Category Archives: asian

Aloha Movie

Land, Power, and Filmmaking in Hawaii: An Untold Story Of “Aloha”

by Shay Chan Hodges; originally posted at the Huffington Post

Updated Author’s Note: I wrote the following post three weeks ago, adding to the dozens of articles about race and culture in Hollywood after the release of “Aloha.” I was one of the few writers, however, who even acknowledged the existence of a native Hawaiian perspective.

On Larry Wilmore’s the Nightly Show, for example, three comedians discussed Emma Stone as “Allison Ng,” including Chinese comedian/actress Kristina Wong and comedian Jo Koy, who is Filipino and Caucasian. Within the first minute, Wilmore said: “The controversy was that Emma Stone was cast as a half-Asian woman…maybe she was like a quarter I think Hawaiian or something like that…” Comedian Koy jumped in, “yeah, a quarter Chinese I think.” Wilmore asked, “a quarter Chinese or quarter Hawaiian?” And Koy responded, “I think Hawaiian is just anything…it’s like Filipino, Japanese, it’s like if you’re in Hawaii and you eat Spam, you’re Hawaiian.”

As a mixed-race Chinese/Mongolian/Norwegian living in Hawaii for the last twenty-three years, it was truly depressing to watch an ethnically diverse group of people dismiss an entire culture in a discussion about racism.  And in all the articles I scanned that week, only one sought to delve deeper into the movie’s presentation of native Hawaiian sovereignty struggles.

Meanwhile, in real time, a significant cultural conflict has been playing out in Hawaii at the top of Mauna Kea  — a volcano considered sacred by Hawaiians  — and has barely made national news. (Coincidentally, Crowe’s depiction of Hawaiian cultural struggles was not far off from these current clashes). Yet the media continues to ignore real Hawaiian news and the perspectives of people in Hawaii.

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Yea ‘Aloha’ is Super White, But What’s Up With the Way We’re Talking About It?

Still from Aloha

by Sharon Chang, originally posted at  Multiracial Asian Families

Okay first let’s just get this out of the way. Aloha is a really, really bad movie. Like REALLY bad. It’s getting horrible reviews (as it should) for lousy directing, a terrible script, mismatched A-list actors, poor production etc. It’s boring as hell to watch. I’m not going to even bother giving a a story synopsis here because the plot is so pointless and uninteresting, it doesn’t matter anyway. If you want or need a synopsis, it’s easy to find one online. Just do a web search.
No all you need to know, if you don’t already, is this: Set in Hawaii where Native Hawaiians continue to be besieged by whites and the military, the movie centers white people and the U.S. military anyway, all of which is supposedly made better by the conceit of a military-serving mixed-race Hawaiian/Chinese/Swedish character, who is actually played by a white actress.

Yup. Pretty much.

I saw this movie not because I wanted to (believe me there were so many other things I’d rather have been doing on a sunny day in Seattle), but because I felt I needed to. It’s rare that any sort of discussion about mixed-race/Asian intersections enters public discourse. So when it does, it’s a really important opportunity to get a glimpse into how society views and thus treats people of multiracial Asian descent.

I think almost everyone acknowledges/agrees here that casting a white woman in the role of mixed-race woman of color is crap; that blatant Hollywood whitewashing against a Hawaiian backdrop merely renews the license on an insidious practice that keeps marginalizing people of color. But as the scathing reviews keep rolling in, here’s what I’m really noticing: “Why is Emma Asian”, “Emma Stone Isn’t Asian”, “Not Buying Emma Stone As An Asian-American”, “Emma Stone As An Asian”, “Asian Emma Stone”.

Do you see it too? This is a film set in Hawaii which yes, doesn’t depict the many Asians who live there and alludes to yellow peril, but ultimately is a place that belongs to (and has been stolen from) the Hawaiian people. And yet in our conversations somehow this crucial point seems to be getting subsumed under the shadow of politicized Asian America. Even multiraciality seems to be less interesting to the public than that a character was supposed to be a ‘quarter’ Chinese. To be fair, reviewers do mention Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian culture, history and oppression to varying degrees (they sort of have to), but it’s pretty clear the fact of Stone’s non-Asian-(sometimes-mixed)-ness, is the one calling shotgun:

“…[multiracial people] comprise the fastest-growing population in America. Which makes Crowe’s choice of Stone as the melanin-free embodiment of Hawaiian soul and one of the most prominent part-Asian characters ever to appear in a mainstream Hollywood film so baffling.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Emma Stone, a white actress best known for her role as a white savior with a heart of gold in ‘The Help,’ plays a character who is ostensibly the result of an Asian penis interacting with a white vagina.”

The Frisky

“‘IT IS THE YEAR 2015. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW EMMA STONE, WHO IS WHITER THAN WHITE, GOT CAST AS A HALF ASIAN CHARACTER.'”

Salon

Aloha actually features one of the more prominent Asian/mixed heritage female leads in any studio movie in recent memory. She just happens to be played by Emma Stone.

The Daily Beast

“In an industry that already severely lacks Asian representation on the big screen, they get EMMA STONE to play an Asian…Have you learned nothing from Breakfast at Tiffany’s? It’s offensive. And it’s offensive to let the talents of many Asian actors go to waste. Plus, it’s just plain rude pulling this during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”

Complex

As far as I can tell, none of these mainstream reviewers are of Native Hawaiian descent and less than half are of mixed descent.

This, I don’t like. At. All. I’m deeply invested in exploring the facets of a mixed-race Asian identity and looking at the many questions it raises in a raced/racist world. But I am notinterested in a conversation about that identity which moves towards anti-indigeneity. This is what I see as the Hapa narrative, where mixed-race gets used as a wedge to further divide people of color while advancing white supremacy; something I wrote about in “Say Hapa, With Care” for AAPI Voices (2014):

The hapa of [Native Hawaiian] people stands in stark contrast to a widely commodified version, which lumps together mixed-race Asians and Pacific Islanders and then somehow magically loses the Pacific Islander part. This is no accident (whether intentional or not). It stems from a history that has sought to forget and remove Native peoples for centuries.
This is why, over the weekend, I called my fierce Native Hawaiian friend, scholar and activist Maile Arvin again to get her weigh in. And this is why, right now, I’m going to stop talking about my analysis immediately and let hers take final-center stage.


I’m not really interested in what they think is a more culturally competent movie but still is a white romance. It’s fundamentally flawed. It’s about a military contract and using Hawaii to protect the US from China and Japan…I haven’t seen critique of that. I’ve seen a lot of critique of the word ‘Aloha’ [but] more fundamentally it’s a settler/colonial movie. It’s not just about the name of it but the story they tell about Hawaii.

Maile was completely even-keeled, unruffled and unsurprised by the whitewashing of Aloha:

Hollywood doesn’t usually do well by Hawaiians. The tourism industry depends on all these movies about white romance in Hawaii. It’s not lucrative for Hollywood or tourism to tell any other story. There are so many movies that are shot in Hawaii and often they’re not identified as [being in] Hawaii, like Lost orJurassic Park. Hawaii is often used as the backdrop for all these stories that are about uninhabited islands – or – if it’s about Hawaii, it’s about white people falling in love.

She said she’d heard the movie-makers were claiming, in their defense, that Cameron Crowe loves, adores and respects Hawaii; that he researched his film for months and worked to incorporate the story of the Hawaiian people. But, she replied:

What Maile said she’s been far more interested to see is so many articles criticizing Aloha‘s whitewashing when, by contrast, Descendants (which also featured a mixed-race Hawaiian character played by white actor George Clooney) drew so little attention in 2011:
It seems like the Emma Stone character being Asian has sparked more critique than Descendants. Nobody seemed to have a problem with George Clooney playing a Hawaiian. [So] for a large audience, Hawaiians looking white isn’t a problem, but a mixed Asian person looking white is unbelievable. Which is kind of disturbing. The wider public thinks that Hawaiians could look like Emma Stone, but if they’re mixed with Asian, they can’t. It seems connected to larger problems like the API [Asian Pacific Islander] designation and Asian Americans speaking on behalf or over Pacific Islanders. It shows gaps in solidarity.

In conclusion, she powerfully spoke on the kind of intention/action it really takes to build coalitions and work in alliance with the Native Hawaiian community:

There are definitely a lot of mixed families and people who are Asian and Hawaiian. They are not necessarily always in conflict. At the same time, a lot of people who aren’t mixed [Hawaiian] grew up on the island and identify as Hawaiian. That’s the same problem. It just covers up Native Hawaiians again. And Native Hawaiians are erased from so many things. It’s important to be clear about how you represent yourself. For example, there are some Asian American activists [in Hawaii] that identify themselves as Asian settlers. Some people hate that idea. But it’s a way to express solidarity and really involve in activism with Native Hawaiians.

I think we need to be very very careful, aware, and far more thoughtful about the ways we critique this film. At this point I’m maybe even less concerned with Cameron Crowe (who’s an idiot) and his dumb movie, and way more worried about us. If we’re truly outraged by Hollywood whitewashing because it invisibilizes and erases, do we do much better when we erase too? Aren’t we just cloning the same that’s been done to us? Emma Stone should not have been cast in a person of color role. I one hundred percent agree. But let us never forget what that role was truly supposed to be. Not just an Asian one – but a very marginalized Indigenous and mixed-race one too.

Undoing racism is about uplifting oppressed voices, remembering forgotten histories, and not allowing our own suffering to become more important than the suffering of others. In thinking on Aloha, please make sure you are also hearing/centering Native Hawaiian voices and the story of Native Hawaiian peoples:

“Say Hapa, With Care”

“Possessions of Whiteness: Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness in the Pacific”

Quoted: Is Sephora Targeting Certain Accounts For Cancellation?

If you’re a makeup junkie like me (and spent a ridiculous amount at Sephora last year to be eligible), then this notification for Sephora’s 20% off sale event had you squealing. Unfortunately, as many major companies are wont to do, they ruined the excitement almost immediately with some questionable solutions to their makeup resale problem.

Reselling would be the process of buying the makeup at the offered discounted price and then selling it of again at the original price for profit. Sephora doesn’t have sales often, so it might not be out of the question to assume that when they do, the issue might come up. What is out of the question is to assume that their Asian customers are doing it exclusively and cancelling their accounts because of it.

Jezebel reported:

But numerous customers on Sephora’s Facebook page and on a reddit thread allege that they’ve been locked out of their VIB accounts because they have Asian last names and/or international email addresses. Customers say that after finding themselves unable to purchase products on the Sephora website, they called Sephora’s customer service line, where they were told they had been permanently blocked from using their accounts for trying to buy products (according to their terms of service, Sephora has the right to do this without providing cause). The current consensus among many shoppers is that in order to prevent reselling of makeup overseas at a lower cost (which is a serious issue for retailers), the company is blocking customers from purchasing during this sale. Specifically, customers allege that this is happening most often to Asian customers.

It doesn’t take much to find a variety of complaints on Sephora’s Facebook page confirming the accusations:

sephora

Sephora released a statement on the 7th, though a quick scroll through the page confirms that many customers still don’t have access to their accounts needed to shop the sale which ends today. There is no mention of a sale extension, or any offer, to make up for the lost time or discriminatory practices.

A Message To Our Clients:
Sephora is dedicated to providing an exciting and reliable shopping experience and we sincerely apologize to our loyal clients who were impacted by the website outage that occurred yesterday.

Our website is incredibly robust and designed to withstand a tremendous amount of volume. What caused the disruption yesterday was a high level of bulk buys and automated accounts for reselling purposes from North America and multiple countries outside the US. The technical difficulties that impacted the site are actively being addressed and our desktop US website is now functioning normally. We are actively working to restore our Canadian, mobile website, and international shipping where applicable. There has been no impact on the security and privacy of our clients’ data.

The reality is that in taking steps to restore website functionality, some of our loyal North American and international clients got temporarily blocked. We understand how frustrating it is and are deeply sorry for the disruption to your shopping experience.

However, in some instances we have, indeed, de-activated accounts due to reselling — a pervasive issue throughout the industry and the world. As part of our ongoing commitment to protecting our clients and our brands, we have identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and re-sell them through other channels. After careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients, as well as ensure that consumers are not subject to increased prices or products that are not being handled or stored properly.

We have established a VIB hotline to ensure that if we are able to verify that your account was erroneously deactivated, it is reactivated immediately. Please call 877-VIB-ONLY (1-877-842-6659)

If you experience any difficulties placing your order please contact us at 1-877-SEPHORA (1-877-737-4672) or email us at client.service@sephora.com.

Our VIB 20% off promotion runs through Monday, November 10th and our VIB and VIB Rouge clients have several days left to take advantage of this exclusive holiday shopping event.

The obvious solution would have been to simply limit the number of each product that a customer could buy. Your average customer probably would have been fine to know that they could buy no more than ten Stilla eyeliners or what have you. Instead, in a move that can’t possibly be worth the PR fallout, Sephora chose the lazy racist’s way out and went after the surnames (and apparently email domains commonly used in East Asian countries) they decided seemed suspicious.

Just imagine what they’ll do when they find out that the Lot-Less on 40th and 7th is reselling their nail polish. (Probably nothing. That might take a well thought out effort.)

BH1

I Used To Be Excited for Big Hero 6: An Asian-American’s Perspective

By Guest Contributor Sunny Huang

Two weeks ago, Big Hero 6 premiered to critical acclaim at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Even earlier, it made a big splash at New York Comic Con. And it will open tomorrow as a likely box-office success — a projected $51 million in its first weekend — in the U.S. But with less than a full day to go, I am surprised by the lack of substantial criticism for it.

Frozen generateda firestorm of controversybefore it was released in mass and niche publications, yet there is little for Big Hero 6, which goes to show just how much Asians and Asian-inspired media are pushed out of the conversation. And the only criticisms that have appeared focus on the film’s episodic storytelling and choice of Fall Out Boy for the soundtrack, instead of its lackluster Asian representation and continued cultural appropriation by Disney. In fact, Big Hero 6 is being lauded for transcending these problems, when it is the very embodiment.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to be excited for Big Hero 6.When the first trailer and voice cast were released, I cried.

After spending my childhood barely seeing myself and my people represented on screen, I immediately made my brother watch the trailer. As a 20-year old, I was so happy that my 10-year old brother would have the chance to grow up without self-resentment. I was so grateful to know he would have the chance to not loathe his race because he would see characters who looked like him be appreciated. It was a chance I did not have.

When the trailer was over, I yelled at him. Look, look!An Asian character! Another character who’s Asian besides Mulan! From the biggest animation studio today! Do you know how many people like us will see how progressive this movie is?! To that, he just stared at me and said—

What? I thought he was white.

It was then I realized something was wrong. This movie was being marketed as progressive and beyond its time for giving its studio the opportunity to address “its historical reputation for ethnic homogeneity and cultural appropriation.” But if an Asian-American kid could not identify the main character as Asian, as part of his own group, then what else was wrong?

Turns out, a lot. The protagonist’s racial ambiguity just started the conversation.

The film is based off the Marvel Comics characters of the same name, but with major differences—many of them questionable, and some of them outright wrong.

SPOILERS for both the movie and the comic under the cut.

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What Bill O’Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

What Bill O'Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

Credit: Frank Micelotta/invision/AP

By guest contributor Kevin Wong (originally posted at Salon.com)

Bill O’Reilly went to Harvard and grew up in Levittown, a Long Island town that is 94 percent white. He attended a private boy’s school on Long Island that is 90 percent white and currently costs more than $8,000 a year to attend. And yet he recently remarked that white privilege is a lie — that being white gives a person no inherent advantages in America. Irony is dead.

It is obvious, to anyone paying the slightest attention, that white privilege does exist, that legal equality is different from equality in practice. But then, O’Reilly has a long history of making ill-advised statements about race. What really stood out to me, though, on a personal level, is how O’Reilly used Asian-Americans to support his argument against white privilege. Just to recap:

Here are the facts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 11.4 percent.  It is just over 5 percent for whites; 4.5 percent for Asians. So do we have Asian privilege in America? Because the truth is that Asian-American households make far more money than anyone else… Also, just 13 percent of Asian children live in single parent homes compared to a whopping 55 percent for blacks and 21 percent for whites. There you go.  That’s why Asian-Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding more than African-Americans and more than white Americans. Their families are intact and education is paramount.

From what experiences, exactly, does O’Reilly draw these conclusions? Allegedly, his own encounters with Asians are less than enlightened. In her sexual harassment suit against the pundit, Andrea Mackris made the following allegations: that O’Reilly recounted his foreign sexual experiences to her; that a “little brown woman” masseuse in Bali, Indonesia, had asked to see his penis, to which O’Reilly obliged; that a “girl” at a Thailand sex show took O’Reilly to a back room and “blew [his] mind.” When a man pursues colonialist fantasies and exploits women in Asian countries for his own pleasures, he loses the moral high ground to lecture anyone on race privilege.

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MingNa1

The Disney Triple Crown: Why Ming-Na Wen Needs To Be In Star Wars

By Guest Contributor Keith Chow, cross-posted from The Nerds Of Color

Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced the addition of two more actors to the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. We do not yet know who the two relatively unknown actors — Pip Anderson, who’s British, and Crystal Clarke, who’s African American — will play in the movie, but I’m guessing their roles must be substantial enough to warrant a press release about their casting. If their characters are indeed prominent, Clarke will join John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o in making this “the blackest Star Wars ever.”

Still, every time breaking Star Wars casting news comes across my feed, there’s always one name that I hope to see in the headlines:Ming-Na Wen.

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fresh_off_the_boat-620x412

ABC’s “Fresh off the Boat” could be a disaster for Asian Americans

By Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Salon

I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but personally, whenever I see a new Asian face on television, I panic. My blood pressure goes through the roof. There’s a vague unease and anxiety, even before the character opens his or her mouth. Because I’m ready to see yet another shticky Asian stereotype.

Some of the questions running through my mind: Is this Asian a main character? Does this Asian character have an arc? If the Asian character is a woman, does she have an Asian significant other? If the Asian character is a man, does he even have a significant other? Does this Asian man have sex, in a non-comedic fashion?

Or I worry that the Asian character is “too good” – an overcorrection for political correctness. There’s an ironic flaw to perfection – it doesn’t allow for the quirks that make a character compelling. Every American minority group has this stock, “perfect” caricature: for Asian Americans, it’s the Model Minority – the hardworking, emasculated genius. He’s the support for the protagonist, but never the protagonist himself.
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