By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Man, 2018 was a fun year for Asian-y stuff. I feel like there’s been a shift. It used to be that we’d featured the same ol’ entertainers year after year — like Bai Ling, who was a hot mess that we constantly had to talk a lot about at one point — because there were so few API entertainers. Now, there are so many, and it was hard to narrow it down to the five “greatest” winners and losers.
I use the term greatest loosely. It’s really the greatest in my heart. I tried to squeeze Dwayne Johnson in here, because I am obsessed with him. But sadly, he actually didn’t do enough in 2018. He needs to step it up in 2019.
Okay, I am talking too much about this man. Let’s move on:
5. Hasan Minhaj
If there’s someone I am predicting is poised to really break out in 2019, it’s Hasan Minhaj. He is a comedian, former “Daily Show” correspondent, and, last year, became the host of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” on Netflix, making him the very first Indian American to host a weekly talk show.
He’s young and spry at 33 and while his film credits are a little sparse, you might recognize him as one of the comedians featured in an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
The episode was dull and Seinfeld, who is a cranky comedy snob still mostly known for making a TV show in the 90s, didn’t seem to ‘get’ Minhaj — which definitely means that Minhaj is relevant and interesting. Keep your eye on this guy!
4. Cary Fukunaga
Cary Fukunaga is a fourth generation Japanese American and is an Asian American film director whose genre is not action. It’s like, yes, we need and have adrenaline-pumping directors like Justin Lin, Jon M. Chu, and James Wan — but we also need artsy fartsy prestige directors like Fukunaga, who has helmed such projects like the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” and, in 2018, brought the much talked about “Maniac,” a dark dramedy, to Netflix.
Also in 2018, it was announced that Fukunaga was hired to direct the next James Bond film. Super legit.
Pixar’s “Bao” is an animated short film by Domee Shi. Shi is Chinese Canadian, from Toronto. She was the first woman at Pixar to direct a short film.
Bao is a super cute, super relatable film about a couple of empty nesters whose homemade dumpling comes to life and becomes a little surrogate child to them (much like Pinocchio, without all of the lying). Even though Bao is a dumpling, he and his parents still go through all of the growing pains as Bao moves from childhood to adulthood.
“Bao” was shown right before “Incredibles 2,” which — some say — makes “Bao” the most watched Asian film of 2018. What you do think? Agree? (The other contender is, of course, “Crazy Rich Asians.”)
Shi’s currently in the early stages of developing her debut feature. Can’t wait!
2. Sandra Oh
Man, this woman is a gem. After toiling in Hollywood for long years and kicking ass at her craft the entire time, white people finally gave her props in 2018, when Sandra Oh became the first Asian American woman to be nominated for lead actress in a drama for her work in BBC America’s “Killing Eve.”
Well, Oh didn’t win an Emmy. She was really classy and cool about it, so that means I will just be bitter for the both of us. (Oh did win a Golden Globe recently and broke all kinds of records. But I don’t care. It still does not erase the pain of the Emmy loss.)
We better see more of Oh in 2019. Or I will burn this place down to the ground.
1.“Crazy Rich Asians”
Man, I really didn’t want to put “Crazy Rich Asians” as the number one positive Asian thing that happened in pop culture in 2018 — because I am sick of watching you guys cry over rom-com tropes and overanalyze the crap out of the mahjong scene on social media. However, because I am a fair and reasonable person of the people — I gotta go with what the people want.
And you guys really loved this movie! It was a watershed moment for Asian representation. It has propelled the careers of Awkwafina, Constance Wu, and Henry Golding forward — and perhaps most wonderful of all, it reminded us of what a world treasure Michelle Yeoh is.
5. Places that refuse to serve beverages/fro-yo to people of color
In May of 2018, Starbucks decided to close all of its North American stores to teach its employees about racial sensitivity, after a reputation-smacking incident in which a white female store manager at a Philadelphia store called the police and had two Black men arrested for being Black. No, I’m joking. Reportedly, it was because they were trespassing. (No, for real. It was because of the color of their skin.)
Then in November of 2018, a Menchie’s fro-yo chain here in Kirkland called the police because a Black man was being Black. The store owner, Ramon Cruz, who is Asian, was not at the store at the time of the incident, but he called the police on behalf of his two white female employees.
And in December, a bunch of Starbucks employees put that racial sensitivity training to good use by writing “Chang” on the cup of a retired Filipino American Air Force veteran. The man’s real name is actually Johncarl Festejo.
We should stop going to Starbucks, guys.
4. Roseanne Barr
Man, in 2018, Roseanne Barr taught us how crazy it looks to soar really high on conservative values — before bringing it all crashing down by going on Twitter and reminding people that conservative values involve a big dash of racism.
Barr’s “Roseanne” TV show revival was just slaughtering when it was on air. It broke records. It did better than its previous series finale did.
Then Barr tweeted about Valerie Jarrett, former Obama aide, comparing this Black woman to an ape. “Roseanne” was swiftly cancelled. Barr was fired. Everything came crashing down.
(BTW, before this happened, we could kind of see the precursor to it. Barr threw some weird shade at Asian people and Black people on her show. When I saw it, I was like, “What is the point of this?” And then when Barr lost her job, I was like, “Oh, she’s racist. Makes sense.”)
3. Albert Einstein and other white dudes we previously thought were real heroic
Man, never meet your idols.
Princeton University Press released “The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922-1923” last year. And I know, your hackles are already raised because every time you read the words Far East, it’s like people might as well be saying Oriental Land. I know.
Look, this man was obviously brilliant in ways I cannot even comprehend because I am not great at math. But he also wrote this stuff about Chinese children: “[They are] spiritless and obtuse.” He also wrote that it will be “a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races.”
He also said China was a herd-like nation full of robots and not actual people. He also wrote that he couldn’t tell the difference between men and women. Just general racist stuff like that.
2. “The Simpsons”
Once upon a time, comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary film about what it was like for Indian Americans like himself to grow up and only have Apu from “The Simpsons” be the only representation of Indians for the longest time. Like, valid point of view, right?
Just about everyone associated with “The Simpsons” got real butthurt about it.
Hank Azaria, a white man who portrays Apu in an exaggerated fake Indian accent, was a coward and refused to talk about his role in this whole thing for the longest time. “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening was majorly defensive and basically talked about how he’s being persecuted by overly sensitive people of color just because he’s a truth-teller. He basically said the normal sort of thing powerful white guys say when people give them just a tiny bit of criticism.
2. Donald Trump
I’m not gonna even explain this one. You already know why this guy sucks.
Stacy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.