When the Fung Bros music video for “626” was played in class, I was secretly fan-girling in my seat in class because I have been following The Fung Bros for the past year and I am a loyal fan of theirs. The video that attracted me to their channel was their “18 Types of Asian Girls” video, a hilariously accurate representation of stereotypical Asian American girls in their 20s. My friend sent me this video and I could name at least one friend for each type of Asian girl that was profiled. One thing that I love about their channel is that they promote Asian American pride and, even though they do poke fun at the media’s portrayal of Asian Americans, they address serious issues such as media portrayals with a sense of humor. Not surprisingly, Wendy Chang in her “Remapping Race in Suburban California” discussion showed a Fung Bros music video about the SGV to introduce the SGV to the audience. Upon doing more research on the Fung Bros, I found out that they are linked to the wildfire success of the name “Linsanity” and that they are originally from Washington and are not originally from the SGV area. In comparison to the other videos we watched in class, such as the Day Above Ground “Asian Girlz” and Chris Brown’s “Autumn Leaves”, the Fung Bros video had a completely different message and did not exoticize Asian culture nor combine all Asian culture as one whole culture.
This week in class we focused on examples of cultural appropriation. According to the reading, cultural appropriation is applied to a minority culture when the culture is viewed as subordinate or in any way inferior to the major culture. Before taking this class, I was always cognizant of appropriation around me but never questioned why this misrepresentation was produced. Truth is, you just have to follow the money. Media is produced for the masses and the masses is majority white audiences. In the eyes of media producers, having a minority lead will not be relatable or successful. In this week’s Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie is excited to hear there is another Asian kid at school but is disappointed to learn that the kid does not share the same Asian culture because he was adopted and raised by white parents. However, the principal pushes Eddie to become good friends with the kid just because they both look Asian. I liked how the two boys show two different identities of Asian American here in America. Eddie is a mixture of both Asian culture at home with his parents and American culture with his love for hip hop. Phillip is adopted and has had otherwise no touch with his Asian culture. While I thought this contrast between the two Asian boys showed that Asians are not all umbrella-titled under the same and that they can’t be considered all the same just because of physical qualities, Kevin Vollmers from Entertainment Weekly thought differently. I disagree with Vollmers, I think Phillip does not choose to identify with his Asian biological roots (is he Chinese? I don’t think it was ever confirmed in the show). At first glance, Jessica idolized Phillip even after she knew that he was adopted.
I just had one question, why is Louis so uncomfortable with the new host? He’s amazing and he attracts a lot of customers with his lasso-ing skills!
This week I am going to talk about cultural appropriation in regards to the appropriation of Asian culture for profit. In class this week, the professor showed various music videos, pictures, etc. of cultural appropriation in American pop culture. From Avril Lavigne to Chris Brown, these videos showcased the misused and lack of cultural accuracy of Asian culture.
Avril Lavigne’s so called homage to Hello Kitty in her single “Hello Kitty” shows her, a white female, performing all kinds of stereotypical Asian gestures and characterizations. Dancing in a sort of robotic manner are four Asian women who remain expressionless throughout the entire video. These women are dressed identically with matching hairdos. One might wonder if Lavigne or the producer attempted to play on the stereotype that all Asians look the same, or rather if it was a subconscious thought to make them nearly identical. Either way, in my opinion, the overly-expressive Lavigne and non-expressive backup dancers added to the whole ridiculousness of the video. What was the point of the video? For me, the video seemed to mock Hello Kitty and Japanese culture rather than celebrate it. Does she think being Japanese means loving Hello Kitty and eating sushi? It seems Lavigne attempted to profit by using a Japanese icon known all over the world without putting much thought into why Hello Kitty has had so much success.
Cultural appropriation does not give the culture that is being appropriated justice. Instead, it seems to be used to exoticize the culture which can, at times, come off as mocking. The band Day Above Ground demonstrated their ignorance when it came to the different Asian cultures in their music video supposedly celebrating Asian women. It was clear to me these men were overgeneralizing, demeaning, and had not the slightest idea about the what words were coming out of their mouth.
This week, we explored Asian Americans being used as cultural “props” in the media as a form of culture appropriation. We viewed videos such as the music video “Asian Girls” that received a plethora of angry reviews due to the offensiveness of their lyrics towards Asian American women. Additionally, we saw how Sports Illustrated depicted one of their white models sitting in a boat with an old (Vietnamese?) man and (Vietnamese?) scenery as a prop to market their bathing suit. In Sports Illustrated, I believe that the intention of “Orientalizing” the advertisement is to market the bathing suit in a more “exotic” way as to intrigue consumers to purchase it. Thus, the Asian culture and the recognition of Asian culture is used as a marketing prop rather than as a means of appreciation. This sets the stage for the difference between culture appropriations vs. culture appreciations.
An example of culture appreciation was viewed in class in the Wong Fu Brother’s production of “626”. In this video, the brothers were not strangers to Asian American stereotypes such as eating a plethora of Asian food (e.g. boba or pho). However, the brother’s production elected to educate and embrace these aspects of the Asian culture in a positive light. The “626” video paid homage to the different restaurants/lounges in the San Gabriel Valley that many Asian Americans frequent. It was focused on both embracing the stereotypes that other ethnicities may find obscure/weird and educating the general public the “secret” behind Asian food: DELICIOUSNESS!
In contrast, “Asian Girls” differed greatly from the brother’s production of “626” in a lot of ways. “Asian Girls” depicted the Asian culture as an exotic and obscure culture. One example (of many from the music video) was their sly remark regarding Chinese New Year, “Celebrating New Year in February? Fuck it!” The band makes no attempt to appreciate the sacredness of Chinese New Year nor do they appreciate it. They simply use Chinese New Year as a prop in their music video to support the central theme of the music video: Asian (girls) are exotic. Just to think, if this band ever sang this song around my Grandma… my Grandma would probably have lost her shit!
There’s a world apart between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. However, it’s hard to draw the line between them sometimes. According to the anonymous reading we have for this week, cultural appropriation is defined as “the adoption
or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another.” There’s power imbalance involved in this process. Usually, the powerful and privilege groups appropriate culture from marginalized communities. During this process, the original culturally and/or politically significant elements are stripped off or completely altered, leaving a flattened cultural product with minimal cultural meanings.
It’s easy to recognize cultural appropriation when there’s white people involved. They are seemed as the default appropriators, whether accurate or not. For example, Katy Perry donned yellowface and a kimono in her AMA performance of the song “Unconditional,” and Avril Lavigne used machine-like Japanese girls in her music video of “Hello Kitty.” However, when the appropriator is people of color, it gets really complicated. Is Chris Brown appropriating Chinese culture in his music video of “Autumn Leaves?” What about the half-Asian woman in the video? How about Rihanna in ColdPlay’s Princess of China? Eddie Huang and his claim to Hip Pop, an original black culture? The key distinguishing factor here is power balance or imbalance, and whether or not the original cultural context and meaning are stripped off. I would say besides Eddie Huang, all the above mentioned artists appropriated culture instead of appreciated it. Even if the artists are people of color, they can appropriate another’s culture as well. After all, not all people of color are equally oppressed. As popular pop artists, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Avril Lavigne, and Katy Perry have tremendous power to take another culture’s elements to promote their own businesses, WITHOUT taking into account the opinions of Asian American communities. What separates Eddie Huang from them is that Eddie understands the radical meaning and history of hip pop. He has used hip pop to cope with the inequality that he faced as a child and sustain his survival.
Another great example of cultural appreciation done right is Elyse Robbins’ love for traditional Chinese art and drama (see video). She fell in love for traditional Chinese art and theatre 14 years ago when she first came to China, and decided to stay in Beijing to learn and practice it. From the video, you can see that traditional Chinese art has become a part of her identity and everyday life. She wears traditional clothes, jewelries and practice traditional Chinese opera. The respect that she has for Chinese culture is nowhere to be found in any of the work of above mentioned pop singers. Now, Elyse has started her own nonprofit organization in Beijing to give back to the local community.
Angel Ruiqi Ye
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”.
This week Fresh Off the Boat is premiering on Wednesday night. This will be the first Asian American sitcom on U.S television since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. Fresh Off the Boat is a family sitcom that seeks to reveal the fascinating and mysterious life of Asian Americans. It is based on the life of celebrity chef Eddie Huang and his book Fresh Off the Boat. I’m excited to see how well it fares in the cutthroat world of white-dominated American television.
I recently watched the trailer for the series and noticed some similarities in my childhood as well. I saw the part where Eddie brings out his special homemade lunch in front of his new friends and he is immediately ostracized for it. I had the exact same experience while I was in middle school. Many of the students were quite visibly puzzled by my delicious rice bowl with Chinese sausages. They were turned away by the particular aroma that it carried when I opened the plastic container, just like the kids in the trailer. Like Eddie, I too began requesting “American” lunches and that was the end of my traditional Chinese lunches. It’s small experiences like these that grab my attention towards the sitcom. I expect there to be more of these as the show goes on. Hopefully it will survive to see another season or two, unlike All American Girl.