Ken Jeong has always been a divisive figure in the Asian American community—with some accusing the Korean American actor/comedian of embracing and perpetuating Asian male stereotypes. Even before his new ABC sitcom Dr. Ken premiered this past Friday, there was already criticism hurled Jeong’s way from folks upset about his stereotypical “yellowface buffoonery” in movies like The Hangover and other folks who loved how he broke down stereotypes in movies like The Hangover and didn’t appreciate how the new sitcom watered down his humor. Like Star Trek’sKobayashi Maru, Jeong is clearly in a no-win scenario.
While I understand the criticisms, I’ve personally found Jeong’s brand of humor to be so singularly unique that the sheer force of his originality superceded anything that could be mistaken for a simple stereotype. And while I agree that some of his originality may have been somewhat watered down for his TGIF debut, I think the series shows enough promise (and others who have seen subsequent episodes have told me it gets better) to give it a shot and the ratings for the premiere episode were strong. Read more...
If you were alive in the 1970s and watching TV, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen this commercial for Calgon Laundry Detergent:
Yup, this is where the whole “ancient Chinese secret” schtick originated from—with actors Calvin Jung and Anne Miyamoto portraying the Chinese American laundry owners who sure know how to get your laundry 30% cleaner. Read more...
So on last night’s episode of the popular CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, Asian American actor Tim Chiou guest-starred as a handsome web designer who hooks up with Caroline, the blond broke girl. I know Tim and it’s great to see him play that rarity in Hollywood—a sexy Asian American dude with no accent who gets to kiss the girl (and a blond white girl to boot) and a whole lot more.
That should normally be the end of the story, but things get complicated by the fact that this positive Asian American male character is on a show where one of the other regular characters is…Han:
Michelle Krusiec is a critically acclaimed actress who is best known for her starring role in the romantic comedy Saving Face for which she was nominated Best Actress for the Chinese Oscar equivalent, the Golden Horse. Michelle has been globetrotting and trekking Earth as an actress, writer, solo performer, blogger and domestic violence advocate. Read her blog, her self deprecating truth telling stories about what it’s really like to be an actor. Michelle sleeps in Los Angeles, dreams about New York and eats in Asia, but really you’ll find her up near the Griffith Park Observatory with one of those Korean sun visors on.
Michelle with the cast of NBC's "Community"
I was in an audition for a big franchise film when the casting director who happened to be Asian sheepishly asked me, “Could you…did you see the note about doing it with an Asian accent?” She was a little apologetic and I detected her discomfort for having to put me in what she assumed was an uncomfortable situation. I’m not an actor who is uncomfortable with doing accents, but I have an Asian American actor friend who would have said, “Absolutely not.” It got me thinking, are we equating Asian accents with stereotypes because there’s a communal shame surrounding our lack of diverse representation for Asian Americans? When I appear on panels about AAs in the media, I’m almost always asked if we are moving away from stereotypical Asian characters, such as accented ones, and I’m torn because I want to say, there’s nothing wrong with accented characters. It’s how you portray them. Read more...
Last week I blogged about five otherwise decent films ruined by Asian stereotypes. Today, I look at five films (in no particular order) with problematic portrayals of Asians but that contain at least one performance by an Asian actor that make the movies “better.” So without further ado:
On the face of it, the plot for this movie sounds pretty ridiculous: White soldier (Tom Cruise) travels to 19th century Japan and becomes the titular “last samurai” when all the other samurais are killed off, then proceeds to retire to a Japanese village to live out his life with his Japanese love. But what gives the film its weight and verisimilitude are the performances of the Japanese cast and, in particular, Ken Watanabe as the leader of the samurai rebels who takes Cruise under his wing and mentors him. Watanabe (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work) grounds the film with a talent and charisma that appears so subtle and effortless that before you even realize it, you have witnessed the birth of a true American star.
I know a number of Asian Americans who are quick to point out the inaccuracies of many of the stereotypes attributed our people (No, we’re not all model minorities. No, Asian guys don’t have small dicks), but there’s one stereotype they will reluctantly admit has some basis in truth…that Asians are bad drivers.
But how accurate is this stereotype and is there any solid evidence to support it? I asked our readers via our Twitter and Facebook pages to share their thoughts on the subject and I’ll get to some of those responses in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at some of the “evidence” for this stereotype to determine if this is indeed…chinky or not chinky?Read more...
Unlike my fellow Offender Roger, I didn’t fear Filipina girls when I was growing up, but I don’t think I personally knew too many of them either (or I simply assumed they were Latina). So when this Filipina girl I liked (let’s call her Holly) agreed to go to a movie with me, it was my first real exposure to anything Filipino. Which is to say I expected them to be like the other Asians I knew at the time—studious, repressed, etc… Man, was I wrong.
The first sign that my preconceptions would be smashed took place as I was walking up to Holly’s house to pick her up. I could hear the sound of music—Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” to be precise—blaring from inside. When I knocked on the door, I was greeted by a 50-year-old Pinoy gentleman (Holly’s father) who grabbed my arm and implored me to come in and join in the “family dance time.” I entered to see Holly and her family—siblings, mother, grandparents and various cousins, aunts and uncles all singing and dancing to Stevie Wonder in the living room for no apparent reason except…they wanted to. I had never met another family who did anything like this, but I have to admit it was pretty cool.
I later asked Holly if that was a common occurrence in her household. “You mean do we break out into song and dance for no reason?” She asked. “Of course, we’re Filipino.”
And that was the first time I was introduced to one of the most common stereotypes pertaining to Filipinos—that they are naturally musical and have great musical ability. Or to put it simply—they can sing and dance better than the rest of us. Today, I present some of the “evidence” I’ve collected including comments that you sent us via email, Twitter and Facebook so you can decide for yourself if this is Chinky or not Chinky? Read more...
Previously I wrote an insightful, educational piece about the ways you can tell if someone was a Filipino. Now I return with more valuable advice—this time helping you to identify if that groovy Asian dude or chick you’re hanging with is Korean.
1. When they sit down for a meal at a restaurant, they will pray loud enough so that everyone in the establishment can hear. Even if they are eating alone.
2. When you ask them to define “sobriety,” they will reply, “the unfortunate condition I experience every Monday from 8-10 AM.”
3. Their sexual foreplay consists of throwing plates and cups at each other while screaming, “I’ll kill you! I swear I’ll kill you!”Read more...