By Vivian Nguyen
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
How is 2014 coming to an end already? It seems like I had started reporting on 2013 pop culture news just a few short months ago. Now, it’s time to reflect on all the media triumphs and drama from the past year.
10. Pinkberry CEO gets jail time
Young Lee, co-founder of the popular frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry, was sentenced to seven years for hitting a homeless man with a tire iron. Lee, who helped establish the frozen yogurt brand in 2005, resorted to violence after feeling disrespected by a homeless man, who had flashed a sexually explicit tattoo at Lee and his fiancée. Still, being flashed at is no excuse for violence. Lee will have plenty of time to rethink the incident in jail, though.
9. Bruno Mars owning 2014
Unlike the Pinkberry CEO, R&B and pop star Bruno Mars has had an outstanding year with several accomplishments under his belt. Mars was among business magazine Forbes 2014 “30 under 30” honorees, which recognizes successful figures from different industries. Mars also performed at Super Bowl XLVIII earlier this year — a Super Bowl that is very dear to Seattleites’ hearts — where he was the first artist in 10 years to headline the halftime show while under the age of 30. Lastly, Mars’s most recent album “Unorthodox Jukebox” won a 2014 Grammy for “Best Pop Vocal Album.” In short, Mars killed it this year.
8. Zelda Williams and online bullying
After the death of beloved comedian Robin Williams, his daughter of Filipina descent, Zelda Williams, received an outpouring of support from fans around the world. She also saw a backlash from the public. Internet trolls sent altered, gruesome photos of her father over social media while blaming her for his death. The cyber bullying led to Zelda abandoning her Twitter account for a while. Though Zelda has since returned to using social media regularly, the incident painted a larger picture of the rise of cyber bullying with Zelda as its poster child.
7. Passing of Sumi Sevilla Haru
Longtime leader of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Sumi Sevilla Haru passed away a few months ago. Haru, who served as interim president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1995, was celebrated among Asian Americans in the entertainment industry as being the first and only woman of color to serve as the organization’s president. She served as a national board member for SAG, as well as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), working hard to advance Asian Americans in film and television.
6. Miss America (almost) attends a high school prom
Patrick Farves, an 18-year-old senior at Central York High School in York, Pa., asked Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri to prom in the middle of a school assembly. Davuluri, who was on a national tour to meet with high schools, was doing a Q&A session with the student body. Although Farves had been warned by school administrators to not go through with the stunt, he still made a big show of popping the prom question to Davuluri at the school assembly. The result? Farves received a suspension from school administrators for three days. Though Davuluri declined the prom invitation due to travel obligations, Favres still has something memorable to take from all of this — an awesome story to share as he starts college.
5. Banh Shop: Fast food, Communist-style
Yum Brands, the parent company of fast food joints Taco Bell and KFC, introduced a new restaurant concept: Banh Shop — a fast food eatery for Vietnamese street food, such as banh mi. The company opened its first Banh Shop restaurant in Dallas earlier this year, using a red five-point star that served as the Asian fast food brand’s logo. The logo bore similarities to the same red stars associated with communism, upsetting twhe local Vietnamese community who petitioned executives to change the logo. Last word on this story saw Yum Brand rescinding the logo in order to remain culturally sensitive, while working on a new logo with the local Vietnamese community. For what it’s worth, Yelp reviews for Banh Shop seem favorable. Perhaps the scandal helped sales?
4. Kim Yu-na and her gold medal snub
We all got a taste of sports drama when the 2014 Winter Olympics dominated primetime television in February. South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na, the women’s figure skating gold medalist from the 2010 Games, returned to Sochi, Russia to defend her title against old rivals and newcomers. Though she was the favorite to win gold, Kim suffered an upset to Russian upstart skater Adelina Sotnikova. With revelations that the judging panel may have had conflicts of interest leading to Sotnikova’s ensured win, there was never any hard evidence of a set-up — it was all speculation. Though she claims retirement, I’m still hoping to see Kim at the 2018 Games.
3. Arthur Chu, the king of Jeopardy and controversy
Arthur Chu is no stranger to “Jeopardy!” fanatics. Supporters and detractors alike watched Chu win 11-straight weeks of “Jeopardy!” over a two-month period — he took home $297,200 in winnings. Chu’s winning streak was a controversial one, however, as he employed aggressive strategy to beat out his opponents that came off abrasive to critics. Still, no one can deny Chu’s genius. Since his stint on the show, Chu went on to leverage his newfound celebrity to advocate for issues he believes in, such as speaking critically against the Isla Vista shootings and commenting on nerd subcultures. If you haven’t read some of his blog posts, you should check them out. It’s fantastic food for thought.
2. Eddie Huang’s “Fresh Off the Boat”
The ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat,” based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s autobiography of the same name, was picked up for a 2015 mid-season premiere. This will be the first show in 20 years to star an all-Asian cast since the 1990s. The show promises cultural, comedic, and hip hop antics from a Taiwanese and Chinese American family. However, there has been significant debate over the show’s chosen name — with detractors noting the derogatory implications — but Huang is quick to defend it. For him, it’s a way to express reverence and connection to his ancestral roots, as well as highlighting terminology specific to minorities.
1. North Korea effectively puts the brakes on “The Interview”
This week, the comedy film “The Interview” has dominated headlines with its controversial relationship with North Korea. The movie stars comedians James Franco and Seth Rogen as media journalists who land an exclusive interview with a fictionalized version of Kim Jong-un, only to be enlisted by the CIA to carry out an assassination plot on the North Korean dictator. Korean American actor Randall Park plays Kim in the film.
However, North Korea was not pleased with the film’s potential release, and issued a press release threatening to take “decisive and merciless countermeasures” if the film is released. Their agitation escaladed to new heights when it was revealed that the country was behind the recent online hacks to Sony Entertainment — distributor of “The Interview” — which included the potential mass leak of the company’s sensitive documents, as well as threats to employees.
In the interest of moviegoers’ safety, major theater chains opted against screening “The Interview,” while Sony dropped film distribution. Later, President Obama publically chided Sony Entertainment for pulling the film, claiming the decision was a “mistake,” as it could eventually lead to self-censorship in the U.S. media. President Obama also said that the United States would respond to North Korea’s actions.
This story is still developing. Stay tuned for a follow-up in next month’s column. Happy New Year! ■
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.