Manifest Beautification

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Hello Cultural Appropriation!

Ever since we were shown Avril Lavigne’s music video named “Hello Kitty” in class this past Tuesday, I can hear her voice when I think of the words hello kitty in my head. I have always been a fan of Lavigne’s music and I have never come across this video. I have all these mixed feelings about the video. I still struggle to fully comprehend what it meant (to her as well), what was even happening, and why this happened. This has a lot to do with my relationship and understanding of Hello Kitty.

Growing up, my older sisters were very into Hello Kitty. I also grew to like it because it was cute but as that age, I did not fully grasp what she stood for. I didn’t find meaning in a relationship with her. Honestly, I didn’t even know she was from Sanrio’s world. During my teenage years, I have grown to adore other Sanrio icons much more than Hello Kitty. I wasn’t a collector of the sort since my family nor I cannot afford such consumption. Hello Kitty was never a huge deal for me.

When we watched the Gwen Stefani video, I also didn’t really know how to feel about it. I definitely felt that it was wrong and what she did was very offensive. But the thing was, I never really know in context the intentions behind the lyrics, the specific group of Japanese girls, and the word “Harajuku”. In her book, Pink Globalization, Yano clarified for me that Harajuku is a commercial mecca of the street youth culture in Japan, where it exhibited an overload of cuteness. I can’t believe she also had a period of her career where these girls followed her everywhere she went. I wonder if she has ever come to terms that what she did was appropriate this culture.

As Yano also points out, there does seem to be shifting meanings of goods – which are depended on where they are being distributed. It is obvious that Hello Kitty and Harajuku girls (Asian people in general) were made an accessory to these white celebrities. The message was loud and clear. The only time Asian culture would appear trendy or on the big screen, shown to this side of the world, is if it becomes an accessory founded by white people. With all of this in mind, we can easily come to the conclusion that this is cultural appropriation by Hollywood celebrities at its finest. This makes me sick to my stomach.

When we were discussing cultural appropriation and who really owns anything in their culture in class, I was pretty upset. Taking something from someone’s culture, without no acknowledgement of the culture itself, and trying to stake the claim on it is essentially stealing. No, that is not ok. Credit should be given where it is due.

Master of None Asian Women

The authorship in Master of None was definitely noticeable. Not because it was extremely horrible. On the contrary, it was extremely great at presenting an in your face and authentic representation of reality. The opening scene of the pilot episode was a sex scene between a man of color and a white woman. Honestly, yeah, threw me off a bit. But, I kept watching and do I not, Not NOT regret that decision!

It does not go unnoticed by most fans of the show that white women are predominately his love interests. The only Asian woman (Annie Chang) that went to dinner and made an appearance as a potential love interest of Dev was only in it for the free food. She definitely wasn’t the one in bed with Dev in the pilot episode. What does this say about this writer/producer’s choice? It can be interpreted in a lot of ways. From a comical standpoint, it points out this idea of dinner dates as just free dinners that can just be the main motive as to why women would give men the time of day and vice versa. And thinking of it like this, can make it hilarious. Maybe, the choice was to not perpetuate this stereotype and avoid painting an image of orientalist Asian woman in the opening scene. It can also be interpreted as a message that says that not all Asian women are hypersexual beings: and can only be either the dragon lady or the lotus blossom. It could have been the choice to make a claim that those aren’t the only two personas Asian women can have when it comes to their sexuality as well as character. Since there is an Asian women fetish in porn as well, that just made the decision speak for itself? OR MAYBE, these could be totally wrong assumptions about the possible reasons why.

What is about to be noted here does not focus on the headline, but I just want to attach it to this post, and it is that the second episode “Parents” was one of my favorites. As mentioned by Amy Lam on bitchmedia.org, “It’s a story that’s so common for children of immigrants. But the part of what brought me to tears, as a first-generation American myself, was realizing how painful and true and jarring it is to see our narratives reflected back to us on screens that have ignored our stories for so long.” Lam was able to sum up my experience with this episode in just 2 sentences and that just highlights the collective experience immigrant children have. It also says something about this show and how this particular episode was able to captivate the true realities of lived-experiences that the network primetime television shows I have been exposed to, have failed at attempting to portray.

Like Lam, I am hoping to see more women of color included in the second season as well. Of course I do not require this demand to be met. The show in itself has done so much on accurately presenting & representing realistic experiences and there are much thanks to be given to that. But I won’t deny that it would be nice to see Asian women also being represented as well as presented.

MC FONG TRAN 11/10

This past Tuesday was definitely an evening of self-expression. There were a lot of voices that were heard. Before that night, I heard of MC Fong Tran about three years ago. I had come across a couple of his spoken word pieces on YouTube. They really moved me so when I saw on the syllabus that he was hosting the open mic, I was stoked.

The day came and I was so excited about the event that I got to the Biko Garage 30 minutes early. I had never been to the Biko garage before and it was located in a dark alley, which honestly freaked me out a little. So, I stood on the corner of the block and waited for about five minutes. I walked up to the garage and saw Tran sitting on a table jotting something down. I was one of the first ones there. I decided to introduce myself. I told him that I was also from Sacramento. We chatted for a bit and he gave me his business card. He asked me if I write poetry and I told him that I used to in high school. Then, he encouraged me to perform. I politely declined multiple times because I was not prepared.

Tran introduced himself to the crowd and he noted that he would perform one of his own pieces at the beginning, middle, and end of the event. His first piece was called “History Textbooks”. It was one of the first pieces I heard when I first heard of him. It is an amazing piece and to see it in person was astounding. As the evening grew older and the air coldly thickened, the people who signed up to perform were going up one by one. Some performed quickly, which just left me to ponder about their spoken piece some more. The messages of those who went 5+ minutes over made it possible for me to really think about what they were saying. Throughout the 2 hours and 30 minutes open mic, there was a mixture of rap, accapella, storytelling, and spoken word poetry.

Tran shared his last spoken word piece, “Dear Young Man Of Color” of the night and I was happy to hear it again. I haven’t heard it since last year.

On my way home, I reminisce about how much I loved and wrote poetry when I was in high school. It was the one thing that I felt truly expressed how I felt. Mapping the emotions of a teenage girl onto paper kept me sane for the time being. When I started college, even though I had more free time, I was busy all the time. I only wrote 5 poems in the past three years compared to when I wrote a few pieces monthly. This is crazy and I plan to change this. As academics got more serious, I pushed the arts away. I felt that my time to pursue any of them were gone and the time to grow up is any day now. After attending this event, I realize that I’m wrong. Engaging in the arts is a special kind of freedom in a world so confined by the race, class, status, etc. relations.

Independent Media, New Practices, & Mobilizing Organizations

Directing and producing independent films opens an outlet for Asian Americans to showcase their work. Independent is in terms of non-mainstream production of media where it also has a close interrelated relationship with the dominant media. Independent refers to funding, marketing, and production as well as taking into consideration, audience, content, and context. Along with independent films, new media practices, in this case the Internet, are another alternative that makes space for the API community.

In Thursday’s screening of the documentary, Uploaded: The Asian American Movement, I was shocked to see how much Asians Americans that I recognized. There were a few that I have not heard of before but I was excited to find out who they were. It was interesting how they used new media practices to present accurate ways of representation. While watching the film, I remember how some these YouTube characters that have dominated memories of my adolescent years. I would check weekly to see if Wong Fu Productions, NigaHiga, and KevJumba uploaded a new episode. I didn’t agree with every single message they sent out bit it is nice to see a face, character, and/or story that I recognize and may even identify with. Watching these YouTube videos, created by Asian Americans provided a way for me to bond with my siblings as well. We finally had something interesting to talk and laugh about. Seeing the progress of Asian Americans in the media was very inspirational.

After watching the documentary, I realized how important it is for Asian Americans to support each other: monetarily and as an audience. I think it is important to note that when mobilizing organizations for support, we move from the individual to the collective. Support in helping these independent films will help put out more accurate depictions of Asian Americans in the media.

MEME

The Model Minority is “racial scapegoating by selectively and inaccurately invoking the economic and educational achievements of middle class Asian Americans as supposed proof that minorities can overcome racial barriers without federal assistance or legal responses of discrimination.” (Mimura, pg. 3)

In accordance to being the model minority, it does not matter how differently positioned and situated each Asian ethnic minority groups are because they will all be successful because of family values, hyper-intelligence, etc.

We must work to deconstruct the stereotype of Asians as the model minority as well as the stereotypes it perpetuates and upholds. The first step is to acknowledge that it is a myth as well as understanding the damage of how it racially scapegoats Asian Americans.

#ModelMinorityMyth

RE/PRESENTATION

So, I’m finally caught up with Fresh Off The Boat Season 1 and the released episodes of Season 2. I also watched the pilot episode of Dr. Ken. I have to say, I was a bit more enthusiastic about Dr. Ken. I felt like I knew what I was getting into. Like Ken Jeong stated, the show is loosely based on his family and professional life. The term that was emphasized here is “loosely”. It was implied that this show will somewhat cater to the network but only to a certain extent. Compared to Fresh Off The Boat, Dr. Ken brings in a totally different aspect, where Ken Jeong (who this character is based on) plays the leading role of “Dr. Ken”.

In the article, Network TV Ate My Life: Eddie Huang on Watching His Memoir Become a Sitcom, Eddie Huang mentioned a time when he would not let up about how the book and show could not portray the same story. Melvin Mar, producer and buyer of Eddie Huang’s memoir replyed, “Eddie, the point of a network show is for people to come home from work, laugh for22 minutes on the couch, watch your TV family solve A-plot and B-plot, and end up on a similar couch as one big, happy, AMERICAN family.” (http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat-abc.html) This struck a nerve for me and I know it did for Eddie also – even if it was for only a little while.

Huang came to the same conclusion: “That’s when I realized what was really going on. It wasn’t that I hated the show. It genuinely entertained me, but it had to do more… My story had become an entertaining but domesticated vehicle to sell dominant culture with Kidz Bop, pot shots, and the emasculated Asian male.“ (http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat-abc.html) Throughout the writing part of this show, Huang eventually got the point that his life story was being turned into something that would be catered to the dominant culture. This something being the notion that we are all the same.

In the article, Is ‘Fresh off the Boat’ a network sitcom or the rawest, realest TV show about Asian Americans ever? YES, Jeff Yang stated, “Because while the show may not be very faithful to Huang’s individual life, it is nevertheless an authentic Asian American expression of a more universal experience, and one that’s rawer and realer than anyone has ever seen that story presented.” I find it troublesome for Yang to say that the show presents an authentic representation of a universal Asian American experience. Yes, this is the first time a story in this context is presented in popular media. Yes, the show made it on network television but it still hit that “bamboo ceiling” as Huang stated, but that does not mean it is a very raw and real depiction of a universal Asian American experience.

All in all, it freaks me out a bit that Eddie Huang (the real Eddie Huang) doesn’t even want to be part of the show anymore. My hopes of the achievements and steps Fresh Off The Boat can achieve towards a more accurately depicted Asian American platform is slowly diminishing. This platform is a work in progress and I am glad that Dr. Ken will surface on the ABC network very recently. My hopes for Asian Americans in the Media being accurately represented and presented might just be recuperated.