Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running in Circles

by 8RG:

So I've been watching a trend for many years that is an intense exercise in frustration.

Again and again I read posts from various site forum members complaining about the state of the Asian male representation in the popular Western media. The latest case of such is yet another complaint about the character created by Ken Jeong in 'Hangover 2'.

I can't speak much on the specific details because I haven't seen either of the 'Hangover' movies - I've been on a diet of around 80% International films since the creation of the home video industry in my youth and at least half or more of those are from the various movie industries of Asia. In all honesty, I've never seen any of Jeong's work beyond the little taste from research I did this morning - I had to give up my television service a while back to streamline my finances. I hate to say it - but I really don't miss it as much as I was afraid I would before cancelling. I was paying a lot of money for background noise that I found repetitive and boring most of the time, I now realize.

But from descriptions online, the complaints of these various board members and checking out a couple of bits on YouTube it doesn't sound like the specific character in this movie is a shining example of a strong Asian male representation (and I would like to clarify now that none of my comments are intended to describe Jeong the person - since I don't know him, of course).

By now you are probably thinking I'm about to go on a rant about Jeong's character and the unfair media and the problem of stereotyping and so on.

Well... I'm not. I'm laying the problem square in the laps of those who help generate it. The laps of these very board members doing the complaining - Asian American males in a lot of cases and various women who claim to be supportive of creating positive change but who ultimately are just spewing a lot of lip service to score online compliments and ego stroking from said males (without actually doing anything tangible in the real world).

Because here is what happens. 

You see, these folks knew going in - before handing their dosh over to the ticket seller - that they were probably going to hate this character. They were already aware of what it was going to be like because they had already seen the first 'Hangover' movie. And complained about it at the time!

And yet - having the freedom of choice that we all have - they voted with their wallets and supported the very characterization that they claimed to despise by going to see the sequel. They gave money to the the Money Men (and Women) for a role that the Money Men now assume (since it made them a profit) must be the right direction to head in to make more money. The end.

In the last couple of years there have been some forays into the 'heroic Asian male lead'/'romantic Asian male lead' genre by the Money Men here in the West. They weren't exactly my favorite kinds of  films because they were more of the 'action adventure/martial arts' business favored by the masses. If you ever do start checking out the offerings from Asia itself you will find far superior, far more interesting work (even in the Action categories).

Be that as it may - these attempts to present the Asian male in a heroic light on Western big screens appeared. And many of these very same complainers went in one of three directions concerning this most recent 'testing of the waters' by Hollywood:

  • They didn't see the movie in theaters but waited to watch it at a discount from a rental service.

  • They didn't see the movie in theaters but waited to download it somehow illegally and watch it for free.

  • They didn't see the movie at all.

Following that - many of them went in another two directions (often at the same time):

  • They didn't purchase the follow up DVD or any other support products.

  • They complained long and loud publicly that the movies sucked (by their apparently very sophisticated standards).

One of those movies grossed around $5,666,340. A loss for the Money Men.

What is the price of a movie ticket these days?

If every person who claimed to be Asian or part-Asian in the US during the most recent census count had purchased a ticket - that same movie might have made something more like $138,566,848. A profit for the Money Men.

Of course - some of that number would need to be reduced to reflect the very old and the very young in the community who would not be buying a ticket, but if perhaps the rest would go see the movie twice or - I dunno - take a date, that amount could easily be made up or even surpassed. If these so called 'supportive women' of every race had also purchased a ticket or two - even more so.

And it goes beyond the cinema. What about musicians and other performers?

There have recently been quite a number of opportunities to purchase tickets for tours and local shows in North America from both Native Asian groups (mostly from Corea and Japan) and Asian American groups.

Off the top of my head, I can recall events on North American soil involving Wonder Girls with 2PM', BoA, Kangta, Zhang Li Yin, VAMPS, Steve Byrne, X Japan, International Secret Agents, Miyavi, David Choi, Super Junior, Far East Movement, Luna Sea, Kazha, Girls Generation, Kollaboration, Henry Cho, The Slants, and so on...

How many of this complaining set purchased a ticket for one of these shows?

When asked why they don't support Asian artists and performers in the real world versus endless chit chat about why Asian artists aren't successful in the West online (usually it is the fault, in their opinion, of those other people keepin' the Asian man down), they have a litany of convenient (but hollow sounding) excuses.

Among other things:

  • They are too tapped out financially and their life is such a struggle because of some terrible tragic complication (although they go on fancy trips, buy tickets for non-Asian artists, can afford to be on the internet all of the time and seem to dress quite well).

  • They just don't like any of the Asian artists they see (among the thousands that are out there hustling their creative blood, sweat and tears from every field, every day).

  • The work is crap (apparently, by their impeccable standards, all of it).

  • They live too far away from the action - no Asian work at all in their down in the boondocks world (though the last time I checked there are movie theaters all over the place, you can buy tickets, DVDs and CDs among other things online, iTunes now exists, Amazon still sells books and Asian people often write them, shows are streamed online and so on...)

    • They are waiting for a specific artist to come to their area - then they will surely buy a ticket to see that one single artist (even if that artist had just been in their area a month or two before this was mentioned and yet they apparently did not buy a ticket at that time).

    They are just empty excuses when someone happens to notice that they are all talk and no walk, of course. At least buy a DVD or a  CD once in a while.

    If they don't support the artists who are out there in the middle of the fray hustling their hearts out for their art - what sort of message does that send to the Money Men who have the power to fund more of these events in the future? The Money Men are in the business to make a profit. It is as simple as that. If a group makes them money hand over fist - they will not care what their race is. If Asian performers start making bank for the Money Men - the Money Men will hire more Asian performers. If positive Asian portrayals make more money than negative ones - there will be more positive portrayals.

    If the complainers could pause for breath long enough to actually get in the game and support real change - then real change will begin to manifest.

    So I've rather lost a lot of sympathy for the complainers and their complaints. They are just wasting time running in circles.

    I for one have never seen 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' though I am quite the old movie fan and even generally appreciate Audrey Hepburn. I've had some people furrow their brows at my stance on this, confused because it is "such a classic!".

    But I have never seen it because I know of the existence of the awful Rooney yellow face character - Mr. Yunioshi. I've never offered a dime or my time to support it. Curiosity about what I might be missing has not been enough to override my financial vote on the matter.

    And that's how it's done, folks.

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