links for 2006-12-31

The 5 most fascinating Asian male TV characters right now (Part 2 of 2)

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

If you missed it, check out part 1 of this post from yesterday, which includes numbers 4 and 5, as well as my honorable mentions.

3. Vince Masuka on Dexter

Played by: C.S. Lee
You can watch it: Sunday nights on Showtime. The season just wrapped up but I’m sure they’re doing reruns now.

If you haven’t been watching Dexter, you’re missing one the best shows on TV right now. It’s smart, creepy, complex, moving – and you never know what’s coming next.

One of my favorite characters on the show is Vince Masuka. He’s one of the forensics on Dexter’s squad. For much of the show, he’s been sort of an Asian-American (with no accent!) version of Quagmire on Family Guy: a total perv who’s constantly talking about sex and making gross jokes. Oh, and he actually gets laid!

But Masuka’s character has evolved a bit over the season. In the episode when Angel Batista gets injured, we see another side of him: he passes up the perfect opening for a pervy joke because he’s too distraught over his friend’s injuries. I’m really looking forward to see how this character develops over time.

2. Hiro Nakamura on Heroes

Played by: Masi Oka
You can watch it: Mondays on NBC but much to my dismay, they’re on hiatus right now until January sometime.

Hiro is one of the most lovable characters on Heroes. Masi Oka has somehow managed to portray this time-travelling, geeky computer programmer without ever straying into buffoonery territory. For that alone, he deserves a Golden Globe.

The episode where he travels back in time to try and save Charlie from Sylar was so good. It was great to see how Charlie developed feelings for Hiro, and even though I would usually complain about the fact that they didn’t get to consummate their kiss, I actually thought it made the story that much more poignant.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with Hiro. What’s up with that sword? Is he really going to fight dinosaurs? Or will that turn out to be a trip to the museum of natural history?

1. Agent Bill Kim on Prison Break

Played by: Reggie Lee
You can watch it: Mondays on Fox but the season just finished

Bill Kim might just be the scariest mothashutyourmouth on TV right now. It seemed like he came out of nowhere and turned everything upside down. He seems to know everyone and everything. Agent Paul Kellerman now has to report to Kim instead of directly to President Reynolds as in the past. But judging from the plot twist right at the end of the last season, things will change.

Kim’s ruthless efficiency is what makes him so menacing. And the fact that he always has a half smile when he talks just makes it that much creepier. I can’t get enough of Bill Kim, and I hope they keep him on as a regular character. He’s a badass!

The 5 most fascinating Asian male TV characters right now (Part 1 of 2)

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

We talk a lot on Racialicious about how the media perpetuates tired stereotypes about Asian men (they’re weak, asexual, nerdy, kung fu masters, evil, slithery, inscrutable , the list goes on and on).

But I’ve always believed that if we’re serious about creating meaningful advances in media representations, we can’t rely just on bashing the bad representations. We need to let media outlets know when they’re doing a good job too and explain why, so that hopefully they’ll be encouraged to do it again.

It’s actually been a great year for Asian men on TV. And it goes way beyond Yul winning Survivor — there have been some really terrific characters on TV shows played by Asian men.

So here’s my totally unscientific list of the 5 most fascinating Asian male TV characters – from just the shows I happen to watch. If you have more, I’d love to hear about them!

But first, I’m gonna do some honorable mentions and while these characters are somewhat interesting in their own right, I’ll admit right now that the eye candy factor is high motivating to me. So please forgive the objectification that is about to follow. ;)

First, Mohinder Suresh on Heroes, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy (those cheekbones!). Second, Archie Johnson on CSI, played by Archie Kao (those big sparkly eyes!). And finally, Sanjay on Weeds, played by Maulik Pancholy (total cutie!).

5. Detective Mike Tao on The Closer

Played by: Michael Paul Chan
You can watch it: on TNT though they’re on hiatus right now

Okay, so he’s the tech guy on the team and you could argue that that’s a bit stereotypical for an Asian character, but he’s incredibly respected by his peers and his bosses. And perhaps most importantly, he has no accent ! That’s right, he’s just a regular American cop. There’s no particular reason for him to be Asian on the show. He’s smart as hell and cool in a quiet sort of way.

4. Jin Kwon on Lost

Played by: Daniel Dae Kim
You can watch it: on Wednesdays on ABC, though they’re on hiatus now, much to my frustration

Racialicious readers know that I’m a total Lost fangirl (as in, I listen to the podcasts and geek out on the theories and followed The Lost Experience and all that jazz).

But part of what makes watching Lost so great is seeing how the characters of Sun and Jin have developed. There was this great scene in a Season 1 flashback where they were at the airport, and Sun accidentally spilled something on Jin, and hastily wiped it up for him. And this white woman, thinking they couldn’t understand English, made a disparaging remark to her companion, something along the lines of, thank god she didn’t live in an oppressed society where she had to be all submissive like that.

I thought it was a sharp piece of commentary on how many non-Asians look at Asians as walking, talking stereotypes: domineering, chauvinistic husband and cowering, submissive wife. And for a long time, the Lost crew saw Jin and Sun in those terms too. But over time, the Losties and we, the audience, got to know these characters intimately and learned about their complexities and contradictions.

It has also been refreshing to see a loving, real relationship between an Asian man and an Asian woman on TV. Because how often do you see that on TV or in the movies? Asian women are inevitably paired with non-Asian men. And when Asian men are on TV or in a movie at all, they rarely have any kind of love interest.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of 2, where I reveal my top three picks for the most fascinating Asian male TV characters!

Authority decides that Virgin Trains commercial is not racist to Native Americans

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is sort of like the U.K.’s version of the FCC but specifically for ads, has ruled that the commercial below is not racist. From The Manchester Evening News:

the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has decided the commercial was a tongue in cheek pastiche of Hollywood cowboys and Indians films and not a slur on Native Americans. It said the ad was unlikely to cause serious offence.

Hmmm… I wonder how many Native Americans are in the ASA?

Our friend Rob from Newspaper Rock is not amused though, and nominated the commercial for his Stereotype of the Month award:

In the ad, stereotypical savages on horseback attack a train but – silly savages! – they don’t realise it’s not the old-fashioned kind they can leap onto from the saddle. They slide down the metal sides of the train and fall off! Ho ho ho! Toward the end, an Indian wordlessly demands through the window glass a book that a white traveller is reading. The traveller refuses and the Indian menacingly raises his tomahawk to smash the glass but – phew! – the nasty savage is wiped off the side of the train by the front apron of a tunnel. Oh, my aching sides.

Oh Rob, lighten up! A committee of white men has decided for you that it’s not racist. So just listen to them — they know what’s best for all Native Americans.

I certainly hope that one day you will be able to grasp Virgin’s humor.

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and can’t see the video, please click on the post headline.

Has Russell Simmons become a paid mouthpiece for the diamond industry?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The movie Blood Diamond has the diamond industry so freaked out that they’ve been waging a massive PR campaign to refute the movie’s revelations about conflict diamonds. From LA Weekly:

The timing of the film’s release, moved up from December 15 to December 8, is a nightmare for the diamond industry since the Christmas season accounts for up to 50 percent of a fine jeweler’s sales and 75 percent of the profit. And then Valentine’s Day will coincide with Blood Diamond’s Oscar campaign. I’ve heard estimates that the World Diamond Council has earmarked a $15-plus-million spin campaign to deep-six Blood Diamond’s impact…

Apparently, part of this spin campaign has been to recruit Russell Simmons, of all people, to send out the message that the diamond industry isn’t really that exploitative. The Diamond Information Center, which is basically De Beers’ marketing and PR arm, sent Simmons and his entourage on an all-expenses paid trip to Africa. From The New York Times:

Representatives from the Diamond Information Center declined to say how much the trip cost, although Mr. Chavis said about 14 people were in the group each day, including local security and support staff as well as the 9 people who had traveled from the United States.

Davey D wrote an excellent piece about Simmons’ new role as the diamond industry puppet and pointed out the fact that countries selected for this “fact-finding mission” were very specific:

Please note that the horrific bloodshed and genocide of the early 1990s that the movie focuses on took place in countries like Sierra Leone and Angola. In my opinion those conflict zones should’ve been included in any sort of fact-finding mission. By only going to Botswana and South Africa, and by defending the diamond trade in those countries, Simmons by default wound up defending the De Beers Company, which held a worldwide monopoly for decades and brutally ruled the diamond business in those two countries for more than a century.

I first heard about Simmons’ new gig as diamond champion from this post from Bol at XXL. He does a great job of breaking down the hypocrisy behind Simmons’ so-called “Diamond Empowerment Fund,” which is supposed to educate Africans on how to better benefit from the diamond trade:

In the New York Times the other day, it was revealed that Africans are getting raped big time on the sale of these diamonds. They only get paid $15 for a diamond that would cost us (you) $5,000.

Will the Africans in Rush’s Diamond Empowerment Fund make any more money from diamonds than they would otherwise? Pshaw! Rush’s response to a reporter who put forth this question:

“No, I’ll answer him because I’m a business man and this gentleman obviously is not.” Simmons then countered that it takes about 25 cents to make a t-shirt you can sell for a $100. “Kimora can sell it for $500 or $600,” he added.

Wow. So in other words, the people in Africa don’t deserve to benefit from their own natural resources on the same level as Rush because they aren’t as good business people.

I swear, I’ve seen some sad shit in my life, but this about trumps everything.

I think Dumi at BlackatMichigan.com pretty much sums it up:

For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he’s graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn… I wonder is there a difference between the two?

Brand-new “Addicted to Race” episode out now (#53)!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

A brand-new episode of Addicted to Race is out! If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes. Click here to launch iTunes and subscribe today, it’s absolutely free.

Carmen interviews Kenneth Arroyo Roldan, author of Minority Rules: Turn Your Ethnicity Into a Competitive Edge about race in the workplace and how people of color can get ahead in corporate America.

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Gone fishin’

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

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Well, not literally. But as of today I am going on a much-needed vacation with Mr. Carmen.

Not to worry though, I’ve queued up several posts (even an Addicted to Race episode!) that will be released over the course of next week. But please keep in mind that this blog will be on autopilot and I won’t be around to answer emails or comments till next weekend.

Happy holidays, everyone! :)

Carmen’s most anticipated movie of the year: Stomp the Yard

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Long-time readers of Racialicious will know that I’m a total sucker for those cheesy-ass dance movies, where someone gets served or someone takes the lead, or someone gets roll bounced. :)

So that’s why I cannot wait for this gem! Chris Brown and Ne-Yo? If only they could have thrown that little magical dancing machine Omarion in there too, this would be the perfect movie.