Friday, April 22, 2011

(Let's Talk About Sex Baby)-Let's talk 'bout Asians on Glee! Pt. 1

This is my first real review of a TV show or film.  There is so much to talk about with Glee, that I am going to do two parts.  Today, I am going to just talk about Tina and Mike, but in the second post I am going to focus on Charice/Sunshine's presence on the show and her return this week (finally!)  I am pretty FREAKING excited to get down to business! Especially since I get to talk about
Glee.                Glee.              Glee
There are SO MANY THING I COULD SAY ABOUT GLEE!  I can say that I love watching the musical numbers.  I can say that I love the jokes and the humor and Brittany's one liners.  But I am really excited tonight because I am going to talk about Glee's portrayal of Asians.  I can also say that I'm pretty excited to do this review tonight, especially after an episode last night that actually featured three (non related) Asians!  THREE ASIANS!! PUT THAT ON YOUR LIST/HAND (to understand this strange reference read this post).  There are also some criticisms I can make about Glee, not limited to the garbled plot lines that the haters like to consistently point to (they just don't understand the magic)  Soooooooo there are two regular, reoccurring Asian characters on Glee:


 Tina Cohen-Chang                                 Mike Chang

Tina is kind of a goth girl who used to have a fake stutter (sometimes she's referred to as "Asian").  Mike Chang was a football player who loves dancing (and has beautiful abs) (sometimes referred to as "other Asian").  The actors that portray them are Jenna Ushkowitz and Harry Shum Jr. Jenna is Korean American actress who was adopted when she was a small child (thus the non Asian last name) and raised in New York.  Harry is a Chinese American actor who was originally born in Costa Rica, but moved to California around 5 years old.  He speaks not only English, but also Cantonese and Spanish!

When Kurt was trying to find his African American friend Mercedes a date/boyfriend he pointed to a black guy, Mercedes' response was, "Why him? Oh, I guess it has nothing to do with the fact that he's one of the five black guys in our school?" (The Substitute).  African American characters often have to deal with being paired up together romantically.  Asian women and Asian men have another problem. called it the "Me Love You Long Time" Trope

When a story features a Western guy and an Asian girl, the guy gets the girl. It's that simple. Even — especially — if he's the only white guy and everyone else is Asian, possibly as a side effect of the Mighty Whitey [those . And if the multiethnic cast features one or several Asian guys, forget about them, they aren't even competition. The title refers to the (in)famous pick-up line used by the Vietnamese prostitute on Sergeant Joker in Full Metal Jacket -
This is a sad sad thing, especially what it ultimately says about the desirability of Asian men in comparison to the desirability of white men.  The white men are perceived as attractive because of their whiteness.  I am more concerned and disturbed by the fallout that Asian guys have had to deal with as a consequence.  I am also guilty of falling into this horrible projection of media.  I have to admit that for the greater part of my adolescence (okay, in reality up until like a month ago when I realized this was part of a stereotype) being always attracted to white guys and not to Asian guys.  I just never saw them in that way, and I can point to the fact that all the movies and tv shows I ever saw only painted white guys as attractive boyfriends or husbands.  Dear Asian men, I am sorry for not giving you the chance you deserved.  You have my full attention now-please prove yourselves.  

Anyway, getting back on topic-
 "Asian male sexuality is often portrayed negatively or as non existent. Although Asian women are frequently portrayed as positive romantic partners for white men ("Sayonara," "The World of Suzie Wong," ad infinitum), Asian men are almost never positively paired with women of any race. Western society still seems to view Asian male sexuality as a problem. Consequently, Asian men are usually presented either as threatening corrupters of white women or as eunuchs lacking any romantic feelings. For example, in the action movie "Showdown in Little Tokyo," the Asian villain forces himself upon a white woman and murders her before threatening the Asian female love interest. Predictably, the white hero kills the Asian villain and "wins" the Asian woman--while the hero's Amerasian sidekick is given no love life at all."- MANAA
All this talk about harmful Asian stereotypes is working up to a discussion of Tina and Mike's relationship.  Their characters confront all of these issues.  Tina was dating Artie (a white guy in a wheelchair) in season one.  He treated her horribly, so she dumped him and started to go out with Mike Chang.  The story is that they both worked at at "Asian Camp" over the summer and that Tina fell in love with his abs.  

This completely defies the romantic stereotypes.
1) The inattentive white boy gets dumped
2) The Asian girl ends up with the Asian guy

Instead of the reverse happening, Asian girl, Asian guy, and white guy stealing Asian girl, its the other way around!  Yay!!!! Not just that, Mike Chang is shown as a great boyfriend.  So much in fact that Tina has to "cool down" during one of their makeout sessions with the episode's gag featuring fantasty/nightmares of Coach Beiste.  Though its not to say that they don't have their arguments or problems.  One funny and telling moment during the episode "Duets" involved Tina's frustration with the fact that whenever they go out, its always for dim sum with his mom.  She wants to go to a restaurant and get a salad without chicken feet in it.  Mike then says that they should go to Asian couples therapy with Tina replying "Why does the couples therapy have to be Asian?"

Tina is addressing a symptom of their great Asian-Asian relationship- their relationship is all about how their both Asian.  Of course this scene is really funny, but it also directly addresses whats probably going on in most of America's heads which is, "of course! Asians date Asians, they are inaccessible to white people, just like black people".  I do have to say, this is one of the few times when I feel like the minority is dating up, Mike Chang is soooo much hotter than Tina (He was rated 35th on Sexiest TV actors for 2010) and has made himself pretty attractive to many white girls-he dances AND he has beautiful abs!  The writers of Glee have even taken it upon themselves by addressing the problem to possibly help it.  (and in a way that was also very funny. I AM APPLAUDING YOU!)  They also brought to light the way that they're known as "Asian" and "Other-Asian" by using it in the TV show (this is called lampshading).

When Tina and Mike first come back to school after the summer and are asked whether or not they're dating Tina replies, "Cause were both Asian? That's racist!"  They then proceed to hold hands.  FUNNY and also affective! 

It's great to see these regular, reoccurring characters on Glee.  There are so many good things, and I could complain a little about how they rarely receive dialogue or song solos.  Because.  Its sad that there are very few Asian characters who can really be seen as principals in a show.  But if any Glee fans are honest, we can all complain about the fact that Rachel, Finn, and Mr. Schuster pretty much dominate the screen most of the time (especially Rachel).  Tina and Mike receive screen time than even some of the other Glee club members, its like they're third string behind second string Warblers/Kurt/Blaine/Cheerios (because face it, America wants to see more homosexual Brittany/Santana and Kurt/Blaine lovin' than Asians) behind first string Rachel and Finn.  Mercedes can be lumped with Tina and Mike in the fact that they really represent the token minorities.  Token minorities are mostly used in an attempt to appeal to a wider demographic.  Tina, Mike, and Mercedes are practically forgotten most of the time, which is sad.  We're kind of there, just to be your token minorities.  Its hard with Tina because Mike is such a great dancer that its kind of his "thing".  Can an Asian hold the spotlight, can we be more than the backup dancer? Can we be the protagonist of the story?

that is one of the big things that I am disappointed about, but I have to admit that you can't win them all.  Everything in life has its good and its bad.  At least here, the good can be celebrated and the bad addressed.  AND Sunshine/Charice is kind of a subversion to that issue, but that's for the next post!  Glee is a show that prides itself on showcasing the losers of our world.  I can say that I am happy about this, and its probably one of the reasons that this show has a more generally more progressive portrayal of Asian Americans.  I can't help but be sad about the fact that some losers are more losers than others (we're all asking ourselves the question why the whole show is centered around Lea Michele?).

The following is going to my rating system I'm going to use.  The more rice bowls there are the better.  The maximum amount of rice bowls a show can have will be 5.

Glee's overall rating is
Three and a half Rice Bowls for actually having Asians and also addressing/confronting/defying stereotypes

I'll have my second part up about Charice/Sunshine and why her presence on Glee is awesome next!

That Asian Girl

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life is Better in Color: Why Colorblindness is the Problem, not the Solution

The name of this blog is, "Life in Color" for a reason.  Colorblindness is a major problem in the world of multi-racial individuals.

In the backlash of the movement against racism, the civil rights movement, and most white people being scared of being racist, colorblindness has floated to the surface of society.  Most of the time, people think of the term colorblindness as a good thing.  If they want to commend an individual for their progressive thinking in the area of race relations (or more commonly exclaim that they are not racist) they will say that they're colorblind.  The truth is for minorities and racial and ethnic groups this is no favor.

But lets strictly define colorblindness first.  It is what it sounds like, seeing individuals or people without regard to their ethnic background, everyone is colorless.

I think that there are several things fundamentally wrong with this seemingly helpful solution to race relations.  For one, colorblindness can be directly traced a core belief that sees "whiteness" as a standard to existence in America.  The idea is that minorities should receive the same sort of treatment as white people.  That minorities should receive what is essentially white privilege.  It points to whites as the solution, as the goal, as the answer, but the truth is that this is going to bleach all the color, the life, and the individuality of a person.

I want to say, " NO, I am not white, and I am perfectly okay with that.  I do not need to conform the culture, the life, and the expectations that white America has set as the standard. Why can't I in my Asian Americanness be just as American, just as normal in my own skin as Caucasian Americans?  Don't tell me that I need to change, I don't need to be white to be American"

And that is the battle that we're fighting today.  Because the truth is that this is an underhanded form of discrimination that forces the minorities to change to be more like White America, essentially saying that our culture, our color, and our existence isn't valid until it becomes like theirs.  Instead of saying that we're "colored people" now, they're saying that everyone is essentially white through colorblindness, the same fight only an inverted statement.  And the saddest thing is that white people don't even know that this is a problem or that they're doing it!  It's just another part of white privilege.  You can't just pretend that a person isn't a minority-its an insult to them as a person: their experiences, their life, and their culture.

We don't want to become this white washed facade that White America creates so that they can sleep better at night knowing that they treated the Asian Americans like white people.  We want to be appreciated, not cast aside, not side handedly told to change.  Why would you want your country to grow duller and duller when we can add the spice of color and culture?  You can't pretend that people are all the same when people are different.  Eventually, those unacknowledged differences are going to arise and there are going to do be difficulties addressing them.

In fact, part of what I think can be pointed to as a Pro-Color movement that has unconsciously arisen for "brown people" and "yellow people".  There are many other ways to define yourself or name your ethnic group but this conscious colorful decision says something to the fight against colorblindness.

I know that while people mean the best, equality has been pushed so far that it crushes individuality which I believe is at the heart of true respect.  When equality is taken to the degree of similarity, you get stuff like the Cultural Revolution in China, dancers' feet being crushed and painter's hands being broken.  People are not all the same, nor will they ever be the same no matter how "post-race" you want a culture to become, trying to make it so that everyone is the same, is only going to break them.

After my first two semesters at my college, I felt like I was either only "That Asian Girl" or "white".  I need a medium between being a stereotype and deciding to become a faceless, colorless assimilation into white culture.  (the reason why the url is  The truth is that as much as people want to believe that they can be "colorblind" they can't because you see in color.  It just makes people awkward trying to do something that isn't part of their natural cognitive process.  As much as you try to be colorblind, your conception and consciousness of color is going to leak through.  Its better to just acknowledge that a person is who they are-its the only way to really build strong relationships.

and its hard, or at least its harder than the two extremes because it requires you to toss out stereotypes and standards on both ends and to actually take the time to appreciate and accept an individual as that, an individual.  I know that I've seen this naturally occur with really good friends of mine, they know me well enough to understand that my entire essence of being is not defined by my ethnic background, but they know and acknowledge that it exists and makes my life different than theirs.  I have different sets of knowledge, tastes, and personal experiences that they know exist.  They can love me, all of me-not just a  white facade that has been produced to simplify their relationship with me.

Life without color is just black and white, and it has left a wake of devaluation and destruction in its midst. Its not the real answer to multi-cultural interactions.  And I know that I am very critical in this blog, but I'd like to point out that America struggles with racism and race relations more than most countries because of the fact that we are so diverse.  Most countries have a very homogeneous population that has much smaller manifestations of minority groups.  The struggles that we face are just a part of living life together.  I know that it is cause for a lot of conflict and trouble, but I would like to believe that we are better for it in the end.  One of my core beliefs is that one's strengths are also one's weakness.  We just have to address the weakness that come with our strengths and be aware of them so that we can combat them.

I am going to finish with one of my favorite quotes from an interview with African American CCM artist, Nicole C. Mullen.  She is married to a white man, and she has a lot of perspective on what its like to live in a colorful, mixed world, as her children as biracial.

“‎People are valuable regardless of the color of their skin. You can be open about it and talk about it. You don’t have to pretend that you are not different, but you can learn about those differences… God didn’t say, ‘Ooh, I made you brown on accident.’ He made them that color on purpose. And if you do not have friendships with other races, then ask God to bring you some. He will.”- Nicole C. Mullen
I can't help but feel like this is a really big, real issue that we face in day to day life.  Please pass this on if you think I say something worth reading, something worth discussing.  I would like to see the approach to race relations change.  I know that it's had a part in changing me and the way I look at the world around me.

I can go on and on about my own anecdotal experiences with struggling with colorblindness when looking at myself, but I don't feel like this is the time or place for it.  If you're interested in hearing it, let me know, drop some contact info, and I'll be happy to talk to you about it.  Leave a comment.  What are your thoughts on colorblindness? What are your own experiences? That's all for now.

That Asian Girl

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Small Slanty Eyes Do Not Equate to Inherent Evil.

A new television ad about the U.S. national debt produced by Citizens Against Government Waste has been deemed "too controversial" by major networks including ABC, A&E and The History Channel and will not be shown on those channels. The commercial is a homage to a 1986 ad that was entitled "The Deficit Trials" that was also banned by the major networks. Apparently telling the truth about the national debt is a little too "hot" for the major networks to handle. But perhaps it is time to tell the American people the truth. In 1986, the U.S. national debt was around 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 14 trillion dollars. The American Dream is being ripped apart right in front of our eyes, but apparently some of the major networks don't want the American people to really understand what is going on.
The truth is that the ad does not even have anything in it that should be offensive. The commercial is set in the year 2030, and the main character is a Chinese professor that is seen lecturing his students on the fall of great empires. As images of the United States are shown on a screen behind him, the Chinese professor tells his students the following about the behavior of great empires: "They all make the same mistakes. Turning their backs on the principles that made them great. America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession. Enormous so-called "stimulus" spending, massive changes to health care, government takeover of private industries, and crushing debt."

Perhaps it is what the Chinese Professor says next that is alarming the big television networks: "Of course, we owned most of their debt, so now they work for us".

Last week, one of my friends asked me if I had seen this really antagonistic commercial negatively featuring Asians.  She said that she had seen it aired on the Weather Channel.  Once we read the description (featured here) underneath the video, it made a lot more sense.  I hadn't, but the commercial she described was the one above that I found later that night on television.  We then went to discuss the negative portrayal of Asians.

 As an American, I really agree with the problem that CAGW is addressing, uncontrolled government spending and a mounting national debt.  I told my friends that I was fine with the whole commercial until that last part.  It's not the words that the professor says, but the way he says it and the evil laughter following it that really creeps me out.

Its very obvious that the whole commercial is addressing the amount of money that China has lent the United States.  But it is also setting up China and the Chinese as the enemy with the last part.

The reason why my friend saw it on the Weather Channel was because all of the major networks were smart enough not to show this potentially offensive commercial.  I think that the reason why it was rejected was not due to the fact that someone is finally talking about the government debt, but because of those last few seconds that portray vilified Asians.  This vilification of Asians is part of the stereotypes that Asians often face in media.  If you start to think about it, you might find that there are a lot more Asian villans in movies than you realized.

The following is from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans

 For decades, Americans have viewed Asian immigrants as "taking" from this country without giving anything back. This perception was reinforced by early laws making it difficult for Asians to immigrate and impossible for them to become naturalized citizens. Although these laws have since been repealed, the image of the Asian as alien predator still infuses popular media. In the movie "Falling Down," for example, the white main character accuses a Korean grocer of draining American resources without bothering to fit into American society. This accusation "justifies" the lead character's destruction of the Korean's grocery store. Similarly, the movie "Rising Sun" portrays Japanese businessmen taking over American industry by murder and deceit. And countless movies and TV episodes have portrayed Chinatowns as breeding grounds of crime.Stereotype-Buster:Asians as positive contributors to American society.... 

Another major female stereotype views Asian women as inherently scheming, untrustworthy, and back-stabbing. This portrayal is nicknamed the "dragon lady," after the Asian villainess in the vintage comic strip "Terry and the Pirates." Other examples of the stereotype are the daughter of Fu Manchu (in numerous books and movies) and the gangsters' molls in "The Year of the Dragon."Stereotype-Buster: Whenever villains are Asian, it's important that their villainy not be attributed to their ethnicity.
So this commercial plays into that overused and overplayed stereotype of Asian villainy and leeching.  The truth is that there are a lot of Americans that are Asian who care a lot about the dangerous amount of debt that the United States is mounting, we do not need to create an antagonistic and usurping role for Asians.  I know that the commercial is supposed to be set in the future, and that the Chinese people depicted are supposed to represent a classroom in China, but to be honest, it looked like the guy was teaching at a classroom at UC Berkeley.  I bet that all of those actors were Asian Americans!  This is setting us up to be targeted in our own home,  America.

The only way that I can liken this is to the singling out of many Arab Americans and Muslims after September 11th.  Just because an individual is Muslim or Arabic, it doesn't directly imply that they want to see the destruction of the United States of American in a Ji-had.  In the same way, Asian Americans don't want to see American fall any less than the average American, and this antagonistic, vilifying portrayal of Asians is just setting us up for another Inquisition in the wake of a problem that at the root is not in China.  We are spending the money, China is just buying it up.  The commercial is shifting the focus from changing our own behaviors to targeting the Chinese.  And I think that is the problem.  That is the reason why major networks won't show it, because they're smart enough to know how potentially offensive, controversial, and racist this could be and for that, I say thank you.

That Asian Girl

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Drowsy Chaperone (what is it about we asians that mystifies caucasians?)

I know that I said that this blog was mostly going to address film and television, but this weekend, I attended the musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" at my school, Belmont University, and it ended up bringing up some core Asian American issues in musical theater.  Several of my friends were in it and encouraged me to go.  I found it hilarious, endearing, and wonderful.  I can comment on the performance, but the caliber of the play's writing was what really drew me in.  The entire play is a homage/satire American musicals of the Jazz age (which I have to say are my FAVORITE. and I LOVE THEM).  One of the most charming parts of the play is the layout that the audience sees the entire audience experiences.  The narrator, the man in the chair, is a knowledgable fan of the work and gives his own little commentary over the musical that he loves so much.  All of the cliches and stereotypes of this genre are not only used but exposed, ridiculed, and in some ways endeared.  Because despite all of the things there are to be ridiculed and satired in the musicals of the Jazz age, we love them (or at least I love them, and the man in the chair).

So I can go on and on discussing the different characters, archetypes, and stereotypes that are addressed in the Drowsy Chaperone (after all, they are so much fun), but what I really want to talk about the way that The Drowsy Chaperone addressed racial stereotypes of Asians.

The man in the chair accidentally puts up the wrong record, and another musical begins to play, one called "A Message from a Nightingale" which is about a Chinese emperor who is given a message from a nightingale that he is supposed to marry his American elocutionist (somewhat of a throwback to the musical "The King and I".  The little scene features a lot of the cliched Chinese accents and mannerisms that are used in musical theatre like in the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

The man in the chair addresses some of the basic problems in the depictions of Asian Americans in musical theatre.  For instance, the narrator comments on the fact that the musical is, "a slap in the face to 4000 years of Chinese history".  The musical also shows how often times non Asian actors are cast to play Asian characters, and in order to fully identify (and fully insult), gross stereotypes and caricatures are created and exploited.  Part of the problem that producers face when they don't actually cast Asian actors in Asian roles is this gross overcompensation in order to insure that the audience has no problem identifying the character as Asian.  I remember watching this excellent film called "Shanghai Kiss" that I plan on reviewing in the future (you can watch it for free on Hulu, as a warning, it is rated M for Mature) where protagonist, a Asian American actor, has problems getting roles for Asians because he is not "Asian enough" for roles that have nothing to do with being Asian (like a commercial for toothpaste).  This expectation and stereotype is a problem because of these over stereotyped and caricatured representations of Asians.  But the man in the chair comments on the fact that the man who plays the Chinese emperor often plays various "exotic and ethnic" characters.  He was"the man of a thousand accents, all of them insulting".

One of my friends who is in the musical was telling me before I went about "the racist song" they sing with the lines, "What is it about the Asians that fascinates Caucasians?  What is it about the Asians that's so nice? Is it the won tons? The egg rolls? The rice?  Perhaps it's Buddha or Confucius and their excellent advice". 

Obviously, this song features many racist elements, but the wonderful thing is that this play is mocking and making fun of them.  The irony and the satire that the entire musical is in the context of are a great (excuse the pun) stage for these things to be presented upon.  (I don't think that she got that it was actually making fun of people being racist, but that's okay, I love her anyway).

I do have to say the entire theater burst out laughing during this number, and my friends who were with me were thinking of me and looking at me the whole time to see how I was reacting.  I thought the whole commentary was well played and quite clever.  There is a whole history of problems with racial stereotypes in musical theater, and it is addressed in this play.  

I love it when music, theater, film, and television makes fun of itself.  I love seeing stereotypes and cliches berated and mocked.  They're not only effectively funny, but they are also great commentary on the expectations and representations we create.  (it's why I love 30 Rock, but that's a whole 'nother post)

This review is a bit of a break between a lot of the demands, theories, and thoughts on systematic problems.  It shows that there are a lot of places besides Hollywood (like Broadway) that reinforce negative stereotypes and put up walls for Asians in show business.  I will address more of the general problems in coming posts as well.  But to end on a humorous note....

This play reminded me of a SNL sketch that I love called "Save Broadway"

This sketch makes fun of a lot of the cliches that Broadway musicals have.  It's really funny for anyone who knows musical theater really well.  My favorite part is where the Phantom says, "For the record, Broadway is an inclusive place, no one here is racist".

 I remember being like fourteen and talking to my drama director about my frustration that I would not be able to play "normal" roles as an actress.  She looked and me and said, "I know that you just want to act, and its no consolation, but you would be great in Miss Saigon". 

And on that note, I say thanks for reading. Leave a comment. 

That Asian Girl.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"I'm From Michigan"

Tina Fey is my favorite comediean/comedy writer.  I love everything she's done.  Mean Girls, 30 Rock, her work on SNL.  I also love to quote Mean Girls, and my favorite quote that no one knows  is a quote that I like to whip out is, "I'm from Michigan".  Now, why you may ask do I use this frequently?  Well.  Today, I'm going to talk about the "perpetual foreigner" issue (got that term from Wikipedia! you gotta love Wikipedia).   When I found this I was like, this is an excellently phrased, poignent explanation of how I feel and what I have experienced.

There is a widespread perception that Asian Americans are not "American" but are instead "perpetual foreigners".[115][116] Asian Americans often report being asked the question, "Where are you really from?" by other Americans, regardless of how long they or their ancestors have lived in United States. Many Asian Americans are themselves not immigrants but rather born in the United States. Many are asked if they are Chinese or Japanese, an assumption based on major groups of past immigrants.[116][117]
This is how the conversation goes...

Nondescript white person: So where are you from?
That Asian Girl: I'm from Michigan.
Nondescript white person: No, where are you like, from, from?
That Asian Girl: Oh, well, my family is from Taiwan, but I was born here.  (here it comes...) I'm from Michigan.

The reason why I love that quote is because its an example of another kind of stereotyping but with an African American student.  The ironic thing about that is those kind of assumptions and questions are really common with Asian Americans.

This is how a conversation with two nondescript white people goes...

Nondescript white person 1: So where are you from?
Nondescript white person 2 : Michigan, what about you?
Nondescript white person 1: Texas.

No questioning.  No asking about family's green cards, country of origin, or immigration history want to know why, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE WEIRD.  People just assume that you're from here and you belong here.  So I have to ask the question, why don't we belong here? Why can't you just see us as being a part of what is America?

I don't dress differently, I don't speak differently (well, only the fact that my English is better than the average American!)

Asian Americans have been in the United States as early as the 18th century.  I can admit that its not half as insulting for me since my parents did come over from Taiwan, but if you're like the 8th or 9th generation Asian American, that's really insulting. HECK, your family has been here longer than a lot of white people.  Before I found the term "perpetual foreigner",  I had been calling it the oh so poignant, "Go back to where you came from" problem because essentially what people are saying by refusing to accept Asian Americans as Americans is that you don't belong here and you should go back to where you came from (true story, some people said that to my parents one time, and they've been living in America longer than any other place in the world).

The thing is, I love America.  I LOVE America.  This is my home.  This is the only place I've ever known.  But this breaks my heart because its the same old same old unrequited love affair.  I love America, I want America, I am devoted and committed to America.  But America, do you love me, do you want me? Do you see me as your own? Well, you have a funny way of expressing that.  And if I'm honest, this really hurts, and it creates this disconnect that I've experienced and I think I can safely say a lot of other Asian Americans have experienced.

I think that the media has been a really important part of shaping this.  Often times, Asian characters are portrayed as foreigners, we can't just be realistically Asian American.  There is nothing in media to reflect the fact that we are just Americans, here to stay like everyone else to us or to the rest of America.  We don't hear it.  They don't hear it.  No one believes it.

And so we're stuck.  We can't "go back to where we came from" because this is our home.  We don't belong in Asia.  We visit our family, blah blah blah, but we all know that we've grown up in a different place with different culture, values, and language.  In Asia, we're Americans.  In America, we're Asians. When is this country going to start believing that we are Americans and that we're here to stay?

The society continues to produce individuals who only seems to look at Asian Americans as these perpetual foreigners (See Alexandra Wallace post) because of the portrayals of Asian Americans in media.  Then those individuals go into the media and create what they know.  It is circular, chickens and eggs.  The only way to break these sorts of cycles is an active attempt at education and change. While I think that the media's attitude to Asian Americans has been a large part of the issue,  I think that there has been progress in media, and I want to start reviewing, commending, and praising those works that are showing what I think are balanced and accurate representations of Asian Americans.

In my other post about the lack of Asian American actors, I said that Jackie Chan didn't count because he was from Hong Kong.  I am going to explain that now.

One of the most frustrating things is that most people will ask, "Whats the difference?" "Why does it matter?"

WELL. There is a big difference between an American actor with an Irish heritage and an Irish actor.  The most obvious is the accent, but there is a whole perspective that comes from a cultural upbringing.  People don't really see that with Asians which is an example of one of the symptoms of the "Perpetual Foreigner Syndrom".  Also, there is a fundamental difference in the way that he achieved success.  Jackie Chan is an example of what is popularly known as "Crossover success".  Because an entertainer is popular in one genre or area (this case Asia), their success carries over into other areas.  Only after becoming a prominent actor in Asia was Jackie Chan able to do his films in America, creating a completely different career base.  This is NOT the answer for Asian Americans.  We can't all just go over to Asia to establish a career and hope that the people back home will then notice us, we should be able to build a career here at home.

Is it so much to ask?

Right now it feels like it is, but it shouldn't be.

If you agree, if you DISAGREE, if you have any thoughts, ideas, feelings, leave a comment. it'll be much appreciated.

That Asian Girl

Friday, April 1, 2011

Responding to the Rant (Racist UCLA Girl situation ect.) [you are so dumb, you are really dumb, for real]

Alright, so unless you've been living under a hole, or you're white, and you haven't heard about this youtube video.  Here's a copy of what the topic of discussion is today just to get you caught up.

There are so many things that we can address in regards to this whole situation but today, I would like to cover three.

1) the insulting comments made in the video itself
2) what the video says about common perceptions of Asian Americans
3) the Asian American community's reaction to the situation

This topic at this point has kind of been over done by a lot of youtubers and such, but I think it is an interesting case study that deserves a timely analysis and review.  I know I'm coming late to the party, but better late than never? Plus, as I said, a lot of my white friends have yet to hear about this sensation. So this is my two and a ha-penny cents for them (its funny how when you're the only Asian in your group of friends how they address all things Asian to you, not that I'm complaining, but I am honestly the token Asian)

The first time I saw/heard of this video was when it came up on my news feed.  One of my friends from back home in Michigan (who's actually white) posted it.  Though politically incorrect, the only lighthearted response I felt like I could give was, "I'm sorry, i couldn't hear anything she was saying, her boobs were too loud".  (not hatin' on the ladies with the tatas, it was just kind of like watching Katy Perry perform, its just like BOOBS)

First, I would like to say, how stupid do you have to be to post a rant against Asians on the internet on Youtube. REALLY? DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ASIANS CONTROL YOUTUBE? One of the guys who CREATED Youtube is Asian. There is a part of me that really doesn't understand how people do things like this and think that they can get away with it.  Did you think white people at your school were just going to rally around you, that they were going to think it was funny to attack a group that is a significant part of your learning community? Did you think insensitively talking about the Tsunami in Japan was going to be FUNNY? THERE ARE MORE ASIAN PEOPLE AT YOUR SCHOOL THAN WHITE PEOPLE! I ACTUALLY FACT CHECKED THIS AT COLLEGEBOARD.

  • 34% Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 3% Black/Non-Hispanic
  • 16% Hispanic
  • 29% White/Non-Hispanic
  • 6% Non-Resident Alien
If your time at UCLA has not taught you to be sensitive about other ethnicities, I really don't understand what will.  But I'm not saying that you got what you deserved, but I'm just saying that this was obviously not well thought out about the potential consequences of something like this.

Alright, well let's talk about the content of the rant.  I have to admit that, while it is offensive, its not really really as racist as it could be.  If she had said that to some of her friends in a real life conversation, she probably could've gotten away with it, but girl, you're posting this on YouTube where people will blow up and scrutinize whatever you do.  

While reviewing the video, some of the stuff she said would have been perfectly acceptable if it had been an Asian talking about Asian culture.  The whole bit about our families being super involved in our lives is generally pretty true.  The thing is, filial piety is an important part of our culture, and we care about each other which is something you'll understand and appreciate (good parts and bad parts) if you really understood us.  I will be honest, I would make jokes about that myself, but the way that Ms. Wallace approached the topic, ridiculing our family values came across only as severely ignorant.  The next part, the main part of the rant about the people in the library just came across as horribly ironic.

I have to say for the record that I'm usually down for the Asian jokes, because to me, they're just jokes, but there are two things that I find offensive 

1) Jokes about Eyes
2) Caucasians making noises pretending to speak Chinese (that's because I'm Chinese).

"Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong"

 =_='' really? ugh. while her attempt to imitate an Asian language is painfully bad, in the end it really just makes you sound (again) stupid and ignorant.  And that whole part in the beginning saying that she's not politically correct, so don't take it offensively is kind of foolish.  Just because you say that doesn't mean that it forgives whatever you're about to say.  To be frank, this girl doesn't seem malicious, just really stupid (her boobs aren't helping the case if I'm honest). "This isn't directed towards my friends, just people I don't know."  That part didn't really help anyway because I feel like if she actually had some good Asian friends that she would have known better than to have done something so stupid.  (in the words of antoine dodson, You are so dumb, you are really dumb, for real"

It is always easy to mock, to ridicule the faceless crowd of them.  Life is different when all people are people to you, but this isn't the way that everyone approaches personal interactions.

The whole time she was complaining about Asian people talking on their cell phones in the library I was thinking, "most of the time there are people talking on their phones in the library, they're white girls that look like her".  This is the reaction that I've heard from many people.  Her bits about "Nice American girl with manners" is also a part that I found ironic and appalling as well as many of my friends.  Its ironic that you're saying that you're polite when you are being incredibly rude to a ethnic group that kind of runs the area you're from.  I think most people at this point will acknowledge that actions like that are actions of an individual and not that of an entire minority group which is the fundamental stereotype and generalization that ethnic groups can often receive.  

I heard a serious critique on YouTube where the girl tried to emphasis how the actions of an individual cannot be solely attributed to their race and their racial group.  To be honest, I think that people who talk on their phones in the library can be annoying.  Maybe part of the reason why these people talking on their phones are usually Asian is due to the fact that her school has more Asian people than white people.  But the fact that she blames these acts of individuals as a problem attributed to an entire minority group is what is so offensive.  The point this youtuber made was that the actions of an individual are just that, the actions of an individual.  Assumptions are what turn stereotypes into racism.  Stereotypes exist, its something that I think we all have to acknowledge to a certain extent, but its not allowing stereotypes to affect the way that you judge and treat individuals (that's called prejudice, aka pre-judging).  For me, one of the hardest things to deal with is the double edged sword that those of the majority (aka white people) ( in my opinion its a double edged sword due to affirmative action that assumes if you're a minority, you ARE interesting). Caucausians/whites are just people when you meet them.  Just people.  For me, there aren't a lot of things that I can tag onto them, which is nice for them.  No one will assume that because you're white, you're really good at math, piano, or violin.  No one assumes that you're "from the ghetto".  No one assumes that your parents are illegal immigrants.  No one assumes that you know Kung Fu, a gangster, or Spanish.  Of course, Caucasians have their own regional stereotypes like Valley Girls or Redneck southern hick, but for the most part, its white bread. Now, there are pros and cons to that.  The phrase "white bread" is just that.. white bread, its kind of bland.  A lot of times people like to joke about having spice or what not as a part of their culture! or heritage! (just like that, with !'s) but I believe that every person regardless of the color of their skin is interesting, and to get back to the original point, responsible for their own individual actions.

A really interesting thought that I've heard touched on in many comments and replies is the question of what "American Manners" are?  In fact, aren't American's known for being kind of rude and Asians for extreme politeness.  (I'm not saying that either are, but if we're dealing with stereotypes, that's what most people would probably side with).  

This leads me into my second point about understanding what underlying thoughts about Asian Americans shaped these thoughts and reactions.  The whole concept of American Manners implies in itself that all of these "Asians that brought their families from Asia" are not American.  The truth is that there's some Asian Americans at UCLA who's families have been in America longer than a lot of the white kids.  

<<<<<< rant about the perpetual foreigner syndrom to skip ahead, scroll down>>>>>>>

There's this misconception that something about us is apparently innately not American.  Here's a wake-up call for mainstream America, we are American.  I make a special point of using the term Asian American in this blog because I care about fostering a new understanding of the fact that I was born in Michigan. I am an American citizen.  I can be president.  My favorite joke, it really only works on people from Michigan is that if you put me and Jennifer Granholm together in a room and asked people who they thought would could possibly be president of the United States, they would pick Granholm when in reality, I can actually be President and she can't.  (for everyone else, Jennifer Granholm was the governor of Michigan, she is in fact, Canadian).  The truth is that the face of America is changing, and the general conception of what makes America, America needs to change.  We are here, and we are staying.  We're not going anywhere. This is my home, its the only place I've ever really known.  (I was planning on doing an entire post about the perpetual foreigner syndrom, I think I still will, but this is kind of a appetizer on the topic). To read more about the topic, check out my article "I'm From Michigan"


So what are American Manners? American manners are everything and everyone because we are America.  This is one of my biggest things about the media, this inability for Asian Americans to be regarded as that, Americans.  Her attitude, while antagonistic has a tinge of what I would like to call a "go back to where you came from" syndrom.  It essentially says that you don't belong here, and you should leave/learn/assimilate.  The beautiful thing about America is the fact that everyone comes here and learns and assimilates but also puts their own spice in the melting pot, that's what makes it delicious. It's one of the best things about America.

The truth is that I'm not even going to touch her comments about Japan.  That's just like saying that you like to kill puppies and kittens.  You do not bash natural disaster victims. Rule of Media/communications. DO NOT BASH NATURAL DISASTER VICTIMS.  it's not that she had malice against them, she just seems stupid (and after all of this I have to wonder how she actually got into UCLA).

I think perhaps the most fascinating thing about the whole situation is the way that the Asian American community has reacted.  Like I said earlier, if you're asian, you've heard about this, for sure.  Everyone has kind of risen up against this in one giant internet voice of fury.  There are the death threats of course against Ms. Wallace and what I can expect to be buckets of hate mail (sometimes I just wonder who actually has the time to sit down and write an angry letter, address it, stamp it, and send it to someone in this day and age?).  Sadly, Ms. Wallace actually ended up dropping out of UCLA after all of the fallout from the thing (i mean, if you're going to a school with more Asians than Caucasians and you rant against/don't like Asians its a good idea to leave) And being Asians who are extremely involved in the internet community, there about a million replies on youtube or parodies of her rant.  I think my favorite reply is probably this song by some guy named Jimmy (funny story, MY MOM  sent me a link to this youtube video)
I like this because its a nice lighthearted approach, gently mocking her.  Its funny. plain and simple.  Ms Wallace we don't all want you dead.  Most of us are pretty nice about it (if anything, our manners teach us to be extra polite and suck stuff up most of the time ( the way our mothers taught us ), I'm just sad that this ended up being the way thing turned out for her.  We need to educate America so that they can see that we're not this remote ethnic group that's going to go back to Asia any time soon.  This is where we belong, and the sooner that mainstream media can deal with it and start changing it all, the better. 

 It's just really easy to see how in these sorts of situations an entire minority composed of separate ethnic groups really just binds together and rises in a time like this.  It is very easy to see how much cohesion there is among Asian Americans on the internet.  I am pretty positive that almost every Asian American knows about this.  It's kind of crazy because I keep talking about it like everyone knows about this viral video but my very very white friends are like, 'What?'.   So, please, use your Asian American connections my friends, and pass the word on about this blog.  I would like to believe that one day, people other than my friends will read this. ha ha ha. i know.  

On a side note about Asians in the library, I like NEVER see Asians on campus here at Belmont, but when I go to the library, I will usually see at least one, its kind of nice to know that I'm not all alone and Asian (I swear I'm really not that emo), but I've never seen a single one on their phone.  It's funny, UCLA are also Bruins like Belmont, but they have WAY more Asians than us. Actually, its kind of crazy how excited I get when I see an Asian on campus.  There was this one time when i saw THREE ASIANS together.....

SueAnn Shiah
Bob fischer just gave me a double take. I know, i`m surprised when i see an Asian at Belmont too.
Oh yeah, I have a Twitter if any of you want to follow me for my sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, sometimes just weird tweets.

Anyway, this is my bit, special analysis of the situation.  I know its kind of scattered, but hopefully it gave you some insight about it.  I know that this is kind of overdone at this point, but what do YOU think about the whole situation/video.

That Asian Girl

P.S. out of many of the responses I have viewed on YouTube, there two are my favorite funny ones.

Two Asian Girls' Response
Funny Guy, don't watch if you're easily offended though.