By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to the first 2021 edition of A-pop! I have some reheated leftovers from the end of 2020 for you (mmm, I love leftovers!) as well as some shiny new items to share. Let’s get to it!
Three white ladies Columbus’d mahjong for $425, get accused of cultural appropriation
It’s a story as old as time: Three white women named Annie, Bianca, and Kate—originators from Dallas—discover, all on their own, a super awesome, slightly exotic game. They tell their other white friends all about this so that white Americans can get hip to Mahjong, too. The only problem is that the existing tiles of this game are so ugly and boring and not reflective of Annie, Bianca, and Kate’s personal styles—so here’s an idea! Why not redesign the uggo tiles of this game so that it appeals more to cultured people with good taste and sell these game sets for $425 a pop so that the masses can get exposed to mahjong?
Unfortunately though, once they started marketing their awesome new and improved version of the game, haters came out the woodwork and just started hating! Annie, Bianca, and Katie just cannot catch a break! Mere months after the launch of their company, The Mahjong Line, a bunch of Chinese Americans took to social media to attack out of jealousy, saying stuff like, “Stop appropriating my culture!”
Whomp whomp. I sincerely hope our intrepid heroines do figure out a way to claim and profit off of “their discovery and refresh” of a game that is centuries old and played by Asian septuagenarians in Hing Hay Park.
Bling empire is ridonkulous
Y’all, Netflix is raising their monthly prices by a dollar again, saying it’s because they want to bring us newer, awesomer content. Shows like “Bling Empire,” apparently. OMG have you seen?
It’s a reality show featuring a cast of obscenely rich Asian and Asian Americans (duh, they are mostly all Chinese) and one super hot male model who is not as rich but is fun to look at and acts as a stand-in for us, the audience. Each episode of “Bling Empire” details how cool and fabulous life is when you don’t have a real job because, well, why work when you have a trust fund?
In all seriousness, it’s actually a fun watch and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Hidden under layers of disgusting capitalism and excess are just a bunch of human people (like us!) who are stuck in abusive relationship cycles, who have shitty friends, who have really good friends, who seek out the approval of the parental units way too much, and who just want answers from the people who abandoned them as children. It’s good reality TV! And I also like that non-Asian folks are getting to see a different kind of Asian!
Vogue runs cover of Vice President Kamala Harris in front of wrinkled curtains
Vogue ran a bit of a weird and awkward photo of new Vice President Kamala Harris on its cover. On it, she is wearing a dark jacket by Donald Deal, skinny pants, and her signature Converse sneakers. Behind her is a green wall that is cut by a messy spill of wrinkled pink curtains, probably a shoutout to her Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) roots from her Howard University days. Harris’s smile is a little strained, a little tense—as if caught unaware for a split second.
It looks like an accidental photo or a test photo, definitely not the first fashion magazine cover after such a historical event—the U.S. inauguration of its first-ever Black and South Asian vice president.
The photo was widely seen as disrespectful and Vogue naturally got hit with a lot of criticism. Apparently, the gossip is (and none of this is verified) that there were two cover options considered and Harris’s camp widely preferred the portrait where she is dressed in a Michael Kors powder blue suit and actually looks awesome and relaxed. They assumed that was the cover image and the other pink curtain one was gonna appear inside. But I guess nothing was set in writing because there was a switcheroo at the last minute and the awkward cover—pushing casualness and kind of ignoring the gravity of the moment—went to press.
Y’all, at Northwest Asian Weekly—which I know is totally not a fashion magazine or anywhere close—we can get a lot of heat for unintentionally running unflattering photos of folks. I can’t even imagine intentionally running an unflattering photo of the vice president of the United States! Can you?
Simi Liu is disappointing
Mark Wahlberg is a scumbag. I know he continually tries to rehab his image by playing hypermasculine whiteass, heroic men in movies, but let’s never forget that in 1988, he assaulted two Vietnamese men while calling them gooks. And that was an incident in which he was caught (he was arrested), which means that there were and probably are a number of countless incidents that went unreported. There are stories about how he used to pelt rocks at yellow school buses holding Black kids. This asshole has never admitted that he was so very obviously racist. Like white men who have come before him and after him, he has said that his problem was that he was young (and thus kinda stupid—though I know a lot of young people who aren’t super racist, sooo…).
Anyway, this bit of news isn’t about that human stain, Mark Wahlberg. It’s really about actor Simu Liu, who once called out Wahlberg for being a terrible racist (on Twitter), but then the second Liu booked a movie with Wahlberg, he totally deleted the tweet!
Worse yet, when caught deleting the tweet, Liu defended himself like such an Asian dude: He became defensive and self-righteous.
Liu said this:
“I deleted a couple of tweets I made regarding the past actions of one of my costars as a gesture of professionalism and to open the door to progressive conversations and (hopefully) positive change. … But that doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s room to grow and work together to find an opportunity to educate and do some good—which I’m excited to do in addition to shooting the movie.”
I can’t even make any jokes about this. I am just too busy rolling my eyes super hard at what a sellout this dude is turning out to be.
Pat Morita documentary out
Here’s a salve for you: There’s a documentary about Pat Morita coming out on Feb. 5, tellingly called “More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story.”
Morita died in 2005, after a long and amazing career. His family story included incarceration by the U.S. government during World War II. He was an actor during a time when actors of Asian descent basically only had a tiny number of stereotypical roles to them. Many of us grew up watching him not just as Mr. Miyagi, but also as Mulan’s dad and for his guest starring stint on every 90s sitcom. I’m super excited for this documentary!
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.