Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ai Yah!: A Generally Bad Week in Asian Affairs

I've been apprehensive about blogging this week, mostly because I've been so crazy busy, but also because it's been a ridiculously bad week in all things Asian-N.American related. I'll start with the easy and work my way up:

I.Asian-American, brand: (courtesy Angry Asian Man) SnapDragon Consultants, a market research firm of some sort, recently released a Top Ten list of things every brand should know about Asian-American Youth. Here's the list:

1. Many Asian-American youth feel excluded and misunderstood by most brands. It's made worse by the fact that they see advertisers actively wooing the African-American and Hispanic markets.
I find this true in a general sense. I still get sort of excited when I see an Asian male on television (or Asian females if they're not in some sort of weird over-sexualized dragon lady role) outside of some sort of newscaster role, but I get weirded out by things as overt as MTV Chi. I don't need another crappy MTV product in general, much less one specialized for my ethnic group.

This commercial is a good case on point. Is Tim Horton's Angry Chinese Dad character supposed to appeal to my sensibilities? Don't they know their Honey Cruller and Boston Cream donuts are enough? Shizz is like crack.

2. Mixed race kids are proudly identifying as Hapa, a once derogatory word in Hawaiian to mean "half." Hapa is also slang for marijuana in Japanese (spelled Happa). Hapa is supplanting terms like Amerasian, biracial, and blasian.
I generally call my mixed-race friends terms like "Jay" and "Marco."

3. Asian-American youth are secret fans of "easy listening" adult contemporary music. Lite FM is a hidden passion.
Well, duh, but I would hardly make this an ethnically specific phenomenon. Quite basically, I grew up listening to lite FM because my mom listened to it alot (when Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" came on, I knew I had roughly ten minutes to finish my breakfast, and when the Bangles' "Eternal Flame" came on, I knew I had to rush out to meet the bus). I scanned through my iTunes, and this was the best example I could find:

4. There's a "hero gap" among Asian-American kids, which is being filled for many by activists from other cultures. Martin Luther King is a role model and hero to many young Asian-Americans.
Not true. There's a lack of Asian figures in the mainstream media in general, activist or not, but that's not to say they don't exist. And - surprise! - MLK is a good hero, lack of Asian choices or not.

5. Most Asian-American kids refer to white people as "white people" the same way African-Americans do.
Sure, whitey. OR: I have no idea what this means.

6. Underage gambling is huge. The "new" American poker obsession is nothing new to Asian-American kids. Gambling has a long history in Asian culture.
Couldn't say, UNO is my fave card game. Once I volunteered in the count room of a casino, and one of the other volunteers asked the supervisor what Pai Gow was. The supervisor looked at me and said "you must know." I still don't know what Pai Gow really is.

7. Asian-American kids want an end to the hyper-nerdy images of themselves on TV and want to see more punked-out skater and graffiti DJ images which reflect a different energy. Asian-American kids crave street credibility -- not just academic accolades.
Oh, Christ - the last thing I want is more 'punked-out skater and graffiti DJ images,' regardless of colour. Another example of how off-target market research can be.

8. Asian-American kids universally hate the question: Where are you from - especially since the answers are usually something like "Westchester" or "Boston."
This was probably true when I was 10, but gradually grows untrue when you realize "Westchester" is a more boring answer than not.

9. All things Korean are hot and getting hotter. Fashion. Foods. DJs. Online communities. Korea is the new Japan.
I noticed this change a few years back in Hong Kong, a year or two after the Asian market collapse, and I don't have a single complaint about it.

10. The 15 minutes of seemingly benign American Idol fame for William Hung had a surprisingly negative effect on Asian-American students. There's a feeling that Hung perpetuated the worst stereotypes about Asian people and gave non-Asians permission to indulge in two years of racial stereotyping and mocking.
Y'know, I've never actually felt much shame over the William Hung thing, though I do note that Angry Asian Man has voiced his beef with it. I never felt Hung was being used a stereotype of Asians so much as a nut that loved Ricky Martin, and I've never heard it as anything other than such. If anything, I was more embarrassed to find that the HK studios felt a need to give Hung an extra fifteen minutes in Where's Mama's Boy?

II.Asian-American, playa-hater: It's utterly shocking that Asian Week didn't kybosh Kenneth Eng's article, "Why I Hate Blacks." The article (avail in the comments from this Hyphen post) was generally a weakly connected point form list of Eng's various life experiences, which included this:

"Blacks hate us. Every Asian who has ever come across them knows that they take almost every opportunity to hurl racist remarks at us. In my experience, I would say about 90 percent of blacks I have met, regardless of age or environment, poke fun at the very sight of an Asian. Furthermore, their activity in the media proves their hatred: Rush Hour, Exit Wounds, Hot 97, etc."

That type of sentiment is echoed in many of Eng's blog posts (links avail courtesy Poplicks), which generally paint Eng as an intolerant, angry dude with little in way of social tact (that's putting it lightly). Eng does a large disservice to those of us that also take issue (albeit in a much more well-measured way) with some of the same issues that peeve Eng off, and threaten to draw attention away from those problems to focus on Eng's colossal dumb-ass-ness and misconceived as some sort of group belief. What's equally hard to watch were the inevitable eye-for-an-eye, "Why I Hate Asians" type responses, the whole thing being a spiraling, eye-for-an-eye intolerant mess.

III.Asian-Canadian, misunderstood: I've harped on the comments people leave at the Globe and Mail before, but the ones on this Michael Jackson story made me cringe that much more, in light of the above. The story, a simple "Mike's charging Japanese fans $3500 a pop for face time," brought a slew of 'those wacky Japs' comments, including this gem:

"Terry H from Moncton, Canada writes: Waste of good yen. Of course it's the Japanese we are talking about here. They pay craploads of big bucks for anything weird. Can we say sushi and monkey brains? Japan is the only country who still wants the freak I guess. They live in the past, way far in the past. I bet they think Elvis is still alive."

Wow - "Monkey brains." My only response: see Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway song, above.

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