Tuesday, September 05, 2006
traveling friends, bloggers with deep thoughts


When I was in 9th grade Honors English class (my first year as a "giftie"), my teacher Mr. Spears would always have these quasi-philosophical things to say like "a piece of writing is never done until it's taken from you" or "writing is an art and a discipline". He was a harsh, strict teacher with some odd quirks, and as a cynical student, I never really appreciated him much... especially since all it took for me to drive him crazy enough to kick me out of the classroom was a combined choir of noise of snapping binders and clicking erasers, courtesy of myself and another conspirator, Doug Ferguson.

Now that I'm older, I can appreciate that I actually did learn a lot from him... not only how to improve my own writing, but how to appreciate other people's writing, especially via this wonderous medium that we call the 'Net AKA the World Wide Web.

Since lately my own inspiration has been dry, I've been doing a lot of reading of other people's stuff...

  • davefonic's been roadtripping 'round the Southwest US and just got back. Apparently, people thought he was a Navajo. Funny enough, when I was in high school, I traveled a couple times to the Eastern Washington area, I heard people say they thought I was a Native American too... since then, I've striven to enhance my Chinaman good-looks.

  • Jon is up in Yamanashi, Japan, close to Mt. Fuji.

  • david and chris are finishing up a short-term mission doing social work and intervention in Southeast Asia, having worked primarily with the Karen people minority group in Thailand.

  • Hui Jeong has been posting transcript excerpts from an impressive oral history project she did about her mother, covering everything from her early life in Korea to her life in America. It's an excellent read and an inspiration to me, since for a long time, I've been wanting for a long time to do an oral history project on my family, especially my mom's mother and father. For Hui Jeong's Yuhl-Sheem project read part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6; part 7; part 8.

  • sarah writes about her experiences as a Korean adoptee, her investigations into her past, and her own general thoughts. Not light reading, especially the translated transcripts of interviews with various mothers who were interviewed for a documentary about the Korean birth mothers of adoptees... heartwrenching stuff.


Asian American film

Has it progressed beyond the "Joy Luck Club"?

I'd like to think so, but in some ways, it seems that it has not... witness the vigorous debate over the movie "Red Doors" over at Mike2Cents Xanga and on the Fighting44s forum.

It's impossible to summarize the entire debate, but consider this: "Red Doors" is a film that claims to represent the Asian American experience and has asked for support from the Asian American community, but the story of the film revolves around a Chinese family's three daughters who... are involved in varying romatic relationships with WHITE MEN. Now one, I can understand... two, OK... but three?! Oh yeah, apparently the lone major Asian American male characer in the picture is the father of the three daughters, a recently retired man who is obsessed with suicide.

Sound suspect to you? Yeah, you're not the only one.

Unlike "Better Luck Tomorrow", "Saving Face" or "Americanese", I ain't supporting this one (read the Fighting44s debate for some good reasons, especially posts by Xian, toml, Scowl, and Seraph). Apparently, even at screenings, the director was unable to explain why her film reinforced the absence of Asian American men and their invisibleness even in "Asian American film". A quote from someone who attended a screening:

I attended the premiere of Red Doors at the Tribeca Film Fest last year. I was really looking forward to the film--i waited in line in the drizzling cold rain, got into the theater and didn't even get a seat at first--but i waited and anticipated. Unfortunately, at the end of the film, it fell far from my expectations. I won't go into my likes and dislikes of the movie because i wanted to post about how Ms. Lee thoroughly left me dumbfounded by her response to a question from the audience.

Someone asked why none of the love interests were Asian American. Ms. Lee responded initally by saying that she expected someone to ask her that question. With that introduction, i expected an answer that would be thoughtful and perhaps enlightening to hundreds of people who packed the theater -- maybe she can actually address stereotypes and images.

To my astonishment, her response seemed to reinforce why a filmmaker wouldn't cast an Asian American male actor and tell people an easy way to get around with Asian American representation. She continues to explain that the audience member is wrong. That there was an Asian American love interest -- the second daughter's lesbian lover is in fact played by an actress who is half-Asian. She further explains that Mia Riverton speaks fluent Mandarin, better than anyone else she knows. In my mind, she was saying that to be Asian, you must speak an Asian language.

Ms. Lee continues explaining to the audience that the male love interests were really complicated characters. Take for example, the older daughter's former love. Ms. Lee said she had to find an actor that not only could act, but had to also be able to sing and play the guitar. So, I and others interpreted this to mean that it's too hard to find an Asian American actor to fill such a complicated role. AT NO POINT that night, did she mention that she had cast an APA male in the role but something happened that she had to recast. Only until reading some later responses, did i find that out.

I was just completely disappointed by Ms. Lee because i thought she had an opportunity to really address the issue of representation head on. I would have respected her response if she addressed how APAs are represented in the media, or talked how she did try to cast an APA male in the role and why she wanted to cast someone APA. I would have loved if she talked about her reason to cast white males in those roles -- how it was important to add to the story she was telling. But she didn't. And to me, it seemed as if she didn't get it -- she didn't understand why it would be an issue. She lost a great opportunity to educate filmgoers. And she lost me as a result of it.

Posted 9/2/2006 at 10:27 PM by veruca88

I encourage everyone else to NOT support this film... spread the word. The AA community deserves better than a decade more of "Joy Luck Club" rehashes and rip-offs of previous established master works like "Eat Drink Man Woman". Wait instead for showing of "The Motel", or "Shanghai Kiss". Save your support for them.


thanks for the link to my writing gar. i'm glad you like my oral history... even though i am a little bit embarrassed at my translation/ writing...

i wrote a really long comment in response to your post abt red doors, but decided i will respond on my blog instead. check it out okay?
amy>it's good stuff! no need to be embarassed at all... I feel privileged to read it, and at the same time, a bit convicted that I really need to do something similar for my own family's stories sometime in the future.

I'll be sure to check yer blog for your "Red Doors" commentary.
i agree with your choice to not support the film, but am disappointed at the tone and direction of the debate about the movie. the casting of white romantic leads is besides the point to me in that it obscures the fact that this is plainly a bad movie...and i think the firestorm around the movie is testament to that.

for example, if you look at "saving face", it had pretty much the same dearth of asian male leads(disregarding the obvious fact that that was not what the movie was about), but the movie was able to overcome that because it was just plainly well done which allowed you to be seduced by its charms and forget about politics.

"red doors" is just clunky and obvious, and badly made so that you dont have a chance to be seduced into the story of these rudimentary and paper-thin characters, and instead stay focused about whatever it is that bothers you, which in the case of many young aa males is the casting.

furthermore, and i dont know if this is a lack of history or what on many young asian american members of the community (which is sad and topic for another discussion altogether), is your point about this film being a rehash of other better made films, which is the main thing that irked me about this movie. watching this movie was like seeing 5 different movies smushed into one including:

"harold and maude"
"joy luck club"
"eat drink man woman"
"saving face"

go see those movies and you wont need to see "red doors"
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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

the facts.
name. Gar AKA "that Chinese guy" "Sleepy.McSleeping"
ethnicity/nationality. Chinese/American, 4th gen.
location. Sea-Town, WA, USA Kawanishi, JAPAN
occupation. less-cynical poor grad student
age. younger than you think, older than you know



UnseenGC @ AIM
(myname) @ gmail.com



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