A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Between fall television premieres and online dowries (you read that correctly), September saw Asians popping up in the media in random but interesting ways.
The dowry still exists! (Even though it’s 2012)
In one of the more outrageous news items I’ve read in a long while, Hong Kong billionaire and property magnate Cecil Chao Sze-tsung announced a HK$500 million (USD $65 million) “dowry” for a male suitor to woo away his 33-year-old daughter, Gigi Chao. The proposal for his daughter’s hand emerged after reports surfaced online about Gigi Chao’s recent civil union in France to her long-term girlfriend, Sean Yeung.
From poetic online proposals to nude photographs alike, thousands of people from around the globe have already reached out to both the father and daughter to become part of the Chao clan. Cecil Chao hoped that the reward money would elicit talented suitors hoping to start their own businesses, ensuring his daughter lives a comfortable life in Hong Kong — even though Gigi Chao is already a successful businesswoman.
Despite the audacious advertisement, Gigi Chao, who holds an executive director position at her father’s company, as well as running her own model management and public relations firm, responded to her father’s reaction with surprising grace.
“I’m actually on very, very loving terms with my father,” Gigi Chao told the Associated Press. “We speak on a daily basis. He just has a very interesting way of expressing his fatherly love.”
She also went on to claim that her father’s reaction was not necessarily born out of intolerance for her relationship with Yeung, but a vested desire to ensure that Gigi Chao does not fall victim to the social stigma that continues to exist with same-sex couples in Hong Kong.
Although I recognize that Cecil Chao’s reaction was born out of paternal concern for his daughter’s wellbeing, it’s still hard to not find this concept of a “marriage bounty” incredibly weird and dated.
Still, if she isn’t fazed by her father’s reaction, why should anyone else be?
Gigi Chao isn’t the only one amused by the situation. British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, who has starred in several satirical mockumentries such as “The Dictator” and “Borat,” is in the process of developing a film inspired by this situation.
The film is currently titled, “The Lesbian.” Apt and to the point, I guess.
Television: The reality side
“The Great Food Truck Race” — a reality show that pits food truck entrepreneurs against each other in a competition that spans the nation — had a photo finish in their recent season finale, leading to a victory for the Los Angeles-based food truck, Seoul Sausage.
The team behind Seoul Sausage — Korean Americans Chris Oh, Ted Kim, and Yong Kim — won with their Korean barbecue fare, raking in more money than their competitors. Congrats to the trio for winning the top title!
The web reality show “K-Town,” which follows the drunken party hijinks of Asian Americans living in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, wrapped up its first season last month. The show is currently in production for its second season.
Word on the street is that the producers of “K-Town” have been casting for reality spin-offs that will feature other Asian ethnicities partying down. Say what you will about the show’s concept, you have to credit the producers for going out of their way to showcase different Asian cultures with these spin-offs, as opposed to simply lumping the Asian American experience altogether into one show.
Television: The scripted side
Meanwhile, television premieres are in full-force this season with a few well-known Asian American faces popping up in the fray.
Indian American comedienne, writer, and producer Mindy Kaling finally had her show, “The Mindy Project,” debut on Fox after much hype. Kaling stars as an OB-GYN trying to have it all in work, love, and life. Think Bridget Jones if she were wearing scrubs. And if she were Asian. The comedic writing is fantastic, but the jury is still out about how I feel about this show overall. Regardless, I will continue to loyally watch the show as a testament of my undying love for Kaling and her limitless talents as a leading, Asian American female entertainer.
Actors John Cho and Suzy Nakamura can be found on the new dramedy/sitcom “Go On,” which debuted on NBC.
The show follows a sportscaster — played by funnyman Matthew Perry — trying to move on from the loss of his wife with the aid of a grief support group. Cho is most recently known for his role in the films “Star Trek” and “Total Recall,” while Nakamura may be best known from the short-lived ABC sitcom, “Help Me Help You.”
The show has received lukewarm reviews so far, but most NBC sitcoms tend to have a rocky start with viewers and critics, particularly if there is irreverent humor involved. Here’s hoping that “Go On” at least makes it past the starting line. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.