Archive for November, 2019

Asian Americans in Social Media: From “KevJumba” to “RiceGum” – Hugo Anaya

In The Routledge Companion To Asian American Media chapter Asian American Gone Viral, author Lori Kido Lopez, examines the dichotomy of Asian American youtubers during the platform’s earlier stages and in more recent times. Lopez does so by looking at YouTube channels such as KevJumba and SuperBadFilm. In her analysis, the former, a Twainess Youtuber known for his comedic skits revolving around Asian stereotypes, used Youtube to focus on calling “attention to Asian Americans working in both mainstream and independent media” at a time when there were limited media outposts that Asian Americans could occupy. Whereas in the latter, Hmong Amercian college students, used their Youtube channel to express an enthusiastic emphasis on their Hmong identities and culture, a trait rarely done within mainstream Asian American media. As seen in her analysis, we are able to see a trajectory in the representation of Asian Americans in social media platforms.

After reading Lopez’s reading, I wanted to closely look at Asian American social media stars, more specifically the newer generation of Asian American YouTubers, to see how the foundation of the earlier stars in the platform has blazed a path that allow YouTubers, like RiceGum, to gain success. RiceGum, a YouTuber of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, is one of the platform’s biggest stars, amassing over 10 million subscribers on his channel where he does a variety of things from gaming, rapping, vlogging, and modeling. His success can be summed up by Pham, “because the bloggess are English speakers, they are familiarly and knowably Western. They are just racially exotic enough to have a wide market appeal – to Asian as well as to non-Asian English-speaking consumers and retailers – yet not so foregin that their racial difference disrupts the postracial fantasy of late capitalism”. From Pham’s analysis we can see that RiceGum’s success is due to his identity as an Asian American. He is racially ethnic enough to make stereotypically Asian jokes while also American enough to express those jokes in Western social media platforms like Vine and YouTube. In 2015, RiceGum “went viral” when he began a video series called These Kids Must Be Stopped. The video series’s success stemmed from poking fun at Asian American culture, RiceGum’s mom wanting him to become a doctor, and American culture, “ hitting the whip and nae nae” by traditionally uncoordinated dance groups. From here we are able to see that RiceGum’s ability to succeed in YouTube stems from past stars who open the gates for him. Channels like KevJumba created a space on the platform that brought light to the Asian Americans. Furthermore, channels like KevJumba fought for media representation so that channels like RiceGum wouldn’t need to focus on representational biasis, rather focus solely on his content. 

November 23, 2019 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Mississippi Masala: Ellen, Soren, Karen, Isaiah

Mississippi Masala (1991) is a romantic drama film directed by Mira Nair about an interracial relationship between an Indian Ugandan woman, Mina, and a Black American man, Demetrius. Nair is an India-born director who was educated at Delhi University and Harvard. Mississippi Masala was her second feature film and it won three awards at the Venice Film Festival including Best Screenplay and The Audience Choice Award. Nair researched both the history of Uganda and Ugandan Indians and dove deeply into the racial relations of a place like Mississippi to tell this story.

The beginning of the film depicts the forced removal of Asians in Uganda by former President Idi Amin in 1972, including Mina’s family. It delves into race relations between the Indian and Black communities in Mississippi where Mina and her family end up, drawing upon themes of solidarity, mistrust, and retaliation to depict where the line is drawn in their familiarity. Asian identity in this film is portrayed in comparison to and in conflict with Africans and Black Americans. The experience of being forcibly exiled from Africa by Africans has made some members of the community, particularly Jay, distrustful of any Black people. Racial relations are tense at best throughout the film. The love affair that Mina and Demetrius share reverberates through their respective communities and they suffer the consequences of pursuing an interracial relationship.

One element of Mississippi Masala‘s filmic language is its music, which changes based on the location, person, and emotion being shown. This music choice, which is quite varying, helps display the cultural and racial intermingling going on in the movie as well as the complicated nature of the identity of someone like Mina. The film also utilizes flashbacks. By repeatedly revisiting the Ugandan memories of Mina and Jay, it calls attention to how the experience of being removed from your home, and having to find your own in a world you feel is turned against you permeates the self and the experience. It highlights the difficulty of adjusting and accepting others as well as yourself.

A particularly climactic and representative moment in the film occurs between Demetrius and Jay when Demetrius asks to see Mina but Jay refuses this request. Demetrius accuses Jay of racism and colorism, saying that Indians liken themselves to White people when in the presence of Black people, though they are only a few shades of color apart. This clip expresses the intersection of racism and forbidden romance and serves as a commentary on how progress (like the overturning of anti-miscegenation laws) is impeded by the more rigid opinions of elder members of society and the complicated interactions between different groups of marginalized communities.

November 7, 2019 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Year of the Dragon: Hugo Anaya, Amber, Emmanuel

Year of the Dragon is a crime-drama film adaptation of Robert Daley’s book of the same name, which was released in 1985. Set up in New York’s Chinatown, other cities used in filming included Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Bangkok. Year of the Dragon tells the story of the complicated relationship between New York City’s Police Department and the Chinese Triad in regards to the management of crime happening in New York City’s Chinatown. Led by NYPD’s reassigned Captain Stanley White, a Polish American Vietnam War veteran, and Tracy Tzu, a television reporter; the two must work together to bring down newly appointed Chinese Triad leader, Joey Tai, in an effort to crack down on Chinese organized crime. The Year of the Dragon examines the main idea of racism, ethnicity, and crime organizations that exist in Chinatown. Oliver and Cimino both went to Chinatown for thousand banquets and have been criticized by the community for “making the gangster out of their ethnic pride.” Filmsite.org listed the Year of the dragon as one of the most controversial films ever made”. The Asian American community and various organizations protested against the movie’s release accusing it of the racist and stereotypical depiction of Asian Americans. Protesters worried that the film would negatively affect Chinatown’s economy and safety. Responding to the controversy, in an interview with Jeune cinéma, Director Cimino said “The film was accused of racism, but they didn’t pay attention to what people say in the film. It’s a film that deals with racism, but it’s not a racist film.” The movie was also criticized for its sexist depiction of Tracy Tzu. Year of the Dragon combines “the neo-noir style and sensibility with a newer kind of post-Vietnam terror, loneliness, and paranoia”. The representation of Asian American shift from minority to majority. The repetition of the funeral scene represents the continuous loop of Yellow Peril in the Chinatown community.

November 4, 2019 at 6:54 am Leave a comment


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