After watching the Uploaded documentary in class with Parry Shen, I became interested in his movie where he challenged the model minority stereotype. I decided to watch the movie last weekend and it was nothing like what I had expected! Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) is a film about Asian Americans overachievers with a crime life on the side. The film is directed by Justin Lin starring some famous actors including Parry Shen, John Cho, Sung Kang, Jason Tobin, and Roger Fan. Here is the trailer and a link to the Wikipedia page for the film.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie so I’ll only address topics that has been already covered by the synopsis and the trailer. The main characters in the movie are straight A students which serves as their alibi. As long as they were getting good grades, no one would suspect them. The movie serves to explain that you never know what anyone is capable of. You can’t assume that someone must behave a certain way because they fit the stereotypical profile An honor roll student can also be involved in crime just like the characters in this movie.
This movie must have been groundbreaking during its time because it was the first film ever acquired by MTV. Think about it. This movie was completely focused around a group of Asian kids breaking the stereotypes of nerdy geeks and MTV wanted it. It must have been great for people to watch and think, “This is really exciting!” Fellow Asians could rejoice in watching a film where Long Duck Dong isn’t the comic relief that the whole audience laughs at. I would have been very excited to see mainly Asians starring on a channel such as MTV since they usually show hip hop culture.
The title of my blog was taken directly from the lyrics of “Asian Girlz” by the band Day Above Ground. Believe it or not, “I love your sticky rice… Butt fucking all night!” are the first two lines of the song after the intro. I could go on and on with their lyrics such as “Korean barbeque… bitch I love you” and “superstitious feng shui shit”. There are just too many things wrong with the song, music video, and messages. The artists made an “apology” (although it was hardly an apology) stating that there was no harm intended and that the song was obviously a satirical piece to laugh about. Still, there is no excusing any of the explicit offenses they made in their song “Asian Girlz”.
While watching the music video in class, I thought “Oh no, this is going to be bad…” as soon as I saw an all-Caucasian band repeating “Asian girl… she’s my Asian girl”. It just got so much worse from there. The inspiration of the title of my blog comes directly from the first two lines of the song, “I love your sticky rice… butt fucking all night!” There is no reason for them to pair sticky rice and butt fucking in their lyrics. It actually might be the most offensive thing you could say to an Asian and a woman. What they are doing is picking out random Asian items and naming referencing them aimlessly.
In class we talked about Avril Lavigne defending her love for Japan’s culture by saying she likes sushi, sake, and Hello Kitty. Appropriation is the act of picking things from a culture out of context and failing to understand its cultural significance. Many artists these days borrow Asian culture in order to convey an exotic theme in their work. This ends up becoming a hodgepodge of different cultures including taiko drums from Japan, the dance of a thousand hands from China, and many more. Videos like this are the reason why the Asian race is so commonly confused and interchangeable in popular culture! Instead of selecting one culture and sticking with it, there is a pick and choose anything that seems “Asian”.
My friends talked about this show a few years back describing it as an “Asian Jersey Shore”. After finally watching the show, I’m not quite sure what to think of it. I like how the show takes place in Koreatown because I’m from a city not too far from Los Angeles so the areas look familiar. I’ve only seen the first two episodes but so far the characters seem fake and forced. One of the girls in the show is a hair stylist and she’s had at least three lines talking about doing someone’s hair. I think the show is really trying to create these “profiles” for every character. In the title sequence, they showcase the characters with a title by their name such as Jowe, “The Heartbreaker”. I feel like these reality shows make the characters act rowdy and sometimes foolishly on purpose for our entertainment. We’re supposed to watch them and laugh at their misfortunes which makes it hard for the audience to take them seriously. Although it breaks some stereotypes about Asian Americans being quiet and well-behaved, partying and drinking isn’t exactly a positive image.
With over 1.6 million views, the show has only 4,773 likes compared to the 5,716 dislikes. There are also many negative comments including, “Get this trash off T.V – This is not how your average Korean-American acts and it’s definitely not how Koreans in Korea act!” and “im embarrassed for my fellow koreans. why do they have to be so douchey”. I think this show is interesting for journey through Koreatown and Los Angeles but it should also be taken lightly in order to be enjoyed.
The documentary Uploaded by Kane Diep opened my eyes to the undeveloped marketplace for aspiring Asian American artists. Talent wasn’t enough back in the early 2000’s according to Parry Shen, an Asian American actor in Better Luck Tomorrow (2002). I’ve never taken into consideration what goes through an actor’s head while searching for roles. I don’t know what I would do in the situation if I was given a stereotypical role and it was the only offer I’ve received. Ken Watanabe might cringe looking back at his performance in Sixteen Candles (1984), but it might have contributed to his fame and success today. With this in mind, I can’t place the entire blame on an actor for “selling out” because at the end of the day somebody is going to fill that role and it’s better to have someone compromise with the script.
The second topic I want to talk about is the influence of YouTube on Asian American expression. In the documentary, artists of all types including dancers, singers, comedians, and filmmakers all share the same passion and talent in their work. The problem is that there hasn’t been a profitable “market” for Asian American artists in the past. With the introduction of YouTube, they are able to reach millions of people from the click of a link. I remember the old days of Xanga and Myspace where videos and funny images could be shared between friends so only people you knew could see your posts. It would be impossible for upcoming artists to branch out and become heard. In today’s world, not only can videos be seen, there can also be direct communication between the artists and their audiences. I think its amazing how passionate and open-minded some of these stars are with their work. They really want to hear the people and deliver what they want which is why I think YouTube has been so successful in the Asian American movement.
On Monday this week we briefly discussed the extent of Asian American representation in the adult film industry. First, we talked about what pornography is and what fuels its popularity. Men make up the majority of people running the industry such as the directors and producers who earn most of the profits. This means that films are marketed by men and for men. However, an Asian American woman named Annabel Chong challenged this statement in a very interesting way. I was very confused at first at how the world’s largest gang bang could be a good thing! She wore a plain white shirt with the word “slut” scribbled on the front proudly despite the negative denotative meaning of the name. I think her objective was to project an outrageous statement that she is a free-spirited woman who is comfortable with her sexuality and unafraid of getting what she wanted. In a way, wearing the shirt allowed her to embrace her own choices and silence any critics who disagreed with actions. I personally didn’t think a gang bang could have a deeper meaning so Annabel’s story was informative.
The other short film we sampled in class was Forever Bottom. I was dumbfounded the entire five minutes or so as we watched the man imitate sex with only his movements and sounds. I couldn’t make reason for why the camera was positioned the way it was or why it occurred at various locations. Judging by the energy and intensity of his acting, I believe that the message is that being on the receiving end of sex doesn’t make the person a victim, inferior, or weak. There is strength in choosing what you like even if it appears submissive. Similar to Annabel Chong, the man in the bottom position goes against popular opinion to prove that there is no proper standard and that preferences may vary from person to person.
The episode this week seemed pretty dull and generic compared to the previous episodes this season. There were very little references to Asian American culture so this episode could have been an episode starring any modern family. I couldn’t relate to the sex education lessons given by the parents because my parents never gave me “the talk”. I think they just realized at a certain point that I’ve seen and learned enough from movies and television. I thought it was unusual that the show suggested that the white parents used unrealistic metaphors such as the watering pail or whatever it was. I respect Eddie’s father for being upfront with the topic and not beating around the bush because it can be even more confusing for the kid. I think it’s best to be straightforward and explain what needs to be known without sugarcoating the words.
I’ve noticed that my family and other Asians can be very blunt and critical in their words. If my aunt thinks I’m too skinny and my brother has gotten fatter, that will be the first things she says to us after seeing us. However, her words aren’t meant as an insult. The words are meant to be taken lightly and are usually laughed off by everybody. I feel like it can be helpful to have a little friendly reminder of what people think because I wouldn’t want everybody to lie and say my new haircut looks nice if it looks like a joke. I also see the downside of being too blunt because sometimes I listen to conversations between my family and I’m shocked nobody seems offended at some of the things they say about each other.