is the director of Conroy, the film’s ultimate villain and a character who plays with the conscious and unconscious associations and biases of the realm and the viewers in an attempt to shape who they see as a hero and a villain. (The darker-skinned Ballister is a former street urchin, wears black armor, and was chosen by the Queen in his youth to be the kingdom’s first knight not of noble stock.)

“The mustache-twirling villain, I think that’s a fantasy for us. We want that to be true, because it would be very obvious to see who the bad guy is in that case,” Stevenson said DAY. “And that’s basically what the Director is doing. He’s saying that Ballister is that person because it’s convenient for us to cast him in that role. The golden fillet is the opposite.

Nimona again

The director (Frances Conroy) and Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang) in Nimona.


Yang praises Stevenson’s deconstruction of historical perceptions of hero versus villain. “It’s such a dramatic example of this idea of ​​rails being played with in this film. Hero-villain, white, black—all these ideas, essentially,” he said. “You see it so starkly represented with our central couple.”

When it comes specifically to Goldenloin, the film’s White Knight that audiences learn in part through “isn’t the hero” of the story, according to Yang, the character’s “entire conflict and character journey” centers around the “model of realm heroism being torn between being told what is right and what feels right.

“One of the most powerful messages of this film is the question of what institutions do we abide by? What systems have we been inserted into, sometimes against our will or knowledge? Adds. “How do we question that in a proactive way, and when do you just need to destroy stuff like Nimona says?”