When it comes to the portrayal of Asian-Americans in the media, visibility is not always positive or enriching to our community. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I, being a male of Asian descent, am tired of being portrayed as the forever social outsider who will never be part of the crowd. Society tells me that what I lack in testosterone, I supposedly make up in intelligence. Or something.
While TV shows and movies can educate an audience by depicting issues that only racial minorities face, we all know that the media likes to use stereotypes as a cheap way to facilitate storytelling and provoke humor. A recent example of this is the popular CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which features such heavy stereotyping of its three racial minority supporting characters that it inspired massive public outrage last year from various media outlets and bloggers.
The backlash reached its peak when, at a press conference with the show makers, producer Michael Patrick King deflected the criticisms by saying that it is acceptable for his show to poke fun at all minorities because he himself is gay. Calls for changes were ignored, and the show went on to receive three Emmy nominations and even win a People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New TV Comedy.”
Am I missing something here?
But just because I think 2 Broke Girls is painfully unfunny doesn’t mean I’m some overly sensitive person who’s completely devoid of a sense of humor. Of course I enjoy the occasional ethnic joke—when it’s well-executed. In my experience, minority stand-up comedians do this exceptionally well. My main problem with 2 Broke Girls—and most things that come out of Hollywood—is that rather than using racial humor as a tool against prejudice by ridiculing the depicted stereotypes, the jokes often end up becoming just another way to belittle and demean marginalized minority groups.
The Hollywood trope of ignoring the impact and consequences of stereotyping racial minorities is obviously not unique to 2 Broke Girls; ratings and advertising spots remain the bottom line for the profit-driven entertainment industry. As long as producers and screenwriters are rewarded with record ratings, accolades, and more work—why should they care about fair and equal representation? Why should they care that stereotyped characterizations get absorbed into a collective public consciousness that perpetuates inaccurate perceptions about minority groups?
Because stereotypes are nonsense. Because a person is never the sum of their physical features. Because when you reduce someone to a stereotype, you stop seeing them as a human being.
And I suppose we shouldn’t place the blame entirely on the media. I mean, at what point do we hold the mirror up to our own behavior? Society has thrust its constructed expectations onto us without asking for our permission, so why shouldn’t we get to do the same to others?
This is where we come in. We know that there are a number of dedicated blogs and individuals devoted to AAPI issues out there, but we also recognize that there is still this dearth of critical attention being paid to the portrayal of our issues in the media. For every Phil YuandJuliet Shen out there, there exists a bewildering number of mind-numbing Twitter trolls, primed for virulent ignorance.
Moreover, we are doing our part in creating a positive space that encourages constructive building within ourselves, so that we may add our voices to the conversation on how to make things better, on how to transform our minority identities beyond the stereotypical caricatures ascribed to us by the media and our peers.
Truth is, you can never know someone just by looking at them—no matter how hard you stare.
The K-Pop Invasian That Could Have Been: The Kim Sisters
By Brennan Lowe
(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of Kollaboration SF’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month series on prominent APA figures in media. Check in with us every week in May for new profiles and features!)
What if I told you that the biggest K-Pop success ever seen
in America happened some fifty years ago?
That, in the 1960s, a family trio of female Korean
singers and musicians enjoyed a longer period of sustained public visibility in
the US than BoA, Rain, Se7en, the Wonder Girls, SNSD, and “Gangnam Style” did combined? (This is without the
help of Twitter and YouTube, may I remind you, so feel free to leave your “but
global online followings!” argument at the door.) Don’t believe me?
Watch the above video and say hello to The Kim Sisters.
Long before PSY galloped in and out of the American cultural
conscience, and long before Nickelodeon decided to jump on the Hallyu wave by
doing, well, whatever Make It Pop is,
The Kim Sisters enjoyed a period of unmatched success in this country through
playing the primetime variety show circuit. As regular performers on the ubiquitous The Ed Sullivan Show and its West Coast counterpart Hollywood Palace, sisters Sook-ja and
Ai-ja and cousin Min-ja seemed poised to lead the way for other Asian and Asian
American musical acts to find national visibility. Allow me to give some context for their achievements, since
today’s television programming culture has all but done away with shows like Ed Sullivan. Their feats are the rough equivalent of 2NE1 performing at
every awards show while also being featured every week on SNL. That’s how integral variety shows were to the American
public in those days, and that’s how often that same public tuned in to see a
Kim Sisters performance. Singing
both American and Korean standards while boasting the ability to play twenty
(count em!) instruments, The Kim Sisters very well could have been made legends
in the entertainment world. They
could have ushered in a golden era of Asian performers in America and I
wouldn’t have had to write this piece, but that golden era never materialized, and
I’m writing this while anxiously waiting for the likes of CL and Aziatix to make
even the slightest splash in the US music scene.
So what happened?
How could the trails these women blazed be left so untraveled? One obvious answer lies in the time of
The Kim Sisters’ ascent. As
referred to by Min-ja in a recent interview, their timing was perfect,
for few to no other Asian acts had the ability or opportunities to gain
traction in the US. The Kims were
aided tremendously by their relationship with Ed Sullivan himself, and it’s
arguable that they may have never breached the American public eye without this
connection. Another reason may be
in the fact that, though The Kim Sisters rose quickly to prominence after their
American debut in 1959, their careers simply did not last long enough to leave
a strong legacy for future generations of would-be stars. When the trio promptly each got married
in 1967, The Kim Sisters immediately and permanently disbanded, content with
family life. There were no comebacks,
no reunion tours, and no solo careers to blossom in suit. All that remains of The Kim Sisters’
legacy are a smattering of YouTube videos and bunches of viewers wondering why
they hadn’t heard of them before.
It seems almost unimaginable that an Asian act could reach the same
consistent heights that The Kim Sisters did in today’s world, let alone that of
a half-century ago, but it happened.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take another fifty years for it to again.
Brennan is an incoming 1L at the UC Irvine School of Law. If you’re reading this Steph Curry is the MVP. Send hate mail to email@example.com or talk trash on twitter @flawanddisorder.
I was lucky to be able to attend Kollaboration New York’s Spotlight last night at Toshi’s LIving Room and Penthouse. One of my favorite artists who performed is Shilpa Narayan, who just released her new single “Renegade”.
From her website:
Georgia native Shilpa Narayan has never shied away from a challenge. Daily balancing of her full-time job and her music has not deterred this 25-year-old songstress from pursuing her passion and bearing her soul in her music. Shilpa’s debut album Stand Alone depicts her personal struggle with romantic relationships as well as the inner turmoil of identifying her true self. Now working on her 2nd album, with the release of her 1st single “Renegade”, Shilpa is ready to take on the music scene at full speed. In just a short three-year period, Shilpa has progressed quickly on her road to self-discovery through pursuing her true passion: music. While studying business and marketing at Georgia Tech, Shilpa picked up the guitar in her spare time and taught herself to strum chords to accompany herself singing cover songs by Rihanna, Beyonce, and various other R&B artists she revered. She began posting videos of herself singing on YouTube, and gradually, her views and associated videos reached 1 million hits. After moving to New York City to work as an analyst, Shilpa continued to quietly practice her music and post more videos on YouTube. She competed and won an open mic contest at Don Hills, which landed her a small management deal who then introduced her to various producers and musicians in NYC. Soon thereafter, she was performing in front of 1000+ crowds during Fashion Week 2010 as well as opening for hip hop artists Waka Flocka and Wale. These events compelled Shilpa to write her own music and a year later she released her debut album Stand Alone in May 2012. In October 2013, she performed in front of 120,000 people during the Diwali Times Square Show. 2 months later she partnered with MySpace to release her 1st video for “Renegade”, filmed in the Mohave Desert. Her music has already generated buzz on AOL Music, Vibe Magazine (Named Artist to Watch), thisis50.com, ChannelOne News, ArtistDirect, as well as praise from The Voice producer and host Carson Daly, who handpicked Shilpa’s submission to be sent directly to the show’s producers for consideration. Even with her initial success, Shilpa realizes she still has a long road ahead. “I don’t think I knew going in, how difficult it would be and how eye-opening of an experience it would be,” recalls Shilpa about her first experiences with the music industry. “It really forces you to grow up and also become comfortable with who you are and the life decisions you make. This album reflects a lot about that inner struggle I’ve had, and I’m hoping others will relate to it.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for Kollaboration New York’s Artist Showcase on August 30! Details to come!
Danny will appear as a guest judge at MNET Kollaboration STAR 2012 Finale!
Kollaboration began as an arts and entertainment nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting positive and accurate perceptions of Asians and Pacific Islanders by providing a platform for young artists to showcase their talents. Founded in 2000 by Paul PK Kim, Kollaboration began with a single show in Los Angeles. Kollaboration now produces 15 shows across 14 cities in North America. Each year, Kollaboration involves hundreds of volunteers and performers, tens of thousands of live audience members, and millions of viewers online.
With increasing recognition of the Kollaboration name, Kollaboration is now expanding into marketing and artist management ventures in both the Asian American market as well as the general market. Despite the expansion, the talent competition shows remain the core of Kollaboration.
1TYM’s Danny, Dumbfoundead, Kaba Modern’s Yuri Tag,Wong Fu Production’s Wesley Chan & American Idol’s Hee Jun Han will be appearing as guest judges for the finale on November 16th.
Kollaboration New York, the New York branch of the national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Asian American performers, will hold its annual showcase on August 30, 2014 in New York, NY. Attracting more than 700 audience members last year, the showcase is the nonprofit’s biggest event of the year.
Aspiring Asian American musicians audition for a comprehensive winner’s package comprised of an extensive publicity package across Kollaboration’s networks nationwide, professional recording time, an opportunity to record a full-length music video, guaranteed spots at Kollaboration New York’s various open mic events throughout the year and full access to Kollaboration’s network of artist development professionals in the Tri-state region and beyond. Last but not not least, the winner will get the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, California to compete in the national Kollaboration Star show against other local Kollaboration winners for grand prize of $10,000.
Showcase applications are available on Kollaboration New York’s website. To audition, interested parties must submit a detailed application and include a video link of the talent he/she would like to audition with. The video may be a past performance or a home recording. Acts will undergo a selection process by the Kollaboration New York staff. Selected applicants will move on to participate in the Live Auditions.
Our primary mission is “Empowerment through Entertainment,” and we are dedicated to providing API youth with a creative outlet to showcase their talents on stage. By hosting shows across the nation, Kollaboration seeks to gather diverse Asian American talent and bring their presence into mainstream media and the entertainment industry.
i’m pretty indifferent towards Youtube covers because they usually bore me, but I'mma support the shit out of this because my boy Allen Tu [Tusic Music] is a finalist. if you watch the video, he’s the one who raps! also someone else i know is in it as part of one of the group finalists, Phonadics.
Catching Feelings | Justin Bieber (Cover) – Hi Guys!
Please take a moment to watch this video and help my band, &Blue, out! Most of you know that we recently won the grand prize at Kollaboration San Francisco in the beginning of August! However, our next step is getting to the next level of Kollaboration: Kollaboration Star in Los Angeles! This time around, instead of $1000, the grand prize is $20,000! However there are 13 other finalists from around the nation competing for a spot in the show (there’s only 6 open spots)!
It would honestly mean the world to me if you could all help me spread the word about my band and vote for my band during the voting poll which will take place starting from this upcoming Tuesday, October 15th @12:01 A.M. to Thursday, October 17th @11:59 P.M. This is how you vote!
This honestly only takes 2 minutes to do. If you know me well enough, you know how passionate I am about music, and this could be a huge stepping stone for me. Again, this means everything to me. So please consider it and do it…just for me! Thank you. <3