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.

Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal’s 2014 Unforgettable awards gala: Celebs share their holiday plans

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Audrey Magazine: 

 

On December 5, the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles nightlife was alive and well on the chilly winter night. On the outskirts of Koreatown stands the Legendary Park Plaza Hotel, the venue of Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal’s 13th annual Unforgettable awards gala.

When entering the hotel, guests were greeted with a giant, brightly-lit Christmas tree which was not only the perfect picturesque backdrop, but it also elicited a sense of holiday spirit. Curious as to what our guests had planned for Christmas, we asked a few to see what their responses would be:


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Actress Ming-Na Wen, the recipient of the “Actress of the Year” award for her role in ABC’s hit television show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., stated, “We’re going to Hawaii, but I’m going to decorate the house. I love decorating the house.”

A performer that night, David Choi attended the event along side YouTubers Arden Cho, Anna Akana, and Philip Wang. When asked how he was going to be spending the holidays the singer/songwriter simply replied, “I’m just going to spend it with family, visit my aunt with all my cousins.

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For his main role in the romantic comedy television series, SELFIE, John Cho was awarded “Actor of the Year” as well as Royal Salute’s “Mark of Respect Award.” Having just had his second child last year, he replied, “I’ll be around; the kids are too young to travel right now.”

Canadian-British actress Karen David, Princess Isabelle in ABC’s Gavalvant, is also going overseas, “For the holiday season, me and my hubby are going to Australia this year because my friend is getting married. I promised my parents that when we get back that we’re going to do a sort of post-Christmas celebration with them because it’s all about time with the family and having good food. And quite frankly, I miss my mother’s Chinese cooking, so I’m going home.”

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Star of Disney’s newest animated film Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter answered matter-of-factly, “I have a bunch of videos to put together for my portfolio for CalArts, so that’ll be it. I’ll just be shooting and editing throughout the holidays, but I’ll still see my family. We’ll have a honey baked ham, so ya.”

Actress and YouTube personality Anna Akana’s response was a change of pace: “I’m going to Italy in ten days! I’m really excited. Me and my boyfriend are going to for seven days over there and then we’ll come back to spend Christmas with my family.”

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Known for her powerhouse vocals, The Voice winner, Tessanne Chin performed two amazing songs that fully displayed her talents. With the mention of the holidays, she sprung right into things, saying, “I’m so excited to see my family because we have been traveling so much this year. I actually get some special time with my husband, my sister, my daddy and my nephew. I can cook up some good food and just do nothing for at least a week or two. That sounds like bliss to me right now.

In addition to John Cho and Ming-Na Wen, Arden Cho and Ki Hong Lee both received an award for “Breakout Star of the Year.” And this night wasn’t just about awards. There were a number of live performances that kept us on the edge of our seat.

Urban dance group KINJAZ kicked off the night with captivating moves followed by a performance by Tessanne Chin, whose powerful vocals left the entire audience in disbelief. Choreographer/dancer Mike Song and beatbox champion KRNFX teamed up for an equally entertaining and humorous performance followed by another duet courtesy of David Choi and Arden Cho. The audience sang along with the sweet duo before G.NA dazzled them with K-pop. Following an opening act by Howard Chen, Yoon Mi Rae hit the stage and brought the audience to their feet. This was followed by an unforgettable encore performance with Tiger JK and Bizzy.

Living up to its name, this night was truly Unforgettable.

–STORY BY AMBER CHEN
All photos courtesy of White Rose Production.

– See more at: http://audreymagazine.com/unforgettable-2014-celebs-share-their-holiday-plans/#sthash.e2xEUyZa.dpuf

Link

Maggie Q and Lucy Liu: Asian-Americans as Leading Ladies

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NY Times: The CW series “Nikita” begins its fourth and final season on Friday — an abbreviated run to tie up story lines, as the reluctant assassin Nikita stands falsely accused of killing the president — and while there’s still a chance, I’d like to celebrate a small but significant milestone. For six more weeks, two of the strongest and most interesting female leads on television are being played by Asian-American actresses.

I’m talking about Maggie Q, finishing her turn as Nikita, and Lucy Liu, in her second season as Joan Watson on CBS’s “Elementary,” where she is every bit as central as Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes. Both shows have their formulaic elements, but Nikita and Joan are noncartoonish, reasonably complex, multidimensional characters, and in prime time, there aren’t too many actresses getting that kind of opportunity in a lead role. Julianna Margulies in “The Good Wife,” Connie Britton in “Nashville,” Claire Danes in “Homeland,” Lizzy Caplan in “Masters of Sex.” It’s a short list.

Of course, that broader look also indicates that the overall picture for Asian actresses (American, Canadian and otherwise) isn’t so happy. A lot of them are working, but in roles far down the food chain from Nikita and Watson, and often playing characters conceived or shaped to reflect longstanding stereotypes about Asians.

Even Maggie Q and Ms. Liu haven’t completely escaped those archetypes. Both are playing the latest iterations of durable characters traditionally inhabited by white performers, so it would seem that race shouldn’t have any particular bearing. But the truth is that they resonate with two of the most common sets of images — or clichés — about Asian women: the high-achieving, socially awkward Dr. Joan Watson is a refined example of the sexy nerd, and the lethal, sometimes icy Nikita, able to dispense violence while wearing tight, microscopic outfits, evokes a long line of dragon ladies and ninja killers.

(You could argue that the association exists only because Maggie Q was cast as Nikita, who is based on a French film character, but it’s a self-canceling argument: The men who created the show sought her out for the role.)

In both cases, though, the actresses and their writers have avoided or transcended easy stereotypes. A lot of effort has gone into humanizing Nikita, and making her a sisterly or even maternal figure for the younger assassin Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), and the emphasis on violent action has decreased over the show’s run. In “Elementary,” Watson has embraced her role as apprentice detective after suffering a catastrophic failure as a doctor, taking some of the shine off her super-competence. And unlike other characters in the same mold, she appears to have a normal, nonneurotic romantic life.

Clothes also tell a tale. Maggie Q fought some battles over her costumes in the early days of “Nikita,” and she has spent progressively more time in plain, covered-up (though still closefitting) workout-style ensembles and less in skimpy red dresses. Ms. Liu’s outfits, mostly chosen by the costume designer Rebecca Hofherr, have attracted a following of their own. The majority opinion seems to be that they reflect Watson’s quirky but confident style. To my eye, they have a clever awfulness, making Ms. Liu look good while signaling that perhaps she doesn’t spend as much time as she could in front of a mirror.

Either way, what Watson’s clothes don’t do is make her look ridiculous or hide Ms. Liu’s attractiveness. That’s the fate of some other Asian-American actresses in roles that play more obviously to geekiness or braininess, and are visually coded for easy comprehension. Liza Lapira wears fright clothes and dowdy haircuts as the sidekick Helen-Alice on “Super Fun Night” (ABC), something she already endured as the eccentric neighbor on “Don’t Trust the B — — in Apt. 23” last season. On “Awkward(MTV), Jessica Lu, as the rebellious daughter of strict Chinese parents, sports a hat with ears while Jessika Van, as her Asian rival, is dressed in starched outfits that make her look like an Amish schoolteacher. Both Ms. Lapira and Ms. Lu are accessorized with glasses — big black ones — something neither appears to wear in real life. Also occasionally donning glasses is Brenda Song as a video-game company executive in “Dads,” on Fox, though her most distinctive costume remains the sailor-girl outfit she wore in the pilot, part of an extended joke about the sexualization of Asian women that didn’t accomplish much besides sexualizing an Asian woman.

And there are other actresses playing less evolved versions of the Nikita-style action hero. Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May, the black-leather-jacketed pilot in “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (ABC), is a stoic enforcer with a dragon-lady vibe; Grace Park’s Kono Kalakaua on “Hawaii Five-0” (CBS) is equally lethal (she often does most of the kicking and punching) but favors bikinis and tight jeans. On “Once Upon a Time” (ABC), Jamie Chung plays the Disney version of a mythical Chinese swordswoman.

It takes some looking to find Asian actresses in roles that don’t easily fit into one of these two broad categories. There are a few jobs in a third category, the manipulative or overly protective Asian mother: Jodi Long on “Sullivan and Son” (TBS), Lauren Tom on “Supernatural” (CW). On the entertaining but paper-thin “Beauty and the Beast” (also on CW), Kristin Kreuk stars as a cop who just happens to be mixed race. There is, of course, a major Asian-Canadian female television star not mentioned yet: Sandra Oh, whose Dr. Cristina Yang is not the lead but is a major member of the ensemble on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” As with Nikita and Watson, Yang displays some typical Asian markers — she’s a hypercompetitive, socially awkward doctor — whose race is matter of fact because there’s so much more to know about her. Yang, along with Watson and Nikita, could be considered exceptions that prove a rule, but I think the real lesson here is probably that TV would be a better place for women of all races if Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) could just write all the shows.

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Maggie Q and Lucy Liu: Asian-Americans as Leading Ladies