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Posts tagged "Asian American men"


Enter the Bruce Lee statue

Film and kung fu legend Bruce Lee, who broke barriers on the silver screen and television with his all-too-short career in the 1960s and 1970s, has been honored with a 7-foot statue in Chinatown’s Central Plaza.

Following the 40th anniversary of Lee’s sudden passing, and Chinatown’s 75th year in Los Angeles, the statue will be on permanent display once local businesses raise the $150,000 needed to install the bronze Lee.

For a glimpse into Lee’s significance for many of his young fans:

John Kreng, 44, staked out a spot with his friends hours before the statue’s unveiling, trading Bruce Lee stories and reminiscing. Growing up half-Thai and half-Chinese in an all-white neighborhood in Maryland, Lee’s films were inspiring, Kreng said.

“Here’s this hero who looks like me on the screen,” Kreng said.

Read more over at L.A. Now.

Photos: Robyn Beck / AFP

Good morning, Racializens!

(via deliciouskaek)

Asian Pacific Arts: What about opportunities abroad? Have…you pursued working in Asia?

Russell Wong: Yeah, I’ve been working on my Mandarin; I have to have a command of the language. I think a lot of people are working there — John Woo and Ang Lee are casting. I’ve been in Hollywood 22 years; I’ve had a couple good breaks with TV and martial arts things. And martial arts movies are fun – I like to do them, I’m athletic, I can do it – but story wise it’s a bit stereotypical and limiting in a lot of ways. And outside of that it’s pretty quiet. I get a couple guest spots on TV here and there. 

But that’s why I really liked doing [Undoing]. It was really fun and interesting. There’s more sense of freedom because you’re not trying to fit into what the studio wants. As an independent, you have more artistic expression. But going back to your question, there’re a lot of people going to Asia. There’re lots of resources and raw material in China as far as stories and content are concerned, so I’m probably going to explore that this next year. [In] Hollywood, there’re not many Asians. I just can’t wait around anymore. 

APA: Russell, you’ve been in the game longer. How has your career outlook changed? Have you had to make adjustments?

RW: Yeah this is a game of adjustments, that’s for sure. I wanted to do the martial arts thing for a while and I got to a level. I got to work with Jet Li which is where I wanted to be. But I didn’t have the resources or I didn’t use my resources well enough to do what Sung did and make my own movie. That’s what I should have done. But I did the TV thing – Black Sash. It might have been a better decision to make an independent action film. It’s just a matter of doing it. 

APA: Have there been opportunities you’ve passed up and regretted?

RW: Yep. [laughs] I passed up the TV series, because I was run down. Doing action 8 days for an episode, 2 action sequences a week – it takes a toll on you. That’s why I like film. It’s a 22 day shoot; it’s less of a grind than 5 months. That’s why I like this role in Undoing. Where else am I going to get a chance to do a character like this? 

APA: Sung, you mentioned earlier about Asian Americans wanting their own Johnny Depp character, and to me, that means some sort of cool sex icon. In a way, Russell’s been filling in that void for the last 15 years. What do you think it’s going to take for an Asian American man to attain that level?

Sung Kang [producer/co-star, Undoing]: I think yeah, Russ has been filling that void. Even with Joy Luck Club – it’s that animalistic sexuality. It’s in-your-face sexuality. But I think that definition needs to broaden a little bit. The more dimensions you put into a character, sexuality eventually comes out. Harrison Ford is a very sexy man. But compared to Johnny Depp, does he hit the 15-16 year old demographic? I don’t think so. But his sexuality is very different, it’s a different definition. 

And a definition that I’m so digging—Russell Wong is this week’s Racialicious Crush! Check out my (and the R’s Senior Editor Tami Winfrey Harris’) appreciation of him—and on his birthday, no less!—on the R today. 

[T]here’s a very clear utilization of offensiveness in pornography, to some the idea of a pornographic film that doesn’t intentionally offend the viewers taste is useless. As a society we’ve fetishized the very idea of being offensive for offensiveness sake. A movie like Slant Eye For the White Guy might not actually ever refer to the Asian women as slurs durring the scene, but the taboo attached to “yellow fever” itself is part of the fetish being served to consumers. If any of the parties involved were trying to insult their audience like many porn films aim to do that would be entirely different that defending yellow face as completely innocent.

There were no such Asian Americans in the Walking Dead parody. The people who had the power decided to go with yellowface and are continuing to defend it. Interestingly, according to actor Danny Wylde in his apology, the role of Glenn was the last to be cast and not being familiar with the show he wasn’t even aware that he would be playing an Asian- American. After seeing himself in make up , he raise questions about racism. The reaction was mostly laughter.

Wylde was cast because he was already an considered an acceptable performer. Every person involved has mentioned that the casting was inevitable because the ONE Asian man in porn either wasn’t available, wasn’t Korean, or just wasn’t considered. Pistol and Warren weakly argue that people would have been just as upset if Keni Styles would be cast–something I highly doubt as the British Thai actor is somewhat of a Asian American folk hero and favorite among female viewers. He’s also one of the first award winning performers in the United States, but far from the first or the only Asian male doing straight porn. No one mentions actors from websites such as Asian-Man.com , Shelovesasiancock.com or PhuckFuMasters.com, the latter having 3 Asian, and Asian American male performers. Even more telling , no one mentioned the idea of finding a Korean American actor for the role.

Pistol smugly tells an Asian American actress vocally opposed to his film that if she could bring him a “a hung Korean American that can act” he would be open to using him in the sequel. If there was any actual interest in finding Asian talent, why didn’t he do that in the first place. It’s a low blow to tell a underrepresented and often looked over group that the reason they’re invisible is no one is bringing them to the light, but then shutting off that light when they actually have a chance present themselves.

Warren, Pistol and Wylde all write that there are plenty of stereotypical portrayals of Asians in American porn, they are absolutely correct. There are stereotypical and negative portrayals of every group, but what is uniquely lacking for Asian Americans is options. Black and Latinos can find content created with the intent to be consumed by Blacks and Latinos without racist overtones. Lesbians that are sick of seeing female sexuality performed for hetersexual male fantasy can check out Girlfriends Films. Buck Angel created Sexing the Transman for the often ignored female to male transgendered population to feel celebrated. If Asian Americans, want to see non-objectified Asian American sexuality performed by Asian American men and women together, where are the choices? If Asian American men want to see a reflection of themselves perform on screen where can they turn?

N’Jaila Rhee, “Yellowface And Asian America’s Porn Problem,” BlasianBytch.com 2/5/13


And then there is, of course, the pressure of being an Asian American actor when roles with some heft are few and far between and the backlash from a community starved for humanizing portrayals can be harsh. Early in his career, Yeun turned down an acting gig in Chicago because, as he put it, “they wanted me to play Long Duk Dong.” But, for actors that do play stereotypes, Yeun reserves his judgment.

“Honestly, if you could make that fun, and you can do it and you can make that your own and have fun doing it, then, God, by all means do it,” says Yeun. “I don’t personally want that character to represent us in terms of the fact that we’re American. We speak English. We pay taxes. We grew up in Michigan. So for me, it’s just I couldn’t do that honestly.”

Luckily for him, he’s landed a role that doesn’t compromise his principles, and he’s not about to squander it. “I just hope to kind of do right, you know? If it definitely forwards, you know, kind of like helps the Asian American male to really permeate throughout Hollywood, then I don’t know if I can take that torch, but I’d love to do anything I can to help that.” But in terms of his own career, says Yeun: “My biggest struggle is to never become that guy that got hired because they needed to cast this role Asian American. I don’t want to be that guy that got added just because he had to fill the look rather than the actual abilities.”

Read the full interview at KoreAM magazine!

I know a lot of people who were pretty bummed when Jeremy Lin departed New York to sign with the Houston Rockets. But I’m pretty sure nobody was more broken up than this kid Naim.

Upon learning that the Knicks would not match Houston’s offer sheet, the 5-year-old Jeremy fan had something of an emotional breakdown… and his dad caught the whole thing on video.

But wait. It doesn’t end there. Somewhere along the way, the video reached Jeremy. He saw how distraught the kid was, so he arranged to speak with young Naim via Skype video chat. Jeremy thanked him for his support, answered his questions, and encouraged him to keep cheering for the Knicks. And again, his dad recorded the whole thing on video.

Friend of the R Phil Yu at Angry Asian Man brings a little bit of levity today with this post on Jeremy Lin consoling a diehard fan, who’s 5 years old. Check out the vids here

This expectation for Asian American artists to represent one’s community “positively” at the expense of an expansive and complicated portrayal — the “burden of representation” — is something that Parreñas-Shimizu feels strongly about. “The demand to make films that represent your community does an injustice to the actual work the filmmakers are trying to do,” Parreñas-Shimizu says. “You can’t film an idea. You have to film very concrete things, a very concrete person who’s going through some kind of dilemma. This person may not be a positive person. I’m thinking of the work of Quentin Lee’s Ethan Mao, which features a character who’s bullied and silenced by his own father for his sexuality, and then wields a gun against his own family. I think it’s a story worth telling. But once you make the demands of, ‘Is this the kind of visibility we want?’ it can be unfair to the goals of the filmmaker, which is to tell stories that help make spaces for these people.”

At the same time, Parreñas-Shimizu understands and feels the importance of Asian Americans wanting to see themselves in a way that hasn’t been seen before. This is why she was instantly mesmerized by the breakout of NBA player Jeremy Lin, whose sudden emergence was coined “Linsanity.” “It’s interesting to watch all the cameras look for Asians in the audience, but Asians have always been there,” insists Parreñas-Shimizu, a long-time fan of sports teams from her hometown of Boston. “Participation in sports is itself an assertion of citizenship and belonging. For me, being a Filipina immigrant in Boston and just loving the Celtics and basketball, I remember loving that school was canceled because the Celtics won the NBA championship and you’re part of that group in the subway going to the celebration…But yeah, you see that hunger. I know that hunger. It’s painful.”

But the medicine that so many Asian American men use to heal that pain — what Parreñas-Shimizu calls a “phallic masculinity,” or what other scholars call a “hegemonic masculinity” — only hurts others in the process. “I think it’s very easy to define masculinity in terms of the hero who saves the day and beats everyone up and sleeps with a ton of women. So if you define masculinity in that way, the Asian American man has to fall short. You’re still proposing a straitjacketed definition of what is gender and sexuality for Asian American men,” says Parreñas-Shimizu. “I want to open up a world where someone like William Hung can be sexy! And the thing is, people did find him sexy! He got marriage proposals! So if we look at masculinity, and what people want from it, it reveals that there’s something very limited in that kind of phallic masculinity. It’s not really good for people.”

That tension between the desire for national recognition and the danger in subscribing to a phallic masculinity (which undergirds the nation) is what drove Parreñas-Shimizu to unearth the vast filmic repertoire of Asian American masculinities. “After I toured for two years for my first book, people kept asking, ‘Now that you’ve proven the hypersexuality of Asian American women, what do you have to say about the asexuality of Asian American men?’ I thought, “We have to historicize it and see if that’s really what’s going on. Because if it’s true that Asian American men have only been seen as asexual and effeminate, then how do you make sense of Sessue Hayakawa or James Shigeta? These huge heartthrobs from almost 100 years ago, fifty years ago? So many women fainted at the sight of their sexiness and beauty. So we have to be very careful about creating that blanket statement.”

So loving Terry K Park’s interview with Dr. Celine Parreñas-Shimizu about her creative life, her scholarship, and her latest book, Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies on the R today.