The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.
Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.
Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues, with a particular focus on Asian Americans. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.
In its twelfth season, the successful Armed With a Camera (AWC) Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists nurtures the next generation of Asian Pacific American media artists to capture their world, surroundings and outlook on life. Visual Communications works with the Fellows for seven months and provides special training, mentoring and networking opportunities, access to facilities and equipment, plus a cash and rental stipend to create four to five-minute digital shorts that premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and other venues nationwide.
The 2013-2014 Armed With A Camera Fellowship is accepting submissions May 15 – August 2, 2013. Up to 10 artists will be selected for the Fellowship. We will announce the new class of Fellows in September.
Visual Communications (VC) seeks to cultivate a new generation of Asian Pacific American media artists committed to preserving the legacy and vision of VC. The Armed With A Camera Fellowship will award up to ten fellows $1,000 in cash and $1,000 in equipment rental to complete a four to five-minute digital video. Through the Armed With A Camera Fellowship, emerging media artists will capture their world, surroundings and outlook on life as a part of a new generation of Asian Pacific Americans.
Final projects must be shot in digital video format and completed by March 21, 2014. A special program will showcase all completed projects at various VC exhibitions across the city of Los Angeles, including the 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and other venues nationwide. VC will co-own the productions and will also package and distribute completed works. Distribution income will aid in the continuation of the Armed with a Camera Fellowship.
Eligible applicants must be of Asian Pacific descent and residents of Southern California. If accepted, Fellows must be able to attend mandatory meetings and workshops in Los Angeles. Women, South Asian and Southeast Asian filmmakers are highly encouraged to apply to the AWC Fellowship. If you’re not sure of your eligibility, please contact Visual Communications.
My name is Brianna Werner, and I am a research assistant to Dr. Frances Shen, a faculty member at the University of Illinois Springfield. We are in need of university student participants to complete a survey on the impact of discrimination on Asian American LGB persons.
We are seeking individuals who (1) identify as Asian American, (2) identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and (3) are at least 18 years of age to complete a confidential web-based survey that will ask you about the impact of discrimination on Asian American LGB persons.
The entire study should take approximately 30-40 minutes. The answers you provide will be kept completely confidential. You will not be asked to provide your name on the inventory. This research has been reviewed and approved by the UIS Human Subjects Review Officer, Dr. Lynn Pardie. Dr. Pardie can be reached at 217-206-7230 to answer any questions about your rights as a volunteer participant in this study.
As a thank you, participants who complete the survey can enter into a lottery drawing to win one of four $25 gift certificates or one of four $50 gift certificates.
For more information about the study, and to participate, please go to https://illinois.edu/sb/sec/4852751.
You are invited to participate in a study exploring relationships among People of Color. The requirements are as follows: you must be 18 years of age or older; a Person of Color, and be involved in an interracial relationship for a minimum of one year. Participation in this study is voluntary and anonymous and you will not be compensated.
If you would like to participate or have any questions please contact Magie S. Maekawa at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the following hyperlink: https://csulapsychology.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_ebQFLDRt1n30oHX.
Call for Papers: Submit your manuscript for publication in Race and Social Problems.
We welcome manuscripts that explore, but are not limited to, such topics as criminal justice, economic conditions, education, the elderly, families, health disparities, mental health, race relations, and youth.
To submit a manuscript, please visit www.crsp.pitt.edu/publications/CallForPapers.pdf. Articles in the journal are available for free online at http://link.springer.com/journal/12552. In 2014, there will be a special issue on Asian Americans. You may submit your manuscript to www.crsp.pitt.edu/publications/SpecialIssueCallforPapers2013-2.pdf.
Expected future special issues of Race and Social Problems include the following:
Women of Color, 2015
Race and Religiosity, 2016
Race and Education, 2017
Race and Aging, 2018
The following new books look at the intersections and connections between race, ethnicity, immigration, and community and how different groups of color/immigrants negotiated the political, economic, and cultural landscape of U.S. society through the years, the impacts they’ve had on their new surroundings, and vice versa. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
While newly arrived immigrants are often the focus of public concern and debate, many Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans have resided in the United States for generations. Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, and their racial identities change with each generation. While the attainment of education and middle class occupations signals a decline in cultural attachment for some, socioeconomic mobility is not a cultural death-knell, as others are highly ethnically identified. There are a variety of ways that middle class Mexican Americans relate to their ethnic heritage, and racialization despite assimilation among a segment of the second and third generations reveals the continuing role of race even among the U.S.-born.
Mexican Americans Across Generations investigates racial identity and assimilation in three-generation Mexican American families living in California. Through rich interviews with three generations of middle class Mexican American families, Vasquez focuses on the family as a key site for racial and gender identity formation, knowledge transmission, and incorporation processes, exploring how the racial identities of Mexican Americans both change and persist generationally in families. She illustrates how gender, physical appearance, parental teaching, historical era and discrimination influence Mexican Americans’ racial identity and incorporation patterns, ultimately arguing that neither racial identity nor assimilation are straightforward progressions but, instead, develop unevenly and are influenced by family, society, and historical social movements.
From the earliest colonial newspapers to the Internet age, America’s racial divisions have played a central role in the creation of the country’s media system, just as the media has contributed to—and every so often, combated—racial oppression. News for All the People reveals how racial segregation distorted the information Americans received from the mainstream media. It unearths numerous examples of how publishers and broadcasters actually fomented racial violence and discrimination through their coverage. And it chronicles the influence federal media policies exerted in such conflicts. It depicts the struggle of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American journalists who fought to create a vibrant yet little-known alternative, democratic press, and then, beginning in the 1970s, forced open the doors of the major media companies.
The writing is fast-paced, story-driven, and replete with memorable portraits of individual journalists and media executives, both famous and obscure, heroes and villains. It weaves back and forth between the corporate and government leaders who built our segregated media system—such as Herbert Hoover, whose Federal Radio Commission eagerly awarded a license to a notorious Ku Klux Klan organization in the nation’s capital—and those who rebelled against that system, like Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L. Vann, who led a remarkable national campaign to get the black-face comedy Amos ‘n’ Andy off the air.
Based on years of original archival research and up-to-the-minute reporting and written by two veteran journalists and leading advocates for a more inclusive and democratic media system, News for All the People should become the standard history of American media.
In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for “Oriental goods” took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey’s beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of Indian Muslim seamen began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore, escaping the engine rooms of British steamers to find less brutal work onshore. As factory owners sought their labor and anti-Asian immigration laws closed in around them, these men built clandestine networks that stretched from the northeastern waterfront across the industrial Midwest.
The stories of these early working-class migrants vividly contrast with our typical understanding of immigration. Vivek Bald’s meticulous reconstruction reveals a lost history of South Asian sojourning and life-making in the United States. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America’s most iconic neighborhoods of color, from Tremé in New Orleans to Detroit’s Black Bottom, from West Baltimore to Harlem. Many started families with Creole, Puerto Rican, and African American women.
As steel and auto workers in the Midwest, as traders in the South, and as halal hot dog vendors on 125th Street, these immigrants created lives as remarkable as they are unknown. Their stories of ingenuity and intermixture challenge assumptions about assimilation and reveal cross-racial affinities beneath the surface of early twentieth-century America.
Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States, in order to account for the never ending discrimination toward racialized ethnic groups including First Nations, blacks, Chinese, and Mexicans, revisits the history of whiteness in the United States. It shows the difference between remembering a history of human indignities and recreating one that composes its own textual memory. More specifically, it reformulates how the historically reliant positionality of whiteness, as a part of the everyday practice and discourse of white supremacy, would later become institutionalized.
Even though “whiteness studies,” with the intention of exposing white privilege, has entered the realm of academic research and is moving toward antiracist forms of whiteness or, at least, toward antiracist approaches for a different form of whiteness, it is not equipped to relinquish the privilege that comes with normalized whiteness. Hence, in order to construct a post white identity, whiteness would have to be denormalized and freed of it of its presumptive hegemony.
Farmers in Laos, U.S. allies during the Vietnam War, refugees in Thailand, citizens of the Western world—the stories of the Hmong who now live in America have been told in detail through books and articles and oral histories over the past several decades. Like any immigrant group, members of the first generation may yearn for the past as they watch their children and grandchildren find their way in the dominant culture of their new home.
For Hmong people born and educated in the United States, a definition of self often includes traditional practices and tight-knit family groups but also a distinctly Americanized point of view. How do Hmong Americans negotiate the expectations of these two very different cultures?
In an engaging series of essays featuring a range of writing styles, leading scholars, educators, artists, and community activists explore themes of history, culture, gender, class, family, and sexual orientation, weaving their own stories into depictions of a Hmong American community where people continue to develop complex identities that are collectively shared but deeply personal as they help to redefine the multicultural America of today.
Before the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in April 1975, Sao Bounchoeurn and San Bounriem grew up in idyllic, though vastly different, circumstances. After a secondary education, Bounchoeurn entered the army, joined the Special Forces, and worked for the Americans. He became a slave laborer after the fall of Phnom Penh and eventually escaped to Thailand. In another part of Cambodia, Bounriem lived happily spoiled and uneducated.
Fleeing from the advancing Khmer Rouge, she arrived at the same refugee camp as Bounchoeurn, where they met, married, and immigrated to America. This riveting memoir chronicles the couple’s childhoods, their lives under the Khmer Rouge, their journeys to Thailand and later the United States, and their efforts to forge a new life. This remarkable tale offers an intimate look inside the terrors of the Khmer Rouge and an inspiring portrait of the immigrant experience in America.
The Asian American blogosphere and print media, which in many ways set the terms of the discussion around Asian American issues, rarely touches on issues outside the United States. I don’t remember the last time I read an article in an English-language Asian American blog about political or social problems in Asia. English-medium Asian American bloggers have been silent on issues like the island disputes in Northeast and Southeast Asia, Burma and Thailand’s unacceptable treatment of Rohingya refugees, and the election of a dictator’s daughter to the presidency in South Korea.
Even the Delhi gang rape incident, a tragedy that caught the attention of people the world over, scarcely got mentioned in Asian American media. Hyphen Magazine’s blog published a post about it, but it originally came from the Asia Society’s Asia Blog.
Are events in Asia outside of the scope of “Asian American” media, and if so, why? Is it a reaction to the unending accusations of being foreign and un-American? Is it because organizing around the pan-ethnic “Asian” label makes people loath to make statements on sensitive ethnonational conflicts across the Pacific, lest the solidarity built up in the American context breaks down? Does our US-born population’s general lack of language skills and knowledge of non-American history make these issues inaccessible and incomprehensible?
The following new books look at the historical, cultural, and political dimensions of how Asian Americans have been portrayed and imagined in media, literature, and popular culture. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
Images of upraised fists, afros, and dashikis have long dominated the collective memory of Black Power and its proponents. The “guerilla” figure-taking the form of the black-leather-clad revolutionary within the Black Panther Party-has become an iconic trope in American popular culture. That politically radical figure, however, has been shaped as much by Asian American cultural discourse as by African American political ideology. From the Asian-African Conference held in April of 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia, onward to the present, Afro-Asian political collaboration has been active and influential.
In Black Power, Yellow Power, and the Making of Revolutionary Identities, author Rychetta Watkins uses the guerilla figure as a point of departure and shows how the trope’s rhetoric animates discourses of representation and identity in African American and Asian American literature and culture. In doing so, she examines the notion of “Power,” in terms of ethnic political identity, and explores collaborating-and sometimes competing-ethnic interests that have drawn ideas from the concept.
The project brings together a range of texts-editorial cartoons, newspaper articles, novels, visual propaganda, and essays-that illustrate the emergence of this subjectivity in Asian American and African American cultural productions during the Power period, roughly 1966 through 1981. After a case study of the cultural politics of academic anthologies and the cooperation between Frank Chin and Ishmael Reed, the volume culminates with analyses of this trope in Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, Alice Walker’s Meridian, and John Okada’s No No Boy.
The Oriental Obscene is a sophisticated analysis of Americans’ reactions to visual representations of the Vietnam War, such as the photograph of the “napalm girl,” news footage of the Tet Offensive, and feature films from The Deer Hunter to Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sylvia Shin Huey Chong combines psychoanalytic and film theories with U.S. cultural history to explain what she terms the oriental obscene: racialized fantasies that Americans derived largely from images of Asians as the perpetrators or victims of extreme violence.
Chong contends that these fantasies helped Americans to process the trauma of the Vietnam War, as well as the growth of the Asian American population after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the postwar immigration of Southeast Asian refugees. The oriental obscene animated a wide range of political narratives, not only the movements for and against the war, but causes as diverse as the Black Power movement, law-and-order conservatism, second-wave feminism, and the nascent Asian American movement. During the Vietnam era, pictures of Asian bodies were used to make sense of race, violence, and America’s identity at home and abroad.
Showcasing the dynamism of contemporary Korean diasporic theater, this anthology features seven plays by second-generation Korean diasporic writers from the United States, Canada, and Chile. By bringing the plays together in this collection, Esther Kim Lee highlights the range of themes and styles that have enlivened Korean diasporic theater in the Americas since the 1990s. Some of the plays are set in urban Koreatowns. One takes place in the middle of Texas, while another unfolds entirely in a character’s mind. Ethnic identity is not as central as it was in the work of previous generations of Asian diasporic playwrights.
In these plays, dramas of diaspora and displacement are likely to be part of broader stories, such as the difficulties faced by a young mother trying to balance family and career. Running through those stories are themes of assimilation, authenticity, family, memory, trauma, and gender-related expectations of success. Lee’s introduction includes a brief history of the Korean peninsula in the twentieth century and of South Korean immigration to the Americas, along with an overview of Asian American theater and the place of Korean American theater within it. Each play is preceded by a brief biography of the playwright and a summary of the play’s production history.
The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens looks at the way in which issues of race and sexuality have become central concerns in cinema generated by and about Chinese communities in America after the mid-1990s. This companion volume to Marchetti’s From Tian’anmen to Times Square looks specifically at the Chinese diaspora in relation to ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identity as depicted in the cinema.
Examining films from the United States and Canada, as well as transnational co-productions, The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens includes analyses of films such as The Wedding Banquet and Double Happiness in addition to interviews with celebrated filmmakers such as Wayne Wang. Marchetti also reflects on how Chinese identity is presented in a multitude of media forms, including commercial cinema, documentaries, experimental films, and hybrid digital media to offer a textured look at representations of the Chinese diasporic experience after Tian’anmen.
Depictions of Asian American men as effeminate or asexual pervade popular movies. Hollywood has made clear that Asian American men lack the qualities inherent to the heroic heterosexual male. This restricting, circumscribed vision of masculinity—a straitjacketing, according to author Celine Parreñas Shimizu—aggravates Asian American male sexual problems both on and off screen.
Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies looks to cinematic history to reveal the dynamic ways Asian American men, from Bruce Lee to Long Duk Dong, create and claim a variety of masculinities. Representations of love, romance, desire, and lovemaking show how Asian American men fashion manhoods that negotiate the dynamics of self and other, expanding our ideas of sexuality. The unique ways in which Asian American men express intimacy is powerfully represented onscreen, offering distinct portraits of individuals struggling with group identities. Rejecting “macho” men, these movies stake Asian American manhood on the notion of caring for, rather than dominating, others.
Straitjacket Sexualities identifies a number of moments in the movies wherein masculinity is figured anew. By looking at intimate relations on screen, power as sexual prowess and brute masculinity is redefined, giving primacy to the diverse ways Asian American men experience complex, ambiguous, and ambivalent genders and sexualities.
Think Jeremy Lin should be included? I certainly cast my vote for “definitely!” Among their list of nominees, there are several Asians and Asian Americans, so if you’re so inclined, cast your vote for those who you think should be included in Time’s list. The deadline for voting is Friday, April 6.
In my recent post titled, “Jeremy Lin Mania and How it Relates to Colorblindness,” among other things, I noted that Jeremy’s emergence as a media sensation and explosion onto the center stage of mainstream U.S. popular culture does represent a small step toward the eventual ideal of colorblindness. At the same time, I also argued that the reality is that unfortunately, we are still a long way from being a truly colorblind society.
This past week, several public incidents have solidified the sad fact that many Americans still think that we are already in a colorblind society and as such, they can basically say anything they want about Jeremy, including offensive references to him as a Chinese American. Unfortunately there have been several examples of racial insensitivity in the past couple of weeks, but in this post I will focus on two in particular.
First, after the Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in which Jeremy scored 38 points, FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.” Whitlock later apologized for the remark, but you can’t unring that bell — clearly he thought it was perfectly acceptable to invoke the emasculating racial stereotype about Asian men having small penises.
But wait, there’s more.
A few days later, after Jeremy committed nine turnovers in a game that the Knicks eventually lost, thereby snapping their 7-game winning streak, the following headline made it onto ESPN’s mobile website (screenshot below): “Chinks in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.”
The headline was apparently taken down after being public for 35 minutes but again, the damage was done — the editors at ESPN apparently had no idea or did not care that the term “chink” is a blatantly racist term against all Asian Americans but particularly and deeply offensive to Chinese Americans. I might expect people outside the U.S., such as Spain’s national basketball team, not to know that the term “chink” is racist, but it is very disappointing to learn that many Americans still think it’s perfectly fine to use in reference to a Chinese American.
Disappointing, but unfortunately not really surprising.
That is because many Americans already believe, consciously or unconsciously, that we are already a colorblind society. As such, they have been taught, socialized, and desensitized to naively think that all racial groups are equal now, that no racial discrimination ever takes place nowadays, and therefore, it’s fine to casually use terms such as “chink” in everyday conversation.
These particular incidents may not be as blatantly offensive as the racial taunts Jeremy encountered back when he played for Harvard, but they nonetheless illustrate a woeful level of ignorance and lack of sensitivity about Asian Americans, our history, and our community.
Imagine what the public’s reaction would have been if Jason Whitlock was referring to a Black player and his remark invoked the racial stereotype about Black men having large penises. What would the public’s reaction had been if ESPN went public with some headline that referred to a Black player using the ‘N’ word? I think it would be safe to say that the American public would be shocked, outraged, and furious if these hypothetical examples occurred in reference to a Black player.
To Whitlock’s and ESPN’s credit, they both apologized and in ESPN’s case, fired the person responsible for the website headline and suspended one of their sportscasters, Max Bretos, who repeated the “chink in the armor” phrase on air. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and decisively ESPN acted in regard to these incidents. In the past, more than likely, ESPN would have taken days to issue a half-hearted apology and probably would not have disciplined any of their staff involved. I suppose ESPN’s actions in this matter do represent an encouraging sign of progress.
Fortunately, there are others in the mainstream media who “get it” — those who understand the contradiction and inequality that exist when such racial/ethnic stereotypes are in reference to, say Blacks, versus when they reference Asian Americans. Specifically, leave it the crew at Saturday Night Live to use comedy and satire to deftly illustrate this contradiction:
So I suppose that it does represent progress that when these types of racially ignorant incidents happen, the mainstream media nowadays does recognize it and take disciplinary action (or use satire to point out the absurdity of such ignorance) more quickly than in the past. Now if we can just get to the point where such incidents don’t happen in the first place.
Back in 2010, I wrote about Jeremy Lin, who was leading Harvard University to a league title, a birth in the NCAA postseason tournament, and was poised to become one of the first Asian American players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Back then, I pointed out how he represents an example of Asian Americans balancing both model minority expectations with an extracurricular passion, and in doing so, is expanding the definition of success for Asian Americans.
Since then, Jeremy went undrafted in the NBA after graduation but has now landed with the New York Knicks and is now exploding onto the basketball scene, as this New York Times article describes:
On Saturday night [Feb. 4, 2012], Lin came off the bench and powered the Knicks to a 99-92 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden, scoring a career-best 25 points with 7 assists. Two nights later, he made his first N.B.A. start and produced 28 points and 8 assists in a 99-88 win over the Utah Jazz.
Knicks fans now serenade Lin with chants of “Je-re-my!” and “M.V.P.!” while the franchise uses his likeness to sell tickets and teammates and coaches gush with praise. . . . Lin is raising expectations, altering the Knicks’ fate and redefining the word “unlikely.” On Twitter, fans and basketball pundits are using another term to describe the phenomenon: “Linsanity.”
[H]e became the first player in more than 30 years to record at least 28 points and 8 assists in his first N.B.A. start. . . . When the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers Dec. 27, he was fourth on the depth chart at point guard. Now he is No. 1, continuing a long pattern of low expectations and surprising results.
As another example of the accelerating Jeremy Lin bandwagon, ABC News just named Jeremy its “Person of the Week” and profiled him in the following news segment video:
Needless to say, Jeremy’s explosion into the U.S. cultural mainstream has inspired many Americans, and particularly Asian Americans. Beyond the mainstream media’s ever-increasing proclamations of him as “Linsanity,” “Lincredible,” “Going All Lin,” “Lin Your Face,” or “May the Best Man Lin,” Jeremy has also been described as Asian Americans’ version of Tim Tebow, both for embracing his Christian faith and for the media sensation and “Linspiration” that he has become for so many Asian Americans. For the record, Jeremy is the first monoracial (that is, both his parents are Asian) Asian American (either born or raised in the U.S.) to play in the NBA, and one of the few monoracial Asian Americans to play professional team sports in the U.S. at all.
In so many ways, Jeremy represents a big step forward for Asian Americans and U.S. society in general in terms of racial inclusion and being considered part of mainstream U.S. culture. Jeremy’s success actually follows a similar breakthrough moment for Asian Americans last year, as the hip-hop group Far East Movement became the first all-Asian American musical group to hit number one on the music charts with their single “Like a G6.” As another example of the “mainstreaming” of Asian Americans, the creators of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” are apparently in the process of creating a version that features an all-Asian American cast, to be called “K-Town.”
From a sociological point of view, the cultural emergence of Jeremy Lin, Far East Movement, and K-Town demonstrate that Asian Americans are indeed increasingly part of the U.S. mainstream. Up to this point, because of the relative scarcity of Asian Americans in the mainstream media and popular culture, it was usually a shock when we did see an Asian American on TV, in the movies, or on the music charts.
But as Asian Americans becoming increasingly common in these areas of U.S. popular culture, are we headed for a day when it is no longer a “big deal” when we see Asian American faces in the media, just like it’s taken for granted when we see White faces or Black faces? Ultimately, yes, that is the goal — for us as a society to no longer consider it “strange” or “unusual” to see Asian Americans in the media or in other prominent positions in U.S. social institutions.
If this idea sounds familiar, you might know it by its more common name — colorblindness.
In other words, part of being colorblind is what I just described — an ideal situation in which everyone in U.S. society is considered equal and when social, political, and economic distinctions based on race or ethnicity are no longer important or carry any sort of advantage or disadvantage. So in many respects, Jeremy Lin’s success gives us hope that, as a society, we are moving a little closer to the ideals of colorblindness.
Therefore, much like the idea of Asian Americans as the “model minority,” I think we should definitely embrace and celebrate the emergence of Jeremy Lin, Far East Movement, and other examples in which Asian Americans are recognized for their success. Their accomplishments reflect how it is not a contradiction to recognize both their racial/ethnic uniqueness and their position as an integral part of mainstream society.
At the same time, we should also keep in mind that while we are getting closer to the ultimate ideal of colorblindness, there is still a lot of work to be done. Along with that, in order to keep working toward a time when true equality exists across all racial/ethnic groups, we need to understand that racial/ethnic distinctions still exist and still matter, and that the success of one person or a few people within that racial/ethnic minority group does not yet mean that members of that group no longer experience any injustice or discrimination.
In the meantime, despite my roots as a Los Angeles Lakers fan, I will definitely be rooting for Jeremy to keep lighting up the scoreboard and the “Lin-magination” of all Americans and beyond.
In recent years, it has become more common to see Asian American actors in mainstream U.S. advertisements and commercials. This trend is notable for a two reasons. First, it represents a significant change from decades past, in which Asian American faces were almost completely absent from such advertising campaigns. Alternatively, when they were included, more often than not, Asian Americans were depicted in racially offensive and stereotypical caricatures, many of which were based on Orientalist perceptions of Asians and Asian Americans as exotic, mysterious, dangerous, inferior, and/or hypersexual.
Second, this increased visibility of Asian Americans in mainstream advertising seems to reflect the growing political, economic, and cultural influence of Asian countries and of Asian Americans within the U.S. Within the current climate of increased globalization, economic instability, and demographic changes, Asian Americans, other racial/ethnic minorities, and immigrants are in a unique position to leverage their individual and community resources to make important contributions to help move the U.S. forward into the 21st century.
With this in mind, and with the recognition that the Asian American population has an estimated $452 billion in purchasing power, advertisers and their corporate clients are increasingly including Asian American actors in their ads and commercials. As summarized on Asian American-focused sites like 8Asians.com, recent examples of television commercials that feature Asian Americans include eSurance, Target, Verizon, Staples, Hewlett Packard, Subaru, and McDonalds, to name just a few.
However, even though the level of blatant Orientalist stereotypes has declined, there are still numerous examples in which perceptions of Asian culture and Asian Americans as exotic, mysterious, and slightly dangerous are used in the advertising industry. For example, to the right is a relatively recent advertisement for the Motorola Razr cellphone that appeared in mainstream U.S. magazines such as Newsweek. Unfortunately, its Orientalist depictions are clear, particularly as applied to Asian women in clearly sexualized terms.
Specifically, the ad uses a woman of Asian descent dressed in an outfit that suggests a ninja-like image and striking a subtly menacing pose in which, rather than a sword, she wields a “Sharper Than Ever” Razr cellphone in her right hand, implying that the user of it can become a dangerous weapon in the figurative sense. Further, the woman’s curvaceous figure, Cleopatra-like eye makeup, skin-tight outfit, and long flowing hair again builds on the Orientalist image of Asian woman as seductive and sexually alluring. The result of these historical and ongoing Orientalist images of Asian Americans is that they are seen only within a narrowly-confined box of popular images and racially-tinged caricatures, rather than as normal citizens or even as Americans.
Opportunities and Dangers Ahead
In more recent years, portrayals of Asian Americans in mainstream ads and commercials has generally been less prone to such Orientalist images. Nonetheless, even as more advertisers incorporate more Asian Americans into their marketing campaigns, there is still the danger of promoting stereotypes, as the above-discussed Motorola Razr advertisement exemplifies. Further, a recent article by journalist Paul Farhi in the Washington Post describes a recent television commercial in which a White customer learns about a few multipurpose cellphone from an Asian American Staples sales clerk:
When Asian Americans appear in advertising, they typically are presented as the technological experts — knowledgeable, savvy, perhaps mathematically adept or intellectually gifted. They’re most often shown in ads for business-oriented or technical products — smartphones, computers, pharmaceuticals, electronic gear of all kinds.
The stereotypical portrayal reinforces a marketing concept known as the “match up” theory, which states that consumers respond more favorably to products advertised by an actor or spokesperson who “fits” the product. Just as consumers expect cosmetics to be sold by a supermodel or athletic equipment by a professional athlete, in the minds of the U.S. public, Asian Americans are strongly associated with technical know-how. . . . Variations on the theme have appeared in numerous TV commercials in recent months:
Staples advertises its computer-repair service with images of laptops flying like gulls into one of its stores. When one of the laptops crash-lands, the fix-it technician who comes to its “rescue” is an Asian American.
CVS’s TV ads feature a lab-coated pharmacist of Asian descent dispensing advice about medication to a baffled Caucasian lady.
A mother and her teenage son shopping at Best Buy learn that the store offers “Geek Squad” techies, who are packaged and displayed like life-size action figures on the store’s shelves. One of the tech guys is an Asian American.
IBM’s commercials feature brainy IT consultants, including a young Asian American woman who talks up the company’s efforts to create “a smarter planet.”
The article goes on to note that recent advertisements (such as this one from Staples) that feature Asian American actors can be a double-edged sword. That is, on the one hand, it is encouraging to see more Asian American faces in the mainstream media and in positions of authority or knowledge, rather than in the kind of blatantly demeaning and offensive roles that Asian American are used to seeing about themselves. On the other hand, the predominance of such roles that cast Asian Americans as tech experts has the danger of creating another narrowly-defined, one-dimensional stereotype – of Asian Americans as technically proficient, but nothing more.
In other words, to market to Asian Americans, advertisers and their corporate clients should remember that the history, culture, and socioeconomic characteristics of the Asian American population is complex, three-dimensional, and intricate. Like all other racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious groups, the Asian American experience cannot be reduced into a limited set of media and popular culture images, no matter how seemingly “positive” such portrayals may appear to be. Similar to model minority perceptions of Asian Americans, we need to both recognize the successes as well as the ongoing challenges and multiple levels of diversity within the Asian American community.
Indeed, when it comes to this trend of incorporating more Asian Americans into mainstream ads and commercials, there needs to be a diversity and wide range of images and marketing approaches that highlight both the unique characteristics and contributions that are specific to the Asian American population but that no not rely on Orientalist stereotypes, in addition to “race-neutral” ones that illustrate that Asian Americans are just regular, normal citizens and reflect their identity and position in society – just another part of the American mainstream.
Toward this goal, Asian Americans can have also a direct impact in facilitating positive change. Some time ago, I had with a student in which she mentioned that, as an advertising major, she also has a strong commitment to use her experiences and training to work toward greater racial equality and justice for Asian Americans and people of color. But she also expressed reservations about entering the advertising industry with its history of portraying people of color in very narrow and even stereotypical ways.
One of the things that I told her was that if students like her self-select out of these kinds of industries, everything will just be perpetual status quo and no positive change would ever occur. Instead, I encouraged her to bring her determination toward activism and passion for social change with her into the advertising industry, build a critical mass with others who share similar goals, and to fight for the change that she wants to see happen.
Time magazine has released its annual Top 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2011. This year’s list includes a number of Asians and Asian Americans, some well-known while others not as well-known (until now I suppose):
Feisal Abdul Rauf, 63, has moderate, colloquial eloquence, still relatively rare among American Muslim religious leaders. That didn’t stop the attacks on him and his wife Daisy Khan when they teamed with a developer to propose a community center near Ground Zero. They still hope to realize that vision, knowing it won’t come without further attacks. — Rev. William M. Tully
Ambani, 54, took the firm his father founded — Reliance Industries — and turned it into India’s largest private-sector company, a $45 billion petrochemicals giant. It’s a new kind of Indian company, built through adroit manipulation of governments and the stock market but also enriching millions of shareholders. “We have taken money from ordinary Indians, and we are their trustees,” he says. As long as the money keeps coming, they may forgive his excesses. — Suketu Mehta
In 2009 the chinese government, concerned about how information could spread rapidly among millions of people over microblogs, blocked Twitter and shuttered domestic equivalents. Amid those obstacles, Charles Chao saw an opportunity. A journalist turned accountant who rose through the executive ranks to head Sina, China’s largest Internet portal, he backed the company’s own microblog service [Sina Weibo] . . . [and] Beijing approved it. . . . It reached 100 million users in March, vs. 200 million for Twitter. . . . It is censored, Chao acknowledges, but it is also one of the freest online platforms in China. — Austin Ramzy
Amy’s book is a nuanced story of how her parenting had to evolve to take into account the differences between her children. Parenting is hard and humbling for all of us. If there were a right way to raise your kids, everyone would do it. Clearly that’s not the case. In China, this book is being marketed as a tale about the importance of giving children more Western freedom. Few have the guts to parent in public. Amy’s memoir is brutally honest, and her willingness to share her struggles is a gift. Whether or not you agree with her priorities and approach, she should be applauded for raising these issues with a thoughtful, humorous and authentic voice. — Sheryl Sandberg
As a spiritual guru, Cheng Yen, 73, has an ethereal quality. Yet the Buddhist nun is also the well-grounded, no-nonsense head of a non-profit humanitarian machine with divisions in 50 countries and nearly 10 million supporters and volunteers. The Tzu Chi Foundation (tzu chi means compassionate relief) is known for the astonishing speed and efficiency with which it brings aid to victims of natural disasters. Wherever calamities occur, Tzu Chi volunteers and experts arrive promptly, dispensing food, medicine, blankets and warm clothing (as they did recently in Japan) and, in the long term, rebuilding homes, clinics and schools. — Zoher Abdoolcarim
Hu founded Caijing [and] shook up China’s media landscape with courageous investigative pieces on corruption and fraud. After a dispute with her publisher, Hu left the magazine in 2009 and set up Caixin Century, now a paragon of reporting brilliance in China. In February it ran a commentary on Egypt that any savvy reader would link to China. “Autocracy creates turbulence,” it read, “democracy breeds peace.” — Adi Ignatius
Hung spent her teenage years going to school in New York City and college at Vassar. These days Hung, 49, is hugely influential in Chinese culture, tweeting with humor and intelligence to 2.5 million people. She runs a fashion magazine called iLook, owns a store featuring Chinese designers and recently became the director of the first design museum in China. What makes Hung unique is that she understands America, its pragmatism and practices, yet she remains a true Chinese patriot. She works hard to bring her country’s culture into the 21st century. — Diane Von Furstenberg
The 31-year-old doctor was on duty at the Shizugawa public hospital in the Japanese town of Minami Sanriku when he heard the tsunami alert. He immediately began moving patients to the highest floor. . . When the wall of water arrived, Kanno watched it swallow the street in three minutes, taking the patients he couldn’t move with it. . . . Over the next two days, Kanno refused to leave those he’d helped survive. When evacuation helicopters arrived, he waited until the last of his patients had gone before he too left. Three days after the quake, he at last made it back to his wife, just hours before the birth of their second child, a boy they named Rei. The name evokes two meanings: in English, a beam of light; in Chinese and Japanese, the wisdom to overcome hardship. — Krista Mahr
Nobody’s sure if Kim Jong Un is 28 or 29. There are only a handful of photos of him in circulation. Until a couple of years ago, few North Koreans knew anything about him. But he’s been picked to succeed his dad and granddad as absolute ruler of his impoverished, nuclear-tipped nation, which means that though he may not be known, he will be feared.
Few Americans have heard of Liang Guanglie, but his name comes up a great deal in discussions within the U.S. national-security establishment. Liang, 70, is a career military officer and since 2008 has been China’s Defense Minister . . . He is presiding over the rapid rise in Beijing’s defense spending, a subject of increasing concern in Washington. — Bill Powell
A pioneer of India’s IT-outsourcing industry, Premji [is] inspired by his belief that a strong educational system is essential to sustaining the economic growth needed to pull millions of Indian citizens out of poverty, Premji, 65, is deeply involved in efforts to provide universal primary education in India. The Azim Premji Foundation supports programs that reach more than 2.5 million children. But it may be his pioneering leadership in India’s nascent field of philanthropy that will be Premji’s lasting legacy. His recent $2 billion donation to his foundation was the largest charitable contribution in the history of modern India. — Bill Gates
The South Korean pop star turned actor Rain, 28, took the top spot in the TIME 100 reader poll for the third year, trouncing competitors from Barack Obama to Lady Gaga. That’s pretty impressive online power for a guy whose main claim to Western fame is a role in the 2009 film Ninja Assassin.
Ramachandran, 59, is best known for developing a therapy for phantom-limb pain in which a mirror is used to reflect the intact limb, creating the illusion that the missing one is still there. That persuades the brain that all is well, and the pain subsides. With his simple, creative and innovative ideas, V.S. Ramachandran is changing how our brains think about our minds. — Thomas Insel
The former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school system and the founder of the Students First advocacy group, Rhee . . . . set a goal to improve the lot of the nation’s students, and she has stuck to that. And she paid dearly for it, stepping down from her D.C. post in 2010 after Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his bid for re-election, a public rejection that some saw as a repudiation of the tough steps Rhee took to raise the standards of the city’s public schools. Subsequently, she shunned any high-salary job offers that resulted from her high-profile tenure and instead founded her organization. — Davis Guggenheim
Starting from a tiny village in the deserts of Rajasthan in the 1980s, Aruna Roy began a long campaign to bring transparency to India’s notoriously corrupt bureaucracy. Its signal achievement is the 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act, a law that has given the nation’s poor a powerful tool to fight for their rights and has influenced similar measures in other countries. It has also inspired thousands of RTI activists, who have exposed everything from land scams to bank embezzlement to the misuse of public funds meant for the poor. . . . Roy doesn’t just condemn a broken system; she changes it. — Jyoti Thottam
Within weeks of Lieut. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s becoming head of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, ISI, in 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai seriously roiled already stressed U.S.-Pakistani relations. Pasha, 59, has grown progressively more suspicious of U.S. motives and staying power. . . . Pasha, a Pakistani patriot and American partner, now must find these two roles even more difficult to reconcile. — Michael Hayden
[A]s radiation wafted from the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant toward the city of Minami Soma, some 15 miles (25 km) away, Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai . . . posted an 11-min. video on YouTube two weeks after the March 11 natural disaster [and] lashed out at Japan’s political and economic establishment, which had ignored his frantic calls and, as a result, left thousands of local residents stuck in a nuclear no-go zone. “With the paltry information given by the government and [plant operator] TEPCO, we are left isolated … and are being forced into starvation,” Sakurai charged. “I beg you from my heart to help us.” His plea resonated across the world, leading many to ask how a country so celebrated for efficiency had failed its most vulnerable citizens. — Hannah Beech
As the leader of Burma’s democracy movement and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, is an Asian hero and global inspiration. . . Last November she was released from her latest stint of more than seven years under house arrest. In March her banned party, the National League for Democracy, called again for talks with Burma’s rulers. Even after spending most of the past two decades in detention, Suu Kyi is determined to return to the front lines of the battle for democracy. — Wang Dan
Dhoni is now universally acknowledged as India’s best [cricket] captain ever. He’s also its most likable, exuding both cool confidence and down-to-earth humility. As astonishing as Dhoni’s talent is his background. Indian success stories are usually associated with pedigree, connections and power. Dhoni, from a small-town family of modest means, had none of these, but he’s shown India that you can make it with only one thing: excellence. Dhoni doesn’t just lead a cricket team; he’s also India’s captain of hope. — Chatan Bhagat
Ai Weiwei is the kind of visionary any nation should be proud to count among its creative class. He has drawn the world’s attention to the vibrancy of contemporary Chinese culture. More important, Ai, 53, has shown compassion for his fellow citizens and spoken out for victims of government abuses, calling for political reforms to better serve the people. It is very sad that the Chinese government has seen a need to silence one of its most innovative and illustrious citizens. For the world, Ai continues to represent the promise of China. — John Huntsman
You can make the case that Xi has reformist impulses. His father, once a comrade of Mao Zedong’s, was purged three times. Xi is an engineer, like most of China’s leaders, but he also has a law degree and a breadth of knowledge that many of his colleagues lack. His wife is one of China’s most famous singers. His daughter is at Harvard. Who knows? Maybe he even likes jazz and scotch. — Fareed Zakaria
Along the same lines, other writers and bloggers around the internet have also posted their own end-of-year stories, articles, and lists related to Asian Americans, so I list and summarize the ones that I have recently come across (thanks to 8Asians for taking the lead on mentioning these lists):
The writers of the online magazine Asia Pacific Arts (published by the University of Southern California U.S.-China Institute) select their favorite Asian and Asian American performers, film, music, TV dramas, choreography, video games, behind-the-scenes artists, etc. of 2010 (thanks to AngryAsianMan.com for mentioning this).
Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is Seeking One Intern for Fall 2010.
The Initiative is responsible for the implementation of the President’s Executive Order 13515 dated October 14, 2009. Its purpose is to develop, monitor, and coordinate executive branch efforts to improve the quality of life of AAPIs through increased participation in Federal programs. The Initiative is housed at the Department of Education but represents a collaboration among many Federal agencies.
Intern duties may include:
Performing research on AAPI issue areas, including education, community and economic development, health, labor and employment, and civil rights
Writing policy memos and proposals to improve government programs for AAPIs
Conducting outreach to national and local API organizations, elected officials, and ethnic media outlets
Creating communication strategies around social media
Currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate student (must be enrolled at least half-time)
Outstanding research and writing skills
Experience working with AAPI communities or familiarity with the issues
Advanced knowledge of various software applications to include but not limited to Microsoft Office
Interns are eligible for transit benefits, which cover the cost of commuting to and from work on public transportation. Interested applicants should send a resume, cover letter, and enrollment verification with the subject “FALL INTERNSHIP 2010″ to Shelly Coles at email@example.com by August 23rd. Please be advised that if selected to work as an intern, you will have to undergo a security background check.
I’m doing the call out for Spring 2011 host sites and would greatly appreciate your help in getting the word out. Please distribute this to the student organizations that you are connected with. I especially need help with reaching out to schools in the Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and Hawaii. Thank you!
OCA Now Accepting Applications for Spring 2011 APIA U: Leadership 101 Host Schools
OCA is seeking Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) student organizations from colleges, universities, and community colleges across the country to host a Spring 2011 (Jan-April) APIA U: Leadership 101 training. This interactive college leadership training program involves hands-on exercises, small group discussions, and presentations led by two qualified APIA facilitators. The one-day Saturday training assembles 60 APIA students from each region and focuses on understanding APIA history and identity, leadership development, and social justice and advocacy. Participants will be asked to challenge themselves, share their experiences, and develop leadership tools in order to effectively serve as catalysts for change.
Help bring this exciting and FREE leadership training to your campus! Potential sites are considered from anywhere across the country, coast to coast. We especially encourage new schools to apply from the following regions: Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and Hawaii.
Publicizing and recruiting students to attend (both from on campus and other colleges)
Securing a room that fits approximately 60 people (open area, no fixed desks)
Providing recommendations for local restaurants and hotels
Hosting students that cannot afford hotel expenses (optional)
Again, these are only a sample of the tasks involved and OCA covers all expenses. To host a training in Spring 2011, apply online by August 30 at http://bit.ly/b5jJUD or complete the paper application and mail it to 1322 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20036 ATTN: APIA U Host Application. Please contact Iimay Ho at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Organization of Chinese Americans National Center
1322 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
OCA: Embracing the Hopes and Aspirations of Asian Pacific Americans
Visual Communications will begin accepting applications for our 2010/2011 “Armed With a Camera” Fellowship. This fellowship offers emerging Asian Pacific American film and media artists an opportunity to further their development and help them make connections that they will need to thrive within the film industry.
The 10 fellows chosen will receive $500 each to be used for the purposes of making a 5-minute film within a 5-month time frame. The final movies will be shown at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival that has an attendance of over 16,000 people. The Fellowship application will be open until October 1, 2010 and we will announce the winners during the last week of October.
Women, South Asian and Southeast Asian filmmakers are highly encouraged to apply to the Armed With A Camera Fellowship! More details and information on how to apply can found on our website.
You can now find copies of the Yellow Seeds newspaper on-line. As many of you know, Yellow Seeds was an Asian American anti-imperialist organization focused on the Asian American community and Chinatown neighborhood in Philadelphia during the 1970s.
From the organization’s description:
Yellow Seeds aligns itself with the liberation struggles of all people all over the world against all forms of imperialism and colonialism. Here in America we actively participate in the struggle of the people against attacks on the livelihood of workers, against racism, against sexism and all other forms of exploitation. We recognize that Asian Americans are a part of this broad struggle against a common enemy and part of a movement to build a society free of exploitation for all people.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
In addition to mentioning new book releases, I will periodically include links to recent news articles from around the internet that relate to the books’ topic as well, to give readers a wider exposure to the different dynamics involved. This time around, I highlight books and internet links that focus on art and entertainment involving Asians and Asian Americans.
From cuisine and martial arts to sex and self-esteem, East Eats West shines new light on the bridges and crossroads where two hemispheres meld into one worldwide immigrant nation. In this new nation, with its amalgamation of divergent ideas, tastes, and styles, today s bold fusion becomes tomorrow s classic. But while the space between East and West continues to shrink in this age of globalization, some cultural gaps remain.
In this collection of twenty-one personal essays, Andrew Lam, the award-winning author of Perfume Dreams, continues to explore the Vietnamese diaspora, this time concentrating not only on how the East and West have changed, but how they are changing each other. Lively and engaging, East Eats West searches for meaning in nebulous territory charted by very few. Part memoir, part meditations, and part cultural anthropology, East Eats West is about thriving in the West with one foot still in the East.
Yellow Future examines the emergence and popularity of techno-oriental representations in Hollywood cinema since the 1980s, focusing on the ways East Asian peoples and places have become linked with technology to produce a collective fantasy of East Asia as the future. Jane Chi Hyun Park demonstrates how this fantasy is sustained through imagery, iconography, and performance that conflate East Asia with technology, constituting what Park calls “oriental style.”
Park provides a genealogy of oriental style through contextualized readings of popular films-from the multicultural city in Blade Runner and the Japanese American mentor in The Karate Kid to the Afro-Asian reworking of the buddy genre in Rush Hour and the mixed-race hero in The Matrix. Throughout these analyses Park shows how references to the Orient have marked important changes in American popular attitudes toward East Asia in the past thirty years, from abjection to celebration, invisibility to hypervisibility.
Unlike other investigations of racial imagery in Hollywood, Yellow Future centers on how the Asiatic is transformed into and performed as style in the backdrop of these movies and discusses the significance of this conditional visibility for representations of racial difference.
No Safe Spaces looks at one of the most radical and enduring changes introduced during the Civil Rights era — multiracial and cross-racial casting practices in American theater. The move to cast Latino/a, African-American, and Asian-American actors in classic stage works written by and about white Europeans and Americans is viewed as both a social and political gesture and an artistic innovation. Non-traditionally cast productions are shown to have participated in the national dialogue about race relations and ethnic identity and served as a source of renewed creativity for the staging of the canonical repertory.
The book opens with a historical overview of multiracial casting, considering the artistic, political, and pragmatic dimensions of nontraditional approaches to casting. Two subsequent chapters examine non-traditional casting in terms of the relationship between reality and stage representation being assumed by various theatrical genres and in the context of the process of racial formation in the United States. The remaining chapters focus on case studies from the dominant genres of twentieth-century American theater: classical tragedy and drama, modern domestic drama, anti-realist drama, and the Broadway musical.
Since Japanese horror sensations The Ring and Audition first terrified Western audiences at the turn of the millennium, there’s been a growing appreciation of Asia as the hotbed of the world’s best horror movies. Over the last decade, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong have all produced a steady stream of stylish supernatural thrillers and psychological chillers that have set new benchmarks for cinematic scares.
Hollywood soon followed suit, producing high-profile remakes of films such as The Ring, Dark Water, The Grudge, and The Eye. With scores of Asian horror films now available to Western audiences, this guide helps viewers navigate the eclectic mix of vengeful spooks, yakuza zombies, feuding warlocks, and devilish dumplings, discussing the grand themes of Asian horror cinema and the distinctive national histories that give the films their special resonance.
Tracing the long and noble tradition of horror stories in eastern cultures, it also delves into some of the folktales that have influenced this latest wave of shockers, paying tribute to classic Asian ghost films throughout the ages.
A Chinese-made production of the story of “Mulan” competes with the Disney version to capture attention, history, and revenue. As the article also notes, “While the Disney film wove comedy into a Disney-esque plot about a young girl breaking out of the confines of tradition to pursue her own destiny, the new Mulan focuses on patriotism, filial piety, romance and the difficulties of war. The formula is part of an evolving mainland genre that has seen filmmakers incorporating more nuanced, entertaining storytelling into patriotic plots.”
The Alma Mater Society of Queens University in Kingston, Canada declares that sumo costumes are offensive and that organizations should stop using them as part of their activities:
“Sumo suits, the plastic novelties that can transform a skinny sports fan into a comically unstable sphere for the delight of a stadium audience, are racist and dehumanizing instruments of oppression, according to the student government of Queen’s University. They “appropriate an aspect of Japanese culture,” turn a racial identity into a “costume,” and “devalue an ancient and respected Japanese sport, which is rich in history and cultural tradition.” They also “fail to capture the deeply embedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that a group has faced.”
Likewise, the owners of the two suits have never imagined they could be considered offensive. “It’s the first time we’ve heard of [the racist aspects],” Mike Grobe, a spokesman for Queen’s Athletics, which uses the suits at football and basketball games for half-time shows, when people run obstacle courses in them. “They’re just big puffy suits. They’re pink… No one’s complained.”
Comprised of four Filipino Americans from San Francisco, Legaci has recently gained fame by performing in support of Justin Bieber. But does their success reinforce the notion that Asian American pop music performers can’t be successful as lead acts?
“Even if most people just know us as Justin Bieber’s Asian backup singers,” [Legaci co-founder] Micah Tolentino said, “we’re proud to be out there, to show the world that Asian-Americans are talented.” While the pop charts are a familiar home to African-Americans and Latino-Americans, they’ve been less hospitable to Asian-Americans in the United States.
“Asian-Americans are locked out,” said Phil Yu, who runs the pop-culture blog angryasianman.com. “There are definitely elements of racism, but it’s also that audiences are not used to seeing Asian faces on the pop charts or on music videos, and record labels won’t take a chance on that.” Legaci can list its fellow travelers on one hand. There’s the Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (her father is Filipino), the fledgling Filipino pop star Charice (who sings a duet with Iyaz on her first United States single, “Pyramid”) and most famously, Allan Pineda, a k a Apl.de.ap, of the Black Eyed Peas.
Christine Balance, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Irvine, points out that while Latin and black music have longstanding currency in the industry, there’s nothing comparable for Asian-Americans. “How do you market an Asian-American star?” she said. “African-Americans are foundational to U.S. popular culture, and for Latinos there’s the adjective ‘Latin’ music that’s used to describe a variety of musical forms. But Asians are still seen as foreign or alien to mainstream America.”