Category Archives: Entertainment

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Dropping Anchor: The Racialicious Review of The Fresh off the Boat Pilot

By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong

Hudson Yang (center) and the cast of ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat.”

The plot for Fresh off the Boat is a classic “fish out of water” scenario. Eddie (Hudson Yang) is a 12-year-old Taiwanese-American, who moves from a diverse, city neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to a mostly white, suburban neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. His family consists of two younger brothers, a grandmother, stressed out mother Jessica (Constance Wu), and flustered father Louis (Randall Park), who wants to open a successful, Western-themed barbecue restaurant. Primarily, everyone’s just trying to fit in.

Jessica, for instance, takes up rollerblading with the neighborhood Stepford wives. This has great comedic potential- how does an Asian American woman clash with the expectations of privileged, suburban society? The Stepfords, to their credit, do not view Jessica as an intruder or an undesirable in their neighborhood – more so, they view her as a curiosity to be poked and prodded. It’s a nod to a more subtle type of racism that exists in the modern world. The term “racist” does not only encompass name calling and hate crimes — it encompasses passive discrimination, positive stereotypes, and microaggressions that, accumulated over time, can be comparably damaging.

The most interesting aspect of Fresh off the Boat is how it deals with Asian American masculinity. Each Asian male character has his own way of exploring it, and they each tend to do so through the lens of another ethnic identity, rather than their own. Louis, pursues the “cowboy” archetype, in an effort to bring more white folks into his restaurant. Eddie co-opts hip hop, black culture — he’s listening to Dre’s beats, quoting Biggie’s rhymes, and repping Nas’ Illmatic on his clothes. It’s illuminating.
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Thursday Throwback: Going Back Like Babies and Pacifiers; Why I Love Mariah

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim (originally published 6-1-09)

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love Mariah Carey.

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I rarely try to justify this rabid adoration when I’m talking politics. Sometimes radical folks think that just because they like something, it must be radical. I’ve seen many bloggers look foolish this way. So I try to sidestep any probing questions as to why an incredibly serious and intellectual person like me (ahem) owns a Mariah wall calendar and tends to squeal deliriously when “Heartbreaker” plays over the supermarket PA system.

Usually when people ask why I so celebrate Mariah, I say “We’re both mixed race, and we’ve both experienced heartbreak. Obviiiiiously.”

But about a week ago, while discussing Nick Cannon’s accusations that the Mariah-inspired Eminem song “Bagpipes from Baghdad” was racist and sexist, the discussion that fell out of the post made me wonder if, after all, there was some need to untangle my Mariah love and its distant political underpinnings.

A little recap of the post and discussion: in trying to defend his wife against Eminem, Cannon proclaimed that Carey was a BLACK woman (the caps are his) and that it was time enough that white men like Eminem disrespected women of colour like Carey. He went on to compare Carey to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as examples of black queens that the black community should not allow to be disrespected. A lot of commenters said, “Right on, Nick!”

But a bunch said “Mariah Carey is black?” There were attempts to prove that she was not that black, by probing her bio and discussing her ethnic heritage in sixths and eights. Some suggested that she played both sides, emphasising her whiteness or her blackness according to which could sell more records, and that she was only black when it benefitted her. Some took offense at Cannon comparing Carey (who if half-white) to Obama and Winfrey (who are not half-white), frustrated by the fact that there was no recognition that Carey being light-skinned meant all sorts of light-skinned privilege, including more mainstream success than if she was darker-skinned.

I was taken aback. Truth be told I was unsure how Mariah herself identified. So I went back through the dusty internet archives, back to when Racialicious was Mixed Media Watch, to the first post I ever read on this site: Essence on Mariah Carey’s struggles with mixed race identity.

The post was interesting, but the comments were shocking. Commenters were incensed that Essence had identified Carey as a black woman. They were dismissive about Carey’s struggles with biraciality. Mostly the consensus was that Carey was a stupid rich poptart and that Essence was full of self-loathing idiots. Then again, I only read about the first 20 comments; it started to get too upsetting.  Continue reading

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My Sister’s Keeper: The Racialicious Review Of Half of A Yellow Sun

By Arturo R. García

Originally released last year, the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half Of A Yellow Sun boasts a loaded cast, but unfortunately, it doesn’t maximize its potential. What results is a historical romance that can’t get a grasp on its own history.

SPOILERS under the cut.
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How the “Whoop Whoop” Can Come Back: Why Arsenio Hall Should Go to the Internet

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones

Late night’s only black guy is gone once again. The Arsenio Hall Show, the recent iteration of the groundbreaking late night talk show hosted by Arsenio Hall between 1989 through 1994, has been cancelled. The cancellation of the show is bad enough, but even worse was the underhanded way in which Arsenio was let go.

CBS initially renewed the show for a second season. But then CBS decided to reverse their decision, cancelling it quite out of the blue. It’s undoubtedly a sad day for late night television, a virtual landscape which has not been kind to hosts of color.

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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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[Thursday Throwback] Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse (originally posted 5-17-07)

I’ve always liked reading personal ads. Even when I was a little girl, I would check out the back of the paper in hopes of finding a boyfriend for my widowed mom, and in the meantime, made an attempt to figure out what was going on in the minds of grown-ups as they searched for someone with whom to live “happily ever after.” There were certain acronyms and terms used in the ads that I didn’t quite understand at a young age (i.e. NSA: no strings attached or BBW: big beautiful woman), but for the most part, I thought I had a handle on what I was taking in at my elementary school reading level. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I began to notice an interesting trend: personal ads are riddled with messages, some more subtle than others, on how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.

With the emergence of the internet, I abandoned the paper and began perusing online ads, some of which read more like military code than personal descriptions: “SWF BBW in NYC seeks 30 – 35 y.o. D&D free S or D H/W/B/A/M for NSA BSDM ASAP in area codes 10003, 100019, and 10011. You must host. Pics? STR.” While these types of ads make virtual bulletin boards appear cluttered, others are well-written, funny, romantic, and/or so outlandish that they are hard to ignore. Sites like Craigslist became popular resources for finding any and every thing, from apartments and pets to jobs and vacation rentals. The personal ads were no different. Considering the privacy feature of anonymous posting in order to protect one’s identity, the personal ads serve as e-snapshots of candid thought—inside peaks into what the people I encounter on a daily basis may think of themselves, but, more importantly, how they view the world around them.

I checked the CL personals about as often as I checked for apartments, or, in other words, every five seconds, even though I wasn’t really looking for anything heavy duty in the love department and happened to be quite satisfied with my Brooklyn 2-bedroom and its 14 month lease. Reading the personals was a perfect way to find a little piece of reality TV-esque drama without all the heavy editing, good lighting, and stage makeup. The ads were frank, the boards were frequently updated, and the content never failed to amuse me, but behind all the fun, there was an underbelly of racism. This came as a bit of a surprise considering that so many of the CL posters were young, educated, and lived in diverse and densely populated urban environments—all oft-cited demographic factors in the commonly held belief that racism is on its way out. Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race in more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

I examined New York Craigslist personals for a week straight, mainly focusing on the basic m4m, f4m, m4m, and f4f ads as the prevalence of racist epithets/hate speech was so common in the “casual encounters” and “rants and raves” sections that I’d have to write an entirely separate article to cover them. In order to find data, I simply typed in a group (i.e. “Asian,” “white,” “black”) in the search box and let the magic happen. Here were some of my favorites (organized by search term) from my early set of results (please ignore the typos…I have left them in their original form):

  • WHITE: “I’m looking for a nice all American woman…Tell me about yourself and what you do, etc. I’m not picky about age, older is fine with me. White Irish or Italian is my preference, not into Latin women. . .”

Hmmm . . . an “All-American” woman who is of Irish or Italian background. . . Can anyone say “contradiction”? Is he not just saying that “All-American” equates to white, and that “Latin women” are nowhere close? Continue reading

Recap: The 2014 Tony Awards

June 8, 2014: The night that this happened. via TonyAwards.com

To the credit of Sunday night’s Tony Awards,  I wasn’t tempted once during the broadcast to check in on the inmates at Litchfield or those who’ve taken the black at the Wall. That’s the magic of a well paced, mostly inoffensive, and relatively diverse major televised awards show.

Hosted by Hugh Jackman (returning to Broadway in The River this fall), the show began with a great (if slightly obscure to those not obsessed with the MGM Studios of the 1953) homage to Bobby Van with a performance from the cast of After Midnight following, featured Audra MacDonald’s 6th Tony win, that one time when Hugh Jackman, TI, and LL Cool J rapped lyrics from The Music Man , Neil Patrick Harris licking Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses during a performance of ‘Sugar Daddy’ from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a montage of nominated playwrights that reminded us just how white and male Broadway has chosen to let that world become, and a performance of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables that was just the opposite.

Kenny Leon’s third iteration of A Raisin in the Sun took home 3 awards including Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance By An Actress in A Featured Role In A Play for Sophie Okonedo, and Best Director of a Play for Leon himself. Audra McDonald won Best Performance By An Actress For A Leading Role In A Play for Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And Grill, James Monroe Iglehart of Aladdin won for Best Performance By An Actor For A Featured Role In A Musical, and Linda Cho won for Best Costume Design of a Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder. The send up to 1920s Harlem After Midnight which has, at different times, starred Fantasia Barrino, Toni Braxton, Baby Face, Dule Hill, and Vanessa Williams, with Patti LaBelle starting this week, also took home a win for best choreography.

Even if The Great White Way is still pretty white the Tonys seem to at least make more of an effort to showcase the diversity that does exist on New York stages. Six winners of colour make for two more than we saw last year, and certainly more than we’re going to see at, say, this year’s Oscars. With shows like Holler If Ya Hear Me (aka, ‘The Tupac Musical’), You Can’t Take It With You (starring James Earl Jones) opening this summer and The King and I, and Oprah produced ‘night, Mother eyeing 2015 runs the future shows that theatre will at least stay the course.

For more highlights highlights, tweets, and performances jump under the cut!

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Courageous Liaisons: The Racialicious Review of Belle

By Arturo R. García

Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) begins to question her place, to the chagrin of Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).

It’s only fitting that director Amma Assante’s Belle, a movie that culminates in a court, makes its own case crisply, and clearly. There’s a sense of some romanticizing, mind, but even that is based on hard evidence: the real Dido Elizabeth Belle did have a happy life.

So, admirably, Assante and writer Misan Sagay don’t try to inject pathos where it’s not necessary. Nor do they overplay their somewhat stacked cast, instead keeping Gugu Mbatha-Raw at the center, which she ably holds up. Because her story — at least, this story — positions her at the intersection of her own nascent questioning of her place in the world and her mentor’s role in shaping its future.
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