Archive for December 10, 2010

Tie A Yellow Ribbon – AAMP Screening


Last week, I attended the AAMP screening of Tie A Yellow Ribbon. It would interest me to know how many people attend screenings held by OBSA or the QRC, because the audience seemed to be almost all AAMP mentors, most of who helped put on the program. As far as I know, I was the only AAMP mentee there, and there was a girl from OBSA who wanted to broaden her horizons (which I thought was awesome). The girl from OBSA (sorry, I’m terrible at names or else I would give one; I don’t want it to seem like I’m purposely labeling her as “OBSA girl” or something) talked about how all the events she had attended in the past had been through OBSA or similar organizations, and she wanted a glimpse into similar events put on by different organizations, including AAMP. She noted that she didn’t really know that much about the Asian American experience, and in the discussion after the screening, each of the other people in the room (all Asian Americans) shared some reactions to movie and how the movie reflected their experience as an Asian American, if at all, as well as what kinds of movies they would like to see made about Asian Americans.

As for the movie itself, I was somewhat blindsided by the double storyline that took place. The synopsis posted by AAMP (the short synopsis provided by the official website) led me to believe that the two storylines of the film were actually pertaining to one person, not two. The synopsis reads:

“Estranged from her family due to a childhood indiscretion with her white brother, a young Korean adoptee woman seeks to regain a sense of home by exploring ties with the Asian Americans she meets in her new apartment building, until suddenly, her brother shows up at the door, stirring up long lost feelings that she has tried to bury.

Making her feature debut, writer-director Joy Dietrich, also a Korean adoptee, introduces audiences to the world of Asian American young women and delicately addresses the abnormally high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American girls, creating a work great compassion and poetic beauty.”

I assumed that the depression and suicide among Asian American girls was related to the storyline about the Korean adoptee (not a huge leap to make, right?). However, as I watched the film, I realized there was a completely separate storyline going on there. The “depression and suicide among Asian American girls” was, in fact, part of a second storyline involving Beatrice, the roommate of Jenny (the adoptee). The Beatrice storyline somewhat dimmed my view of the movie, as I felt like it was kind of beating a dead horse – mainly, the “overworked Asian who wants to be a writer/artist/musician but whose parents expect him/her to be a doctor/lawyer/businessperson” dead horse, but also the “exoticized, eroticized Asian female” dead horse. Granted, the movie somewhat addresses the latter by making Bea’s boyfriend (who has an Asian fetish of sorts) give an extraordinarily creepy speech about Asian American women that might have had some truth in it that was negated by the fact that he was pretty much sexually harassing Jenny; the movie was purposely exploring the sexualized Asian woman. But the biggest part of Bea’s story was the “disapproving parent” storyline, which I felt was just overdone and not really exploring a new facet of Asian American life and/or culture.

Sophie Wang

December 10, 2010 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Metro PCS – Hipster Racism or Just Plain Racism?

I don’t know if any of you have seen the recent Metro PCS commercials starring “Ranjit and Chad,” a heavily accented South Asian tech expert duo, but I was absolutely shocked when I first saw one of them. The commercials open with generic South Asian music, and run the gamut from showcasing some caricature-ly bad 80’s-style dancing from Chad, to comparing wireless providers to donkeys, to scantily clad bellydancers, to such gems of dialogue as “You are now like my uncle’s cow Godi: tied to a post and milked at regular intervals.”

This only compounds on the issue of stereotyping Indians as call center tech workers. Says Jim Edwards of the CBS Interactive Business Network, “There are seven ads in total, and the jokes within them revolve around cows, donkeys, cobras, mongooses, snake charmers and other things that Westerners think you can see a lot of in India. One of the new ads can’t even get its racism right: At one point, Ranjit exclaims “Holy shishkabob!” Kebabs are, of course, a Middle Eastern, not Indian, food.”
Here is one of the videos:

Edwards, a detractor of the ad, also says in an earlier article, “The problem here is that MetroPCS is getting ahead of its audience. You could argue that the ad is funny because it’s actually an ironic satire about Indian sterotypes, and is thus critiquing the racism within itself. But for viewers without sociology degrees, it looks a lot more like “look at the funny Indians!””

However, neither circumstance is removed from racism. The only difference is that one is the typical stereotyping racism, while the other is a more newly minted form of racism, aptly coined “hipster racism” by Carmen Van Kerckhove at the popular blog, Racialicious.

Hipster racism is defined as the following: “Hipster racism involves making derogatory comments with a racial basis in an attempt to seem witty and above it all. Specifically, the idea is to sound ironic, as in “I’m allowed to say this because of course I’m not racist, so it’s funny.” It’s an aspect of a larger part of the hipster culture, which wants to seem jaded and urbane and oh-so-witty. Using language which is viewed as inflammatory or not appropriate is supposed to push the boundaries and make someone look edgy, but it only really comes across that way to people who buy into that system. To everyone else, it’s just racist.”

Sorry Metro PCS. You can’t win this one.

(Unfortunately, the ads seem to be working. Sales were up 22% in the period when the ads began airing (http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1283699/000119312510114607/d10q.htm#toc20540_4). That seems to dampen hope of the ads being discontinued anytime soon)

PS: The only ads I’ve seen of late have been during Lakers games, as I don’t watch TV (with commercials) otherwise. This ad, as well as the potentially offensive Ken Jeong Adidas ads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJLmiU9y8_g) airs a LOT. Does this have to do something with the assumed audience? Do advertisement marketing execs believe that sports fans will respond better to racism, in whatever form it takes? Can someone who watched non-sports TV give some insight/input?

Ken Jeong ad:

Sophie Wang

December 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment


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