Additional Blog Post 1

This link is a link to my creative project… a Jeopardy inspired game.

Initially, I was intimidated by the creative pieces presented in class because of their unique and artistic qualities.  My talent as a dancer is mediocre at best; my knowledge for producing videos is not much better.  With that in mind, I thought I could write a decent research paper having done so throughout my college career.  After thinking more on my own and recalling what the professor had said about the purpose of the final project, I changed my mind.  This project gave the producer the flexibility and opportunity to make something beyond the rigid format of a research paper.  Granted, my creative piece follows the format of a well-known game show; however, the content of the piece focuses solely on Asian Americans in pop culture.  The game I created mirrors the format of a Jeopardy board with five categories and five answers per category.

Why did I choose to make a game similar to Jeopardy? I chose to create a game similar to Jeopardy because not only was the game a favorite of mine growing up, it also offers an educational format to inform others.  Coming into this class on the first day, it was clear I lacked basic knowledge about the history of Asian Americans and their roles in pop culture.  From yellow terror to the effeminate portrayal of Asian American men, I had not realized how, for a long time, Asian American roles were so narrowly defined by media executives, producers, directors, writers, etc.  As Kent Ono espouses in Asian Americans and the Media, “it is important to understand the larger racial structure, the logics of race, racism, and racial representation, and the media’s relationship to the production and reproduction of race, racism, and racial discourses” to combat the insensitivity towards but not limited to the differences of Asian Americans (Ono and Pham, 7).  I seek to use my creative piece to give an introduction to some definitions, prominent Asian Americans, and other miscellaneous tidbits of information.

My game seeks to engage many participants in active discussions based on the questions presented in the game. I wanted to share a game I grew up watching and indirectly participating in from the comfort of my house with others.  Hopefully, this game can serve as a means for debate and reflection on many of the topics covered in Asian American pop culture.

Diane Nguyen of Netflix’s Bojack Horseman

Netflix, as a non traditional media producer, likes to keep it real fresh. The fantasy Animal world of Bojack Horseman is ridiculous, yet awesome, and isn’t particularly revolutionary, yet meaningful. In this ridiculous world where animals basically take on human roles, and bestiality is totally chill, we have our very own Asian American character going by the name of Diane Nguyen. (She isn’t voiced by an Asian American, but that shouldn’t be too big of an issue.) Diane is a ghostwriter for the infamous Bojack’s biography. We are introduced to her as if she is a random human character, but the writers quickly integrate her as a regular character. And as there are maybe 3 important human characters at any one time surrounded by the immense presence of animals, Diane actually stands out as a representative of the human race. She like the rest of the cast goes through difficult decisions which viewers can genuinely empathize with which makes Diane incredibly realistic.

To reference her Asian heritage, the show displays her familial relationship, which is unrealistically fucked up. Even for Asian standards. If you watch it, you might get the impression that Diane comes from a family of savages, and because she’s Asian, you might think that implies Vietnamese people are savages… but looking at the context and seeing how fucked up everyone else is… you kinda get that this is just the writers going to extreme levels to show how fucked up Diane’s life could be… and this may explain her crazy side.

One of Diane’s special features as a character is that the audience never truly knows what she wants. She’s usually displays a calm demeanor. And when she does something a little out of character… it’s a little disturbing. We seem to get an impression that Diane is cookie cutter and isn’t too interesting… even a little boring. However, she’s a mess, she’s just really good at hiding it. After Bojack goes through a tough time admitting that he had a shitty childhood, we see Bojack and Diane sitting on a roof talking… and you’d expect Diane to tell a sad story of her childhood, but instead she lies her ass off to display a “normalcy.” She admits this later, and you are just left with, “what else is she hiding?” And towards the end you find out that Diane was writing a extremely blunt “auto”biography on Bojack, and because its so brutally honest, it reveals all of the Horse’s evils. The problem is Diane never consults Bojack about it and thus Bojack doesn’t see the good publicity that this book could generate. In the end we see that she has good intentions, but she doesn’t know how to communicate them effectively.

The fact that Diane seems to be able to come from any background, but is chosen to be Asian American, makes her completely whole.

B.D. Wong (Multiple Seasons on Law & Order SVU)

B.D. Wong, an Asian American actor, has consistently starred in a good number of seasons of my favorite television show; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Law & Order takes place in New York where the detectives on the occurring series work together with Dr.Wong to solve heinous crimes that involve sexual assaults such as rape, child molestation, and murder. B.D. Wong plays a medical doctor on the series who’s job is to analyze the mental state of victims, perpetrators, and detectives.

Although his character on the television show, which is named after him, is well respected, Dr. Wong tends to bump heads with the New York special victims detectives he works alongside, which is normal in any work environment. In the multiple seasons I’ve watched and re-watched of Law & Order, Wong’s Asian American identity has not been directly referenced. He does play a stereotypical role of the smart Asian American doctor who nine times out of ten, is able to clearly and correctly articulate the reasons why a victim behaves very aggressively or where a suspect is hiding a missing person. Wong is also able to quickly read (metaphorically)detectives to  understand why they would act out of character occasionally.

Wong’s role on Law & Order is a very important one. Wong is the medical doctor who can make medical recommendations quick enough for a court order to be rushed. For example, in one episode of the show, detective Stabler and Benson, both white male and female, respectively, needed a judges approval to hold a suspect longer than usual in a jail cell. In order for a judge to grant them that holding power, Dr.Wong had to run a few tests on the suspect to in fact determine that he was severely mentally unstable and if not kept in a cell, there was a great chance of the said suspect killing the victim the detectives were profusely looking for. When the detectives need help, they run to Dr. Wong.

Although Dr. Wong plays a very important role, it is interesting to note that his role as a doctor is the only role he plays. Unlike the other detectives who have developed and are developing friendships outside of work, Dr. Wong sticks to himself. Dr, Wong is only called and seen when detectives need a personal favor, such as him illegally prescribing them heavy prescription drugs or when he is needed for an examination. So one could see and say that Dr.Wong is only called when his intelligence is needed. Dr.Wong is sometimes pushed around by detective Stabler when he will not comply or agree with Stabler’s usually irrational demands of telling a lie to a manager or supervisor. Wong is able to maintain his composure in these scenes and remain firm by saying no to detective Stabler, who is cast as an arrogant, aggressive, and temperamental white male detective..

All in all, Dr. Wong is a quiet and knowledgeable character who happens to be an Asian American doctor. I don’t believe other than being cast as a doctor, other Asian American stereotypes are at play in regards to Dr.Wong in the series. This could change in the upcoming seasons. I will be watching and observing.

Embracing the Asian cultures

In this blog post, I wanted to highlight an Asian-American actor who has came to a huge surprise to me, Steve Yeun. I still cannot fathom that The Walking Dead has had him throughout the whole series and has not killed him off. It just shows to me that either they can’t find another Asian guy or that the representation of Asian-Americans in media is taking a step in the right direction.

In the series they don’t portray him as an asexual character or emasculate his character either. Steve plays a bad ass character, who actually in turn is the one of the only characters to actually has sex within the series. It’s also interesting to see that there isn’t really any racial slurs or remarks within what I’ve watched so far. I’m not sure whether that has a good connotation within the series that there is this sense of color-blindness within his character. All I can see is that there isn’t a false representation of his character and has led to a progressive stance towards Asian-American representation.

We even see him doing a segment on Conan, and how there isn’t any time that there is a talk about criticizing his Asian qualtities. In the video when they go to the Korean Spa, Yeun actually doesn’t feel comfortable with the custom within his own culture. It demonstrates this demeanor of Asian-American and the hybridity of cultures with American culture and his Korean culture. We see through out the video, there isn’t any type of misrepresentation of the Korean culture whatsoever, rather it shows Conan trying out a custom of Korean people.

We see in an interview at the Ellen Degeneres Show that he speaks about his parents, and thats to have people understand the way Asian Parent dynamics work. Now compared to how ONO discusses how Asians were viewed as asexual, computer nerds, you have seen the transition into ultimate zombie killer. It’s cool how we see this progression of representation into a manner that now brings to light Asian Americans not in a general pool of representations. 

Linda Park of CW’s The Flash

The portrayal of Asian Americans on popular media has been changing up lately since the youtube revolution. Linda Park, played by Malese Jow, is an Asian American reporter who happens to be the love interest of our scarlet super hero, Flash. Which is nice, since we for sure aren’t going to see the Asian female be dominated by the white man. (Maybe that’s unfair.) Anyway, that doesn’t matter because Linda is the alpha in this relationship. She does things within her own terms and she doesn’t settle for second place. She feels and knows that she is an important and busy person and she doesn’t have time for less than the best. So naturally the Linda character found an interest in our scarlet speedster, however he’s got the whole city’s well-being on his shoulders… and he can’t quite give her the priority she deserves even with super powers. So she puts the foot down and lets him know she’s looking for more. And only when Barry pulls all the stops to display his devotion does she give him a chance. However, the outcome can be predicted. The show is still super young, and there’s no real reason for Linda to stay prominent, but if Barry continues to neglect Linda, then she’s just gonna drop him. Simple as that. She’s not gonna pamper him. She’s not gonna be sad over some dude who won’t give her the time of day, because she can save herself.

So Linda’s character isn’t cookie cutter. That’s just fantastic. Even the progressive Asian American character, Julie, from the 1990s era Friends that dated Ross doesn’t have as much style as Linda. My impression was Julie was submissive. End of story. Linda does what she wants to do. Yet, she’s also down to give some reasonable second chances. She’s a dynamic character fit for the changing American demographics.

iCarly and iCarly goes to Japan

In the Nickelodeon teen series iCarly there are very little references or inferences to Asian Americans.

A spin-off / movie update of the iCarly series, however, was set in Japan where Asian American actors and actresses portray the native Japanese there.

There the iCarly cast are forced to find their way back to the set where their award show will be held due to the scrupulous Japanese co-hosts who plotted to have them miss the award show so that their shot of winning was higher.  How the Japanese co-hosts manage to lose the iCarly cast is through a random kung-fu fight and the chaperones are tied to massage tables with seaweed. Both scenes are completely insulting.

I think one of the more telling experiences however, is the lack of a response to this portrayal. Rather very few resources even attempt to analyze this episode/movie/show. A reason that comes to mind is because of the fact that the audience for this show is for adolescents. Yet, that is why I feel that this portrayal is even more damaging. The intended audience is set at such a young age that the usage of stereotypes and tropes will last even longer especially as this is one of the only times API characters/people are shown.

In fact, the only other reference I could find was a Yahoo answer asking if this portrayal was racist. Many agreed, while some felt that because this was a teen show any racist views are inconsequential.

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100719081656AAFd6qk

I believe that this instance should not have been written off as it was. Rather, we should highlight and raise that no matter the show, instances like these are still damaging.

Austin Powers Goldmember

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Growing up, Austin Powers was one of those series that was modern-day Anchorman, This is the End, etc. Everyone seemed to know this iconic movie and it ended up spawning a series of three movies.

Multiple people in Hollywood and other famous celebrities were featured in this specific film of Austin Powers Goldmember some of which include Beyonce, Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and many other big names. Yet, with all of these celebrities and a multi-million dollar budget, no one condoned the usage of two Asian characters: Fook Mi and Fook Yu.

Not only is the naming of these two characters highly insensitive and derogatory toward Asians, but in another insulting manner both Fook Mi and Fook Yu are not only dressed in a manner that bares their stomach and skirts so short it bares lacy undergarments, but they are shown to be dressed as slutty Japanese school girls who offer themselves to Powers.

They have highly inaccurate, stereotypical accents with stilted English and further perpetuate the idea of the hypersexualized Asian women.

Yet another problem is that this is one of the few instances where Asian Americans are actually featured and where Asian Americans could get roles.

Diane Mizota talked about her struggles as she claims a top exec at a major network was quoted as saying, “Well, we’re having trouble there, because Asians are just not funny.”

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/ASIAN-POP-Reality-Bites-Have-Fook-Yu-and-Fook-3302654.php

As brought up in class however there is the fine divide between choosing to take the racist jobs to no representation at all. In this case, however, I’m not sure as to which the best role would be.