By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Hey, I’m taking over this column for a while. That means you will get a lot of cherry-picked Asian entertainment news. Huzzah.
Pioneer Woman doesn’t get that Asians are way better at chicken wings than she is
Back in 2012, “The Pioneer Woman,” a cooking show on Food Network, quietly aired a real racist segment oriented around chicken wings, and it generally went without a lot of comment — until someone caught a rerun probably and then alerted online community Thick Dumpling Skin, which blasted the racist clip on social media in the last month.
I know. Where were the Asians in 2012? Off their game, that’s where!
Anyway, let me tell you what went on in the BS segment. First off, it’s important to know that “Pioneer Woman” star Ree Drummond is a comedy genius and plays practical jokes on her husband all the time. Dude’s a superfan of buffalo wings. So to like, totally mess with him, Drummond opens the oven and pulls out a pan of what she calls “Spicy Asian hot wings.” (Major points for not calling them spicy Oriental hot wings, ‘cause you know. She could’ve.)
Once she lays down this pan, everyone around her recoils and is like, whoa, what is with these garbage wings?
JK. I was embellishing there for comedic effect.
They actually say stuff like, “Where are the real wings?” and “I don’t trust ‘em.”
You know, much like how we refer to people whose skin color we don’t like.
And then Drummond goes, “I’m just kidding, guys. I wouldn’t do that to you.” She then goes back to the oven and pulls out a pan of good ol’ Murican wings. Everyone is super jazzed that they aren’t stuck with eating inferior, foreign wings.
Fade to black.
It’s definitely a WTF few minutes of television, but you know what I’m really stuck on? The fact that the dudes in the clip apparently prefer buffalo wings — which is basically chicken + hot sauce + margarine.
Have they ever even had the real KFC? Some Korean fried chicken? That is the business. Have they never watched a grizzly old Asian woman squat on the floor and dismember a super fresh chicken with a cleaver?
Have they never seen the fiery, sky-high flames leaping out of a wok, lightly kissing little chicken nibblets like the mouth of God?
It is crazy to me that these people prefer chicken + hot sauce + margarine.
But you know. To each their own.
“Crazy Rich Asians” male lead is half-white and it’s like … kinda controversial, but I like him
There’s a lot of things to be excited for when it comes to the upcoming Jon M. Chu-helmed super-Asian film, “Crazy Rich Asians.” But some people are not into the half-white lead who’s just been cast.
The movie, which hasn’t started filming yet, is based on a 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan and features exclusively Asian characters. The fish-out-of-water story is about a Chinese American college professor (played by Constance Wu) who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend (Henry Golding) to go to a wedding.
There, she learns that her boyfriend’s family is rich AF.
Reportedly, Chu had issues casting his male lead due to the relative dearth of Asian leading men in Hollywood.
In January of this year, he took to social media to ask those of Asian ancestry to upload 2-minute videos to be considered for the male lead role.
Well, Chu found his man in television presenter Golding, whose father is English and whose mother is from the Iban tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia. Golding grew up in the United Kingdom, but he returned to Asia in 2008 and is based out of Malaysia and Singapore.
Golding’s casting has been met with some light criticism, over the fact that, ostensibly, “pure-blooded” Asian males can never be cast as romantic leads in Hollywood. This plays into the oft-discussed desexualization and emasculation of Asian men in American media, which is a legit and ongoing conversation to keep having for sure.
But an important distinction to make is that Asia is not Asia America. Southeast Asia is also not East Asia.
Southeast Asia, in particular, tends to be more racially mixed than East Asia. You know. Due to all of the terrible colonization that happened there for centuries.
Golding is Singaporean, and he is being cast in a role written for a Singaporean.
While about 75 percent of Singaporeans are ethnically Chinese (or they are claiming this on their census, which does not break it down further for those who are multiracial), 13.3 percent are Malay, 9.2 percent Indian, and 3.3 percent other. According to Population.sg, an initiative by Singapore’s National Population and Talent Division, more than 1 in 5 marriages in Singapore today are inter-ethnic.
This is not to say that Golding’s casting doesn’t deserve criticism. Go nuts. But context is important to note. It’s an all-Asian cast and the film director is Asian American.
One thing we can all probably agree on is that the casting of Michelle Yeoh — she’s Malaysian — as the boyfriend’s mother is like, the best thing ever.
“Ghost in the Shell” gets creamed by a baby who’s a boss
“Ghost in the Shell” was released March 31 and bombed its domestic opening weekend, showing once again that whitewashing doesn’t pay. It pulled in just $19 million. Topping the box office was animated comedy “The Boss Baby” ($49 million), which edged out previous champ, “Beauty and the Beast” ($48 million).
“Ghost in the Shell” is a live-action movie based on a Japanese manga/anime/film/video series that has inspired intense worldwide devotion. Despite the Japanese source material, the lead in the film, Major Mira Killian/Motoko Kusanagi, is played by Scarlett Johansson.
Critics accused the filmmakers of whitewashing the Japanese source material, and here, it is more troubling than the Golding casting because this lies closer to the Hollywood tendency of importing foreign media and re-skinning it at the altar of apparent box office success.
(I say apparently because Hollywood is dumb and doesn’t realize that whitewashing is no longer a financially sound decision. “Ben-Hur” bombed. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” bombed. “Aloha” bombed. “Lone Ranger” bombed.)
Additionally, the director here is Rupert Sanders, a white English film director. I mean, this isn’t Ang Lee casting Johansson as Major, which might invite more nuanced discussion. I’d make a lot of excuses for Ang Lee.
“Iron Fist” is so boring that Loras Tyrell could not save it
“Iron Fist” is a Netflix live-action series released last month that features a white blond gazillionaire (played by Finn Jones) who fights crime with his kickass kung-fu skillz like how rich white guys often do. And no one likes it!
According to Parrot Analytics, the initial demand for “Iron Fist” was actually pretty high compared to other Marvel-Netflix series — second only to “Luke Cage” (what up). However, that high demand can be attributed to the interest that the whole race controversy stirred up. I mean, I hated what “Iron Fist” was all about, and I still forced myself to watch a couple hours of it — to do a quality check and to write this column because I suffer for my art.
Parrot Analytics found that “Iron Fist” experienced the steepest decline in viewership after seven days — a rate of 50 percent. (As a point of comparison, the decline rate for “Luke Cage” was 37 percent; “Jessica Jones” 40 percent; Season 2 of “Daredevil” 44 percent.)
Criticisms “Iron Fist” has garnered include its lackluster martial arts/fight scenes, its poor character development, and also just the fact that the show is just boring — on top of being racially offensive.
In the midst of the slew of criticisms that Jones’ casting garnered, Jones quit Twitter in a brief moment of butt-hurtedness. He’s back now, don’t worry. At the time, he released a statement talking about how people should give “Iron Fist” a chance before getting all judgey. I think? I dunno. His super defensive statement from the point of view of a white man who was hurt by racial divides was TL; I DR’ed it.
Black Power Ranger is an adorable Asian guy
The “Power Rangers” got a cinematic reboot in the last month. If you know anything about “Power Rangers,” and how can you not? — you’d know that the first team of the American series featured Vietnamese American Thuy Trang as the Yellow Ranger and Black American Walter Emanuel Jones as the Black Ranger, which resulted in a generation of children of color and their parents just scratching their heads and wondering if it was too on-the-nose that the Yellow Ranger was Asian and the Black Ranger was Black — and whether this was racist, and whether we should be getting mad about this?
Well, the new movie smartly sidesteps that by switching around the roles. Ludi Lin is a Chinese Canadian actor born in Fuzhou, China, and he took over Jones’ former role. Lin is good at martial arts, fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and he recently was interviewed by Tae Kwon Do Life Magazine, in which he expressed reluctance in allowing himself to be portrayed as the token Asian.
I hope he becomes famousss.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.