Tag Archives: HBO

Now Watching: TCM’s Native Images On Film & HBO’sEast of Main Street: Asians Aloud

by Latoya Peterson

Native American Images on Film

This weekend, it appears I have a date with my television since two major series are happening in May.

Last night, I just so happened to be flipping through the channels and landed on TCM playing “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” -but during a commercial break, there was an actress (Irene Bedard?) discussing the symbolism of Chief’s escape near the end of the movie. After heading over to the website, it appears that Turner Classic Movies has dedicated the month of May to programs about the images and representations of Native Americans in major films. There are more shows tonight and next week.

Over at HBO, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, there is an on-demand documentary about Asian American lives called East of Main Street: Asians Aloud.

HBO “East of Main Street” Trailer from Jonathan Yi on Vimeo.

As usual, Angry Asian Man has the scoop:

The 39-minute film is currently available for viewing on HBO On Demand. You’ll find it in the “Asian Heritage” section under “Movies. And if you’re a Comcast subscriber, you can access the program online here. I figure the more times people order it, the more they’ll be inclined to do something like this again.

Finally, if you can’t watch it On Demand or through Comcast, I have one last tip for you. I am told that you can view the entire program online here, for a limited time. Just click and watch. Enjoy. (Thanks, Mariana.)

Going Down to Treme

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, the first episode of Treme premiered on HBO.

I’ve already weighed in over at the Atlantic with my thoughts. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Watching the first two episodes of Treme, the meandering focus of the pilot quietly overshadows the revolutionary nature of the show. David Simon, David Mills, and Eric Overmeyer created a television drama showing working class and racial narratives that dare to reveal the perspectives of those involved. Known for breaking racial casting norms on television, The Wire introduced a cast of color to the overwhlemingly white ranks of a mainstream cable. The SMO squad recreated this dynamic again within Treme, placing the lives of affluent professors and investigators alongside musicians and bartenders, all making their way through the post-storm landscape.

As a viewer, Treme has the same feel as the critically acclaimed 90s comedy Roc, or August Wilson’s stage play Jitney–these works reveal the reality of African American lives, but are conducted with a measure of dignity, something that is hard to come by. One of Treme’s lead characters is named Ladonna, a Pam Grier type who is allowed to be both hard and vulnerable, shown as neighborhood enforcer, devoted daughter and sister, and loving mother, all during the same episode. These types of shows are about affirmation in a vacuum of constructed portrayals, of individually truthful narratives where people only expect to see pathology.

However, as a side bar to Racialicious readers, I watched the show with a group of other culture writers and bloggers – and their reactions were interesting to me in many ways. I’m still developing my thoughts on this, but I am wondering why there is an assumed cultural reference point for critique (most folks based theirs around the Wire, while I reached back to Roc and Jitney). I’m also suppressing the urge to randomly accost white people I see consuming media created by POC and ask them what they are getting out of it and why…not in a confrontational way, but wondering what conclusions they are drawing from the material.

But I digress.

Readers, did you tune into Treme? What were your thoughts?

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency [Racialicious Review]

by Latoya Peterson

On Sunday night, I sat down to watch the premiere of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency after catching two or three specials on the making of the series while browsing HBO.

Now, let me just put this out there: I approached the series with some trepidation. First, I have never read the books. The novels, written by Alexander McCall Smith, are generally well received but knock up against some very strong views I hold about the narrative and stories of people of color. Since the voices of both women and PoCs tend to be marginalized in mainstream publishing, I try to seek out and support authors who would not otherwise be heard. So, instead of buying McCall Smith’s story about a woman from Botswana, I’d rather track down a book written by a woman from Botswana. I’ve written about this before in White Authors, Ethnic Characters and fleshed out my thoughts about times when it goes right and times when it goes wrong, but have decided to err on the side of supporting smaller authors (and smaller publishing houses).

However, the series was tempting to me from the get-go, as I love Jill Scott and like to support her work. In addition, the series is on HBO with a predominantly black cast in a time when diversity on television declines with each passing year.

Jill Scott
stars as Precious Ramotswe, a kind hearted “woman of traditional build” with a penchant for mysteries and bush tea. Anika Noni Rose is Grace Makutsi, Precious’ quirky secretary. Lucian Msamati (J. L. B.Matekoni) and Desmond Dube (B K) round out the cast. Continue reading

HBO’s “Sopranos” and the VT Massacre

by guest contributor Jenn Fang, originally published on Reappropriate

(Hat-tip to reader A.) Last night on HBO’s Sopranos, an episode entitled “Remember When” aired in which the character of Junior Soprano, who has been institutionalized, befriends a young, mentally-ill Asian American man named Carter Chong, and played by Ken Leung (Quill in X-Men: The Last Stand).

According to the Wikipedia write-up of this episode, Carter ultimately feels betrayed by Junior when Junior decides to take his meds, and attacks him.

In A.’s email, he writes:

The internet is already abuzz with the fact that last night’s episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos” featured a young, mentally disturbed Asian male with violent tendencies. People are drawing all sorts of ignorant “parallels” to the Virginia Tech massacre, all weighted on the fact that the character was an Asian male. If it had been a white male or a black male, of course there would be no such “comparisons” made.

Keep an eye on this story. The episode was written and filmed six months ago, and I guess the broadcast timing is unfortunately coincidental ONLY if the viewer connects ALL Asian males with ONE violent Asian male they’ve seen in the news. A lot of ignorance and racism is coming out from many just because of this one episode. Let’s address this.

Of course, this character has nothing to do with the Virginia Tech massacre last week, and Carter Chong couldn’t possibly be a reflection of Seung Cho; as A. points out, this episode was written and shot several months ago and only aired last night due to a coincidence of timing.

And yet, some viewers seem to insist that the episode and the shooting are related, as an eerie “not connected but I insist they are karmically related” kind of way. On the forum, “Television Without Pity”, one viewer summed up the subplot as ”young Asian man with severe anger management problems and a history of gunplay”, while another commented “[t]he Asian having deep seated aggression problems was just too spooky.” Gotta love how in that second quote, Carter Chong is “the” Asian. One viewer commented, “I think most of us, even with no direct link to the horrific shootings, felt a little uncomfortable watching tonight. Whether fiction or not it was reminiscent enough of what happened to serve as a memory cue for an event that is probably hard to stop thinking about even without direct reminders.” However, a fourth viewer wrote:

A member of my immediate family was taken from us this week in the VATech thing, and I debated on whether or not I wanted to watch Sopranos tonight (ultimately I did since I’m a grown man and can realize that this is fiction). I did find the young asian male to be terrifyingly similar to what I envisioned the man who murdered my cousin to be, so it did weird me out for most of the episode. I just kept telling myself that I was overreacting because it’s barely been a week, so this is one of those episodes I’ll probably have to wait a while to rewatch. I’m sure it was unintentional, just unfortunate timing.

Other than both Seung Cho and Carter Chong being Asian: what’s the connection? Oh yes: a racially Asian man with mental illness is automatically associated with violent mass shooting sprees because Asian craziness is a factor of one’s skin colour, whereas the countless depictions of White men with mental illness are non-threatening because White craziness has nothing to do with Whiteness.

Again we see the inability of mainstream america to distinguish between a person of colour’s race and his actions, be the actions positive or negative. Seeing one Black man dunk a basketball or rap a song is proof positive that all Black men are capable of such feats, and an example of one Korean American man who succumbed to the violent nature of his mental illness is evidence that all Asian Americans with mental illness will be Seung Cho re-incarnated. (Even more telling the conflation of a Korean American with a character who is ostensibly Chinese American). Such irrational connections are never made when the targets are White.

I don’t have to watch last night’s episode of The Sopranos to know that Carter Chong and the Virginia Tech Massacre are not related. But, of course, there are those who see one Asian face and think they’re seeing us all.