Archive for December 11, 2012

Year of the Dragon and the HongKong gangsters

blogAfter watching the film Year of the Dragon, I abruptly thought of the bandits films I saw in HK.  Year of the Dragon was published in the 1980s, when HongKong was still coloized by the British.  As a result, the situation there was completely different from what it was like in the mainland.  HongKong citizens had a much more distinct view of the world while people in the mainland didn’t have so much opportunities of going outside the country.

Hong Kong gangs, back in the 80s and 90s, caused much troble to the soceity.  They even have the power to fight against the Hong Kong government.  So it leads to many conflicts between the local police and the gangs and many films are made based on their conflicts.  In the film Year of the Dragon, the gangsters even took control of China town in America, and the film explained how American police won the war with them.  The gangsters are considered cold-blooded and thought provoking, while the police men is brave and tragical.  I wouldn’t say this film is racist, but the point of Chinese people taking control of a part of America leads to a strong public awareness of the growing nova, China.  However, although the power of the Chinese government is raising rapidly, Chinese people are least likely to invade another nation, as a matter of fact, it never happened in history.

There leads to a question of mine: why Americans are so afraid of other growing nation, especailly the Chinese?  Is it a sense of self protection or is it a call of immortal domination?



Bill Tang

December 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm Leave a comment

The Mindy Project: A Refutation of South Asian American Stereotypes


I recently started watching The Mindy Project, a comedy airing on Fox. It’s actually the first television show in the U.S. to feature a South Asian American as the lead. The show was created and produced by Mindy Kahling, who played Kelly Kapoor in the long-running comedy series, The Office.

As a young South Asian American woman, I was really excited when I heard the premise of the show. And I was not disappointed—Mindy Kahling was incredibly funny as Kelly Kapoor, and she is even funnier on her own show. She plays a fashionable and somewhat ditzy ob/gyn who is a partner in the firm.

As far as I’ve observed, the show is a complete refutation of Asian American stereotypes. Mindy Kahling speaks in a clear American accent, her past and present boyfriends (that we know of thus far) have been Caucasian, and she wears completely western/contemporary dress. And what I find most interesting about the show is that though there has been no addressing of South Asian American issues—and I’m not sure that would have a place in a comedy series—there is this constant self-awareness, that these are conscious decisions on the part of the screenwriters to refute these stereotypes. The show is coy about its decisions in character and representation.

 A prevalent stereotype about South Asian Americans is that they all become doctors. Mindy is, in fact, a doctor, but her personality or the way she practices medicine is anything but stereotypical. Similarly, some of Mindy’s quips draw attention to her South Asian heritage. At one point she suggests an alternate life goal of doing that “Eat Pray Love” thing, but then immediately dismisses the idea saying, “oh wait, I don’t want to pray.” At another point, she is picking a place to live by spinning a globe and it happens to land on India. Her immediate response is, “Ew. No.” The comedy of these moments comes from their unexpectedness. But the writers of the show are very aware that these moments will be perceived as unexpected. It’s a sly little prodding, an unspoken whisper that suggests, we know what you expect, and we’re going to turn that on its head.

– Aliza Lalji 

December 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm Leave a comment

Oppositional Asian Archetypes: Buddha vs. Fu Manchu

By: Melanie Zarrow

            Upon learning about the Fu Manchu stereotype, I was interested in comparing it to the image of the Buddha in both Japan and China. Both the Buddha and Fu Manchu are figures imbued with significant cultural and societal meaning. The Buddha represents enlightenment, tranquility, and wisdom. Fu Manchu, on the other hand, represents mystery, danger, and evil. The Fu Manchu character was developed by the west in the media, while the Buddha is a non-media figural representation of Japanese and Chinese Buddhist ideals developed in East Asia. Both are fictitious in their representation- no one actually knows what the real Buddha looked like, and the Fu-Manchu is a stereotypical caricature from popular American imagination.

            Dr. Fu Manchu, a character created by Sax Rohmer’s novels, represents Asian men as ultimately evil. In this literary series, Fu Manchu continually threatens the racial destruction of White America. Daughter of the Dragon casts Dr. Fu Manchu in a similar role. In the film, he is a “yellow-faced” and racially exaggerated Swedish actor in oriental dress. Through his characterization and actions, Dr. Fu Manchu represents the East as dangerous and mysterious.

            The Buddha, on the other hand, represents an Asian ideal of one who achieved ultimate good. In early Japanese sculpture, the Buddha is often depicted carrying a stylized stone umbrella to portray an image of aristocracy. The Buddha’s image is not, however, stagnant. His image changes by over time and based on which country it was produced. The eyes of the Buddha are highly stylized, the bun on top of his head represents a channel to enlightenment, and the Buddha is often represented in a mandala form, a cosmic diagram in which the Buddha represents ultimate transcendence.

            The implications of these two archetypal figures are interesting and I hope to further explore them in my research on Asian communities.

December 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

“Token Race” Characters

Why the “token Black American” character but not the Asian American in popular TV shows?

Lately, there has been a surge of shows featuring mostly Caucasian casts, but including a “token Black American” character. Recent shows to begin running such as The New Normal, Suburgatory, Emily Owens M.D., Happy Endings, Guys With Kids and The Neighbors include a “token Black American” main character but not necessarily a “token Asian American” character. For that matter, “token Middle Eastern” characters or “token Native American” characters or “token Hispanic American” characters are non-existent. When recently-aired shows do feature Asian American main characters, most feature South Asian characters (The Mindy Project, New Girl, Unhitched, Whitney). So, why the “token Black American” character but not the “token other-race” character? And why the South Asian character rather than East, North or West Asian character as a main character?

I find it disappointing and somewhat disheartening that the “token-race” character continues to exist, rather than casts embodying characters of all races, backgrounds and cultures. Clearly, despite progress made in recent decades, whiteness is still normative in most media venues. Hopefully, media will continue to progress in a more diverse direction. Comparing recent media publications with past publications seems to indicate positive changes. As our generation matures, I am hopeful and think it is likely that these positive changes will continue.

P.S. some feedback I forgot to say in class: I really enjoyed how this course approached the notion of stereotypes and stereotype analysis. By focusing only on stereotypes in media, instead of the multi-faceted-ness of representation, theoreticians may actually do more harm than good. I enjoyed the way in which this course approached subjects of representation and media overall.

December 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm 1 comment

Film Festival Reflection

By: Melanie Zarrow

My experience of the Film Festival was informative and educational. My favorite aspect of the Film Festival was the preparation. Before being in this class, I had very little knowledge about Asian American experiences in the media and US society. I also knew little about Asian stereotypes, the idea of the “Yellow Peril” or the difficulty of Asian Americans gaining acceptance in society.

I specifically enjoyed learning about the model minority stereotype, because prior to this class, I thought it was true. Watching Model Minority was therefore an eye opening experience to me, and the discussions I had with my Asian American classmates about there experiences within the “model minority” paradigm.

In terms of preparing the film festival, I enjoyed the promotional aspects. I liked walking around the campuses putting up signs and posters, and I felt purposeful when talking to my friends about why these films are important to view (because many of them, like me, were unfamiliar with the difficulties facing Asian Americans. I was also very nervous to speak at our screening of Seeking Asian Female because I am not used to speaking in front of non-students (people from the community, the filmmakers, producers).

I liked the girls that were in my group and I thought we did a good job of delegating the work. I usually don’t enjoy doing group work because I have a difficult time dividing up the work and communicating. My group was great and definitely changed my perspective on group work in general.

December 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

Film Festival Reflection

I really loved being part of the film festival hosted by our Asian American in Media class. I never thought about organizing and hosting a film festival since I am not a media studies major. Instead I am interested in being an economics major, and I took this class since it sounded very interesting. I was correct since the class was very fascinating. Although I found some aspects of the class hard to grasp, overall I was able to enjoy the content.

The film festival integrated into the syllabus allowed me to gain a new perspective of the class. Viewing the films from the pool of films with the film festival on mind allowed me to watch the film with a keen eye. As I was watching through the films, I kept trying to foreshadow a potential program that might be part of the film festival, and I had some difficulties trying to make connections between few films. But once I joined the group with Evyn and Bill to work on short narratives, with the group as a whole I started to see coherent connections. As a group we were able to find a series of film that worked very well together and could stand alone as a strong program in the film festival. I was given the duty to write burps for each of the films, and as I was writing, I saw that these films worked together perfectly, and I was really excited about having these films screened in a large theater with audiences and filmmakers present.

Hosting the film festival was a challenge since there are many factors that need to add well together in order for the festival to be a success. Without the help of Prof. Ma, we would not have had the opportunity to successfully host the film festival. I really enjoyed making the program flyer for our film festival. It gave me the opportunity to be creative in a field that is far different from my major. On the day of the film festival, I was really excited about meeting one director in particular. Ami Patel’s Still Life with shows a queer South Asian female’s struggle to balance her love life with her parents. As a South Asian, I was shocked to see this film since personally I cannot remember any films in which South Asian queer issues are discussed. Ami Patel portrayed an idea in Still Life with that is not discussed or seen in mainstream films. I really wanted to her in person to ask her the though process that went through while directing this film and how people received her film.

On the day of the film festival, I did get the opportunity to meet her in person and have a great conversation with her. I really loved the Q&A session following the screening since I was able to get a new perspective on the films through the director’s lens. I really enjoyed listening to them, and I even took my cell phone out to record the audio voices of few of the things some of the directors were saying. Having the opportunity to have a meal with the directors afterwards was also great since I was able to sit with a few of them and talk about the films. I also met and had conversations with few of the audiences, and I really loved hearing their feedbacks.

Overall I really loved being part of the film festival. I was happy with the outcome and the number of people who came to our program. I really wish I had the opportunity to attend all of the film festival programs, but since I had an asthma attack on Saturday due to the rapid weather changes in California, I was not able to attend the program. I have watched all the films that were shown on Saturday, and I regret not being there to get the filmmakers perspectives during the Q&A session after the screenings. I never imagined myself doing a film festival so I would like to thank my group members, Prof. Ma, and the whole class for giving me the opportunity to experience something new and exciting.


-Kanna Jeyaseelan

December 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

Film Festival Reflection

As a non-media studies major, I took a risk when taking this class. I had no idea what I was signing up for at the beginning of this semester, but as of right now, I have no regrets doing so. The film festival was, personally, a really fun experience. It gave everyone in the class a chance to get to know each other a bit more by means of working toward a common goal–to make this film festival a success. I was worried at first because I had absolutely no idea how to organize a college event, as I have had no prior experience. My group members for our subcommittee were very nice and were very open-minded to each of our ideas for promoting our portion of the film festival. 

My favorite part about this film festival was being able to meet the director of the film we were in charge of setting up for. Greg Cahill was very friendly and down-to-earth, contrary to my prior belief. I just had a very casual conversation with him briefly before the screening about what made him start his filmmaking career and what he is working now. I was actually very surprised when I found out he was caucasian; he definitely did his research on Cambodia to the point where I originally thought he was Cambodian before finding his picture on his website. 

Like my peers, I was fairly disappointed by the weather and the turnout for this film festival. I was able to have one of my friends attend my group’s screening on Saturday, but everyone else was allegedly “busy”. Through this film festival, I’ve learned that it is very difficult to get an audience for a college event, regardless of population size. I was also somewhat disappointed that I could not end the screening with my other two group members (it wasn’t their fault though!) because we had a very nice group discussion, rather than a Q&A session, with Greg after the screening. It was definitely interesting to hear other audience members’ opinions and questions about the film. 

I believe that I now have more of a sense of how to plan these types of events in the future. I greatly enjoyed this experience, and I hope I can do something like this again in the future with another class. 

-Josh Weiss

December 11, 2012 at 8:32 am Leave a comment

The Legend of Korra (Personal Blog Post)

Legend of Korra Television Trailer (2012)

“The Legend of Korra” (LoK) is the critically-acclaimed follow-up series to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (ATLA). For those who are unfamiliar with the original series, The Last Airbender (not the movie) takes place in a heavily Asian-influenced world and is divided into four nations, each pertaining to the four basic elements—fire, earth, air, and water. Some of the population of each of these nations possess the innate ability to manipulate one of these four elements (depending on their ancestry) through the use of chi. Chi refers to the concept metaphysical energy which flows throughout the human body; the term itself was coined in ancient Chinese philosophy, around 5th century BCE. In this series, they refer to this manipulation of matter as “bending”. Aang, a young air temple monk discovers he is the reincarnation of the Avatar, a master of all four elements who is put on this earth to maintain balance between the four nations. He basically freaks out and encases himself in ice for 100 years before being discovered by two waterbenders from the Southern Water Tribe. He discovers that the Fire Nation has thrown off the world’s balance by trying to take over the other nations, and only he, the Avatar, can stop him. However, he must master all four elements in order to do so, as he only knows airbending. They then go on for about a two-year long trip that lasts for about 61 episodes, travelling to each nation to find a master in each form of bending to teach him and defeat the Fire Lord.


A visual representation of the four nations.


December 11, 2012 at 7:55 am Leave a comment

LAB= Little Asian Boy= Not Okay

If any of you are not yet familiar with Reddit, it is an incredible social news website where the registered users submit content in the form of either a link or a text “self” post. Other users then vote the submission “up” or “down”, which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages and front page. It is known to be the home of those truly dedicated to the internet and to what’s new.

According to Google DoubleClick Ad Planner’s estimate, the median U.S. Reddit user is male (72%), 25–34 years of age, has college education. The analysis also shows that many of the top ten audience interests are in the tech field, suggesting a computer savvy demographic.

Reddit is my most frequented website (besides facebook) and it is always fun to see what the top tier of those browsing the internet have to say or share. However, I was deeply disturbed by one of the story submissions made by a “Redditor” (one who uses Reddit) about how he was “trolled” by a 7-year-old Asian boy. If you are not familiar with what it means to troll (I wasn’t until I became a Redditor) here is a definition taken from


The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly angering people, usually via the internet, using dialogue. The most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) truly believe in what you are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) give your victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help.
Trolling requires decieving; any trolling that doesn’t involve decieving someone isn’t trolling at all; it’s just stupid. As such, your victim must not know that you are trolling; if he does, you are an unsuccesful troll.

So what this user relates in his story, is that a 7-year-old Asian boy, a frequent customer of the place in which he works, one day starts speaking in a very heavy Chinese accent. The author writes that he and his co-workers found the boy hysterical, and had already given him the nickname of LAB, or “Little Asian Boy.” Throughout his description of the event, the author refers to the boy as LAB. The author says that he asked the boy, “Little Asian Boy, who told you to talk like that?” and the boy responded, dead serious, “I have no idea what you are talking about, you guys are racist.” Therefore, the author claims that he was “trolled,” or purposefully drawn into a scheme and fooled, by his “LAB.”

What is much less important than the story is how he, and all of his co-workers, refer to the boy as “LAB.” The post became incredibly popular, with many commenting on the author’s racism. The author defended himself by saying “I called him Little Asian Boy because he is in fact Asian, a boy, and little. It’s not intended to be racist.” If an older, white man who I did not know called me “Little Asian Girl” when I was seven, I would be incredibly shocked and speechless. To me, that moniker is absolutely unacceptable. Even if the boy was having fun and “trolling” by pretending to have a very thick accent to amuse the author and his co-workers, it gives them no right to slap that demeaning label onto him. I find the “little brother” mentality of this story to be disconcerting, and am glad that some the Reddit community was able to see, and point out to the author, that referring to his customer as “Little Asian Boy” was wrong.

I think the scariest part of discovering this post was the fact that the demographics of Reddit are those who are young and well-educated. But when scrolling through the comments of the author’s post, many agreed with him and defended his actions/nickname of choice. Additional comments were made of “LAB’s” other Redditors had encountered in their lives, or how Asian boys had fooled them or defied their expectations. Here I saw that though the way Reddit functions is wonderful, it can also be very dangerous due to the way it encourages “group mentality.” Because those who choose to post are normally those who have the most severe of opinions (volunteer bias), it would appear that virtually everyone is okay with the “Little Asian Boy” name-calling, when that most definitely cannot be true.


By Lauren Moon

December 11, 2012 at 7:50 am Leave a comment

Film Festival Reflection

Like many others in the class, I had no idea that the film festival would be a component of the course, but it was truly the greatest surprise and such a wonderful opportunity to learn and bond from the planning stages to the actual execution of the event.

I think starting with the field trip to Visual Communications was the perfect way to get everyone excited for the possibilities the festival would hold. It was such a cool experience to even visit Visual Communications after reading about it, making what we were learning even more tenable and real. The actual screening of the films was probably my favorite part. I felt this sense of duty and responsibility which gave me incredible motivation and just an overall excitement when watching each film in Pitzer A/V. The best was when other people from class would be down there, all of us laughing to ourselves, or pausing the films to talk to one another about opinions. It was like we were some secret society, all bonding through the time spent together and through the media that we were consuming and sifting through.

I liked that we split up into smaller committees because it gave me an opportunity to connect with students I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know as well if we weren’t in the same group! I do wish that the community service aspect of Two Shadows (2011) would have worked out to happen this semester. Though Kasey, Josh, and I made a facebook event, it was really disappointing to see the small turnout on Saturday night. Yes, people are extremely busy this time of year. Yes, it was not expected to be a crowd-pleaser. Yes, the weather was gloomy and wet and perfect for staying in bed, but I still wish that we could have drawn in a larger audience. If I could go back in time and do it again, I would try to see if we could get it out in the Claremont Courier to draw in more village-folk, and go and present to more Asian American studies classes and the resource center/mentor programs.

But, overall, the planning and execution of the festival was a joy from start to finish. It was great to see the entire class working together towards one common goal, and for all of us to get to know each other and become friends throughout the process.

By Lauren Moon

December 11, 2012 at 7:24 am Leave a comment

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