Interracial awkardness on TBS’s My Boys

by guest contributor Stella Q

my boys tbs I am warming up to My Boys, a by-the-numbers, sitcom-ish TBS series about PJ, a cute tomboy navigating life as only a twentysomething can. The gimmick is that her friends are exclusively guys (all white and straight) with whom she talks sports, plays poker and generally hangs out. Her best (and only) girlfriend Stephanie is her polar opposite–a girly, high maintenance African-American woman she met in J-school. (Still not clear what said best friend writes about, but our tomboy is, of course, a sports writer.)

Anyway, in one of the first episodes, which you can access on-line, PJ wants to set up Stephanie with this African-American guy who is into sports and poker, i.e. the stuff that PJ lives for. Turns out that the African American guy is more interested in PJ (which makes sense, since, well, they’re both into sports and poker). After PJ tells Stephanie this, the dialogue (paraphrased) goes something like this:

Steph: Why did you set us up?
PJ: Because he’s a great guy!
Steph: Because he’s black?
PJ: (starting to look flustered): Er..
Steph: (interrupting) Have you ever dated a black guy?
PJ: (overcompensating for obvious discomfort by raising her voice enthusiastically) No, but I can’t wait to date a black guy!

And then the conversation reverts to the more innocuous rationale that PJ just wanted Stephanie to date someone PJ actually liked, and PJ was afraid of losing Stephanie to the kind of loser, I-banker douchebag Stephanie probably always dates, etc.

Anyway, thought this was a pretty realistic slice of life, and I would love to see this go somewhere. The episode is called “Team Chemistry.”

links for 2006-12-22

Trend alert: Ask a [Member of Ethnic Group] columns

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

It seems like several different publications are using the Ask a [Member of Ethnic Group] format to tackle race issues and/or poke fun at race and racism. Check out episode 21 of Addicted to Race for a discussion of the limitations of racial satire.

We all remember Paul Mooney’s Ask a Black Dude segments on The Chappelle Show. But have you checked out Seattle Weekly’s Ask a Mexican columns? (Thanks to Mark for the tip!) I’m not such a fan, especially not of the rather offensive caricature they use to illustrate the column. Here’s an excerpt:

My girls and I work at a Mexican restaurant, and the Mexican cooks are so infatuated with the Mexican Sandwich. Is this a cultural practice for all horny amigos? –From the Curious Center of the Mexican Sandwich

Dear Gabacha,

This column has discussed many of the Mexican male’s courting rituals, from lecherous whistles to stares that can bore through underwire bras and the ever- romantic slap on the ass. But few gestures are more revered amongst Mexican men than the torta, what you call the Mexican Sandwich. Two hombres grab an unsuspecting mujer—preferably a gabacha—and proceed to bump and grind her à la Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan’s “Night at the Roxbury” skit on Saturday Night Live. Instant torta!…

That column apparently inspired the blog Ask a Korean! Here’s an excerpt from that blog’s take on “the million dollar question:”

Why do Korean men beat their wives, and can I get any hints on how I canbeat my wife like a Korean? –Married in Manhattan

Dear Married,

Why do Korean men beat their wives?

Because the Korean wives never listen. (Rimshot.)

…why are Korean men singled out as wife beaters? The Korean’s hunch is that it’s because Korean men are compared to Chinese and Japanese men. It is well-chronicled that Chinese men are traditionally their women’s bitches. (Chinese men cook and everything!) Japanese men used to have some balls, but they were neutered in the process of getting rich. That only left Korean men to carry the torch in the region.

DiversityInc has also gone with this format, albeit for much more sincere reasons. I give props to Luke Visconti for tackling some tough questions in his column, Ask the White Guy. His latest one had me cracking up:

Question:

Would not “giving” black contractors 2 percent of the available job, reserving that portion for blacks just because they are black, actually be easily understood, clearly defined reverse discrimination? And wouldn’t it also be patronizing, condescending, and unfair? Does it really help those presumed disadvantaged to give them free things solely because of the color of their skin?

Answer:

It seems to have helped white people.

Show about Asian-American family premieres on PBS this month

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Check out the clip below from Eric Byler’s (director of Charlotte Sometimes and Americanese) new TV show, My Life Disoriented. If you like what you see, send email PBS to express your support! Here’s some background from Angry Asian Man:

My Life Disoriented, a short film directed by Eric Byler is scheduled to air on PBS this month. It’s about a Chinese American family whose lives get turned upside down when they move from San Francisco to the middle-of-nowhere Bakersfield (apologies to everyone out there who actually lives in Bakersfield). I saw it at HIFF, and found it really genuine and engaging. Check out clips on YouTube here and here. It’s actually a show pilot, with PBS and several other networks including MTV considering it as a series. What? An Asian American family on television? It could happen. A lot depends on audience response to broadcast premiere, as well as these YouTube clips. If you like what you see, it might be a good idea to contact your local PBS affiliate to say that you love the clip/will watch the show/want to see more shows, etc. (please copy the show’s producers on any emails sent: contact@mylifedisoriented.com). It could make a big difference as to whether or not My Life Disoriented really becomes what it was meant to be. So tune in, or set your Tivos. For a list of local stations and broadcast dates, go here. To learn more about the series, go here.

Racialicious recommends: Robot Stories, Red Doors, The Motel

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, consider supporting some Asian-American filmmakers this year by purchasing some of these newly released books and DVDs as stocking stuffers.

Robot Stories: And More Screenplays
As a leading Asian American writer, Greg Pak has been recognized as an important new voice in popular culture and media. He is a critically-acclaimed film director, and now an even more popular creator for Marvel Comics. Robot Stories is an acclaimed independent movie written by Pak. In four intertwined stories, people struggle to connect in a technological world. Check out review of the book here, here and here.

Red Doors

Red Doors tells the story of the Wongs, a bizarrely dysfunctional Chinese-American family living in the New York suburbs. Ed Wong (Tzi Ma) has just retired and plots to escape his mundane life. However, the tumultuous, madcap lives of his three rebellious daughters change his plans. The eldest daughter, Samantha (Jacqueline Kim), is an ambitious businesswoman in Manhattan who suddenly gets cold feet about her upcoming marriage when she runs into an old high school flame (Rossif Sutherland). Julie (Elaine Kao), the shy middle sister, finds her life as a studious medical student turned upside down when she falls for a movie starlet (Mia Riverton) visiting the hospital. Katie (Kathy Shao-Lin Lee), the youngest sister, is a disaffected high school senior who engages in a continually escalating and dangerous prank war with her longtime neighbor and nemesis, Simon (Sebastian Stan). Ultimately, Ed’s disappearance compels each daughter to examine her own understanding of the role and connection she has to the family. At the same time, the Wongs learn to live their own lives outside the invisible fences of their home.

The Motel

Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin lives and works at a sleazy hourly-rate motel on a strip of desolate suburban bi-way. Misunderstood by his family and blindly careening into puberty, Ernest befriends Sam Kim, a self-destructive yet charismatic Korean man who has checked in. Sam teaches the fatherless boy all the rites of manhood.

Check out episode 30 of Addicted to Race in which we interviewed with the director and two stars of the new film, The Motel. We talked to Michael Kang, the director, Jeffrey Chyau who plays the main character Ernest, and Sung Kang, who plays Sam Kim.

Mel Gibson’s deep thoughts about Apocalypto

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

apocalyptoWow. Check out this interview (hat tip to Newspaper Rock) in which Mel Gibson shares his inspiration for the film Apocalypto:

CS: What was it about the Mayan people or that era that got you interested in trying something like this?

Gibson: Well, no, it wasn’t that. At first, I was just trying to make a chase film, but I wanted to make it a chase film that didn’t have automobiles, so I thought of a foot chase. And I thought, “Well, where would you have a foot chase? You’d have a foot chase in some place that was a long time ago. And let me see, where can that be? Oh, this is interesting. No one’s really looked at this much before. And what’s more interesting is that the civilization dates back to millennia before the Europeans arrived.” And that to me, musing on what might have happened before Europe arrived—because we have this conceit that history began when we got here–I thought that was interesting. Most people do it when the boats arrive, and then the fun starts, but I wanted to do it the other way around, and look what was before all that.

The Tao is up thanks to a rise in Asian male stocks

by guest contributors Tripmaster Monkey editors, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

The Tao is up, according to TMM’s Asian Image Index. Leading the rally were a number of undervalued Asian male stocks, which outperformed Main Street’s expectations. Here’s a round-up of the biggest movers.

SOLE SURVIVOR
Though “Survivor: Cook Islands” was off to a controversial start (with teams divided by ethnicity and the Asian tribe given low odds of winning), vindication came as hunky Korean American strategist Yul Kwon took home the $1 million prize on Sunday’s finale. Ultimately, race proved to be a non-factor in the competition, though rice might have played a role—two of the final five just happened to be Asian.

GOLDEN GLOBE CONTENDERS
Japanese American actor Masi Oka, who plays the sweet-faced time-traveler Hiro Nakamura on the hit TV show “Heroes,” was nominated for a Golden Globe as best supporting actor in a TV series. Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language movie “Letters from Iwo Jima” starring Kobe beefcake Ken Watanabe was also shown some love.

TOP DOG OR LAP DOG?
South Korea’s Ban Ki-Moon has just been sworn in as the new UN chief. Not only does he bear the weight of the world, he’s also a beleaguered representative of Asian masculinity. The media is already calling him unassuming and inoffensive—a wimp. Will he turn out to be more of a secretary and less of a general? Only time will tell. Dubbed a “slippery eel” by the Korean press, he’s no doubt a smooth operator.

OUR VERY OWN JESSE JACKSON
Instead of rolling over as usual, the Asian American community got all up in Rosie O’Donnell’s face about her racist joke on “The View.” Leading the charge was none other than the Asian American Jesse Jackson, hard-charging New York City Councilman John C. Liu, who pulled no punches when he called Rosie on her “stupidity.” Rosie finally kowtowed. Chalk one up for Team Asia.

MATCHMAKER TO THE STARS
The youngest power broker in Hollywood, Maddox Jolie-Pitt was instrumental in bringing Brangelina together. In recent interviews, his mom has confirmed, “One day Maddox just out of the blue called [Brad Pitt] Dad. That was probably the most defining moment, when he decided that we would all be a family.” Against a Cambodian orphan in search of a father figure, Jennifer Aniston never stood a chance!

NINTENDO’S MEN IN BLACK
Nintendo’s new game console is a big hit with gamers, thanks to its nifty motion-sensitive controller, which allows users to swing the device like a tennis racket or a sword. But we think it’s also due to the product’s TV pitchmen, the two Japanese dudes in suits and shades who drive across America like high-tech evangelicals from a Tarantino movie. Wii like!