Asian-American media watchdog Kulture aims to abolish Asian stereotypes in entertainment

PR Newswire:

Asian-Americans have been unfairly maligned by Hollywood over the years and the trend shows no sign of abating. Kulture monitors the entertainment media for offensive representations of Asian-Americans and documents stereotypes and denigration of Asians in movies and television. The site is easy to navigate, categorizing offenses by media outlet, by type of offense, such as “Reinforces Stereotypes,” and by media type, such as TV commercials. Visitors to the site can also submit their own witnessed offenses through the “Report an Offense” feature.

Kulture is the only website that maintains a database of media offenses against Asian-Americans. They pull the curtain back onHollywood’s subtle racism and feature write ups that explore the offensive themes and tropes that are used to belittle Asian men and sexualize Asian women. In addition to providing the information on the offense, Kulture also analyzes the situation and provides explanation as to why it is considered offensive. Popular shows featured on the site include: “2 Broke Girls,” “Royal Pains,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The Mindy Project.”

The offenses range from “Depicting Asians as Perpetual Immigrants” to “Asians as a Subordinate.” Every media offense, once added to the ‘Kulture Offense Database,’ stays forever. It serves as a repository and reference for the Asian-American community to know which TV shows, which directors, and which companies stereotype and demean Asian cultures.

According to Kulture, the Asian-American community doesn’t yet have full awareness of how depictions in the entertainment media disadvantage them in real life. As an example, Hollywood representations of Asians as timid translate into real-world stereotypes whereby whites refuse to see Asians as leaders.  Asians are often unable to fundamentally change attitudes towards them, which are stubbornly reinforced by Hollywood. In other cases, Asians have a general awareness, but there is no common understanding as to why exactly certain Hollywood depictions are offensive; this forms a shaky basis from which to advocate change. Kulture addresses this by unpacking TV and movie scenes in detail and explaining the offensive nature of them.

Asian-Americans account for approximately 5.6% of the United States population, roughly 18.2 million people. According to student surveys conducted by the University of Michigan, Asian-Americans, when asked, could not name more than a few Asian actors, and the ones they could name were often portrayed in negative terms. Women are often sexualized while men are cast as villains or uncultured characters.

Many Asians know TV shows represent them in a bad light. But they may think they’re alone in that view,” says Kulture’s founder Tim Gupta. “Kulture spotlights how Hollywood mocks and excludes Asian men while fetishizing Asian women. Kulture helps Asians and those concerned about media racism stay abreast of how Asians are depicted, and we will eventually serve as a platform for them to take action against Hollywood offenders.”

To view the list of media offenses, visit www.kulturemedia.org.

Haikus With Hotties: Yen Chen

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 Audrey Magazine:

Our latest Haikus with Hotties poet is the Taiwanese American piano prodigy turned American Ninja Warrior competitor Yen Chen. He recently joined an esteemed group of athletes on the hit NBC obstacle course competition show, based on the Japanese sports entertainment television special Sasuke.

Chen first heard about Sasuke when an English-dubbed version of the show called Ninja Warrior was being broadcast in the U.S. on the now-defunct G4 channel. Producers announced they were making an American spin-off in 2009. An audition tape Chen filmed, where he made light of Asian American male stereotypes, went viral, and as a result, he got a shot at the course. Though he didn’t have an athletic background, he had previously taken up rock climbing to conquer his fear of heights, and his resulting grip strength now serves him well in difficult obstacles, including the Salmon Ladder, Giant Cycle and the Doorknob Arch.

This year, Chen became one of only 18 finalists to make it to Stage 2 of the Las Vegas Finals at Mount Midoriyama — an impressive feat considering only 90 competitors from the multiple-city national tryouts made it to Vegas, and only two athletes made it to Stage 3, where they both fell. So the challenge to become the first American Ninja Warrior to complete the course still remains, and it could be Chen.

So what does it take to tackle Mount Midoriyama while maintaining ultimate hotness? We seek answers through the ancient art of haiku.

 

Ninja warriors
like you need badass nicknames

starting with “The.” Right?

YEN:
A moniker, aye
Would be cool if I had one
But alas, I don’t  : (

 

Warped wall. Spinning bridge.
Salmon ladder — which required 
musical talent?

YEN:
My ear shattering
A capella just before
I hit the water. 

 

Hotter ninja look:
Cliffhanger’s bulging biceps,
ripped shirt at buzzer?

YEN: 
This question you ask
Should be a question I ask
And you to answer 

 

 

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‘Walking Dead’ star Steven Yeun on resisting Asian stereotypes

‘Walking Dead’ Star Steven Yeun on Resisting Asian Stereotypes

Backstage:

Within months of moving from Chicago to L.A. to pursue his acting dreams, Steven Yeun was running from brain-eating zombies on the AMC series “The Walking Dead.” But the newbie was understandably nervous when he started preparing for his first major television role.

When I moved to L.A. and I booked ‘Walking Dead,’ all I could think about was how not to screw it up,” he says. So during the initial wardrobe fitting prior to shooting the show’s first season, Yeun kept it to himself when his outfit reminded him of a certain Asian sidekick from another iconic action franchise.

They put me in these clothes that made me look like Short Round [from ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’],” he says, “and I didn’t say anything because I was just like, ‘Oh, don’t make a fuss, even though this is absurd and you look like Short Round.’ Nobody noticed until it aired, and then they all said, ‘Wait a minute, you look like Short Round.’ And I was like, ‘I know!’ But I was too afraid to say anything because I didn’t want to mess it up.” (His costumes have been tweaked since then.)

But years earlier, Yeun had turned down a theater gig because he thought he would be contributing to similar negative stereotypes if he took the role.

For my first audition ever, in Chicago, the producers of this little show asked me to do an ’80s monologue,” he recalls, “so I came in with Ferris Bueller’s opening monologue. They said, ‘That was good, but can you do an Asian accent?’

That’s when Yeun realized they just wanted to see his version of stereotypical “Sixteen Candles” scene stealer Long Duk Dong. “After that, they wanted to book me and I just refused,” Yeun says.

Not that he advises others to turn down jobs. Yeun says he understands why actors often end up in projects they’re not proud of.

All the power to anybody that takes work, because getting work in this business is hard as hell,” he says. “So you get work and you take it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, I just couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t do a good job because I just didn’t believe in it.”

Like his onscreen alter ego, Yeun was born in Korea and moved to Michigan with his family at an early age. Yeun says he feels especially fortunate today to be playing a well-rounded character like Glenn—thankful not just for a prominent role in a hit show but also for the opportunity to portray an Asian-American character who is not defined by his race, ancestry, or accent.

The Struggle Of Being Asian-American On Halloween

Public Radio East (by Steve Haruch):

 

The other night, at a large outdoor Halloween-themed party, I saw a young white girl, probably about 3 or 4, dressed up in a long, purple kimono. I felt an involuntary uneasiness. I wanted to ask her parents who she was supposed to be — maybe it’s a character in some cartoon I don’t know about, I thought — but I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. Which is to say, Problematic Dress-up Season is in full swing.

Sure, there is no shortage of guides to not being racist for Halloween. Only problem: One must be possessed of a desire not to be racist in order to seek them out. Officials at the University of Minnesota sent an email to students reminding them to “please keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes. Although it may not be the intent, these costumes, and choosing to wear them, can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others.”

But what happens when the costume might be offensive to yourself?

As I was trying to figure out what to be for Halloween this year, I had a recollection of my mom using eyebrow pencil to draw a Fu Manchu-style mustache on my face as part of a costume when I was a kid. (It’s probably worth noting here that I was adopted from Korea, and that my mom is white.) When I asked my parents about this, they said they didn’t remember that Halloween costume in particular, but they did remember once dressing up my sister, who’s also a Korean adoptee, “in a coolie hat,” which is how my mom phrased it.

What was she supposed to be?” I asked.

“An Asian girl,” my mom replied.

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but her answer was so matter-of-fact, it caught me off guard. I may have laughed a little. After all, my sister was, literally, an Asian girl. And I recognize the impulse. Part of choosing a costume is how well you will embody the character, and race is part of what makes a costume legible. (If I showed up at your Halloween party in an impeccable midcentury suit, with a Scotch in hand and a look of vacant smugness on my face, I doubt you’d guess I was Don Draper.)

This recollection reminded me how, in my teens and early 20s, I made a conscious effort to carry over my Asian-American identity reclamation project onto my Halloween costume choices. That did not prove easy.

One year, I borrowed a Yankees hat from a friend and carried a backpack to every Halloween party. Almost no one recognized this as a costume, much less who it was supposed to be: Short Round, Indiana Jones’ sidekick in the The Temple of Doom. (Note to costume purists: I didn’t realize at the time that he actually wore an old-school New York Giants hat, but I wouldn’t have been able to find one anyway.)

If someone asked for a hint, I’d recite what lines of his I could remember from the movie — “Hey, lady, call him Dr. Jones!” — which of course required putting on an accent. Talk about problematic. Halloween is particularly tricky (so to speak) in that a costume’s success depends so much on what resonates within the culture, and when so much of what resonates derives from racist attitudes, the holiday becomes a crucible of identity struggles.

One year I wore all black clothing, a black mask and black leather gloves. Most people recognized this as a costume — one person who was probably quite drunk guessed Zorro — but no one guessed who it was supposed to be: Kato, the Green Hornet’s sidekick and Bruce Lee’s first American television role.

If you’re sensing a theme of “Asian” and “sidekick,” then you have stayed woke, as it were.

The larger issue in all this is that it was near impossible to choose a costume that was Asian-American, and just as hard to choose one that was Asian without perpetuating the kinds of stereotypes I spent the other 364 days a year trying to dispel.

I love Bruce Lee, obviously, but I would never wear a gi for Halloween. (If I wore his yellow-and-black jumpsuit from The Game of Death, folks might wonder why I thought I could pull off Uma Thurman.) And I’d never wear a traditional Korean hanbok, either — because while “person from another culture” is not a good costume idea, neither is “person from my own culture.” Both treat ethnic identity as a plaything.

One year I considered going as Ah Jong, Chow Yun-fat‘s character in The Killer, but that mostly involved wearing a suit and holding two guns, which something told me would go over about as well as previous attempts.

The options only got more obscure from there — I’m the guy from that movie Reservoir Dogs ripped off! — and I eventually gave up on the project altogether.

Then again, maybe this year I’ll go as Ekelarc Yong.

Link

Justin Chan asks, “Are Asian men undateable? ‘Yellow fever’ seems to only cut one way.”

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Justin Chan (via PolicyMic.com):

The online dating website “Are You Interested” recently surveyed more than 2.4 million interactions on its site and confirmed what many of us suspect: America loves Asian women.

In fact, Asian female users are more likely to get messages, including inappropriate ones, from male users of any race other than Asian. This trend, popularly dubbed “yellow fever,” is not a new phenomenon, springing instead from an attraction to what some observers say is the exotic appeal of Asian women, and a self-indulging fantasy of being with women who are seen as docile and submissive.

While Asian women seem to be in high demand, Asian men do not. Asian female and non-Asian male pairings are seen to be common, but Asian men are often left out of the discussion over interracial relationships entirely. As one of my black female friends put it, “Asian men, along with black women, are probably the least desirable people.”

A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Columbia University, which surveyed a group of over 400 students who participated orchestrated “speed dating” sessions, showed that African-American and white women said “yes” 65% less often to the prospect of dating Asian men in comparison of men of their own race, while Hispanic women said yes 50% less frequently. Though Asian-Americans still date and marry each other, cultural stereotypes of Asian men may make them less attractive to women of all races, including Asians.

Despite iconic masculine Asian role models like Bruce Lee, Asian men are often portrayed as scrawny males who spend more time studying than lifting weights in the gym, appearing in popular culture as soft-spoken, reserved types who rarely take part in activities that people qualify as “masculine” like professional football or construction work, as characters played for laughs.

These depictions run counter to what society tells us women want: someone confident, tall, dark and handsome.

Women think we have a masculinity that’s maligned and marginalized,” said my friend Jubin Kwon, a Korean-American who grew up in the predominantly white town of Lexington, Mass. “There’s also this idea of relative invisibility, but that applies to all Asian-Americans.”

Given the constant stereotyping Asian-American men face in the media, Asian-American men approaching non-Asian women often either feel an unnecessary burden to prove themselves against Asian stereotypes or keep to themselves in fear of rejection. The agonizing paralysis of self-doubt is well captured by John Shim, who wrote a telling piece for The Daily Bruin in 2002, lamenting “I feel cheated out of a myriad of romantic experiences that could have been brought to fruition were I not an Asian male.”

Growing up, I felt the same way. Part of me believed that I had no chance with non-Asian women because our cultural differences were too apparent. The other part was simply a lack of self-confidence. I rarely had the courage to express my feelings because I was too worried about the what-ifs.

Over time, I forced myself to look past the stigmas that defined Asian males and worked to counter them. It paid off slowly but surely.

For some, the anxiety over being an Asian male that I once harbored can seem like an overreaction. “For me, there is no pressure [in asking a non-Asian woman out],” said my friend Anthony Ma, whose ex-girlfriend was Mexican. “But if you’re from a very traditional Asian household, there might be some.”

Even for those who share Ma’s confidence, the sad truth is that the media continues to perpetuate the emasculated Asian male stereotype. To some, we are quiet or asexual. To others, we’re less manly than our white, black and Hispanic counterparts. The consensus seems to be that Asian men have nothing going for them. “While growing up in a homogeneous white town, it was a standard perception that Asian men just weren’t attractive,” Sarah Shaw acknowledged in a post for Mapping Words earlier this year.

Whether this line of thought will change depends on the media’s openness to promote more traditionally or differentially masculine Asian figures, and the willingness of Asian men to tackle existing media stereotypes of us head-on. As long as characters like Short Round continue to exist, Asian males will always have to confront issues regarding their masculinity.

Check out this link:

Justin Chan asks, “Are Asian men undateable? ‘Yellow fever’ seems to only cut one way.”

Link

Asian-Americans speak out against new run of ‘Miss Saigon’

The Broadway MusicalMiss Saigon” recently celebrated its 24th birthday and is gearing up to launch in Minneapolis and Detroit. But the play’s new run is giving some the chance to speak out. The musical, which was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boubil, and Richard Maltby, centers on a romance between an American man and a Vietnamese woman during the Vietnam War. Since its opening in 1989, the play has become one of the longest running and most enduring representations of Vietnamese people in the Western world. But many detractors accuse the play of trafficking in age-old Asian stereotypes.

A new Tumblr campaign has popped up called Don’t Buy Miss Saigon: Our Truth Project. In it, dozens of Asian-Americans, most Vietnamese men and women, can “share their truths, as an act of resistance,” according to the website.

Check out this link:

Asian-Americans speak out against new run of ‘Miss Saigon’

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