By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
It’s almost the summer of the Covid vaccine, and I’m real excited for it. It’s gonna be the summer of real sexy bangers because we can go outside now! It’s gonna be the summer where Sandra Oh just murders it while making us laugh.
And it will also probably be the summer of the same ol’ sinister low-key racism that happens every day in pop culture.
But first, here’s the good stuff.
Meet Silk Sonic: new Asian duo for the most ardent fangirl inside of you
Undoubtedly by now, you must’ve heard “Leave The Door Open” on the radio or streaming station or from your kid’s iPad or however you get clued in on the latest jams—and I know you, like I did, swayed along nostalgically to Bruno Mars’ buttery smooth vocals the first time you heard it.
“Leave The Door Open” is a collaboration between Mars and his pal, Anderson .Paak, a singer, songwriter, rapper (and more). With their powers combined, they created a yet-to-be-released album and became Silk Sonic. It’s that classic American story of two wildly talented people of color coming together to create something even greater than themselves.
But did you also know that Silk Sonic is basically an Asian American music duo! Like, for real, I did the math for us.
Fun facts! Mars was born in Hawaii to a Puerto Rican and Jewish dad and a Filipina mom. Anderson .Paak was born in California to a Korean mom who also has Black heritage. (He also happens to be married to a Korean American woman.)
So cool, right? Off the top of my head, I just cannot think of another Asian American music act with this kind of influence of clout. I also just love how they represent the diversity and breadth of the Asian American identity.
OMG, give it up, suburban moms—Sandra Oh is not coming back to your show
Once upon a time, Sandra Oh was doing a lot of interesting work on the indie circuit before she scored a role as a hyper-achieving, ultra-competitive BAMF on a super popular medical show based in Seattle. Then after a billion seasons doing the same ol’ thing on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Oh decided it was time to move on and do different stuff, like winning Golden Globes.
A lot of “Grey’s Anatomy” fans can’t get over it because they like consistency and for people to be frozen in time and to never grow or something—because Oh constantly gets asked if she will come back to a show that she left nearly a decade ago.
It’s gotten to the point where she had to constantly lay down real talk. On the LA Times’ Asian Enough podcast, Oh stated, “In some ways, you do your work as a bubble and you let it go. I left that show, my God, seven years ago almost. So in my mind, it’s gone. But for a lot of people, it’s still very much alive. And while I understand and I love it, I have moved on.”
Instead of coming back to “Grey’s,” Oh is starring in stuff like “The Chair,” an upcoming Netflix comedy series airing Aug. 27. It’s about a Korean American professor who becomes the first woman and person of color appointed to be chair of the English department. And obvs she’s going to deal with some real white shit in her new job, with hilarious aplomb. (That’s not in any synopsis I read, I’m just extrapolating like a wizard who can see into the future.)
About her new work, Oh has this to say about it: “Please come with me to ‘Killing Eve’ and on to ‘The Chair’ and on to the other projects. Come see the characters that I’m playing that are much more deeply integrated in … the Asian American experience.”
You heard her! Go with her!
Why are white people still voicing all the anime? Ingrained societal racism! That’s why!
This might shock you, but did you know that white people are still taking everything? Even stuff that’s originally made by Asians?
IndieWire ran a really interesting interview with Emi Lo, Apphia Yu, and Shawn Gann—three voice actors who work for Funimation, an anime entertainment company who dubs and distributes media from East Asia.
In a few interesting ways, you’d think that voice acting would be a good industry for BIPOC performing artists to get into because in voice acting, the artistry and work is concentrated in the voice, which means there doesn’t need to be racist conversations about an actor’s mainstream appeal or marketability to American audiences.
However, notable animated voice roles nearly always get taken by bigger name white actors, even when the characters are not white.
“As far as we can tell, it’s not moving anymore product,” Yu told IndieWire. “No one went to go see ‘Ponyo’ because Miley Cyrus’ little sister was in it.”
“I have my foot in the door now,” Gann said. “[But] it’s still a hard push to make myself a permanent fixture amongst that group. … You just have to earn that trust and a lot of the time it’s harder for BIPOCs and women to make that leap.”
It’s sad. It sounds like this arena is also rife with the same ol’ BS that permeates just about all other industries.
OMG, can’t believe I’m saying this, but we need to see less of all-around amazing person Dwayne Johnson
Okay, two smart people, Nancy Wang Yuen and Stacy L. Smith, did a study that showed that only 3.4% of Hollywood movies feature an Asian American or Pacific Islander lead over a 13-year span—that’s 44 movies.
And Yuen and Smith said that of those 44 movies, a whopping 14 of them starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is Samoan American and also Black. Fourteen! That’s nearly a third of all the movies!
“There just aren’t enough roles for [Pacific Islanders] and Asian actors in general,” Yuen told NBC News. “And that’s why we see The Rock so many times. We don’t see anyone else, because it’s coming from behind the scenes. It’s the storytellers, the people who are greenlighting the projects.”
When Yeun says it’s coming from behind the scenes, she means that only 3.5% of directors from the past 13 years were AAPI—and of that, only three were women. Additionally, only 2.5% percent of producers were AAPI and only 3.3% of casting directors were AAPI.
That’s bleak. But also, we can kind of comfort ourselves with the fact that Hollywood movies hemorrhaged money in 2020 because of a pandemic and also because it’s just an old fossil—and that more and more often, young people are grabbing their entertainment and media from social media and smaller streaming outfits, places where we are seeing more diversity in representation.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.