By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
It’s been real hot! Right? I love it. In honor the beautiful weather, here’s some fire with your pop culture.
Sandra Oh first Asian woman to be nominated for lead actress Emmy
I don’t want to creep you out or waste your time with all of my Sandra Oh-specific memories based on the ten million seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” I watched, but can I just tell you that I quit that show when she left it? There was no other reason to hold on, so I cut it from my life and heart. That is how powerful and talented Sandra Oh is.
And now other people are getting it. Oh was nominated for an Emmy, for best lead actress in a drama series for her work in BBC’s “Killing Eve.” She is the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for this award. (She was nominated for a supporting Emmy in the past several times, but didn’t win because people are dumb.)
The “70th Emmy Awards” will air Sept. 17. That night, we will riot in the streets. Or prepare to show up to work drunk the next day.
China hates Black people! (Says white people)
Marvel’s “Black Panther” killed in China, the world’s second biggest movie market, with a $67 million opening, blowing past all early predictions of performance. A lot of the early predictions basically hypothesized that the Chinese’s anti-Black sensibilities would prevent a film with Black leads from being as successful as other Marvel properties.
Hollywood understands other cultures and also the human condition, so Hollywood does stuff to maximize profits. They maximize profits by minimizing John Boyega’s face on Chinese posters for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” They also featured images of “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman’s head covered by his Black Panther mask because obviously no one Chinese wants to see his super symmetrical, beautiful face.
In Quartzy, Jeff Yang writes, “The reality is that the vast majority of China’s 1.4 billion people have had little or no exposure to Black people. If they’ve encountered them at all, it’s through exported American pop culture, which, pre-Black Panther, has been largely bereft of depictions of African nations as anything but lands full of wild animals, war, and famine; and black diaspora societies as poor and crime-infested. … Arguably, Hollywood shouldn’t be blaming Chinese racism for its decision not to export black films; Chinese should be blaming Hollywood racism for failing to produce authentic portrayals of Black people.”
Henry Golding is trying to win you over
Henry Golding is the lead in the upcoming “Crazy Rich Asians,” and from the moment he was cast, he’s had a minor but vocal number of haters. Fans of the book in which the movie is based questioned whether Golding, whose mother is Malaysian and whose father is English, is Asian enough for the role. The criticism was based on the fact that Asian men rarely get to be the romantic lead in Hollywood films because they are often stereotyped as asexual or even effeminate.
So when a chance like “Crazy Rich Asians” comes along, it’s insulting and BS that a Hapa is cast in the lead because it’s like Hollywood is still saying that Asian men have to be a little bit white to be seen as sexually attractive.
Well, guys. You hurt Golding’s feelings. A little bit. In an interview with InStyle, he said he initially felt defensive when he heard the criticism. He said, “I always think, ‘What is the litmus test for being Asian enough?’ I’ve grown up half of my entire life in Asia. I was born in the jungles of Borneo. I’ve been to every single Asian country apart from Myanmar, on work, listening to human interest stories, giving me a broad outlook on all Asian cultures. But it’s OK for [someone] who’s never been to Asia to say, ‘Oh no, he’s definitely not Asian enough.’”
But Golding turned around and acknowledged that the criticism of his casting was legit.
“There should be a conversation about it, because if there wasn’t, I think we wouldn’t be able to educate people,” said Golding. “There are allowed to be questions like that, because the past has dictated that roles have been whitewashed.”
Nicki Minaj is Chun Li
Ever since rapper Nicki Minaj released the self-empowerment song “Chun Li,” which talks about how she’s a badass like how Chun Li (“Street Fighter II” character, one of two females) is a badass, Minaj’s been getting a lot of flak for cultural appropriation by fans and non-fans alike.
Minaj’s song has lyrics like, “I went and copped the chopsticks. Put ’em in my bun just to pop shit,” which resulted in a bunch of Asians shuddering because one: chopsticks should never be a hair accessory and, two: Chun Li didn’t wear chopsticks in her hair either, OMG, get it right.
Minaj is Black — which begs the question of whether she can even culturally appropriate Asian culture since she is from a group that has historically been oppressed. Ira Madison III smartly wrote in The Daily Beast, “But Black people historically have not oppressed Asian people. Can cultural appropriation even exist when there are no power structures that divide both groups? Is it actually a true form of cultural appreciation rather than appropriation?”
Erich Hatala Matthes, Wellesley assistant professor of philosophy, says yes, it is cultural appropriation — though it is nuanced. He writes that cultural appropriation is morally objectionable when there is “bite,” when it is carried out by oppressors and enacted on those who are oppressed. However, Matthes adds that this unequal power dynamic does not always have to be reflected by the appropriator (in this case, Minaj) on the oppressed cultural group (Asians).
Rather, the bite can sometimes be reflected in the broader systemic racism of society. That is — Minaj is using images, words, and talking points of white supremacy when she washes herself in Asian stereotypes in order to commoditize a product, her music, and her brand. That is the bite.
Therefore, it is not completely off-base to describe her “Chun Li” schtick as a form of cultural appropriation. Matthes does point out that additional complexity lies in the fact that in cases like this one, Minaj, being a member of an oppressed group also, may be less worthy of blame in regards to appropriation than a white artist doing the same — however, just because she is less worthy of blame does not mean her actions should be considered morally permissible.
Damn, that was a lot of stuff. You’re welcome!
Man sues Grindr for allowing racial discrimination
Sinakhone Keodara is trying to tell Grindr and white gay men what is up — and what is up is that he’s real sick of all of the casual racism on the hook up app. Keodara was born in Laos and is CEO of Asian Entertainment Television, the world’s first and only Asian American streaming service.
This month, he announced his plans to file a class-action lawsuit against Grindr for its tolerance of white men who write “No Asians” in their profiles, plus a whole other slew of even worse things that I do not want to repeat here.
In a public statement released via Twitter, Keodara boldly wrote, “This is complete bullshit and I’m suing Grindr for being a breeding ground that perpetuates racism against gay Asian men.”
I love this. Please, let’s all send positive thoughts to Keodara so that he will keep angrily telling his truth.
Also this month, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News drew attention to Muscle Bear, a Facebook club that showcases an appreciation of bears (an older, bigger/muscular, hairier type of gay man) and also blatant racism. The membership questionnaire features this “question” (it’s not a question at all; just a passionate statement of white supremacy): “IF YOU ARE ASIAN OR AFRICAN, DO NOT JOIN THE GROUP BECAUSE IT WILL BE BLOCKED FROM THIS GROUP” (sic).
Jameela Jamil has opinions, takes on Superman
Jameela Jamil might be the superhero we currently need, not the superhero that keeps getting jammed down our throats. Last month, she publicly called out actor Emile Hirsch (“Speed Racer,” “Into the Wild”) on Twitter and Instagram. He has been cast in a new Quentin Tarantino film co-starring Brad Pitt and Dakota Fanning. Jamil took issue with this because she thinks Hirsch is a real douchebag.
On her social media accounts, she sarcastically wrote, “Cool. Emile Hirsch strangled my tiny female best friend until she blacked out at a party in front of dozens of witnesses at Sundance Film Festival (and was convicted) but Tarantino just cast him in a movie. INTENSE case of rich white male privilege eh? Cool. Cool. Cool.” The incident Jamil was referencing happened Feb. 12, 2015, after which Hirsch was charged with aggravated assault. He initiated an altercation with and then strangled Daniele Bernfeld, then a Paramount executive.
Also last month, Jamil put Kim Kardashian on blast for promoting appetite-suppressing lollipops, stating that Kardashian continues to promote unhealthy body image issues and the idea that women’s self worth revolve only around how they look. Jamil then started an initiative called I Weigh, described by Jamil as “a movement for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones.”
Lastly, not content to keep her truth-saying confined to the month of June, Jamil told us all on July 12 that “Superman” actor Henry Cavill is a clown and should be thrown into the garbage.
Except Jamil is English so she said it all cute. She said he should be “binned.”
Jamil took issue with Cavill’s GQ Australia interview, one in which he stated that even though he’s a chivalrous, old-fashioned guy, he’s scared to flirt with women because he doesn’t want to be accused of being a rapist. Because you know how women like to overreact and cry wolf about sexual assault all the time? It’s like that.
Cavill’s exact words were, “There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice. I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that. It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her because I’m going to be called a rapist or something.’”
Jamil read this interview, probably got annoyed at his arrogant self-importance and complete misunderstanding of why women feel threatened by men, and responded thusly:
“If you don’t want to be called a rapist, then when you approach a woman … just don’t rape her.”
For the record, Cavill responded to all the backlash he got for his comments by saying his words were taken out of context, he’s sorry if anyone misunderstood his actual good intentions, and also said he’s learned a valuable lesson about “the nuance of editorial liberties.”
I like how humble he is.
FYI, Jamil, 32, is an English actor, model, and TV presenter whose family is from India and Pakistan. She currently stars as the hilariously superficial Tahani Al-Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place.”
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.