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.