meus intuitus

Archive for June 2009

No Yellowface… Just Russell, the Wilderness Explorer!

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Up is not just an incredibly entertaining and endearing movie–it is also a beautiful counter example to racial stereotyping in main stream cinema.  One of the protagonists in this movie is a fat little Asian boy named Russell.  That’s plenty of cannon fodder right there.  He could have eaten dumplings and rice, used chopsticks, had an accent, had lines-for-eyes, done martial arts, had a Chinese name, worn a shirt with a panda on it, etc.  It would have been incredibly easy to throw something along those lines in–even without being offensive.  Yet, they did not use a single stereotype; not one.  In fact, the kid is a boyscout!  What is beautiful about his part in the movie is that he is there only as himself. He is not the racial comic relief or the satisfaction of a stereotype.  Rather, he is there for his family history, his boyscout organization, his personality; he is there for who he is, not what he is.  Even so, he is a hilarious character!  Without exaggeration, this funny little kid is the most genuinely portrayed Asian American protagonist in mainstream cinema that I have seen.  Bravo, well done, and kudos to Disney Pixar.

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June 24, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Mediocre Comedy with a Touch of Yellowface

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The Hangover was an amusing movie, but my experience was soured by the little Asian man caricature written into the plot.  I am no expert on the issues facing minority actors in America, but let’s be honest.  There are two kinds of minority roles you will see in mainstream media and theater:  Ones that are legitimate and ones that are there for white people to laugh or gawk at.  Sorry, my characterization of the latter is unfair…  ones that are there for people not-of-that-race to laugh or gawk at.

I’m sure Ken Jeong is a decent and intelligent man, but when he popped out of the trunk of that Benz naked, exposed himself emasculated, laid a beating on the white protagonists, and screeched at them in that beautiful accent, I couldn’t help but lose respect for him.  Oh, and I loved that bit later on–what did he say?  “Suck my little Chinese balls.”

That is what it is all about, really, respect and balls, and most male Asian roles have none–unless, of course, they are backflipping and axekicking.  I don’t hate hate Ken Jeong, Bobby Lee, or other actors (be they black, white, asian, hispanic, middle-eastern, or indian American) for stereotyping themselves.  I recognize that they are only being complicit in an industry that has always been as tough as it is prejudiced–but at what cost do they earn their bread?  They earn it not only by selling their souls, but also by selling the dignity of the people they represent.  Yellow/black/red face amused the masses years ago.  Damning stereotypes amuse the those who do not know better today.

Of course, all of us (myself included) hold racial prejudices.  We have grown up in a prejudiced society; we get it from our parents, our friends, the media, etc.  As such, prejudice in society is like smog in a city–sometimes it is obvious and visible, other times it goes unnoticed, either way, we are always breathing it in.  Still, we all have a responsibility to clean it up (B. D. Tatum, Defining Racism).

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June 21, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Speak Your Mind or Inherit the Earth

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I hesitate to blog because it seems rather egotistical.  Who am I to put the contents of my mind into the world when there is so much of the world I have yet to learn?  Blogging is release, but at the same time, it seems a betrayal of a value I greatly wish to embody:  Humility; to be open to ideas rather than to stubbornly hold mine; to know that I know nothing so I may learn anything (and everything)… from anyone.

Worthless is he/she that does not speak his/her mind, but at the same time, it is impossible to speak your mind without sometimes speaking over others.

Confidence is vital to expressing one’s self genuinely, but just across a fine line… is arrogance.  I have sought a certain confidence for much of my life.  That confidence has only recently (last year or so) taken root in my personality.  Yet, with the gift of confidence, I fear I am losing the gift of humility.  It would seem that to be confident and humble simultaneously is to involve one’s self in an intricate dance–a dance that comes easier to some than to others and that only few master.

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June 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Dookie Rope Chains

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DMC:  A couple of years ago, I was sitting downstairs at the VMAs with this young white kid.  He knows Dr. Dre, he knows Jay-Z, he knows Run-DMC, but he also knows Led Zepplin and he knows Rick Rubin.  So we’re sitting there watching the VMAs when it first went to Miami.  He goes, “DMC, what do you think of this, is this what Hiphop comes to? What Hiphop has come to?”  And I’m looking, and I’m looking and I’m like wow…  cuz you got the superstars comin:  Game, and Fifty, and Ludacris, and Diddy and they’re coming up the ramp, the red carpet, and they got the cars that do the hoppin and the rims and stuff like that…  and the VJ runs up to them and asks, “hey! What kind of rims is that on your car?”  And he does like this *pokes mic out with an enthusiastic smile*… and then the rapper answers him!!!  And then the VJ goes, “hey man, what kind of jewels is that?”…  And I’m lookin at this…  and then I thought about Jay (Jam Master Jay) because we used to walk to MTV lane and if a guy was to say “Jay, is that a dookie rope on you?”  Jay would be like, “man you ask me that stupid question again I’ma smack you in your face.”  Because what they used to ask us was this: “Yo Run-DMC, why did you say what you said…  why did you make that music? What made you make that album?”  Those are the kind of questions we used to get on the red carpet.

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June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm