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.

Ki Hong Lee romances ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ on Tina Fey’s new Netflix show

kihonglee

Audrey Magazine:

This past weekend, Netflix premiered Tina Fey’s new series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While Fey doesn’t star in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt like she does in 30 Rock, the show is unmistakably hers with its sense of outlandish, wacky humor. Another commonality Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has with 30 Rock is toeing the line with racial humor, whether it’s the use of ironic blackface in 30 Rock or Jane Krakowski’s backstory in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

When Korean American actor Ki Hong Lee (from The Maze Runner and People’s “Sexiest Men Alive” 2014 list) shows up as an immigrant Vietnamese character named Dong in Kimmy’s ESL class, it’s hard not to see parallels with Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles.  As soon as Dong is introduced, he laughs at Kimmy’s name because “it means ‘penis’ in Vietnamese.”

There are numerous “dong” puns afterwards, but Kimmy quickly tells a character to get over the snickering since Dong is a common Vietnamese name.

The rest of the series both plays into and subverts Asian stereotypes with Ki Hong Lee’s character. On one hand, Dong is working as a Chinese food delivery boy, good at math (though this is mostly just used as an excuse to have Kimmy and Dong spend time with each other) and worried about being deported. On the other hand, Dong is the rarest of the Asian American male characters — a viable love interest.

Part of what made Sixteen Candles Long Duk Dong offensive and racist is that he is made to seem like a buffoon. Long Duk Dong is not a human character, he is simply an amalgamation of Asian stereotypes to be laughed at. His romantic interest in Molly Ringwald’s character is never taken seriously by either the other characters or the audience. And therein lies the key difference between Long Duk Dong and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s character, Dong.

While Dong’s character is not without stereotypes, he is never ripped of his humanity. His romantic interest in Kimmy is never played for laughs; they are both outsiders in New York, they share a childlike innocence and glee in the silliest things, and they actually like each other. It’s rare to see an Asian male character as a viable part of a love triangle and even rarer to see the Asian guy “win.” In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy chooses Dong and their romance is shown as something real.

By the end of season one, Dong is stuck in a situation where he can either continue to show up in the second season or be easily written out (Ki Hong Lee is currently a guest star on the show). Yes, Dong is character that could be tagged as #YourFaveIsProblematic on Tumblr, but if Ki Hong Lee isn’t too busy running in more mazes, we would definitely like to see where his romance with Kimmy goes.

 

Jon Foo cast in Jackie Chan role in CBS’ TV adaptation of Rush Hour franchise

Deadline/ComingSoon.net/Angry Asian Man:

The 1998 Rush Hour movie helped make Hong Kong film star and martial arts wiz Jackie Chan a household name in America, jumpstarting a successful Hollywood career. Now CBS’ TV adaptation of the hit movie franchise is looking to do the same for Jon Foo, who has landed the Detective Lee role played in the movies by Chan.

Written/executive produced by Bill Lawrence and Blake McCormick and directed/exec produced by Jon Turteltaub, CBS’ Rush Hour pilot centers on Lee (Foo), a stoic, by-the-book Hong Kong police officer assigned to a case in Los Angeles, where he’s forced to work with a cocky black LAPD officer, Carter (originally played by Chris Tucker), who has no interest in a partner. A top detective with the Hong Kong police department, Detective Lee is a dedicated professional and master martial artist, a man of few words who knows how to get the job done.

The movies’ director Brett Ratner and producer Arthur Sarkissian also executive produce with Jeff Ingold for Warner Bros TV and Lawrence’s studio-based Doozer. Ratner directed three Rush Hour films between 1998 and 2007 with Chan headlining opposite Chris Tucker in all three. Combined, the three films grossed more than $850 at the worldwide box office.

Like Chan, British actor Foo, who is of Chinese and Irish descent, is a trained martial artist who has done stunt work and built a resume as an international action star. In the U.S., he is probably best known for his role in the 2010 feature Tekken.

Foo is trained in a variety of martial arts styles and is also well known for playing Ryu in the fan film Street Fighter: Legacy.

 

Controversial Tweet about Eddie Huang’s “Fresh Off The Boat”

The official Twitter account for ABC‘s upcoming spin-off comedy series Fresh Off the Boat is in some hot water after posting a controversial ad depicting various cultural hats. Chef Eddie Huang, whose memoir serves as the basis for the forthcoming comedy series, expressed his distaste for the ad, calling it “plain offensive and ridiculous.”

Receiving criticism from audiences for its stereotypical nature in particular for its “bamboo hat” reference, the Twitter ad has since been deleted as executive producer Jeff Yang confirms. While it is no secret that Huang has expressed his frustration on getting the television series on air, the chef praises ABC’s efforts in pioneering a story that has yet to be told on major networks.

Check out the tweet below…

View image on Twitter

Randall Park on what it means to star on TV’s first Asian American family sitcom in 20 Years

randall_park

 

Audrey Magazine: (story by Randall Park)

 

It happened! A pilot that I worked on got picked up to be a series!

Now, I’ve done several of these during the course of my career, and none have made it past the pilot stage. But after over a decade of hard work in this business, it’s finally happened. I will be a regular character on a nationally televised show. But this is not just any show. When it makes its debut next year, ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat will be the first Asian American family sitcom to air on network television in 20 years, since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl. For me, coming from an Asian American studies background, this is like a wet dream. But it’s also a lot of pressure.

People are hungry to see themselves represented on television, and people rightfully want to be represented properly. But the Asian American community is not monolithic, and proper representation means different things to different people. For example, there has been a great deal of online debate about whether or not the title Fresh Off the Boat is offensive. The answer isn’t so clear-cut: it’s yes for some, no for others. Again, members of our community do not all think alike. But with that said, this particular show is based on an amazing book bearing the same title by Eddie Huang. It is his memoir, it is his title, and I, for one, am all for it.

I do, however, have my own issues with the show: first of all, the fact that I’m on it. To have a Korean American actor play the father of a Taiwanese-Chinese American family is an issue that is not lost on me. I’ve even expressed my concerns repeatedly about this to Eddie himself. And every time, he has shown me nothing but love and support, assuring me that I’m the only one for this job. Whether true or not, I take that to heart because, again, it is his story.

Then, there’s the issue of having to speak with an accent. In an ideal world, I would never have to play a character with an accent. But this is a character based on a real person. So it’s something that I have to honor and try to perfect as the series moves forward.

Playing an immigrant character on a television comedy also has its own inherent risks: Is the audience laughing because the joke is funny or because I’m speaking with an accent? Are they laughing because I’m a human being in a funny situation or because they think I’m a funny-talking immigrant? I am constantly analyzing through this lens, almost to the point of paranoia.

Geesh, white actors never have to go through this sh-t.

But issues aside, I am proud to be a part of this amazing show. Getting a television series on the air is an incredible feat. Getting one with no bankable name stars in today’s television climate is damn near impossible. Getting one about an Asian American family on the air is a frickin’ miracle. Just know that. And regardless of how Fresh Off the Boat does ratings-wise, I believe it’s a step toward more varied representation on the small and big screens. Hopefully, it inspires others to tell their own stories and translate them to a TV show, as Eddie did. It is possible. And we shouldn’t have to wait another 20 years for it to happen again.

 

This column was originally printed in KoreAm Journal. It was later published in Audrey Magazine’s Winter 2014-15 issue– Get your copy here

Fresh Off the Boat premieres Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 8:30 pm. and a second episode will air at 9:30. Fresh Off the Boat will move to its regular 8:00 pm Tuesday timeslot on Feb. 10.  

Robert Kinoshita, robot designer for ‘Forbidden Planet’ and ‘Lost in Space,’ dies at 100

Kinoshita with a fan-built replica of the Lost in Space robot in 2004.

Kinoshita with a fan-built replica of the Lost in Space robot in 2004

The Hollywood Reporter:

Robert Kinoshita, a production designer and art director who designed the iconic robots for the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet and the 1960s TV series Lost in Space, has died. He was 100.

Kinoshita died Dec. 9 at a nursing care facility in Torrance, Calif., family friend Mike Clark told The Hollywood Reporter.
For Robby the Robot on Forbidden Planet, Kinoshita cobbled together several concepts contributed by MGM’s art and special effects departments, and made a miniature prototype of wood and plastic. The model, with a domed head of clear plastic, was quickly approved, and Kinoshita completed its construction. The film received an Oscar nomination for special effects.
Kinoshita was in the work pool of 20th Century Fox’s art department in the mid-1960s when producer Irwin Allen selected him to become the first-season art director for Lost in Space, which aired for three seasons on CBS from 1965-68.
Kinoshita’s bubble-brained Robot — a late addition to the cast whose famous line was “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” — featured a metallic barrel chest, light-up voice panel and rubberized legs. Kinoshita rushed to deliver the complicated costume shortly before the show entered production. (Dick Tufeld provided the voice.)
The Robot received as much fan mail as its the human cast, and a nationwide organization of fans, The B9 Robot Builders, has built more 100 full-size Robot replicas.
For the series, Kinoshita also modified the Robinson family’s spacecraft, designed for the pilot by Bill Creber, to include a lower deck with living quarters, dining room, lab and Robot dock. He stretched the production budget by creatively raiding props and discards from the Fox backlot.
Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 1914, Kinoshita grew up in the Boyle Heights area. He attended Maryknoll Japanese Catholic School, Roosevelt High School and USC’s School of Architecture, and became interested in the movies, receiving his first practical experience on the 1937 film 100 Men and a Girl.
He and his wife, Lillian, were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during World War II, but a sponsor allowed the couple to leave before war’s end and move to Wisconsin, where he became proficient in industrial design and fabricating products out of plastic.
Kinoshita came back to California in the early 1950s and returned to the movie industry just as MGM was gearing up for production of Forbidden Planet. In addition to Robby, Kinoshita designed several sets including the lab of Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon).
Also in the 1950s, he also created the robot Tobor from Here Comes Tobor (1957) and worked for ZIV Television on such series as Science Fiction Theater, Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, Bat Masterson and Men Into Space.
Later, he served as associate producer and production designer on the independent films The Phantom Planet (1961) and Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970) and was a free-lancer on such series as Hawaii-5-0, Barnaby Jones and Gene Roddenberry‘s pilot Planet Earth.
Kinoshita claimed his longevity was due to clean living and daily doses of apple cider vinegar, Clark said. He is survived by a daughter, Pat.
A private service was held on Dec. 23 at Green Hills Mortuary in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The Stndrd: Profile on Galavant’s Karen David

Karen David by John P. Fleenor (1)

 

The STNDRD (by Adam C. Better):

Karen David is a captivating young beauty that seems capable of accomplishing anything artistically. David was raised in Canada and also spent some of her formative years in London. She knew at a very early age that she wanted to pursue a career in acting and music.

Her newest project is the ABC show, Galavant. “It’s Monty Python meets The Princess Bride. I feel so lucky to be part of something so special. It really has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” said David in regards to working on her new hit show.

David is also actively involved in the world of fashion and you can learn about that side of her at queenstrunk.com. You can keep up with Karen David’s career at karendavid.com.

Where are you from originally?

I’m a bit of a tossed salad—a mishmosh of Chinese, Khasi (a tribe from where I was born) and Indian. There is a bit of “Mazel Tov” in my surname for good measure. Culturally, I am Canadian and British. But, I was born near the foothills of the Himalayas in a place called Shillong.

How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do for a profession?

I remember the day so clearly—I was only 6 years old when my older sister and I watched Xanadu together. As soon as I saw the gorgeous Olivia-Newton John singing like an angel and acting on the screen…I was bitten hard. I knew right at that moment that I wanted to sing and act just like her. There was no looking back and my parents told me right then and there that I had to take the initiative and work really hard. They certainly had no connections in “the biz.” I love that my parents didn’t discourage me. Normally Asian, or South Asian, families want their children to be a doctor, or lawyer or an accountant. Mine said I should dream big, but back it up with a good work ethic.

What do you feel is your greatest strength as an artist?   

I’m all heart—which is a good thing—but it can make things tough too. I was told by one of my mentors that following your heart is the toughest choice to make. But, it is a much more rewarding path and a regret free zone. When I’m acting or singing, I do so with all my heart. Any fears or nerves I may have subside, because the heart is an honest and “real” place to speak from. There’s no hiding and I kind of like that. Throwing yourself in the deep end and trusting that you will land on your feet.

The fashion world is a big part of your life—can you talk a little bit about your love for fashion?

Growing up in London really taught me a lot about fashion. My wardrobe definitely evolved when I moved over to the UK. I love how everyone in Europe dresses according to their own individuality and their personalities. Fashion is an extension of who they are.

Do you feel more of a personal connection to music or acting?

I think because I started singing and acting at the same time—I feel connected to both. They balance me out creatively. I know being an actor makes me a better songwriter and writing new music inspires me. It takes your mind away from the working actor mentality of ‘what am I going to do in between roles?’ My main goal is to continue to be creative and inspired.

What kind of projects are you usually attracted to?

I love roles that are the complete opposite of myself—or characters with massive flaws. They are fascinating and challenging to play. Roles like that scare me at first and that’s when I know I’m going to love embarking on an adventure with that character.

Can you talk a little bit about the obstacles a minority woman faces in Hollywood?

I know there are challenges. I hear minority actors talk about it. But, I must admit, I have never personally experienced it during my own journey. I’m not saying that what those actors are talking about is wrong. It’s important to bring awareness to it. But, for myself, I never wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m a brown person or I’m a brown actor.’ I just see me. All the good and all the flaws. Just me, and that is what I want everyone else to see. I know my mixed heritage has allowed me to play all kinds of different roles. I have tested a couple of times for roles where originally they said they wanted a more ‘exotic’ looking actress. Then the girl who ends up getting the role is blonde and blue eyed. What can you do? That is something beyond my control. I just focus on being the best that I can be. Every actor has their own set of challenges, whatever ethnicity they are. It’s a tough business, but there is room for everyone who has talent.