Asian American representation in 21 and Over

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21 and Over is pretty much the college version of the Hangover. The movie comes out this Friday, March 1st, and the trailer for the movie reveals that it centers around a college Asian American guy named Jeff Chang who is turning 21 soon. Jeff’s friends say in the trailer, “We have a moral obligation to get him drunk”. The movie revolves around turing 21 and the madness that goes with. I chose to blog about this movie because Justin Chon, who plays the character Jeff Chang, is on the poster of the movie. So when I saw that I thought that I finally found an American movie with an Asian leading actor. But after seeing the trailer I don’t believe that Justin Chon will be as active in the movie as I originally thought. The movie certainly revolves around him and is about him but he seems to play small parts in the movie.

Jeff has an Americanized personality but still shows signs of the model minority Asian American. He is in college with a 4.0 GPA and the day he turns 21 he has a medical school interview that is extremely important to him. It is cool to see a movie that is about an Asian American but I would have liked to have him play a bigger role in the movie. I’m hoping that I’m wrong, but as big as a character as he is in movie, he does not seem to be the main character. What I got out of the trailer was that he turns 21, goes out to drink with his friends, passes out for awhile, then resurfaces toward morning time. Throughout the movie Jeff is most likely doing something stupid and obnoxious while his friends destroy his liver with alcohol. Asians are seen as light drinkers so a couple of beers would be enough to intoxicate a typical Asian. After Jeff takes his first beer in the trailer, he seems long gone. And while Jeff is running around doing drunk stuff, his friends are enjoying the moment and also babysitting him at the same time. There is where I feel that the main angle of the movie lies. That the movie is going to focus a lot on Jeff’s friends as Jeff’s caretaker. That Jeff is going to disappear or get into trouble and it is going to be up to his friends to save him or keep him out of trouble.

So I believe that it is great that Justin Cho got a role in the movie that revolves around him but it does not truly star him. There seems to be plenty of typical Asian stereotypes surrounding him in the movie such as strict parents, light weight drinker, straight A’s, med school, and to-nice-to-say-no attitude. Like a male version of the lotus blossom women. 

Here is the trailer to the movie.
http://youtu.be/Bc9vHeGNTY0

Here is a couple links to info on the movie.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1711425/
http://www.fandango.com/21andover_155377/movieoverview

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Ferrell’s Casa de mi Padre

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Recently I sat down to watch Will Ferrell’s spoof of spanish soap operas and spaghetti westerns, Casa de mi Padre, for no other reason than the simple fact that I enjoy Mr. Ferrell’s work. Still, as I sat there, various aspects of our class began to run through my head. Mainly, the use of explicit and implicit brownface, and how it relates not only to the movie, but to Latin culture as a whole.

The movie tells the story of Armando Alvarez, a simple farmer who has spent his entire life in his father’s ranch in Mexico, working hard to get his family through tough times. Played by Ferrell, this character shows massive use of explicit brownface right from the start. From his outfits, which include ascots and cowboy hats, to his actions, such as going to the middle of the desert with fellow farmers to sing a mariachi style song about their lack of knowledge. Surprisingly enough, his language and dialogue showed little use of this, as it’s pretty straight forward and easy to understand. Ferrell didn’t want this to be his character’s comedic trademark, and hoped to blend in with the other actors, something he accomplishes as it’s easy to forget that he doesn’t actually speak spanish. Ironically, his only use of brownface while speaking is when he speaks in english, doing so with an accent.

The film also reunites long time friends and Mexican actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, as two clear examples of implicit brownface. The characters constantly curse, drink, and enforce the negative connection between Mexico and drugs many Americans feel, as they play rival druglords. Actors Efren Ramirez and Adrian Martinez also use implicit brownface, playing Armando’s farmer friends, who also like to sing about their simple lives in Mexico (“I’m friends with the cows”) and have names such as “Esteban De Los Santos Escobar Chavez”. Lastly, Manuel Urrego plays a corrupted Mexican police chief, who works with the drug cartels, a very real and serious problem in modern day Mexico.

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Garcia Bernal and Luna

As a parody, the film also picks out several Latin stereotypes and themes, mainly from their media. The stable of talented actors, featuring Luna, Garcia Bernal, Ferrell, and the late Pedro Armendariz all terribly overact, as is thought of from Mexican soap operas, or Novelas. The movie is filled with cheap sets and props, badly edited cuts, and unnecessary zoom ins on the characters faces as they stare at each other. Even the Film’s villains are easily recognized by their constant smoking, like the villains in the novelas. Still, the movie does a good job of making sure this is a joke, and it’s hard not to laugh when Garcia’s character smokes two cigarettes at the same time to one-up his rival, or Luna trying to drink his whiskey as he is shot down. 

As Ferrell put it, “We wanted the movie, while being outlandish, to be satirical, and comment on our cliched view of Mexico”. He also understands that the cultural problem is a “two way street”, and the movie comments on this several times, mainly Mexico’s production of drugs and the United State’s consumption of those drugs. Even the final lines in the movie explore this as a DEA agent attempting to make up for his racist partner tells Alvarez “Not all Americans are bad”, to which Alvarez replies, “Not all Mexicans are drug dealers”.  Ferrell’s main objective was to make a movie that people from both cultures could enjoy. As someone born and raised in Mexico, I feel he succeeded and personally enjoyed the small connections to Novelas and the Latin culture. Yes, the stereotypes are there (and plenty of them), but are presented in a way that allows the comedy to shine.

Will Ferrell interview: http://www.dailycal.org/2012/03/14/will-ferrell-speaks-about-new-film-ethnic-stereotypes/

Rap for Freedom

The woman’s voice is what I’m calling.
The girl’s voice that is lost in my country.
The voice of those who want to talk, who want to say:
a voice of all women who want a sign.

This is part of a song a rap song done by a woman. Nothing is unusual in it,  just like many other rap songs that are written by women and talk about women’s problems. But there is something very peculiar and interesting about this musician-she is Muslim and she is from Morocco. Her name is Soultana.Image

    Morocco is an Islamic country with a king in charge and not much freedom of speech.

Soultana raps about the challenges facing women in this North African country: illiteracy, poverty, domestic violence, and daily harassment on the street.

 Many other rappers have been put in jail for their open songs and propaganda of freedoms, but Soultana is full of hope; she has said that she loves the King and never sings anything against him. She loves her country, but feels that there needs to be a change for women.

She implores him (the King) to improve life for his people—especially young people like her.

“We need jobs, we need education, we need health, we need a lot of things. We sing that we need change. I want to see all of my brothers and my sisters in Morocco working, having jobs,” she says.

Soultana raises issues of womanhood and the place of women in Islamic society and Morocco in particular. She sings:

“She saw in your face the life she lost.
You looked at her like she was a cheap thing.
She saw in your face what she wanted to be.
You looked at her, a look of humiliation”.

She raises a question of how women feel there, and in a lot of places in the world. Do we feel like we are a “cheap thing” worthless and not important? And why do we feel this way? A lot of cultures and places that have a very strong hierarchy are mostly dominant Patriarchal societies. The role of women can be strongly constricted and there is no opportunity to choose or change. Many woman feel opressed and not able to do things they want to do. They become slaves to their husbands and have no voice or even thoughts of their own.

   Many women in America are treated in the similar manner, because some people believe that it is men’s birth right to be in charge and to be a King over women.

Soultana wants people to think how women feel, how they live and that they have right to a safe and kind environment.

“She could be your mother. She could be your sister.
It could be her, me or you.”

Her primarily audience is young Arab girls who she wants to inspire and help to build better a attitude for themselves and hope for happy lives. She wants to show girls, that there is intersectionality in them. They are complex persons and they can be a good Muslim and follow traditions without all the abuse that takes place in Morocco.

She tries to change the conceptual map that leads people’s view of women in the Middle east. She does not look like a stereotypical woman from that region, she does not wear the traditional Islamic dress and does not cover her hair, but she dresses modestly and tries avoid offending people of faith.

 Soultana’s goal is to be a spokeswoman for women, their rights and chances for change. She has found a unique way to bring her message and be heard. She is all over the media and has become very popular and famous. She has even won some music awards for her songs. There is hope for change, hope for her continuing efforts to inspire and help girls and women in Morocco.

   Here is the link for her music:http://www.myspace.com/soultanaofficiel

3Men

I saw this ad on angryasianman.com and found it a mix of humorous and conflicting. The ad is for a Chinese food restaurant in Dubai and the catch phrase reads “Brings out the Chinese in everyone”. Obviously the idea that this Chinese food gives its customers more squinty eyes is satire and I genuinely don’t believe the people that created, drafted and approved this ad campaign had ill intentions. But it does bring up some mixed feelings, should an ad campaign use a racial stereotype to sell a product. Does it keep the stereotypes alive in a negative light?  This ad is a great example of explicit yellow-face, or a non-Asian person impersonating Asian characteristics. In this case the yellow face is the stereotype of squinty eyes often associated with people with an Asian ethnicity. The three men, that are all of different racial backgrounds, have squinty eyes which the ad portrays is all they need to be “Chinese”. This is troublesome because there is so much more to the Chinese culture than can be narrowed down to one physical characteristic. Another interesting part of this ad is that it takes place out of the country of the United States. The Chinese food restaurant is located in Dubai, which is actually located on the continent of Asia.Image

I found this compelling because from what I understand it is particularly frustrating for specific Asians to be mistaken for another Asian ethnicity. For example Korean Japanese being called Japanese or Chinese being called Taiwanese. But I would think this ad would hit a little closer to home being as it is being seen IN ASIA! Obviously, the people who approved this campaign idea did not find it offensive and did not consider the racial connotation associated with the ads. Can we jump to conclusions and call this ad campaign racist? I think that would be an irrational decision. I don’t believe in anyway was this ad put out to be derogatory to any particular race. But it does bring up a lot of feelings about race and the boundaries around it. Some times I think dwelling on the supposed racism around any certain ad or comment is almost more ineffective than the ad itself. Why can’t this ad just be humorous and people keep moving with their day. People have to walk on eggshells in order to not offend someone on their racial background. The tiniest things are scrutinized and turned into racist because they are on that fine line between politically incorrect and racist. This ad sits on that very thin boundary. When people look at it, they know it’s pushing the envelope on a racially charged topic but at the end of the day I believe it was produced for the sake of humor. Now whether it was good humor or bad humor that is up to the person seeing the ad.

 

Endless stereotypes in Glee

On the surface, Glee looks like a happy musical television show, however, the more you watch it, the more obvious the stereotypes become.  Glee appears to have someone from almost every ethnic background available on the show and they’re all into singing anywhere anytime.  Here’s a few of the common stereotypes found on Glee.  The two Asian characters on the show have the same last name. The awkward Jewish character has an afro and his name is Ben Israel; he’s also as sexually deranged as Gladstone. The Latina cheerleader is actually named Santana Lopez, and there’s even an Irish exchange student who is immediately believed to be a leprechaun whom can bring luck to the students.  The African American girl always sings the big gospel notes, the gay kids have the great fashion sense and excellent hairstyles.  There is a student advisor that is red headed and often referred to as crazy, aka the crazy red head.  The Asians are all very good in school and the students often copy their work and cheat off of them on tests because they’re Asian, they must be smart!  There is also a fiery, underprivileged Latina who also happens to be a lesbian, a blonde cheerleader who is so dumb that she has a negative GPA and so many others.  Another stereotype is the abusive jock that bullies the gay kids so he can look superior in front of his friends.  In one episode, the bully actually realizes that he is in fact gay and tries to hang himself in his bedroom with a belt. Everyone is a something on this show.  One episode revolved around a Jewish girl wanting a nose job to look like one of the white characters and it included a duet of the two girls singing “I Feel Pretty.”  Their message was that we’re all beautiful just the way we are, even if we’re not normal.  The episode this happened in was called “Born This Way.”  Another episode entitled “Asian F” is about one of the Asian characters getting an A-, which is so terrible that his father demands daily drug testing for him. And that’s such a great example of why Glee continues to float under the radar, because they made that ridiculous stereotype the focus of an entire episode. Glee’s producers seem to think that by shoving their parade of characters and their intense stereotypes in your face, rather than having them be subtle, it negates it all.  They seem to think that because the stereotypes are acknowledged that it isn’t an issue, but this of course is not the case for the people that it affects.

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Sexist Portrayals of Female Superheroes

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http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/05/15/483744/scarlett-johansson-on-the-ridiculous-sexist-portrayals-of-superheroines/?mobile=nc

 

This article quotes Scarlett Johansson as praising her character Black Widow in The Avengers, because she, unlike previous female superheroes is not “fighting in a bra”. It is true that female superheroes are usually either highly sexualized, emotionally unstable or both. I agree with this statement, but the marketing of The Avengers definitely used Johannson’s sex appeal to sell the movie.

The fact that female superheroes are pretty much always sexualized is a form of patriarchy, since it portrays even the most physically capable women as sex objects, and marginalizes them into a very specific role (below men). When the media shows female “heroes” as things to be ogled over, this sends the message that all women are nothing more than eye candy, because even the most powerful women are shown as sex objects. Male heroes are rarely (if ever) sexualized, and are judged by audiences based on their abilities. Female superheroes are almost always judged based on physical attractiveness.

The article goes on the argue that the difference between male and female superheroes “should be a means of articulating that there are multiple kinds of power that are equally effective, not that being a woman with powers means you can never be equal to a man”. In other words, female superheroes don’t have to act like their male counterparts, but there are many ways of portraying them that does not place them below male heroes. The article then says that there is nothing wrong with having attractive female superheroes, and argues that “Their bodies can be admirable, but they should be framed so we admire what these heroes are capable of accomplishing with those bodies, not solely as objects of consumption”. In a way, by doing this society has commodified female power. For the most part, people do not buy comic books or see movies of female superheroes simply for the story, but instead to see a highly sexualized woman fighting crime.

The picture above shows Halloween costumes of popular female superheroes. They all show a lot of skin and are intended to be “sexy”. There are no “sexy Superman” costumes for men, but there are plenty of “sexy Supergirl” costumes. This way of thinking values physical attractiveness in females over their abilities. Johansson’s Black Widow is a step in the right direction, but she is not completely desexualized. In the future, there may be female superheroes who are valued solely for their abilities, but as of right now that is simply not the case.

The Walking Dead: Andrea

Walking Dead is a show about apocalyptic America where zombies run the streets in search for the last survivors. The show is about of a group of survivors in Atlanta Georgia, which shows their struggles to stay alive in the new world. In the first season, when hiding on the outskirts of Atlanta, the women’s role in the group was to take care of the meals, watch the children and wash the clothes of the other members. In the series, the women’s responsibility is that of caretakers. Throughout the series, most of these women still retain this stereotypical role.

One character in particular, Andrea, tries to break the dominant ideology of women as care takers by taking on dangerous roles. Andrea’s character is a strong and opinionated woman who attempts to break the stereotypes that women recieve.

After the death of her sister, Andrea wants more responsibility in the group by providing protection. Although this is a role the men usually take upon themselves, Andrea is forced to prove that she is capable of such a task. Throughout the series the men of the group oppress Andrea and her ideas. The men of the group do not take Andrea seriously with her offer of protecting the group. Later in the series Andrea is then taught how to use and maintain a gun properly and learns to protect the group from the zombies.

While trying to break the stereotypical role of a woman, Andrea is then marginalized from the group. When at a farm where the group seeks refuge, Andrea begins to feel like an outcast of the group. At the end of the third season, she is separated from the group and forced to fend for herself.

In the stages of representation of Andrea, I feel that her character is at the respect stage. This is true due to the actions that Andrea takes upon herself in the series.Image