By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Haikus With Hotties, a website and Twitter feed that brings you poetry you can read in two seconds from scorching Asian men, declared August as Hot Asian Men Awareness Month. Please keep that in mind as you read this column. And also, now you know why your summer was sprinkled with a hyper awareness of good-looking men of Asian descent. I know it wasn’t just me.
Village People 2.0
Victor Willis, the original singer of catchy AF disco group The Village People, reportedly looked around at the demographics of a rebooted version of the group and thought to himself, “Hey, this could be more inclusive,” like a freaking American hero. The new Macho Man line-up includes Chinese model and actor James Kwong as the construction worker. Last year, Kwong was on “Days of Our Lives,” for a nine-episode run.
Willis, who is Black, told the Herald Sun, “I felt the former touring version of the group … looked old and tired. So a revamp or repositioning of the group was required to bring it back into the mainstream. The addition of an Asian American for the first time in the group’s history is part of that reposition.”
The “Village” in Village People refers to Greenwich Village in New York City, which, in the late 1970s, had a large gay population. The Village People smartly played with uber masculine American stereotypes while initially aiming their club hits at gay communities before hitting mainstream popularity.
Their first show is Sept. 26 in Los Angeles. They will start touring in Australia in December.
In addition to Kwong, The Village People currently features Willis as its police officer character and lead singer. Josh Cartier is the man in leather (I don’t know what his job is supposed to be, but it probably doesn’t matter because he is awesome.) Edward Lopes is the soldier. Chad Freeman is the cowboy. And Angel Morales is the American Indian.
Fun fact: Vietnamese people of a certain generation and a certain sensibility were really into The Village People. “In the Navy” and “YMCA” were like, my dad’s and every other Vietnamese dad’s jam. Euro New Wave, synthpop, and disco was huge in the 1980s with diasporic Vietnamese.
My aunt Lanchi Le confirmed this. When this was brought up, she was all like, “Duh, everyone loves The Village People,” and then offered no further explanation.
Asian people can’t be mermaids
Diana Huey is an Asian American actor who stars as Ariel in the touring musical production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” And this month, she did press on how, throughout the tour, she has had to deal with negative (aka racist) comments about how she has ruined people’s childhoods because she keeps singing “Part of Your World” with her non-white face and her non-white voice.
In a Facebook post, Huey stated, “For me personally with this show, I’ve often also felt the added pressure of feeling like I have to work even harder to get the audience to like me or be with me because I’m not what they might have expected to see as an Asian American actor.”
Notably, this tour started in Seattle, and despite its reputation for being an uber-liberal utopia, Buffalo News reported those involved with the production observed that the racist rhetoric from a vocal minority was there from the very beginning, though admittedly, the negative focus did reach a fever pitch in the American South.
Yo, can someone go through the archives and check the census info we have on mermaids, please? I probably can’t have access to this information without the right security clearance. It is entirely possible that all the scared mermaids we are trafficking and keeping in captivity are lily white, and people are really just up in arms because they care a lot about #science. Because that happens a lot.
I guess the GOP is trying to say that only fictional Asians support them
This month, the official website of the Arizona Republic Party (az.gop, which seems like it’d also be a really cool-verging-on-maybe-racist name for an all-Asian rap group, actually) pushed its wokeness by Googling a photo of “Asian Americans” and then slapping that photo on a webpage that stated, “The Arizona Republican Party does not seek to divide its membership along racial, ethnic, or gender lines,” and then also, “We believe it is unfair to demand special rights for certain races, push policies that favor members of one group over another, or single out certain ethnic or social groups with the promise of special favors or political privileges.”
The problem with this — other than the Arizona GOP web designer’s lackadaisical attitude about copyright infringement — is that they slapped a photo of cast members from Margaret Cho’s 90s sitcom, “All-American Girl” — not a photo of an actual Asian American family that supports them.
Torunn Sinclair, spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party, told VICE News, “As soon as this was brought to our attention, the page was taken down. This was obviously a mistake, and we apologize.”
I kinda like how they apologized, actually. Obviously, we’re grading on a curve here.
I also like how Cho, who is ironically politically super liberal, responded.
She told VICE, “I find this similar to when I was a kid, someone told me that Simon Lebon’s name was ‘Mike Hunt’ and so I went around school saying ‘I love Mike Hunt’ and even wrote it on my locker. I didn’t bother to research and paid the price of a dodgeball to the face. They got some bad information and ran with it. They deserve a dodgeball to the face.”
More whitewashing stuff
Did you see how MVP Ed Skrein was when it comes to responding to allegations of cultural appropriation? I know. I knowww.
Okay, so this month Netflix released its film adaptation of “Death Note,” based on the Japanese manga series and of course a bunch of people on the internet are rightly pissed that Japanese and Asian Americans are not prominent in the adaptation. And of course a bunch of other people are trying to come from a place of reason but kinda end up sounding like apologists when they say stuff like, “But it’s an adaptation, and it’s set in Seattle, [the whitest diverse city ever].”
I’m bypassing all that stuff because y’all already know that conflict.
I wanna focus on the things Lakeith Stanfield, who plays the film’s hero L, has said. Stanfield is Black, young, deeply talented, and in some of the year’s most compelling stuff, notably Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Donald Glover’s “Atlanta.”
In an interview with The Verge, Stanfield said, “But in my opinion, it didn’t look as if it was because we didn’t want anybody. That’s ridiculous. Japanese people created it, I mean, they’re the people behind it. And so that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding. [People] misunderstand sometimes what an adaptation is. We are taking the original source material and creating a new story with that as a spine. … [but] I understand why people would be mad. I understand people who are really big fans of the source material would not like to see it changed. I totally get that.”
Later on in the interview, when asked about his interest in Japanese culture, he said, “I love Japanese culture. I know I’m like a weird American, saying, ‘I love Japanese culture,’ and I don’t really even fucking know anything about it, but I do like the aesthetic.”
It’s interesting how easy it is for all of us, even people of color, even with the best of intentions, to appropriate the more superficial parts of a culture without any real malice — whether it is Black culture or Asian culture, in this case. I can’t really sit here and ding Stanfield too hard for words he said in a moment in time, especially when there are so many examples in which the roles are flipped. Not saying it’s okay because we’re going an-eye-for-an-eye about this. Just saying that if Stanfield were white and making crappy movies, then arriving at strong condemnation would be way easier. We’re grading on a curve here.
Asians deserve Rom Coms, too
Netflix is like the Mr. Big to my Carrie Bradshaw. Hey, is that reference way outdated?
Netflix is bringing us a romantic comedy that stars super funny people Ali Wong and Randall Park. Wong and Park co-wrote the script of this as-yet-untitled movie with Michael Golamco, and the film does not have a director yet. But it does have a synopsis via Deadline: “The film follows two childhood friends who find themselves in vastly different socioeconomic situations when they fall in love as adults.”
Joseph Kastner, an order management representative at Generac Power Systems Inc. and frustrated white man (probably, I mean, he’s def white; I just don’t 100 percent know if he’s frustrated), wrote this in the comments section of slashfilm.com: “Oh great. Another cliche ridden romantic comedy. But, hey, diversity! That makes it original.”
His comment got three likes.
In response to Joseph, Paul Sandhu, who did not list his job on his Facebook profile but seems to be a really handsome Canadian from Port Alberni, B.C., was all like: “As a South Asian, I am proud that we are getting the same cliche-ridden rom coms as everyone else. #Equality”
His comment also got three likes.
Love it. Buying it. Promoting it. Wearing it. ■
Stacy can be reached at email@example.com.