effex: default (Gratuitous Yusuf icon)
[personal profile] effex
I've been reading a lot of Inception fanfic, as you do, and I have noticed a trend. In fics taking place in the canon'verse, Yusuf is often regulated to the background or used (with Ariadne) as a greek chorus, if he's present at all. He's around in most AUs, where he's usually cast as greek chorus (with Ariadne) or a stoner (or a cook. Mafia AU, I’m looking at you).

It is (wildly) out of character for Yusuf to be:

1) A stoner
2) Manic/careless/irresponsible/in need of supervision with his work
3) A stoner

To be blunt: fandom is taking the only brown character, one of only two characters of color (Saito gets better treatment but not by a lot), and turning him into a caricature. Warping and dismissing his character when its not ignoring him entirely.

Which, just. No. No. We can do better than this.

~*~

It’s an easy fix - we get about the same amount of information for him as we do for Arthur and fandom has shown that is plenty. Let’s sit down and go through it.

Dileep Rao describes Yusuf as “an avant-garde pharmacologist, who is a resource for people, like Cobb, who want to do this work unsupervised, unregistered and unapproved of by anyone. Yusuf obviously has a monetary interest in helping Cobb, but he is also motivated by a burning curiosity. He has been experimenting with this stuff for so long and now he wants to see what it’s like.”

“The role of the chemist was particularly tough because you don’t want him to seem like some kind of drug dealer. He’s absolutely not,” says co-producer Jordan Goldberg. “He’s someone who is committed to the art of dream sharing and making it work in ways it hasn’t before. We needed Yusuf to be funny and interesting and obviously smart, and Dileep is all of those things.”


These are basic things we know about Yusuf: He's a chemist and pharmacologist. He lives in Mombasa. He's desi. He has an Arabic given name.

Those are just the essentials though, things you could pick up from a cast list or character poster (if he @*$%*^! had one) - there’s plenty more to be found in the movie (note: I'm I'm doing this from memory, please chime in if I've missed something or have made a mistake!). We'll start at the bit with Eames and Cobb (and Saito at this point, I think) in Mombasa where Eames specifically asks Cobb if he's got a chemist. He's had some time to think about the job, knows it's going to be big/difficult/important, knows that the best extractor, point man, and forger are on the team, and he immediately thinks of Yusuf and puts effort into/takes initiative in getting him on the team. Eames (as we all know) is a smart guy, this implies Yusuf is not only geographically convenient but the best at what he does.

'What he does' being the creation/testing/refining of drugs (He formulates his own versions of the standard PASIV compounds. Eames says this like it's a big deal.) that link people's brains together. I'm not a chemist or a neurologist or anything but come on, that's amazing.

(He's also a small business owner. He's got the shop - I can't imagine the dream sharing industry gives him enough business on its own, so he must be selling other things as well - and the room for dreamers, all of which requires managing, record keeping, and a host of other responsibilities. On top of lab time.)

Yusuf, when we meet him, is soft spoken and, mmm. Not reserved, maybe centered? Assured? Sharp, definitely, under a layer of distant amiability. You can see why Eames likes him. That "or perhaps you will not want to see" is almost mischievous. We get a bit of professional pride when Cobb wakes from trying his formula: "Sharp, yes?" (It must have been, unusually so - Cobb was freaked.) He mentions that he rarely goes out in the field and there’s the sense that this is a deliberate choice - he’s more interested in the science than the dreamwork itself.

Later, in Paris, we see him mixing things in a lab and running tests over and over again. Nothing blows up, nothing goes comically wrong.

Yusuf's in charge of dreaming the first level of The Inception Dream, which makes sense when you remember the plan was for him to cruise around for a while and then drive off a bridge. The dream starts with him standing on a corner in the rain, looking miserable and kind of resigned. I'm betting drinking too much before a job is a rookie mistake and he knows it (and he's gonna have to hold it 10 hours realtime, ouch). Eames (and Arthur, I think?) teases him about it, which gets him a 'ha bloody ha.' It's the most open/off his game we've seen Yusuf.

Then he almost gets run over by a train (he's in the car with Ariadne and Cobb, though you can't really see him), gets shot at a lot, and is yelled at by Arthur after the death=limbo plot device reveal. I'm not sure if Cobb asked him to keep quiet about it (possibly as a condition for getting Cobb's cut) or if telling the team simply didn't occur to him. I lean towards the latter - he seems genuinely surprised by Arthur's anger (and Eames is pissed but not at him, so).

Next, the team (plus Robert. I've got to stop thinking of him as 'team') drops a level and Yusuf is left with a van, five sleeping teammates (one of whom is dying), one sleeping mark, and a city full of people trying to kill him. He has no (afaik) military training and no real field experience. And he pulls it off like A BOSS. He's cool under fire - he drives! He shoots! He barely takes a moment for a breathless "did you see that?" after rolling the van down a hill before taking off again!

He keeps them all alive.

Near the end (for him, anyway), at the bridge, he maybe jumps the (ha) gun. He's a sitting duck and Saito's bleeding out, but he probably had another minute or two before he had to signal Arthur, idk. I doubt it seemed that way at the time.

And then he drives the van off the bridge (I'm sure they practiced this part) and everybody wakes up and he gets Cobbs cut and a vacation in LA and probably a generous investment offer once Saito sorts himself out.

~*~

TO RECAP: Yusuf is brilliant, professional, and good under pressure. If you read into things a bit, you also get a man with a dry, arch sense of humor, a great deal of love for his work, and untapped badassery depths.

In conclusion: Fandom, Yusuf is awesome. STOP MAKING HIM A STONER.

~*~

Even more notes: This barely scatches the surface - I know he's almost certainly Muslim and can guess at other aspects of his background, but I don't know enough to extrapolate from his accent or clothes or mannerisms (him and Eames, because apparently I feel more familiar with Japanese culture than with English. Eames has a wealth of analysis, though. Yusuf does not).

~*~

Speaking of clothes, bonus tangentially related movie clothing talk: Inception: Jeffrey Kurland – Follow Up Costume Q&A @ Clothes On Film.

~*~

Speaking of links, have some Yusuf-centric ficage:

OH&S by [livejournal.com profile] mercurial_wit (Yusuf/OFC, background Eames/Arthur and Ariadne/Saito)

In Between The Day And The Night by [livejournal.com profile] parka_girl (Yusuf->Robert)

(C2H5)2O by [livejournal.com profile] yakbites (Gen)

The Pearl Fishers by [livejournal.com profile] yakbites (Yusuf/Ariadne)

Five Unexpected Things That Happened at the First Annual Eid al-Fitr/Rosh HaShana Company Party by [livejournal.com profile] sabrina_il (Gen)

Untitled by Anonymous (Gen. Informative, I know.)

Untitled by [livejournal.com profile] iambickilometer (Yusuf/Arthur)

Yusuf looks for religious advice by [personal profile] horusporus (Gen)

Anglophilia by Anonymous (Could be read Yusuf/Eames, could be read gen)

High-Hearted by [livejournal.com profile] recrudescence (Yusuf/Eames) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

we stared at the sun (we made a promise) by [livejournal.com profile] weatheredlaw (Gen) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

untitled tinfoil hat by anonymous (Gen) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

untitled, counting scars by [profile] chibi_lurrel (Gen) Recced by [livejournal.com profile] helenvalentine

oxidants happen by [livejournal.com profile] stachelyjohnson (Yusuf/Eames) Recced by [livejournal.com profile] strokeof_genie

Remember Your Training by [personal profile] mithrigil (Gen)

Réclame by [livejournal.com profile] recrudescence (Yusuf/Eames) Recced by [personal profile] sublunarymagic

mine i'll leave to chance by [personal profile] bossymarmalade (Yusuf/Eames) Recced by [personal profile] happydork


And also some non-Yusuf-centric fic in which he is awesome (or at least pretty great):

ROBOT UNICORN ATTACK by [livejournal.com profile] plingo_kat (Arthur/Cobb) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

j'veux ton amour, et je m'en fous d'après by [livejournal.com profile] hackthis (Arthur/Eames)

fly me to the moon (and let me dream among the stars) by [livejournal.com profile] saucy_kate (Arthur/Eames, Saito/Cobb)

those near and far wars by [livejournal.com profile] zarathuse (Arthur/Eames)

Amazing Grace by [livejournal.com profile] airgiodslv (Arthur/Eames, Cobb/Mal)

In Violation of Copyright by [personal profile] mithrigil (Gen)

plate tectonics by [livejournal.com profile] indysaur (Arthur/Eames)


And some fanart:

yusuf & ariadne, yusuf at eid by [personal profile] glockgal (Gen) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

better living through chemistry by [livejournal.com profile] darthneko (Sexy gen) Recced by [personal profile] bossymarmalade

The Chemist by [personal profile] zephre (Gen) Recced by [personal profile] sophinisba

'The Chemist' Character Poster by [tumblr.com profile] thisisnotbruce (Gen)

Anyone have links to more?
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Date: 2010-09-23 07:02 pm (UTC)
zanzando: Yusuf sitting in a chair. (Chemist of Awesome)
From: [personal profile] zanzando
Cheering really fucking hard right now.

You already know what I think.

Date: 2010-09-23 07:17 pm (UTC)
zillah975: Painting of my Night Elf, Tyrnathera Stormcaller (Default)
From: [personal profile] zillah975
Oh my god, THANK YOU for this. I'm so, so far out of Inception fandom, because the movie mostly bored me and the only characters that interested me were Yusuf, Saito, and Eames. Am bookmarking this, and will check out your recs as soon as I get home tonight.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] zillah975 - Date: 2010-09-23 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-09-23 07:41 pm (UTC)
bossymarmalade: the folks from inception stand around (this MUST be a DREAM)
From: [personal profile] bossymarmalade
I like a certain amount of drugginess? Possibly because I am a desi girl who enjoys a good spliff, heh. But I know what you mean.

High-Hearted by recredescence

we stared at the sun (we made a promise) by weatheredlaw

Robot Unicorn Attack by plingo_cat is not strictly about Yusuf, but I seriously think he steals the entire thing.

untitled tinfoil hat by anonymous

Also, art!

better living through chemistry by darthneko

yusuf & ariadne, yusuf at eid by glockgal

YAY! I am so happy for this post; I love Yusuf more and more with every excellent fanwork about him.

Date: 2010-09-23 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
YES. *is aja, will have more links to contribute later when am actually not at work/logged in, etc*

YES YES YES <333333

Date: 2010-09-23 08:37 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
I was just looking for Yusuf fic on Delicious the other day and dismayed by how stereotyped his portrayal in fic is. (The Yusuf-as-taxi-driver meme should just stop.) Thank you so much for the rec list! I'm pretty much uninterested in reading about any of the other characters, which has made fic-finding difficult.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes - Date: 2010-09-23 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-09-23 09:08 pm (UTC)
zvi: self-portrait: short, fat, black dyke in bunny slippers (Default)
From: [personal profile] zvi
A+++ would read more meta

Date: 2010-09-24 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helenvalentine.livejournal.com
I love this. And Yusuf. It frustrates me to no end how underrated Dileep Rao is, and how he was the only one (I think?) of the team not to get an individual poster for the movie, and how reluctant people are to ship him with anyone or to give him interesting things to do in fic.

Regarding the stoner/druggie trope: I think that comes both from his job involving chemicals and from his seemingly laid-back demeanor, but I think it's a mistake to make him silly, or slow on the uptake, or the comic relief. To me, he always comes off as...I don't know, as kind of cat-like, i.e. he's not energetic and all over the place and in the spotlight all the time, but he's observant and intuitive and keeps cool under pressure and you can bet he notices everything that's going on around him.

Here's another rec for you: this fill (http://community.livejournal.com/inception_kink/756.html?thread=1558004#t1558004) on the kinkmeme by [profile] chibi_lurrel. (Gen, for the prompt "counting scars.")

Date: 2010-09-24 01:32 am (UTC)
himhilien: made by oxoniensis on LJ (Inception | Yusuf)
From: [personal profile] himhilien
THIS. SO. MUCH.

I'm really bummed by the lack of love fandom seems to have for Yusuf. Without him the movie would've been like an hour long, ffs.

Date: 2010-09-24 01:43 am (UTC)
rivlee: (moive: inception yusuf)
From: [personal profile] rivlee
Thank you, just thank you. I adore Yusuf and it irks me to no end that he either gets shoved off into the background, completely ignored, or when portrayed is done so with really bad stereotypes.

Also, thank you for the fic links. I am always on the hunt for good Yusuf fic.

Date: 2010-09-24 01:58 am (UTC)
mithrigil: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mithrigil
Hey! Just here to say, word on that Yusuf is definitely not a stoner, and there should be more fic out there that deals with how brilliant he is. You asked for links, so I hope it's okay to share a couple of fics I've written that feature Yusuf being badass and scientific: In Violation of Copyright (caperfic, Yusuf features but isn't the POV character, and he gets to fix and tailor the compound he brewed in Inception and shoot people in the face), and Remember Your Training, in which he poses as a lecturer on dream security and gets to talk about how important a chemist's job is.

Date: 2010-09-24 02:01 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
After reading this post, I have this to say: WORD.

Only fic not recced that I can think of off the top of my head: http://stachelyjohnson.livejournal.com/775.html is a great Yusuf/Eames fic.

“Look, I’m not particularly bothered by what happened, if that’s what you’re worried about. Just because I was three sheets doesn‘t mean it wasn‘t honest.”

Yusuf makes a noise like someone‘s punched him in the throat. It’s very undignified. “You still--”

“Why is that so hard to believe? You are a handsome, successful, brilliant, mildly devious individual. Your cat is portly and adores you--I don’t have a type, but if I did, you would be it. I don’t see what the problem is. Unless this is making you uncomfortable, in which case I am suitably chastened and shall make my exit gracefully, with your permission.”

Yusuf says nothing. Eames nods once, like this is what he expected, and he gently transfers Paka to the desk.


Only it's hilarious and wonderful and has a happy ending. After it was recced to me, it's become one of my for-comfort fics.

-strokeof_genie on lj

Date: 2010-09-24 02:09 am (UTC)
jibrailis: (inception -- yusuf)
From: [personal profile] jibrailis
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Yusuf is my very favourite, and even then I don't think I give him the spotlight and the awesome he deserves. But I will try harder in the future, because motherfucking Yusuf.

Date: 2010-09-24 03:17 am (UTC)
duh_i_write: (crazy for you)
From: [personal profile] duh_i_write
YES. This has been bugging me ever sense I stumbled into the fandom. Thank you so much for the list of recs.

Date: 2010-09-24 04:13 am (UTC)
pseudo_tsuga: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudo_tsuga
I haven't seen Inception yet but Yuusuf sounds amazing. Definitely bookmarking to come back to later.

Date: 2010-09-24 05:21 am (UTC)
deepsix: (Default)
From: [personal profile] deepsix
SO MUCH YES. This has been driving me mad since I started reading in this fandom (I think I posted about it, really briefly, at the beginning of August?), and somehow it seems to be getting worse as the fandom matures. Yusuf is one of my favourites (...for all that you can tell from what I've posted :s) and the poor treatment he's received in fic is really disappointing.

So this isn't really about Yusuf per se, but Amazing Grace by [livejournal.com profile] airgiodslv has maybe one of the most badass portrayals of him ever.

Date: 2010-09-24 06:15 am (UTC)
vi: (ffviii: smiling softly)
From: [personal profile] vi
Oh goodness, thank you for this post and the rec list! The fics I'd read so far in Inception fandom don't feature much of Yusuf, and that makes me sad.

Date: 2010-09-24 02:53 pm (UTC)
dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhobikikutti
Hi, this is a great post, and could you please cross-post it to [community profile] eid_ka_chand because we always need more meta about Muslim characters (And we are fine with assuming Yusuf to be).

Date: 2010-09-24 03:46 pm (UTC)
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
Awesome post! Thank you for making it! The thing I am currently writing has a lot of Yusuf in, so it's great to read other people's takes on him.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2010-09-24 06:57 pm (UTC)
celli: a woman and a man holding hands, captioned "i treasure" (Default)
From: [personal profile] celli
You know, I have not wanted to write Inception fic, but now I am ALL OVER writing about Yusef. *plots* Thank you so much!

Date: 2010-09-24 09:50 pm (UTC)
gorgeousnerd: (Ariadne.)
From: [personal profile] gorgeousnerd
I saw this linked on my network page, and thank you for posting it; I've been wanting good Yusuf fic so much. *mems for later*

Date: 2010-09-25 02:57 am (UTC)
raz0rgirl: inception - yusuf - mad science is srs bzns (inception - yusuf - mad science)
From: [personal profile] raz0rgirl
much love for this post.

Date: 2010-09-25 09:26 pm (UTC)
candidlily: "you mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling" (inception arthur/eames sitting)
From: [personal profile] candidlily
I love everything about this post! It helps me a lot, because I'm writing an AU and I wanted to get Yusuf's characterization down well for my 'verse.

What I love about Yusuf is that he's confident, brilliant, and has a sense of humor. I always love the humor. His wry smile and easygoing demeanor, his friendship with Eames, I love all of it! I don't ship Yusuf/Eames, but I do want more fic of them being BFFs. It's the way I always write them, anyway.

Thanks for the recs! I'll definitely check them out. This post makes me want to write Yusuf even more now. :D

Date: 2010-09-27 07:22 pm (UTC)
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
[personal profile] bossymarmalade has just posted the wonderful Mine I'll Leave To Chance -- my second thought (my first being "YAY!") was of your list. :)

Date: 2010-10-01 04:28 am (UTC)
sophinisba: Wee Gwen admires wee Merlin's magic! (gwen merlin by el_jamon)
From: [personal profile] sophinisba
Thank you for this awesome post!

I have a fanart rec for your list, The Chemist by [personal profile] zephre!

Date: 2010-10-04 08:24 am (UTC)
not_sally: Made for me! (Default)
From: [personal profile] not_sally
Just, massively awesome post.

Date: 2010-10-06 08:48 pm (UTC)
eppy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eppy
Preach, girl. Preach.

Date: 2010-10-07 12:22 am (UTC)
recrudescence: (yusuf)
From: [personal profile] recrudescence
This is such an informative post and I sort of regret not making one of my own. Yusuf needs all the support he can get. I'm miffed that he's the only one without a BAMF mosaic poster and I was hoping I was actually wrong about that and just hadn't seen the Yusuf-centric promo...but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I do feel a little bad for writing about him and Eames smoking up in their down time, since I had no idea stoner!Yusuf was such a fannish trope (mainly because there were only about two and a half Yusuf fics that I knew about at the time), but I do think having a healthy supply of drugs nearby can be very helpful when it comes to dealing with Eames in close quarters.

(no subject)

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