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Super Asian America at San Diego Comic-Con 2017

August 8, 2017

On July 23rd, 2017, Racebending.com hosted our 7th annual panel at San Diego Comic-Con. This year’s panel was a huge hit, featuring some of today’s most talented creators and performers in popular culture! Check out our full panel video, transcript, and highlights below! Highlight images by @thepaperjourney.

SUPER ASIAN AMERICA

With live-action versions of Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, Hollywood keeps mining Asian culture for inspiration-while sidelining Asian people. At the same time, series like Into the Badlands and Master of None demonstrate how successful shows with Asian leads can be.

The state of Super Asian America in 2017 is assessed by panelists Will Choi (@willschoi, Asian AF), Deric Hughes (@dblackanese, The Flash), Angela Kang (@angelakang, The Walking Dead), C. B. Lee (@author_cblee, Not Your Sidekick), Lewis Tan (@TheLewisTan, Iron Fist), and Dr. Nancy Yuen (@nancywyuen, Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism). Moderated by Racebending.com’s Michael Le.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

C.B.: Hey everyone, say “Hi Twitter!”

AUDIENCE: Hi Twitter!

RACEBENDING: Hey everyone, welcome to the seventh annual panel that Racebending has held at San Diego Comic-Con. As you all know, this is Super Asian America. We’re really excited to be here again. So I’m gonna get started and talk to you about who we have here today.

So first of all, she’s a renowned television writer who’s worked on Terriers and Day One. For the last seven years she’s been a writer, and the past few years been an executive producer on AMC’s critically acclaimed and wildly successful zombie series, The Walking Dead. Angela Kang.

Next up, she’s a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese writer based in California. Author of the young adult book, Not Your Sidekick, it’s the first in a YA science fiction series featuring queer protagonists. She’s been featured in literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, YALLWEST, and Pasadena Lit Fest. Please welcome C.B. Lee.

So he is the comedic genius behind hit UCB show, Asian AF, I can’t say a thing right now. As well as Scarlett Johansson Presents. He started up in Los Angeles and now is out in New York, so he’s spreading nationwide. He is also the viral creator of the Scarlett & Emma & Tilda & Matt shirts. Please welcome one of NBC Asian America’s breakout stars of 2017, Will Choi.

Next up we have the stunt talent behind films including Olympus Has Fallen, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and Tokyo Drift. He’s acted in shows such as CSI: Miami, NCIS: Los Angeles and Hawaii 5-0. He made waves recently with a scene-stealing turn as Zhou Cheng, challenger to the Iron Fist. In his Comic-Con debut we have Lewis Tan.

So she’s an associate professor and the chair of the sociology department of Biola University. She is the author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, the first book to examine the barriers that actors of color face in Hollywood and how they creatively challenge stereotypes. She also pioneered the first study of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on television. Please welcome professor Nancy Wang Yuen.

I’m very excited to have our last panelist here, he’s a former Marine, he’s a producer/writer for all kinds of television, video games and comic books. You probably know him for work on shows as varied as Warehouse 13, Beauty and the Beast, and The Flash. Currently, he’s the co-executive producer on MTV’s Scream, we have Deric Hughes.

DERIC: Sorry, I would be more enthusiastic but Comic-Con is great. I don’t know about y’all, but I been here since Wednesday and my feet feel like I need to trade them in for new feet.

RACEBENDING: This is like your third panel or something like that?

DERIC: Uhh, yeah, third panel, it’s crazy. I mean I love it, I love it. Nerd Super Bowl, right?

RACEBENDING: Well thanks for making the time at the end of the con, when you’re falling on your feet.

DERIC: How could I miss this panel? This is an amazing panel, and I love the turnout. Thank you all for coming to this.

RACEBENDING: So on that note, the first question is actually for Angela and Deric. You guys work behind the scenes on some of our favorite shows. And you’ve been in television for several years, and I was wondering if you have a sense for, have things changed in terms of the landscape for Asian American representation, and if so, how? If not, then what do you think is gonna happen as we continue on?

ANGELA: Umm, hello. It’s hard for me to give a clean answer to that. Here’s what I’ll say, I’ll say that it seems that right now we have a moment where there is some receptiveness to shows with Asian leads. You know, I don’t think Master of None would have existed ten years ago. I think that’s pretty cool, and there are other shows that are in development about Asians, you’re seeing more Asian Americans pop up in various series.

But it’s also still, in general in Hollywood there are still problems of representation across the board. But you know, Asian Americans are not known for being a group that has had a vocal activist group in Hollywood in some ways, and so I think it’s been easy to kind of go like, oh, we’re cool. We have an Asian American here or there, and it’s all good. I’ve certainly been part of discussions with various people recently, both writers and actors, producers and directors who are all trying to look at how do we increase representation even more? So I think in some ways, things are improving. I think in some ways, things feel very much like a status quo.

DERIC: Yeah, I’d agree. I think we still have a long ways to go but I think where the shift is happening is you, the fans, the audience, everybody coming together and raising their voices and basically showing and demonstrating, with your viewership, what you like, what you don’t like, and being very vocal about it.

I think that’s the change that if social media hasn’t really leveled that playing field, it’s encouraging because there still is a very big pushback. It’s like the invisible silent majority, right? So I think if anything, that’s what I get most excited about is just the interaction of the fans and the passion that’s really making people sit up and take notice. But still a lot of work to do, and I just encourage more people to get involved. We need more people in front of the camera, behind the camera, and it’s gonna take a nation, basically, right?

RACEBENDING: A tall order. So Will, speaking of activism, and people being active to critics and media, you kind of generated a lot of buzz with your comedy show, you’re both going to Hollywood, you cite Scarlett Johansson as a sponsor of your show. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you when you broke that ground?

WILL: Yeah, I mean the timing of everything was, I don’t want to say perfect, but it was in terms of there were all these movies coming out that had some issues with whitewashing, or the white savior, or whatever. And for me I just took that opportunity to be like, we’re all feeling the same thing, we’re all feeling frustrated or ignored, or whatever, and I just wanted to address that in a comedic way. So I created a comedy show and it’s really taken on a life of its own because Hollywood is giving me so much material.

So it’s like, great! You keep on doing this, I’m gonna keep on making fun of it. And it feels like the general consensus from the community, not just only Asian Americans but just everyone who feels like it’s not okay has been so supportive of it and now it’s been growing a lot bigger than I ever could have really imagined. So, that’s it.

RACEBENDING: So CB, a lot of your work focuses on queer, Asian American protagonists. It’s a very specific identity that we don’t see. That’s that end of that sentence.

C.B.: Yeah, I mean, we exist. And I think a lot of people don’t realize and are like, oh hey, you can only be Asian, or you can only be gay, or you can only be one thing. But we all are part of multiple communities and I think it’s important that we all look at the intersections of those communities.

And when you have characters that represent, you know, you have a disabled character who’s a character of color. You have a queer character who has superpowers, or you know, having these intersections, it’s important to me because I didn’t see them as a kid, growing up.

And it’s kind of what inspired me to start writing, and this book really was for my 16 year-old self. Because I kind of looked at all the heroes, and I love science fiction and fantasy, and I really loved all these amazing movies where people went off to different planets, or far-off lands and saved the day and had magic spells, and I was like, wow, all these main characters are like white, straight, and when all these characters were having happy endings, I really internalized that. Where I was like, wow, for me as a person, can I have a happy ending? Can I be the hero in my own story? And that’s what really inspired me to write characters that had a lot of my own truth to them.

RACEBENDING: So Lewis, you’ve been pretty outspoken about, well you were in Iron Fist, amazing scene, I don’t know if anyone has seen that scene, fantastic action, et cetera. And since then, you’ve talked a lot about how you actually auditioned to not just challenge Iron Fist but be Iron Fist, and I think that’s something I’d rarely seen where an Asian American actor has been willing to talk about that.

And I’ve seen it more and more in the last couple of years, now seeing the Hawaii 5-0 pay controversy with Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park stepping off the show because they wanted to be paid the same as their white co-workers. And you’ve been in the industry for a while, and I was wondering, did you feel like, what made you feel like this was a time where you could step up and not necessarily be punished for having opinions?

NANCY: I’ll share my mic.

LEWIS: I was like, they didn’t even give me a mic. They should have paid extra for my mic. Thank you. I feel like a politician or something. I’m gonna remember this forever.

DERIC: That’s how he became Iron Fist.

LEWIS: Uhh, yeah, it’s crazy because, well, I’ve been in this business a long time, and my father is an action choreographer and a stunt performer, and he’s been in the game a long time too so he came over from England for Tim Burton’s Batman and I was living on movie sets when I was a kid, you know? Spielberg’s set, all these different film sets.

It’s all I knew, so it’s like this has always been something that I’ve wanted to achieve but growing up, I just saw my dad playing villains and everything, like I’d watch him in Tango & Cash, and getting choked to death by Kurt Russell and I’d be like crying as a kid. It was crazy, but that was always the case, you know? Like in school, playing bad guys and all that stuff is a lot of fun, the characters are really dark and interesting and there’s a lot you can do as an actor.

But I was kinda like, man, this is all he ever does. Once I started into trained theater and getting to really understanding the art form then I fell in love with the art form. That’s when I was like, alright, I can take it from where he’s brought it and I can try to push the boundaries a little further and take it to the next level.

So that was my goal, that’s what I’ve been working on and trying to do for a long time. So when it came to Iron Fist, it wasn’t like okay, now is the time for me to speak out. I’ve been speaking out.

And I’ve been, I almost booked Zuko in Airbender. I honestly booked a lot of different roles, that were, it was almost like, yeah, this guy’s good and we’ll keep him there as an option in case we go ethnic. But they never did.

That’s what I’ve been refusing to do. That’s what I’ve been dealing with my whole life, and just the timing, I don’t know if it’s because of social media, I’m sure it was a conglomerate of all these different things, but people started to speak up. And slowly, you know, Will’s doing his thing, everyone’s doing their part. And people were really outspoken on Twitter and on social media, and I wasn’t even trying to like drop a bomb on everyone or you know, make a big deal.

I think I just tweeted like three words. Someone was like, you should have read for that. And I was like, I did. So it wasn’t like I was trying to make a big deal out of it but the people have spoken, and the people want to see themselves represented. Whether or not Iron Fist should be made with an Asian American is up for a never-ending debate. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to say, we should all do our part, like whatever you’re doing, if you’re a writer, if you’re an actor, being angry about it is okay.

But being angry and just doing nothing and complaining is not okay. You should use that as fuel and let it push you. And that’s what all these roles have done for me. There’s been many times and only my close friends or close circle or family know how close I was to getting this, and how close I was to getting this, and that’s all fuel to the fire for me and I embrace it. And the walls are gonna come down. And look at the room, the room’s full. That’s great, you know?

RACEBENDING: You can slide the mics back for Nancy.

So Nancy, we’ve been talking about this actually where Hawaii 5-0 and the cast issues there and I know that you’ve done the research into Asian representation onscreen, and I was wondering about what do you think about how that situation has progressed, and how reflective is that in the industry where you have Asian American characters who have substantial screen time, who arguably are main characters. But then behind the scenes they’re still not equal. Is that common?

NANCY: Yeah, so 10 years ago we did a report and a study of Asian Americans in primetime television, and there weren’t that many, right? And now 10 years later we’re doing a follow-up and what we looked at differently from past studies is screen time, right?

So whether you’re looking at, okay this is an ensemble cast, and they say that there’s a diverse cast, right? And there’s Asian Americans, but are they actually on par with the white actors in terms of if they’re a regular character?

And just before, so we’re literally putting together the finishing touches in September we’re hoping to release the newest report.

And I had just looked up the Hawaii 5-0 this weekend, the screen time, and it’s about a three minute difference between O’Laughlin’s character and Grace Park’s character and then another 30 seconds lower for Daniel Dae Kim’s, but then Scott Caan’s character isn’t even on there and I don’t know if you guys have been following but I think when CBS put the show on they said, oh well, Grace, you know, we were trying to accommodate her schedule of not wanting to do a full season, but then the previous season, Scott Caan didn’t do a full season and he’s obviously doing very well.

And so the screen time isn’t complete, but three minutes isn’t that much, so they are an ensemble cast, I would argue, but I think that this is a really poor decision on the part of CBS, but the good that came out of it is that now people realize the pay differentials and that Asian American actors are speaking up for the first time, and some statistics I’m gonna drop is that if you didn’t know, Asian Americans are the highest users of digital streaming, and also we are, of all the groups, we have the highest percentage of people watching, going to see movies. And we’re the fastest growing population in the United States. So these are all really powerful numbers, right? And we need to gather together and use our power in mass in order to make our voices heard because with Ghost in the Shell I think what’s significant about that, as we all know,

DERIC: Such an amazing movie. So beautifully done.

NANCY: I think what’s great about, no, it’s not a great movie at all. What’s great about, again, good things coming out of big horrible things is that it really galvanized the community, right? And I think that even the studio admitted that the whitewashing controversy might have contributed to the fact that it did poorly at the box office. And I’d never seen that.

DERIC: Probably first time ever,

NANCY: Yeah.

DERIC: That a studio was like, oh, our bad.

NANCY: Yes, they always want to give another reason, right? They don’t wanna say that it’s because the audience was pissed.

DERIC: It’s the weather!

NANCY: And I know that Asian Americans, not just on social media but also in person, protested openings, and that was really powerful.

WILL: Yeah, I protested and we had a show the same night as the opening night of Ghost in the Shell. And we did a Ghost in the Shell musical. And none of the writers had any idea what the movie or the manga was about, so it was just us doing Wizard of Oz with Matt, Tilda, Emma and Scarlett, and they had to follow the Yellowface road.

RACEBENDING: Sounds like a pretty faithful adaptation.

WILL: Yeah yeah, we were pretty accurate.

RACEBENDING: About as accurate as the Hollywood version, I have to say.

LEWIS: Yeah, that was hilarious. I know why they didn’t give me a mic now, so I can’t blurt this shit out.

DERIC: It’s your first con, you’ll get it.

RACEBENDING: It’s always striking to me that the different excuses Hollywood comes up with for why they won’t cast Asian people. They’re like, oh yeah, we swear that, you know, Finn Jones was definitely the most charismatic actor. He was the most athletic, the most skilled. I love this line that Lewis has during his scene where he looks at Finn Jones, alright this is too personal maybe, but he’s like, oh, do you really think you’re better than me? And I thought, right now, Lewis Tan is speaking for Asian America.

LEWIS: I’m currently working on something even better than Iron First right now that I can’t talk about.

AUDIENCE: Awwww!

LEWIS: No, that’s supposed to be like an applause, I’m working on something.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You can give us what studio, right?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s a surprise, when.

LEWIS: I never said that. Was that a question, I don’t know?

RACEBENDING: Open-ended comment.

DERIC: He’s working on a re-imagined Tango & Cash.

LEWIS: Yeah, you know, that was a crazy job. That was a lot of work, you know what I mean? To do all the, I mean I do martial arts, I’ve been doing martial arts my whole life, it’s very close to me and my family, and something that I love. I consider it a really important art form.

It’s like meditation to me, but I don’t know drunken Kung Fu, and they call me like, do you know drunken style? And I was like, uhh, I’ve been drunk, and I’ve gotten in a fight. Do bar fights count?

And they were like, no. So I had to learn that style. It was draining, because usually when you see drunken it’s on a smaller-viewed, well Jackie obviously probably did the best drunken ever onscreen. So I was watching him and like super intimidated. And I’m like six foot two, like 180, it’s hard for me to move fluid like that. So it took a lot out of me to do as well as do the part, and then I did a totally different accent.

So yeah, it was a lot of work. But I would say it was super gratifying and I felt really humbled after it came out and got so much attention, just that one scene. That people could look up to, and even now, walking around Comic-Con, I get little kids coming up to me, you know, not super little. But kids, younger kids coming up to me and saying, hey man, I kind of got emotional yesterday because some kid was like, I’m a big fan of your work, and he was having a hard time breathing. And I was like, wow, this is crazy.

It was an Asian kid, and I’ve got younger brothers and to me that was huge. Even if it was only this small thing on Iron Fist. But we need that, because we’re not doing this for us, we’re doing this for generations to come. And however far we take it, or I take in my career, or you guys take it then they’re just gonna take it even further. So I think that to have that goal in mind of the bigger picture is really motivating for me and inspiring, and I think that’s the key to it.

RACEBENDING: So another big thing that’s been in the news recently is Death Note. And I told Will we’d talk about this, and now it’s probably gonna get us in trouble somehow, but I want to talk about Masi Oka’s comments about Death Note, he kind of went in and said, it’s taken slightly out of context, but he says I thought it was important that they speak fluent English, and so we went with American actors.

DERIC: I know, Lewis Tan’s English is so broken. I had subtitles to follow it, so I can understand what Masi was talking about!

RACEBENDING: I just thought it was the weirdest thing for Masi to say, given that he’s an Asian American actor, that you couldn’t find, I don’t know, let’s unpack that. Anyone have any thoughts about what Masi was saying here, maybe where he’s coming from?

NANCY: Racism.

C.B.: But what is Death Note about?

RACEBENDING: Oh yeah, for anybody who doesn’t know, Death Note is a really famous Japanese anime and they basically got green lit, it’s coming out as a Netflix series, with mostly white actors.

C.B.: We’re getting Death Note: The Musical.

WILL: I gotta start writing it now.

RACEBENDING: Alright, nobody wants to–

NANCY: I have just a theory, and I saw people after the Q&A, I think a lot of times that Hollywood is still thinking that if they’re gonna cast an Asian, they want to cast a famous actor from Asia, and so they’re like, have you heard of a famous actor from Asian who speaks perfect English?

DERIC: The latest J-pop star.

NANCY: Right, so that’s my theory, which is so problematic, right? In terms of what they’re thinking, in terms of rewarding Asian American actors.

RACEBENDING; Well who are even the white actors in Death Note? Besides Willem Dafoe, I think.

DERIC: I don’t know, there’s that white dude that I’ve seen somewhere. That qualified him right there. That’s how it works, right? Like oh yeah, you were in…

C.B.: I think it’s a really interesting point when you look at casting, when people start to green light these projects, like “who are we gonna cast?” and then it goes back to feeling like, hey, I’m not Asian enough for you? Or I’m too American and not Asian enough and it’s always that feeling, like, if these actors are Asian American and they can’t even get cast in these projects because they’re looking for people from mainland Asian actors, or they’re looking for people who can speak English but they don’t make movies with them?

RACEBENDING: Yeah it’s this weird kind of halfway place where we’re not allowed to fit in within any box. They don’t have a box for us.

DERIC: Well, because it’s the default. We don’t fit into the default and on the cultural standpoint, it’s not about us, it’s about them, so to speak, and everything starts with them in that box. So anything outside of that is sort of the exception. And so every role that’s cast starts from that place. And it’s ingrained.

And so we have to fight against that. But it’s come to a point where in this town, in this business, it’s not even foreign because it happens so often. So when you do a cast an Asian American, then they’re not thinking, like, oh, it’s an American. They’re thinking like, oh, well I sent the Asian cat there, but wait, he doesn’t have an accent.

You know, and it messes them up for a minute there. And those are the small little micro things that are continuously happening. And you just have to call them out and be aware of them, and try to do better.

C.B.: And I think that’s one of the amazing things about kind of our recent age, is that people are not afraid to be like, hey, there’s something wrong with this picture. There’s something wrong with this movie, this TV show, and I think it’s amazing the amount of support people give to actors. And when, you know, actually, hey, this movie is terrible we’re not going to go watch it.

LEWIS: Yeah, I think it’s very important too that we support each other because I think this weekend I think Dunkirk made, like, 50 million, right? Christopher Nolan. And I think Girl’s Night,

DERIC: It’s at 28 right now.

LEWIS: 28?

DERIC: Yeah.

LEWIS: And then Valerian was, like, 150 million it cost to make.

DERIC: 15.

LEWIS: 15, right, but it’s because the black community comes out for their people and to support it. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie, I haven’t seen it so it might be an incredible film, but they support each other and we gotta do the same thing. We gotta support each other and we gotta boycott the stuff that, you know. And that’s how you do it, you hit ’em where it hurts. I mean, studios have one–

DERIC: There was this discussion about well, we’re not sure if it’s going to do well so it’s on less theaters than Rough Night which was on 3000 theaters. And so you have this sort of awesome when it does well they’re surprised, how the hell that happen?

Everybody else be like, you know how it happened. People like me want to see it onscreen. You know, the same way it happened with Get Out, people were like, a black horror movie? It’s like, no, a horror movie. It just has a black cast.

And I think if anybody looks in these Marvel movies, I mean, Black Panther, the fact that it got standing ovation in the hall yesterday, that is like representation on the screen, bigger than life, 100 million dollar plus movie, you know?

And I think that’s what we need, it’s not just a treatment, it’s more like an afterthought or a side project. And I think you’re absolutely right, we need these communities to come together, say, like, we can do better, we can actually build the fight and have those types of big movies and tv shows.

 

LEWIS: I’m not sure if I should say this here, but this is how I feel, so – here goes.

[AUDIENCE laughs]

I don’t know if you guys saw this movie, COLOSSAL, with Anne Hathaway?

I mean, kind of creative concept and stuff, but there was something I didn’t like. She gets drunk and she
just smashes a South Korean town, crushes a city, killing a bunch of people.

Because she turns into a monster, spoiler alert. She’s a monster and she smashes this Korean town, laughing about it, getting drunk with this other dude. And they’re like all doing it.

And I was like, I get it, it’s funny, it’s a fantasy, it’s interesting, and I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s creativity, but I was like, if they did that in Africa, let’s just say it was Africa, and Anne Hathaway was smashing an African city, the black community would be like, whoa, that’s a no no, that’s completely unacceptable, but then the Asian community doesn’t, we need to step up and do the same thing.

Like, no no no, we’re not got gonna take that. That’s a no. We’re not going to support that movie, we’re gonna boycott it, we’ll be loud about it, and you’re not getting our money. And, you know, I think that that’s a great example. Get Out is insane. Where’s the Asian American equivalent? Where are the film makers that are coming out, creating stories that we tell? We tell our own stories and people go, oh, that’s where they’re getting that. Oh, that’s what we sound like. Where’s that, you know what I mean? That’s what I’m waiting for.

WILL: On a very small non-movie or tv scale, that’s kind of what is happening with my show. It’s a live comedy variety show at the UCB Theatre, and if you guys don’t know the UCB Theatre, it’s in New York and LA and it’s a very renowned comedy school and our show sells out tickets in less than 24 hours. That is rock and roller for shows especially live theater.

Amy Poehler is one of the head people of UCB and recently she had a meeting and all she wanted to talk about was Asian AF because of how successful the show has been going and the fact that now it’s in New York, it started in LA, it just doesn’t happen. And so, just to see that sort of work for Asian American community, even on the small scale of my theater and my comedy has been so tremendous for me. And especially when the shirts too, moving right into a bigger platform.

RACEBENDING: You really should be wearing the shirts. You could show it.

WILL: I have some! I sold one to Michele Selene Ang from 13 Reasons Why, she wore the shirt and it exploded because of her, but, yeah. These shirts started off, we made 50. We’re like, hey, we need to raise some money for our show, I think this will be funny.

And she happened to see one. She bought it off of me and I didn’t know she’s an actress, I didn’t know she was going to be on 13 Reasons Why. I sent it over to her and she posted it and it kind of took on a life of it’s own over there on the internet. Yeah, for me it was just like, oh, this was a bad thing that happened. I’m gonna call it out in a way that I think is funny, and I think that really resonated with a lot of people.

RACEBENDING: Just to let everyone know in a few minutes we’re going to open it up to questions at the microphone over there. So if people want to line up and ask, we’ll switch to that shortly.

But before that, I wanted to ask Angela, we already talked about this a little bit before the panel, and we’re talking about now, about how we need to get the studios to listen to us and you were talking about wanting feedback around, for example, the death of Glenn. You don’t get writers to talk online, so I was wondering if you’d talk about seeing that reaction, how it is as someone who’s seen the entire show about it.

ANGELA: It’s an interesting time, you know, like everybody’s talked about how social media, people are speak up, and you sort of have direct access to the people who are working on shows or who are content creators or actors or whatever.

And it’s interesting because you do, like, I’ll say, I’m on Twitter, but I don’t really monitor it all the time in real time, but I would say that’s true of most of the people who work on the show, because we’re just too busy. But sometimes you do see things kind of like, certain sentiments will kind of rise up. And so those things tend to–

RACEBENDING: Grab your attention?

ANGELA: Grab you attention a little more. Same with when, you know, there’s personal heartbreak. Steven Yeun was a great friend of mine who I speak to constantly. And he, you know, I think that it was heartbreaking for not just Asian Americans to see that character die, obviously there’s, as this comic book character, there’s a specific heartbreak in that, but it was really interesting to see how much he had broken out as a character across the general audience and that was

RACEBENDING: So we have time for a few questions so go ahead, I think the mic should be working.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question about cross-cultural adaptations because I was actually open to the idea of Death Note being set in Seattle instead of Japan how Ghost in the Shell was because that was really weird, but then to that comment you just spoke about, but anyway, I loved the show Into the Badlands And they’re seeking to, they’re doing a thing where these enemies, these kids with superpowers to a temple where they train them how to I mean they have not just a black cast who are doing scenes like that, what are the thoughts about that adaptation? Where is the line? When is a cross-cultural adaptation well executed and when is it not? When is it okay and when is it not?

DERIC: Go ahead, man.

NANCY: I think that the issue is that there isn’t enough Asian American representation and that’s why people are looking to every single one of these as so precious, like, oh my god, I can’t believe that this one sucked, because there’s only that one that everyone’s looking at. I think there could be a whole room for yeah, cross-racial adaptation like that. I don’t think people really got mad at that one, that ballroom dancing one that was transported from the Japanese movie to Jennifer Lopez, do any of you–

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I think the Magnificent Seven, too, is Seven Samurai. Magnificent Seven is Seven Samurai.

NANCY: Oh, right, right like that. So it’s not always a problem, but I think that the fact that we are protesting more is that there is really a rareness to representation so we re putting things under a microscope.

So I think that that’s actually a positive social change, right? Because we’re really getting pressure on the studios because we’re tired of not being visible. So I think once there are more representations I think that the room for a whole, wide breadth of representations It won’t be, I think, so scrutinized.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question’s for everyone, the question is about culture and specifically for parents and how they discourage their children My cousin, she want to be an actress, but her mom wants her to run a pharmacy, have a practical– So how do you think we might begin to address that?

ANGELA: I’ll say that I’m one of those people who, you know, I’m the child of immigrants and they came here to hopefully give their children better opportunities. I was the first to be born in the States.

And I was always an artistic kid and I wrote from the time I could pick up a pencil. I was always writing stories, I acted, did music and painted and all that stuff and I was also a great student and so it was very much, here’s this stuff you’ve been doing that’s for fun, to put on your resume, but now it’s time to get serious and go to medical school and be a lawyer or whatever, and I think that’s really common.

But I think it’s part of the great question of where’s the Asian, where’s our Get Out? Where’s our Moonlight or whatever? And a lot of it starts on the content side, the content creator side. I get asked sometimes, well who did you look up to when you were a kid coming up? Or who inspired you to go into this?

Or those types of questions, and I’m like, well, I didn’t think that this was a job that I could have. I couldn’t name anybody that was writing or producing or directing stuff when I was a kid growing up I literally didn’t think this was a job I could have, I didn’t understand that this was, I was like, well, this is just a job that white men do.

I didn’t think that that was possible and I think that what’s nice is that now you can actually see there there are, you know, this whole table, we’re all doing our different things and so it helps to see that there are people who can go into the arts and succeed.

But it is definitely, just culturally, I think for a lot of people who run up against that mindset so it’s just something to be aware of that exists, but until more and more people go into the pipleline and work your way up, that’s where there’s more possibilities for change. You have the power to have a voice and the more of us there are and the more we band together, I think, the more we make a difference.

C.B.: Absolutely, my parents still think that this is a hobby for me. It’s, to an extent, when I was like, oh, I’m gonna write a book. They’re like, oh, okay, you’re still gonna go back to school?

I was in a PhD program and I hated it and I loved science, but I was not, it was not for me, having been a creative person all my life I really wanted to tell stories I found that all the writing I was doing was statistical analysis.

You know, a lot of people were dying, could not see myself doing for the rest of my life and I was so deeply unhappy that I had to make a change and my family, they kind of viewed it as a curiosity. And then, as I got more serious about it, my first book came out in 2015 and it started going they’re like, okay, somebody bought your book, right? I’m like, yeah, actually, it sold out it’s entire first printing which is almost unheard of for a very small press. And we sold out that entire printing.

Not Your Sidekick is actually the first of four books starring all these teenagers and it’s a series. So my parents are like, oh, so you’re serious about this? And I’m like, yeah, I am serious about this.

And it was actually this moment at the LA Times Festival of Books when this girl came up to me and she was 15, she’s Vietnamese, and she was like, hey, I just wanted to talk to you because this is the first time I’ve seen like, Jessica, she speaks Vietnamese, she curses a lot in the movies, which is how snuck all the swears past– But she was like, this was so powerful to me because I’ve never seen a Vietnamese character and Jess is like me, but, you know, I respect Jess, she has brown skin, she’s Asian, she feels a lot, you know, she doesn’t know where she fits in.

And that, when I was having this moment with this amazing girl made my parents like, ah, I can see you’re having an impact on the world, right? And they were understanding even though the cultural aspect is where, like, wow, we really wanted you to be a doctor, but they, their definition of success and my definition of success, and as I think we all, as we grow and learn, find what that definition is to us personally.

I think, you know, our culture and our parents, they really do want the best for us. And I think it’s up to us to have that conversation. If you really want to go arts, like, hey, this is what makes me happy, this is what I can do. I’m gonna go for it. I really, strongly encourage you, everybody to go break your parents’ hearts.

RACEBENDING: We don’t have time for many more questions, real quick I just want to mention the giveaway for Nancy’s book. I think being run by Wonder Woman and Batgirl, is that right?

AUDIENCE: Awwww!

RACEBENDING: If people have questions they can just go see Batgirl and Wonder Woman.

NANCY: I think I’m gonna give the books to the three in the back of the line that don’t get to ask their questions.

RACEBENDING: Okay.

NANCY: I’m sorry, it’s all about the last shall lead.

LEWIS: That’s why she’s a professor, that was smart!

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So this question is for Angela Kang, I’m a big fan of your project I was wondering if any of you

RACEBENDING: I’m sorry, can you say it again?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Sure, I was just wondering if any of you had any recommendations for any podcasts or any media that is Asian American specifically?

WILL: Oh, yeah!

Uh, so my friend Marvin Yueh right over there, he has started the Potluck Podcast Collective. Potluck Podcast Collective. It’s Asian American podcasts. There’s a whole bunch of them that we’ve all collected together, I have two myself.

And yeah, just check that out. And you can see Jeff Yang’s podcast is part of that and I have one called the Korean Drama Podcast where, it’s a podcast where people who don’t watch Korean dramas, I remember seeing one and it was by far the most excruciating thing I’d ever seen in my life. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.

RACEBENDING: How have you never seen a Korean drama?

WILL: I don’t know, but please check out that podcast and there’s a lot of great programs on there.

RACEBENDING: Phil [Yu] is on that one, right?

WILL: Phil is on that one, yeah.

LEWIS: I was on the The Call Us Bruce podcast and I go over to Jeff’s house and he’s like, hey. He has kids there, those kids from Fresh Off the Boat, right? He’s like, you know, my dad went down the street to get pizza, you want pizza? I’m like, yeah, of course I want pizza, right?

So he’s like, you want something to drink? And he’s like, we’re having wine and it’s like, yeah. So he give me, like, Hello Kitty wine, right? I drank it, it was good.

And I was like, why are you giving me all this wine and pizza and everything? And then Jeff finally comes home and he’s like, let’s go do the podcast.

I’m like, cool, where’s the studio? He’s like, it’s in my garage. We go down to his garage, I hope he’s not mad about me telling this story. Me him and Phil are sitting in a box, this is not an exaggeration, from where Will’s head is to right here and we’re all squeezing– And I’m like, that’s why they got me drunk.

RACEBENDING: When we all listen to that podcast later we’ll have that visual.

LEWIS: Don’t worry, one day we’ll have the studio. Well call me back then!

RACEBENDING: Do have time for one more question?

STAFF: If it’s short.

RACEBENDING: Okay, go ahead. Ooh, sorry, sorry. Free book.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: As an Asian American aspiring producer, do you guys have an suggestions for me? I’m definitely new. I actually work for CBS right now and so I’m discouraged about the life I’m living. It’s so bad.

DERIC: Do tell.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well, there’s certain things I can’t say.

DERIC: Of course not, we all agree.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m horribly mad about that. I’m not the boss, I can’t do anything. That’s why I want time to talk, so I can do something about it.

DERIC: Stay in. That’s how you do it. You stay in, you work, you get promoted, you know? Pretty soon you’re running things. You make those decisions that don’t happen that way.

LEWIS: I can see you’re very passionate about it and the fact that you take that feeling, and sit with that feeling, let that feeling fuel you. That’s what you do.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Also, either Angela or David, do you happen to need an assistant?

WILL: Can you do comedy? I need some acts for my comedy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I would love to do comedy.

WILL: You can be my assistant, but I can’t pay you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s no squad, there’s no squad.

ANGELA: I will take your info, just in case.

RACEBENDING: I just want to say thank you to our amazing panelists and thank you all.

LEWIS: I’m gonna get a selfie.

RACEBENDING: They’re gonna get a selfie.

LEWIS: Thank you, guys.

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About the Author

Mike Le is the Media Liaison for Racebending. A native-born Californian, he objects to shoveling snow and is a strong proponent of pollo asado fries. Mike has been interviewed about media diversity by dozens of news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, BBC Radio, and Public Radio International.

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