Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hollywood Chinese

MANAA attended a sneak preview of the Hollywood Chinese exhibit at the Chinese American Museum in LA and we were thrilled by the impressive collection of memorabilia. Strolling past the countless images of Fu Manchu, yellowface, Charlie Chan and other early representations of Asian Americans was a reminder of the fact that the things we are fighting for today -- fair representation, Asian American heroes, non-stereotypical roles -- are historical battles that have affected Asian Americans ever since the first immigrants entered this country. We definitely recommend checking it out for an educational and entertaining afternoon.

Also be sure to mark your calendar for this Thursday -- a screening of the documentary will be followed by talk with Arthur Dong himself. If you can't make the screening, copies of the DVD are also available for purchase.

Hollywood Chinese Film Screening and Curator Talk with Arthur Dong
Thursday, December 3, 2009 / 6–8 p.m.
CAM at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

Saturday, November 28, 2009

MANAA letter regarding Red Dawn remake

photo courtesy of www.reddawn2010.com

November 15, 2009
Dan Bradley, Director
c/o International Creative Management
10250 Constellation Boulevard - 7th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Dear Mr. Bradley:

I am writing on behalf of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) because the plot of your new film “Red Dawn” has recently been brought to our attention by concerned community members. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating for balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. Since 1992, we have consulted with movie studios and met regularly with the top four TV networks to convey the importance of diversity in the media.

We are wary about the upcoming remake of 1984 Cold War classic “Red Dawn” because of the decision to portray China as the primary military invading force. Having enemy Chinese soldiers on screen without providing positive Asian American representation as a counterbalance propagates anti-Asian American sentiment for viewers of the film. The Asian American community has long been plagued by racial profiling and is among the largest growing target of hate crimes in the United States. There is a danger in depicting large groups of individuals of Asian descent as a common enemy.

Hollywood films seldom feature Asian Americans in positive prominent roles. This remake of Red Dawn contains a plot that makes prudent casting especially crucial to avoid sending a wrong message about a war between races. Our intention is not to prematurely condemn the film, but to prevent potentially ill-informed decisions that could adversely affect the Asian American community. Therefore, we would like to invite you to meet with us and to contact us as a resource. Again, we only wish to urge the filmmakers to make their casting decisions with care and sensitivity. Your time is greatly appreciated and we look forward to your response.


Phil Lee

cc: Contrafilm

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Greetings

Ha, I don’t know if anyone is actually reading this on Turkey Day, but since it’s been a while since I’ve posted something as MANAA President, I’m taking a break from the cooking and eating to wish you all a “Happy Thanksgiving!” And also to post some news after last week’s monthly meeting.

The group had a fun time discussing Asian Americans in television, including shows like Glee, So You Think You Can Dance, Trauma, Three Rivers, and Law and Order: SVU. Generally, the reports this month were positive, but of course, that’s just a small percentage of what’s out there! (If you have a show that you want to report on, come out to the next meeting!)

Speaking of reports, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition will be releasing their annual TV diversity report card in early December. The report card rates diversity (regarding Asian and Pacific Islanders) for all the major TV network companies. We’ll be posting more info about that on the blog shortly, and we can use your help to publicize it!

A couple weeks ago, we posted the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) release about the big meeting with Paramount, but at the MANAA meeting, we got to hear even more of the details. It’s too much to write here, but it was a productive meeting, with both The Goods AND The Last Airbender being talked about. Plus the outlook for future communication with Paramount is looking pretty good. I really would like to thank the folks at MANAA, as well all our friends and colleagues, for all their hard work to keep the dialog going about both those movies.

And speaking of thanks, that brings us back to “Happy Thanksgiving!” I hope that all of you out there have a great holiday weekend, and remember that there is a lot to be thankful for.

Phil Lee
President, MANAA

P.S. Ninja Assassin is out this weekend! Is anyone going to see it? Someone pointed out to us that all the billboard ads for this movie cut off the main character’s image above the nose, and questioned why they didn’t include his whole face: was someone worried that it looked “too Asian” or just not tough enough? It’s an interesting question. Actually, I believe even back in Korea, when Rain was starting out, the studios rejected him because they didn’t like his look! Of course, he's come a long way since then. As much as we like to see Asian American actors get starring roles (the American studios often pick established stars from Asian hoping that it leads to more box office globally), I think it would be great if Ninja Assassin leads to further success in the U.S. for the Korean pop star.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy with BD Wong role lately

We were so excited to see BD Wong given more meaty roles lately on Law & Order: SVU. He had very substantial roles in the episode involving child pornography and also the one involving a therapist who controlled the minds of teenage children. We look forward to seeing him in future substantial roles as opposed to his usual role of offering brief psychological interpretations in a single scene. Maybe someday he'll also be given a scene opposite Joel de la Fuente, who is also a great actor!

We wrote a letter to the show runner to express our excitement at Wong being featured. If you'd like to do the same, feel free to send it to:

Mr. Dick Wolf
Creator, Law & Order: SVU
Wolf Films, Inc.
5801 West Side Avenue
North Bergen, NJ 07047

Friday, November 13, 2009

MANAA and JACL meet with Paramount

From JACL:
(Left to right: Bill Imada, Katie Martin Kelly, Guy Aoki, Adam Goodman, Craig Ishii, Floyd Mori)

On Thursday, the JACL was represented at a meeting with Paramount Pictures by Floyd Mori, National Executive Director, and Craig Ishii, Regional Director of the Pacific Southwest District. Paramount Pictures President and CEO, Adam Goodman had invited Mori to meet to discuss problems of racial stereotyping and racial casting by Paramount. Bill Imada, CEO of the IW Group (formerly Imada Wong Communications Group), and Guy Aoki, co-founder of MAANA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans), also attended the meeting that included Paramount executives, Sharon Keyser and Katie Martinelli. The meeting was a result of a letter Mori wrote to Goodman condemning the negative stereotype portrayed in the Paramount movie, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.

Goodman, who became the CEO of Paramount after the filming of the movie, had apologized for the racially demeaning scene and with this meeting had made good on his promise to meet with Mori and other community leaders. In the meeting Goodman committed to further dialog and requested that ongoing meetings be held to monitor and evaluate Paramount's performance in providing a diverse platform in their productions.

Mori was pleased with the outcome of the meeting and stated, "Adam Goodman was receptive to our concerns and expressed an attitude of further cooperation to make Paramount a model for reflecting the diversity that exists in contemporary society. We look forward to a close working relationship with the studio in eliminating the perpetuation of negative stereotyping of ethnic minorities. Through this dialog, we hope to avoid the type of debacle which resulted from The Goods."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Letter regarding "The Weapon"

MANAA recently heard that David Henrie, a white actor, had been cast in the film version of "The Weapon" as the Asian American hero Tommy Zhou (thanks, folks at Racebending!). It was frustrating to hear that yet another opportunity for an Asian American lead actor had disappeared, and we wondered what was to become of the strong elements of Asian American issues that had characterized the comic book. We are hoping that there is still a chance that the part will be given to an Asian American man, or that the Asian American elements of the story can still be heard.


October 2, 2009

Randy Greenberg
Platinum Studios, Inc.
11400 West Olympic Blvd, 14th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Dear Mr. Greenberg:

I’m writing on behalf of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) because we heard about the recent casting news for your film adaptation of “The Weapon.” We are a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating for balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. Since 1992, we have consulted with movie studios and met regularly with the top four TV networks to convey the importance of diversity. To the point, it was extremely disappointing to learn that Tommy Zhou, the Chinese American main character from “The Weapon,” is being made into a Caucasian lead for your movie, and we would like to request a meeting to talk about these concerns with you.

You might be familiar with the controversy over the movie casting for the live-action adaptation of Nick-elodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” While the original show was clearly inspired by Asian and Inuit influences and populated with Asian characters, Paramount cast three of the four main characters with Caucasian actors (initially it was all four). There has been a tremendous backlash from fans of the show, resulting in lost goodwill and support for the movie (e.g. www.racebending.com). Although The Last Airbender will not be in theaters until 2010, we’ve already seen one other movie tank at the box office after deviating from the source material and ethnic characters: Dragonball Evolution.

There have been signs of progress over the years. For example, Disney includes an Asian American character in the movie Up, and in various Disney Channel programs. Nevertheless, the Asian American community, as well as the movie-going public at large, are generally used to seeing Asian men depicted as villains. We rarely have the opportunity to see Asian American heroes we can celebrate.

We urge you to reconsider the decision to turn Tommy Zhou into a Caucasian character. Audiences do support diverse casting, as well as compelling stories of minority heroes like Tommy, whose Asian heritage is integral to the plot itself. You have the opportunity to break down barriers and do something historic. Platinum Studios can also avoid doing a disservice to the fans, as Paramount has done with Avatar.

We are more than glad to be a resource to you, and invite you to have a meeting with us. We would like to have a dialogue and help make The Weapon a movie that comic book and superhero fans will be excited to see.


Phil Lee

Friday, September 18, 2009

What happened after the Paramount Protest?

For those who want to know what's been going on with Paramount and "The Goods" -- Paramount sent a written apology to the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) right before the protest happened. Though the protest went on as planned, Paramount deserves some credit for actually responding with an apology, and a pretty well-written one at that (see below).

What's really cool is Paramount and JACL agreed to have a meeting in the future. MANAA believes that not only will this be a chance to talk to Paramount about The Goods, but also The Last Airbender!

: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 14:42:24 -0700
Subject: The Goods

Dear Mr. Mori:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding ‘The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.’ At Paramount, we take these concerns very seriously.

On behalf of the studio, I want to extend our sincerest apologies to the Japanese American Citizens League and the greater Asian-American community for the racially demeaning language used in scenes depicted in the film. While this film is intended to be an extreme satirical comedy, it was never the objective of the producers or the studio to single out any one group for ridicule or to promote hurtful, racially disparaging language. We genuinely regret the use of this language in the film.

We’ve discussed your concerns, at length, with the producers and we have discontinued online promotion of the red-band, age-gated trailer that depicts this scene. The general audience, green-band trailer has also been pulled out of theaters.

We appreciate you bringing to our attention the concerns of the Japanese-American community and the broader Asian-American community. We truly regret any anguish that this film may have caused. We assure you that this was never the intention of the producers or the studio.

At Paramount, we would welcome a continuing dialogue over the next several weeks with you and other leaders of the Asian-American community. Again, on behalf of Paramount and Paramount Vantage, we hope you accept our sincerest apologies.

Yours truly,
Adam Goodman

Monday, September 14, 2009

MANAA Scholarship for Asian American filmmakers


CONTACT: (909) 869-3899

MANAA Announces Its Seventh Media Scholarship

LOS ANGELES- MANAA, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, is pleased to announce its $1000 scholarship for currently enrolled graduate and undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers as filmmakers and in television production (not broadcast journalism). Formed in 1992, MANAA is the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of the Asian American community.

MANAA recognizes the urgent need to fill the ranks of television and film with persons of Asian descent in decision-making positions as screenwriters, directors, producers, and studio executives. We are looking to award students who have a strong desire to advance a positive and enlightened understanding of the Asian American experience in the mainstream media.

Scholarship recipients will be selected on the basis of their academic and personal merit, desire to uplift the image of Asian Americans in film and television as demonstrated in their essay, potential as demonstrated in their work sample, and financial need.

The deadline for submission is Friday, October 30, 2009.


1. A copy of all official transcripts.

2. Two letters of recommendation, one that evaluates academic and artistic aptitude and another that speaks to the student’s interest and involvement in the community.

3. A double-spaced essay consisting of no more than 1,000 words addressing the following items: Describe your involvement in the Asian/Pacific Islander Community. How does this involvement influence your creative work? How do you think your creative work will influence the API community in the next five to ten years?

4. A work sample consisting of a short film or screenplay. Materials will not be returned.

5. A statement of special financial need or hardship.

6. A resume of both your work history and your community involvement.

Send all completed applications to MANAA Scholarship, P.O. Box 11105, Burbank, CA 91510. Please do not send applications via certified or registered mail.

For more information about MANAA and our monthly meetings, please visit the MANAA website at http://www.manaa.org. You can also visit our Facebook or MySpace account sites at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14661828412 and http://www.myspace.com/manaala, or our blog at http://manaa.blogspot.com. Any questions regarding the scholarship should be directed to scholarship@manaa.org or (213) 486-4433.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Asian American coalition protests Paramount and 'The Goods'!

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to support us with our protest at Paramount. It was a stunning success, with over 40 protesters and of course lots of supportive horn honking and a few tv station trucks to boot.

We rallied with cheers of "The Goods were rotten, that's why no one bought them!" and "Your humor is tasteless, stop being racist!" Eric and Sylvia came up with some great chants and were great chant-leaders!

Dariane from Racebending showed awesome support and helped to organize, which was great since Paramount is the studio behind the whitewashed "The Last Avatar" as well. We look forward to working with Dariane and all of the folks at Racebending on future activist endeavors!

Floyd Mori, executive director of JACL, brought a squadron of protesters and was interviewed by Channel 7 News along with MANAA's Guy Aoki.

IW Group, Inc. also sent a huge group of supporters and as well as provided materials for the posters and space to create them.

And boy did we have a lot of posters! Some favorites -- "Hate Crimes Aren't Funny" and "The Goods are Bad".

Thanks again for all the support, we think that Paramount is starting to get the picture now!

Why MANAA Protests "The Goods"

Message from the MANAA President

I received a copy of the following letter addressed to the Executive Chairman of Paramount. This letter expresses, as persuasively as any press release that MANAA could issue, why the studio needs to hear about "The Goods." Not everyone is going to be convinced that MANAA and other organizations should protest this movie, but many will recognize their own anger, fear, and frustration, expressed right here.

Phil Lee
MANAA President

August 19, 2009

Mr. Sumner M. Redstone
Executive Chairman of the Board & Founder
Viacom, Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Redstone:

As an American of Japanese ancestry, I am writing to express my extreme outrage over a scene in Paramount Vantage's comedy "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" depicting the use of a racially offensive slur followed by a physical attack against an Asian American character in the film.

The scene in question, broadcast across the country in the film's trailer and now playing nationwide, shows the character, played by Jeremy Piven, giving his used-car sales team a pep talk. The Piven character then says, "Don't get me started on Pearl Harbor-the Japs flying in low and fast. We are Americans and they are the enemy! Never again!"

A man looks at the Asian American character and says, "Let's get him!" which results in a mob of men beating the Asian man. Piven's character then says, "All right, stop! We have all just participated in a hate crime. Let's get our stories straight. Dang came at us with a samurai sword, fire extinguisher and Chinese throwing stars."

This is supposed to be funny? Ask the family of Vincent Chin, who was brutally beaten to death by two out-of-work auto workers who mistook him for being Japanese during the height of "Japan bashing" during the early 1980s. Ask them if this is funny. Ask the thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were called "Japs" all their lives growing up, and were later unjustly racially-profiled and incarcerated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor into American concentration camps for up to four years during WWII. Ask them if this is funny.

Using the word "Jap" is equivalent to the use of the "N-Word" when referring to African Americans. The use of the word alone is offensive enough. To combine it with the beating of an Asian character is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable in
today's media. Imagine if this scene were to take place against an African American.
The African American community would not stand for it. And neither should we.

Earlier this week, the National Office of the Japanese American Citizens League voiced its strong objection to this scene, and called on Paramount Pictures to apologize to the Japanese American and Asian American communities nationwide.

Paramount has responded by saying "The Goods satirizes and exaggerates the extremes of the sales and celebrity culture" and "is in no way meant to be mean-spirited, disparaging or hurtful to any individuals and we regret any offense taken. We understand that when presented out of context, jokes and situations in the movie about a variety of topics might be offensive to some people."

This does not sound like an apology to me. In fact, it fits conveniently into the category of "You people need to get over yourselves-can't you take a joke?"

As Chairman and Founder of an international media conglomerate which includes Paramount Vantage, you are well aware of the power of both the written and spoken word, and how words can uplift, move and literally change the world, and the people in it. You also know that words, when used in a negative, mocking way, have the same power to insult, denigrate, and can cause unthinkable damage to our psyche, our spirits, and the world we live in.

I grew up in San Francisco, California and when I was in junior high school I heard words and phrases such as "Ching Chong Chinaman," "Jap" and the like from fellow classmates who took great joy in taunting me. And I can tell you, as I stood by and took this verbal abuse, I also remember other kids standing by and laughing at me, pointing at me, and saying things like "Why are your eyes so tight? Why don't you open your eyes?" Unless you stand in my shoes, and feel the humiliation of being singled out and ridiculed solely because of my race, you cannot understand what
I-and people of Asian ancestry have gone through in this country since we first came here over 150 years ago. I can tell you this: It hurt me deeply, and it's a pain that I carry with me to this day.

These are the power of words, and how when they are abused-especially in film and television-can perpetuate hate, which can lead to more hateful words and mocking of Japanese and other Asian Americans, which can lead to hateful acts of violence and going one step further, murder.

As you can see, this is no laughing matter. May I remind you of Viacom's Global
Business Practices, which on pages 23-24, states to your employees: "Therefore, you may not: Make inappropriate statements concerning a person's race, religion, color, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic origin, disability, age, gender, sex, gender expression, etc."

I'm assuming these practices extend to the products your company produces, and I'm assuming these words mean more to you than mere words on a piece of paper.
Therefore, I am asking you to do all in your power to edit or remove this scene from the film, and see to it that scenes such as these-that denigrate any racial group-do not happen again in the future.

Thank you for your consideration.


Soji Kashiwagi

cc: Philippe P. Dauman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Viacom, Inc.
Adam Goodman, President, Paramount Films Group
Gary Sanchez, President, Gary Sanchez Productions
Floyd Mori, National Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Join our protest!!

MANAA and other Asian American activist groups will be protesting the film 'The Goods' TOMORROW at Paramount.

Join us at 4:30pm, Friday Aug 21
Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

We believe that the film condones the beating of Asian Americans and makes light of hate crimes.

Please email us at letters@manaa.org if you are planning on joining us, we need all the help we can get!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

MANAA condemns Asian-bashing in 'The Goods' as harmful, not funny

Los Angeles -- A scene from Jeremy Piven's new comedy "The Goods" has incensed Asian Americans, who find the beating of Ken Jeong's character frighteningly reminiscent of real violence perpetrated against Asian Americans.

"MANAA contacted Paramount to request a chance to screen the film. We tried to give them the benefit of the doubt that seeing the whole movie could somehow salvage this scene. But we received no response," said Phil Lee, President of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

The scene in question, which has been widely promoted in trailers, begins with Jeremy Piven riling up his car sales team by saying, "Don't even get me started on Pearl Harbor -- we are the Americans, and they are the enemy. Never again!" The other workers start shouting "Never again!" as the single Asian American, played by Jeong, joins in but looks nervous. Then the crowd turns on him and begins a violent assault that visibly injures him. Piven's character also uses the racial slur "Japs" -- an insult that goes doubly unpunished since Jeong later tells everyone he is Korean, as if the attack would be acceptable if only he were really Japanese.

While the scene is played for comedy, the threat of physical violence against Asian Americans is all too real. December 7, the day of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, is commonly dreaded by members of the Japanese American community and the wider Asian American community. Many Asian Americans have been subject to slurs and verbal assaults on this day, and there is a widespread fear that individuals who still harbor anger against the Japanese will erupt in physical violence.

The scene showing the beating of Ken Jeong by auto workers is also painfully evocative of the killing of Vincent Chin in 1982. Chin was a 27-year old Chinese auto worker in Michigan who happened to be at the same bar as two white auto workers who felt that the Japanese were to blame for the loss of their jobs. They beat him with a baseball bat, and he died from the injuries. The scene in the movie similarly confuses Japanese individuals from Japan with all individuals of Asian descent. Even so, this does not justify retributive violence for an event that occurred during a war nearly 70 years ago.

"MANAA believes that this scene should be removed from the trailers, and asks that Paramount apologize and acknowledge the concerns of our community," said Lee. "The fact it is a comedy makes it worse, because the anti-Asian violence is downplayed as harmless. Playing a hate crime scene for laughs or satire doesn't automatically protect it from being offensive."

MANAA is the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction and coverage of Asian Americans.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Winner of Kollaboration 3 tickets

Congratulations to Maya Yamahata, who won the tickets to see Kollaboration 3 on August 22nd and will be attending with her mother!

Thanks to all who entered. Stay tuned to MANAA's blog for more exciting giveaways in the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August Bulletin

(1) MANAA August Meeting - CANCELED!

Please note that we are canceling the MANAA general meeting normally scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 20th. We're taking some extra time this month to do some serious planning for several exciting projects that we have coming up. Again: There is no general meeting in August. We'll see you in September, if not sooner (see below).

(2) Win Tickets to Kollaboration Acoustic 3 on Saturday, August 22

There's no general meeting this month, but you can still support the Asian American talent at Kollaboration's Acoustic 3. MANAA is proud to be a community supporter of this great event at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. In fact, we have 2 free tickets to give away! If you're interested in winning two free tickets to see the show, please email us at letters@manaa.org with the subject "Kollaboration 3 tickets please!" We'll pick a winner by August 14th.

(3) APEX "Exploring the Future of Asian American Media" - Aug. 27

And if you really miss us this month (ha ha), you can also look for us at this Los Angeles Networking event. MANAA's not an official sponsor, but the evening, which includes Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man and other panelists discussing Asian Americans and the "new media," should be a fun time. Email us if you're going and maybe we can meet up!

(4) "The Last Airbender" - updates

Last but not least, we want to recognize the fans and supporters who are keeping the campaign going on The Last Airbender movie. Check out their awareness-raising efforts at the recent San Diego Comic-Con. Bravo!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Free tickets to Kollaboration 3!

Kollaboration Acoustic 3 will take place on Saturday, August 22nd 2009, 7:30pm at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood as the third and final Kollaboration show to take place in Southern California this year. Acoustic 3 will bring to the arena musicians that perform their vocals with various non-electrical instruments such as percussions, string and woodwind instruments. As an annual talent competition, 10 musical acts were selected after a competitive round of auditions in front of Kollaboration judges. Similar to our past performers, many of this year’s performers have already garnered well established internet followings, while others are looking to Acoustic 3 to introduce their talents to a new fan base.

This year’s performers to compete for First Place and $1,000 include: Gabe Bondoc, Mike Isberto, AJ Rafael Band, Susanna Yoon, Afraid of Everest, Jinah Kim, Megan Lee, David Tran aka Applesauce, Yoori Park and Alfa Garcia. A live Verizon Wireless Audience Choice Award Winner will also receive $1,000 via text message voting from the audience in attendance that evening. In addition to the musical raw talent, Acoustic 3 will also present comedienne Monrok, a regular with a very loyal following at The Comedy Store, The Hollywood Improv and the Ice House in Pasadena and comedian Jimmy Brogan, guest star of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Additional guest performers and guest judges will also be present.

If you're interested in winning two free tickets to see the show, please email us at letters@manaa.org with the subject "Kollaboration 3 tickets please!" We'll pick a winner by August 14th.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last Asian American heads home on So You Think You Can Dance

We've always loved the way that the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance showcased racial and cultural diversity, both within the cast and in the styles of dance (Bollywood has been one of the favored styles in the past 2 seasons). Although the judges rarely discuss race/ethnicity explicitly (unlike, for instance, America's Next Top Model, where Tyra criticizes women for not performing their race adequately), we've always been ecstatic the show has included some of the "coolest" Asian Americans in reality tv.

Hok Konishi and Dominic (D-Trix) Sandoval were celebrated in past seasons as hilarious and talented b-boys. They later cemented their fame by appearing as integral members of the hip-hopping Quest Crew, an all-Asian-American group who won MTV's America's Best Dance Crew. These guys are definitely changing the face of Asian American masculinity on tv.

This year we were thrilled when Asuka Kondoh finally made it through with her sparkling ballroom skills (although she auditioned with her partner Ricky Sun, who didn't make it). Unfortunately, she was eliminated in the third week despite strong performances throughout with her partner Vitolio.

Karla Garcia, a contemporary dancing Filipina from Brooklyn, was eliminated the next week. This was particularly disappointing because she never got to show off the hip-hopping skills she'd developed as part of the group Boogie Bots, also of MTV fame. But, as Nigel would say, she never emerged as "a star."

Finally, Kupono Awea (full name Kuponohitpoi Kamalu Aweau), our last hope for Asian American triumph, was eliminated just this week. He did make it into the Top 10 and will be on tour with the show. His quirky-contemporary style was brilliantly showcased, but somehow he slipped behind and couldn't recover after his pase doble this week.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Congrats to Kal Penn, and don't forget about us!

Actor Kal Penn, who we've long enjoyed for his groundbreaking roles in movies like The Namesake and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, has begun his job at the White House. We're excited because Obama has asked him to be a liaison between the Asian American arts communities and the White House -- could this mean greater visibility and access for Asian Americans in the film industry? Penn's always seemed aware of Asian American political causes alongside his acting work -- once upon a time he even came to a MANAA meeting, where hopefully we had an enlightened conversation on this topic -- so we have great hopes for him in this role.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Message from the President

Dear friends,

Hope you're having a wonderful July 4th weekend. It's already been a month since I posted to the blog. Longer than I planned, but I think the holiday has given me that extra bit of motivation to sit down and write something. July 4th being a day when we recall the history-changing Declaration of Independence, and acknowledge the amazing freedom we have in the U.S., I am reminded to appreciate that MANAA might not even exist without those freedoms. There's something very special about how we can freely watch, read, and listen to all kinds of media. Not only that, but we as individuals and groups can freely respond, praise and protest the content of the mass media -- in more ways than ever, thanks to the world wide web.

Of course, free speech is not unlimited. Actually, my own speech was somewhat hampered recently -- although not in the way you might expect! On Friday, I was supposed to be a guest on a radio program to discuss the controversy over casting for The Last Airbender movie. But due to technical difficulties, we weren't able to make the phone connection work. I didn't get on the air at all. It was a strange experience listening to the live program on-line and knowing that I was supposed to be a participant.

However, I thought the host and two other guests did a really nice job of talking about Airbender and the casting backlash by the fans. It's great that KFPA radio in Berkeley took the time to cover this issue. In fact, it was an intern at the radio station who brought it to their attention -- and that's something we can use more of: help with keeping the coverage and discussion about The Last Airbender going.

If you would like to check out the interview, just go to the KPFA website and find the archive broadcast of "Living Room" for Friday, July 3rd.

Phil L.