A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Controversies and — a movie opening
Relativity Media, an L.A.-based film studio, defended its decision to shoot part of its comedy film, “21 and Over,” in Linyi, China. This decision is controversial because Linyi, a city in China’s eastern Shandong province, is the home of blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who is currently under house arrest for criticizing the country’s one-child policy.
Activists have slammed Relativity for touting its ties to the area, blaming the studio for being in cahoots with Linyi’s propaganda campaign to cast itself as a civilized region.
In an article published by the Associated Press, Human Rights Watch senior Asia researcher Nicholas Bequelin said, “The reality [of the situation] is that [Linyi] is not only holding one of China’s most prominent human rights defenders, but going to extraordinary lengths to persecute him.”
Bequelin raises a strong point. Relativity rebutted with a press statement arguing that the decision to film in Linyi is actually a move to expand trade and business ties with their Chinese counterparts that could lead to “positive outcomes.”
But, I remain skeptical. I mean, how does filming in Linyi promote or aid human rights exactly? By “positive outcomes,” Relativity’s publicists must have meant “profit gains.”
The casting team behind the live action version of “Akira,” based on the Japanese sci-fi manga and film of the same name, has been approaching several reputable actors, for example, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Keira Knightley, and offering them roles.
However, this is yet another example of white-washing what should be a traditionally Asian cast. Seriously, why is there no Asian casting for “Akira”? It’s not like the talent isn’t available.
“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” opened in theaters on Nov. 4. As the third installment in the marijuana-fueled comedy franchise, the movie stars Indian American actor Kal Penn and Korean American John Cho.
The raunchy and irreverent film follows the two as they embark on an adventure to find a new Christmas tree after Penn’s character destroys the original one. Penn can also currently be seen guest-starring in the CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.”
New highs — and a loss — for Asians on the (You)Tube
Anya Ayoung-Chee, an American of mixed Chinese, Indian, and white heritage who grew up in Trinidad, won first place on this season’s “Project Runway,” a fashion design reality show.
As the Miss Trinidad and Tobago Universe 2008 pageant winner, Ayoung-Chee was known on the show for having little sewing experience. Just goes to show how talent can really shine through when it really comes down to it!
Mindy Kaling, an actress, producer, and writer extraordinaire, recently had her comedic memoir, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” hit the shelves. Kaling, who is Indian American, is best known for acting, producing, directing, and writing for the NBC sitcom “The Office.”
As a big fan of hers, I cannot wait to read her book and split my sides laughing from what I’m sure will be witty commentary on life. Big congrats to Kaling on her first publication!
Speaking of Asians who’ve made big waves, the video-sharing website YouTube recently announced that they will offer an expanded channel lineup of original programming from personalities, celebrities, and content producers across the TV, film, music, news, and sports industries.
What makes this news so notable, though, is that these original channels will showcase creative content from several Asian Americans, such as director Jon M. Chu, who will produce a dance entertainment channel. Chu is best known for directing the box office documentary and concert movie “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” as well as installments of the “Step Up” franchise.
Additionally, Vietnamese American web personality and make-up artist Michelle Phan will create content for a women’s lifestyle channel, while web comedians Ryan Higa and Kevin Wu, along with Taiwanese American director Justin Lin, will produce a channel catered to the Asian American experience — from a unique point-of-view.
With the rise and acceptance of the non-traditional media platform, I believe it’s important to call out the people who are pioneering new ways for Asian Americans to be content creators and get recognition in the media. It’s exciting to see Asian Americans play a major role in this shift as well. Viewers can expect to see these original channels to start appearing on YouTube later this month.
Turning to more somber news, Charice Pempengco, better known by just her first name and best known to American audiences for her brief stint on the music sitcom “Glee,” recently lost her father who was stabbed to death in her native Philippines.
Though the two were estranged, Charice took to her Twitter account to write, “I loved him and will still love him. He’s still my dad after all.”
Such a tragedy. My condolences to you and your family, Charice. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.