By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
This month, Asians continue doing what they’re good at, such as getting signed by Jay-Z and saying no thanks to more money.
Jay-Z signs Jay Park
Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation, has signed Korean pop artist Jay Park, a record producer and rapper himself, as well as dancer and former member of boyband 2PM.
Park also is from Edmonds! Washington! He’s American and attended Edmonds Woodway High School. He was part of Seattle-based b-boy crew Art of Movement (AOM). After high school, Park moved to Korea and became a superstar.
On his Instagram account, Park wrote:
“This is a win for the Town This is a win for Korea This is a win for Asian Americans This is a win for the overlooked and underappreciated This is a win for genuine ppl who look out for their ppls This is a win for hard work and dedication This is a win for honesty and authenticity” (sic)
“Iron Fist” gets second season renewal. WTF.
Loras Tyrell is gonna do more mediocre martial arts and continue to emote his vague angst on the small screen for another season on Netflix.
This show is about a white man who comes back from the dead (or Asia) and is amazing at martial arts and inexplicably fights crime way better than the local law enforcement.
The first season sucked. The reviewers agreed with me and said the show was crappy. I feel like Netflix and Marvel also secretly agree with me but have to save face because Netflix rarely cancels series, and they also have put so much investment into “The Defenders,” an upcoming superhero team-up much like “The Avengers.” Netflix and Marvel have to keep “Iron Fist” alive or else it’s gonna be super awkward when Iron Fist shows up on “The Defenders” and says to Luke Cage, “Hey, man! Let’s stop evil-doers together!” and Luke responds by mean-girling him and being all like, “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
I get it. It’s hard to admit to our mistakes sometimes.
So that’s where we are at. Whatever.
Steven Yeun doesn’t have to kill zombies to make money. Yay!
Steven Yeun used to be one of only two reasons you watch “The Walking Dead.” (The other reason is Michonne, played by Danai Gurira.) And now Yeun’s fan favorite character, Glenn, is dead. And I didn’t put a spoiler alert on that because it’s been almost a year, guys. We need to heal and move on.
Now, Yeun is going around being in really good movies (“Okja” on Netflix being a recent one) and talking excessively about Asian and Korean American identity and the growing voices of APIs in arts and entertainment.
In an interview with Vulture, Yeun said, “I think a lot of the narrative these days has been about how much it’s skewed against us because the system and the people are biased against us, and that’s very true. But I think one narrative that’s always missing is, ‘Where have we contributed to that?’ Where are we as Asian Americans right now and how have we contributed either to that perception or the solution? I think we’re at a great, healthy place right now where people are calling out BS when they see it. We also have to be realistic about ourselves and say, are we, as an entire subsection of America, representing ourselves in the best way we thought we were?”
Jackie Chan to go Liam Neeson on some IRA asses and I guess we’re okay with it? Across the board? Yeah?
Coming to a theater near you on Oct. 13 is “The Foreigner,” an action thriller starring Jackie Chan. Jackie will play a rage-fueled Vietnamese father/refugee/Viet Cong soldier/South Vietnamese Army soldier (so a typical Vietnamese father, just kidding, I actually dunno if Jackie’ll actually be ethnically Vietnamese in the movie or not), who takes revenge on these bloodthirsty Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists who blew up his teenage daughter in a bomb attack. This comes after his escape from Vietnam, after his wife and other daughter were raped and murdered by Filipino pirates. (That’s from the novel; I actually have no idea if that awesome plot point will make it into the big-screen adaptation.)
“The Foreigner” is based on a Stephen Leather novel, “The Chinaman.” Clearly bogged down by the burden of being politically correct in this day and age, the movie producers have wisely chosen to change the title. Through some intense Googling, I learned that “Chinaman” is probably not how Leather would prefer to call Asians. “Chinaman” is actually what the terrorists call Jackie’s character, Ngoc Minh Quan. So it’s kind of like a superhero name, except the villains named the hero. I hope that mildly brings you comfort, as it did for me.
I’m not in the demographic this movie is trying to chase, so I’m not sure my opinion on this movie even matters. It’s being released in China on Sept. 30, before the U.S. release. It is also co-produced by Huayi Brothers Pictures. Clearly the only opinion that matters here is that of Chinese moviegoers and American dude-bros.
This movie will make so much money, oh my God.
I’m a chick that typically hates these kinds of movies. All of that woman-in-the-refrigerator death-porn that apparently happens at the beginning of the movie does not make my heart go pitter patter. I’m not crazy that Jackie is playing a Vietnamese character that is named Nguyen in the novel but named Quan in the movie — but what can I do about this? Other than write a very butt-hurt tweet and add @EyeOfJackieChan at the end of it?
Fun fact: Quan is a Vietnamese word for pants, but according to my mom, it’s not a traditional Vietnamese surname. I think they changed the protagonist’s name from Nguyen to Quan because they wanted to Sinicize him. I know this sucks, but you know what? The director of “The Foreigner” is Martin Campbell, aka the man that made Anthony Hopkins get a spray tan but forgot to make Anthony Hopkins put in brown contact lenses or take Spanish lessons so that he could play Mexican hero Zorro in a movie that cast no Mexicans or Mexican Americans in the lead roles. (Antonio Banderas is Spanish, guys. I’m also not saying that all Mexicans have brown eyes, speak Spanish, and are tan because that’s untrue. I’m more saying that freaking Anthony Hopkins was being lazy and was bad at taking complete ownership of his brownfacery.)
But I mean, at least Martin Campbell didn’t cast Anthony Hopkins or Matt Damon as Ngoc Minh Quan.
“Hawaii Five-0” casts three new actors of color after Kim and Park’s departure, reminding us that Hollywood thinks Asians are interchangeable. JK. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park left the long-running series after contract disputes. Reportedly while they were offered big raises, their salaries were still not on par with leads Scott Caan or Alex O’Loughlin. Their bosses were probably like, “What is the problem here? We offered you massive cash money.”
And Kim and Park might’ve been like, “Dudes, all this makes us realize that you’ve been grossly underpaying us for years.” So Kim and Park walked like a couple of BAMFs.
It’s been reported that Ian Anthony Dale (half Japanese), Meaghan Rath (half Goan Indian), and Beulah Koale (Samoan) have signed on to the series, ostensibly to put a spit-shine on this turd of a situation.
Disney casts its Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie — and Asians, this is not a victory for us. It’s a sour-sweet-mostly-sour pill.
Disney weirdly managed to surprise a lot of people (because we have low expectations) when it cast Egyptian Canadian actor Mena Massoud as Aladdin and British Indian actor Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine for its upcoming live adaptation of “Aladdin.” Also, Will Smith will play the Genie because he is so freaking intensely likeable in spite of those Scientology rumors — I don’t care what you say.
The animated version of “Aladdin” featured the voice acting of white actors in speaking roles and also was set in this magical made-up city somewhere in the Middle East that sprang out of the minds of some white dudes. Even though it’s fiction, it’s pretty obvious that “Aladdin” is set in a cartoonish version of Baghdad. There’s also totally a song in the movie called “Arabian Nights.”
This movie gets a mention in this column only because Scott is half Indian (and half white), which is a controversial choice, as she has no Middle Eastern ancestry. I’m not lauding the casting myself. I’m kind of as confused and bothered by it as some people are. People of color, in this case North Africans, Middle Easterners, West Asians, and South Asians (a huge expanse of the world, guys), say that they are sick of being seen as interchangeable with one another. They are also sick of their history being flattened and ignored in favor of stereotypes due to the outgroup homogeneity bias, which is the tendency for members of an “in-group” to see individualism within their own membership and homogeneity outside of the group.
This has real-world repercussions and effects. It should be noted that post 9/11, hate crimes against South Asians increased, as well as hate crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent because terrible people could not distinguish the difference between the two groups.
The criticism Scott’s casting is garnering is a legit response to this, and this could be an opportunity for Asians to not be dillweeds. We should empathize and say, “Hey, I don’t think they should’ve cast an Asian in that role. That sucks.”
Jake Zyrus, formerly Charice Pempengco
Jake Zyrus is a transgender Filipino singer, formerly Charice Pempengco, who first achieved fame as a YouTube sensation in the Philippines and was known for her powerhouse vocals. Zyrus came out on Twitter and Instagram in June.
Previously in a 2014 interview with Oprah, in which he sported close-cropped hair and new tattoos on his arms — a noticeable departure from the long-haired girlishness of Charice — Zyrus, who at the time was still known as Charice, told Oprah he knew he was attracted to females when he was 5 years old. In the same interview, he said that he felt male, in his soul.
Zyrus revealed in a recent interview that he had his breasts surgically removed in March. He has had testosterone injections since April. Zyrus has said that his mother is supportive, but there are family members who have struggled with his transition, which he said is understandable, given the context. Zyrus pointed out that he views the Philippines as not as progressive with LGBTQ rights as the United States. According to a 2015 opinion poll by Laylo Research Strategies, 70 percent of Filipinos polled disagreed with same-sex marriage.
However, Zyrus has stated in interviews that he has been surprised at how accepting his fans have been in general.
“When I thought about finally coming out as a transgender man, I didn’t think a lot of people would actually agree to it and accept me, but I was surprised with the love and support,” he told USA Today. “So I’ve been doing great. I’ve been feeling good about everything. I’ve been happy.”
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.