By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
2019 saw Asians get more visibility in popular culture than ever before — some of it good, some of it not so good. I included both in this column because I know you like a little bitterness along with the sugar in your tea!
Top 5: Celebs who got A-pluses!
2019 A-pop! Hall-of-Famers
BTS is a Korean boy band from Seoul, and they are a big freaking deal. 2018 saw worldwide recognition, and 2019 saw crazy international superstardom. Last month, BTS became the first K-pop group to stay on the Billboard 200 for a whole year. They have 10 Guinness World Records — including the world record for most Twitter engagements. They are also the first K-pop group to win the Favorite Duo or Group – Pop/Rock category at this year’s American Music Awards.
My fave was on fire this year. She was not only nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy this year for her work in “Killing Eve,” she won a Golden Globe, a Gold Derby, a Gracie Award, and a SAG Award this year. She hosted “SNL,” rocked some bangs, and just was a constant delight. I love you, Sandra!
In 2019, Kumail Nanjiani who starred in “Stuber,” “Men in Black: International,” was nominated for a Primetime Emmy, and got majorly ripped for Marvel’s upcoming “Eternals” movie. Oh my God, I’m going to be name-dropping Marvel a lot in this column. Also, I don’t know how I feel about Nanjiani’s new body. I like the man inside of it a lot, though.
She’s a consummate professional and an OG, and 2019 was a really good year for this veteran actor. She’s still starring in Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (set to end in 2020) but manages to also fit in guest appearances on “Fresh Off the Boat” and is featured in the hotly anticipated Star Wars property, “The Mandalorian.” She was named a Disney Legend this year (a real big deal), for her voice work in film, television, and animation. She’ll also soon be working with Awkafina on Awkwafina’s upcoming Comedy Central series, “Nora from Queens.”
She had a super busy year coming off of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Ocean’s 8.” In 2019, Awkwafina starred in critically acclaimed “The Farewell,” which got her a Golden Globe nomination, and was also in super popular “Jumanji: The Next Level.” Beyond that, she has a slate of interesting projects in the works, including a movie about San Francisco’s Asian restaurant punk scene (right?) and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi” movie (more on that below!).
Bottom 5: Your Asian mom is not impressed
2019 A-pop! Hall-of-Shamed
Scarlett Johansson is out of touch
Back in 2017, Scarlett Johansson starred in a movie called “Ghost in the Shell,” based on a wildly popular Japanese manga that spawned video games, movies, and television series. Johansson, a white woman, played a cybernetic human character that basically telegraphed as Japanese.
Not to let that embarrassing whitewashing incident be forgotten, this year Johansson gave an interview to As If Magazine on art and the role political correctness plays in art.
She said, “As an actor, I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job. … There are lots of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art … You know, I feel like it’s a trend in my business, and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”
I really can’t wait for ScarJo to star as the lead in “The Reluctant Hero,” a biopic of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Constance Wu’s modest achievements overshadowed by her fussiness
Constance Wu starred in a super popular rom-com a year ago and what’s crazy is that instead of going the Awkwafina route (putting out an interesting variety of high-profile projects, giving charming interviews, and being cute in a Google commercial with 2 Chainz), Wu decided to do real weird stuff like let her rabbit poop all over a penthouse, demand top billing over Jennifer Lopez (hello, what?), and have a meltdown because her steady gig was renewed.
Live adaptations of beloved Japanese properties just can’t catch a break
First, John Cho totally hurts himself doing kickass stunts in the live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop” and then the “Akira” remake helmed by Maori and New Zealand director Taika Waititi gets its 2021 release date dropped with no reschedule in sight! It might be put on pause indefinitely so that Waititi can make the next “Thor” movie.
Look, I’m glad Waititi is busy and in high demand, but I just cannot watch another freaking Marvel superhero movie. I think Chris Hemsworth is getting old! I think his accent is annoying! I’m sick of watching blond idiot men be heroic!
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” disrespects Bruce Lee, Sharon Lee tells Quentin Tarantino to shut up over it
Quentin Tarantino is an ass who likes to make movies set in the past, but instead of reading history books or talking to people who were alive in the past, he just pulls out ideas from his ultra-violent brain and then sprinkle the n-word a lot in dialogue even though he is a lily-white white dude.
In his most recent, “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” he portrays Bruce Lee as an arrogant and deluded blowhard who gets embarrassed on-screen and laughed at by the audience. A bunch of people who knew Bruce Lee weren’t into this.
Tarantino naturally doubled-down on his belief in his rightness, which forced Sharon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, to tell Variety, “He could shut up about it. That would be really nice. Or he could apologize …”
Simu Liu is gonna annoy us in 2020, I just know it
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily hall-of-shame-worthy, but this dude annoys me so much, and you have to know about it. So Simu Liu is poised to be a breakout star because he was cast as the lead in Marvel’s upcoming “Shang-Chi” movie. And he has me real torn. On one hand, I am really glad that a handsome Asian man is starring in such a high-profile action movie. On the other hand, this dude is way thirsty for fame, and it’s so uncomfortable to watch him do the things that he does!
First, he got real butt-hurt when a tongue-in-cheek video came out debating over whether he is hot enough. He does stuff like publicly write a letter to himself, that he’s supposed to open on Feb. 13, 2021. (The day before Valentine’s Day? Really? Really?) His letter starts off with:
If you’re reading this, then it will have finally happened — “Shang-Chi” is out in the world.
Damn … you really f*cking did it.
Did I mention that he loves to be butt-hurt all the time. He likes to constantly correct people on how to say his name. He writes passive aggressive stuff on Twitter like, “Anyway; the staff [at the awards show] were all great. Maybe the announcer needs Google though. Also for the 98746266th time it’s pronounced SEE-moo … So y’all can pronounce ‘Daenerys’ and ‘Joaquin’ easily… but not my simple-ass name?”
Ugggh. I hope “Shang-Chi” doesn’t flop. I don’t think Simu can handle it.
Stacy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.