Monday, 15 July 2013

Asian actors in Hollywood; Misogyny in the gaming community

"A Leading Man" Depicts The Asian Male Actors Struggle In Hollywood - Destroy to Rebuild, 28/12/2012

More Asians actors and actresses in Hollywood pls.

The above link goes to an old post but one that touches on an ongoing issue that doesn't seem to be getting much attention from the mainstream press.  'A Leading Man' is a movie about a good looking Asian American guy named GQ (yes, we all thought of the magazine) who is an actor trying to make it big in Hollywood but struggling to break through the 'bamboo ceiling', a barrier that is described by Lucy Liu as being rejected by Hollywood for not being Asian enough or not being American enough.  And thus, with no strong independent leading roles given to Asians, they are typecast all the time.  You're always playing the 'funny chink' or some martial arts expert.  Those who don't make it into film get by in LA doing advertisements, as GQ seems to be doing in one shot as he takes a huge bite out from a six inch subway.  But this constant struggle with Hollywood's 'quiet racism' takes a toll on GQ, who starts to get really pissed off at the lack of dignity he is given in his roles, as well as the lack of recognition he gets as a real actor.

So in conclusion, it's a movie about how Asian American actors are stuck in an awkward third space that nobody else recognises as a problem in the film industry.

Even now, most Asian American actors and actresses end up playing supporting roles or are eschewed completely for an all-white main cast.  Actors end up playing the stereotypical Kung Fu/Karate guy (Jet Li, Lee Byung-hu), a villainous bastard (Will Yun Lee in Red Dawn) or a comical sidekick (Jay Chow in The Green Hornet, Aaron Yoo in Disturbia).  Actresses get typecast as an exotic love interest (Katie Leung as Cho Chang in HP Jamie Chung in The Hangover II), a kickass karate/kung fu girl (Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim, Lucy Liu in Charlie's Angels, Maggie Q in Nikita, Rila Fukushima in The Wolverine - NEED I SAY MORE?) or a prudish college room-mate who is conservative and likes to stick with her 'Asian sisters' (Pitch Perfect).

Even Justin Chon, who was supposed to be the central character of '21 and Over' became conspicuously sidelined by Skylar Astin and Miles Teller, whom the movie was really focused on.  I was disappointed but hey - at least he got cast?  Even if he were cast as that small funny Asian guy with the stereotypical 'YOU MUST BE A DOCTOR OR GET OUT OF MY HOUSE' sort of dad...

This is why I'm really looking forward to seeing Jamie Chung in her new movie Eden.  It's based on a true story about a Korean-American girl who gets kidnapped and forced into becoming a sex slave, so yeah, there really was no choice but to cast an Asian actress.  But I'm still really excited to see Jamie Chung get more screen time and being able to play a strong leading role in a Hollywood film.  It's still quite a novelty and I really hope I can see more Asians being given non-typecast roles.  Go Jamie.

Every Misogynistic Argument You've Ever Heard About Video Games - Jezebel, 12/7/13


An opinion piece posted by UBERTROUT on feminist website/forum Jezebel that seeks to own every elitist male gamer who has argued the following:
"Games aren't marketed to women because women don't play games.""Women aren't REAL gamers, they're just casuals.""Anyone who came to video games late isn't a REAL gamer.""Publishers don't make games with female protagonists because they wouldn't sell. Men don't want to play a female character because then they might kiss a dude and that'd be gay."
The piece's conclusion:

So to anyone who has ever made one of these arguments: you too can be saved from being an asshat. Just, y'know, stop making these arguments. Have a tiny bit of empathy for people who aren't you, and ask yourself — REALLY ask yourself — if the problem isn't women playing games, but the men who are too scared to share their toys with the scary, unknowable ladypersons.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Egyptian boy talking politics becomes a Chinese internet sensation

But it was the boy's articulate political argument that struck a chord in China. "Where is the constitution that represents us?" he asked in Arabic.
On Chinese social media, one person commented: "The heavenly dynasty could learn from him," in a reference to China's Communist Party.
"He has an Egyptian Dream," many wrote, borrowing from President Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream".

Three things to take note of here:

  • Obviously, his eloquence, knowledge and ability to clearly discern what is right and wrong even at such a young age and in such a volatile and messy environment
  • How big a role the internet has played in raising awareness
  • For people like my parents who continue to generalise middle easterns and Arabs as extremely religious, violent and oppressive toward women, this young boy shows a glimmer of what young reformist  Egyptians think of religion and how they have just the same hopes, dreams and principles as people in other societies 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Eating out with another family

So my brother is sitting next to their daughter, and decides to charm her with his shy awkwardness: you like lame jokes?

Uh, I guess haha.

I've got a joke about a sheep... but it's really BAAAAaaad. 

Oh really?  I'm sure it's not too bad.  I like lame jokes too and I laugh all the time.  I'm not good at telling jokes - my jokes are really bad. Haha.

Oh... ok... yeah... 


Biggest fail.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Movie: 'Finding Mr. Right' - teaching Chinese women that love matters more than money

Finding Mr. Right is an unfortunate C-grade appellation for a good movie with legitimate feels and a very important message for young Chinese women in today's age: money can't buy you happiness.


As much of a platitude as that is, anyone who knows anything about contemporary China will recognise how notoriously materialistic and superficial women have become in dating and courtship.  "I would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle" is an infamous quote uttered by 22 year old Ma Nuo on China's top TV dating show after a suitor asked her if she would ride on a bicycle with him on a date.  These words have since become emblematic of the shallowness of modern Chinese women and a sad reflection of the society they live in.  

For a movie which so effectively attacks that culture, the title 'Finding Mr. Right' is like taking a massive stinkin' shit and then pissing all over the movie's credibility.  It makes the movie sound generic and dumb and shallow when it's much more sophisticated than all other Chinese rom-coms.  Admittedly, some characters were cartoonish and the ending was corny as but it's better to think of it as a fable - strong for its moral lesson and likeable simplicity.

I liked it because it sounds like such an innocuous, forgettable rom-com when really, it makes such a damning criticism of the superficial attitudes which permeate the social scene of metropolitan China: the growing obsession with money 钱, social status 社会地位and connections - 关系.

There are no shallow love triangles; no drop dead gorgeous hunks running around with roses and chocolates; none of that nauseating Katherine Heigl desperation being channelled by the protagonist as so often seen in rom-coms.

Instead, it focuses more on family interaction than dating, while striking a great balance between funny and serious social commentary.  It seems hard but director Xialu Xue manages to do it with sufficient skill, ringing the alarm bell loud and clear:  you may choose a man because he can afford you Chanel and Hermes, but is it worth it if your life ends up devoid of true love and happiness?  

Choosing a man for his financial assets rather than true love is something most Chinese women know is not right but they do it anyway, predominantly because of pressure from their family which is worsened by long-standing socio-economic conditions - soaring prices of real estate in China, discrimination against women in the workplace, the tradition of the man being the breadwinner etc.  It has come to the point where some young women don't believe that love is a concomitant factor in marriage.  What is marriage but just another of life's stepping stones?


The story is mainly centred around a beautiful young woman named Wen Jiajia, played by TANG WEI.  You may remember her from Ang Lee's much lauded espionage thriller Lust, Caution.  You may also remember loads of explicit sex in that movie and that Tang Wei alone was freaking blacklisted and effectively banished from the industry for two years by Chinese authorities.  This was despite the fact that it garnered rave reviews internationally and had people talking about her as potential Oscar material.  I haven't actually seen the whole thing but I was pissed off that she, the brilliant newcomer, was banned while Tony Leung, the main guy, got away scot free.  JEZUZ.

Wen, who speaks really shitty no English, first appears in the movie as a glamorous, spoilt, obnoxious, bossy, demanding, massive freaking bitch. She's a mistress.  And she's pregnant.  Like in reality, so many Chinese mistresses who get knocked up by their sugar daddies (干爹) end up jetting off to America to give birth.  Reasons:

1. Hide the child from authorities cos one child policy
2. Hide secret family from wife
3. Allow the child to get a green card to foreign citizenship

So she ends up in a suburban house for pregnant Chinese women, driven there by a reticent ex-doctor named Frank who has resorted partly to chauffeuring these women as a livelihood.  At first, Wen bullies Frank for being an incompetent chauffeur and tries to buy off the best room in the house as well as pay the lady who runs it to wash her clothes and cook ewwww seafood.  To Wen, whom has been spoilt by her lover with a continuous supply of shiny designer bags and an unlimited credit card, anything can be solved with cash.

Also keep in mind that such houses do exist in America and are considered illegal because the women they profit off are not actually travelling to America for 'pleasure'.  Yes, they lied.  They're just there to do all their shady stuff and get an American citizenship for their kid.

Meanwhile, we discover that the adorably timid Frank is actually a very kind-hearted father whose wife, a hugely successful businesswoman who now lives in a giannnnnnnnnnnnt colonial style mansion with wtf a Rolls Royce (??) in the front yard, had left him.  It is strongly suggested that she did so because her career had taken off and his has not.  She wanted someone better.  Someone who could match her.  Frank, despite being a well respected surgeon back in China who even Wen's father once desperately sought treatment from, could not practice in America until he passed the board, something he put off so he could look after his daughter while his wife went to work.

The contrast between these two main characters is something my dad really noticed and enjoyed about this movie because it highlighted the cultural differences between east and west, demonstrating the way women were not socially repressed in America and able to turn the tables on their husbands.  In China, the man is generally perceived to be the breadwinner and the wife.... a dutiful wife, lul, a supporting domestic figure.   And it's always the man who leaves his partner to find someone younger and prettier.  Suddenly, the film is like  HOMG LOOK AT THIS SHIT.  Here's a guy who volunteered to be a stay at home father and then was flung aside by his wife for someone richer and higher up the social ladder because he's not good enough.  And the notion of the wife as the breadwinner?

"Unthinkable," my dad said., "very embarrassing for men in China, even today."

SIXTY per cent of Chinese officials who come under investigation for corruption are also keeping full-time mistresses, according to a study by the Renmin University of China.
          - The Australian 

Moreover, my dad used to work for the Chinese government and when he went off to play tennis with his mates, there would always be one or two guys who'd show up with a pretty young girl - their mistress.  These men drank.  They smoked.  They gambled.  They were openly sexist. It would be unsurprising if some of them had engaged in corrupt practices.  My dad was the only one who steered away from these 'conventions'.  He and my aunt said a rich and powerful Chinese man who doesn't have a mistress is a social anomaly.

Most Critics who reviewed this movie and don't understand its contextual background are obviously perplexed at why a 'generic' rom com has been such a massive hit at the Chinese box office.  What they don't know is how institutionalised cheating is among wealthy and even middle class Chinese and the growing frustrations of Chinese women who feel like they must accept the status quo because they have no ability to change the power imbalance between men and women. It's a highly contentious issue and by attacking it head on from the perspective of the mistress, whom everyone is automatically positioned to hate, the director really struck a chord with Chinese audiences.

Significantly, Frank represents a reversal of these roles in a democratic western environment - he represents change:  it is possible to find a man who will sacrifice his career for family - it is possible to find a man who will respect you and truly love you, while women can also achieve great things and earn the recognition and respect they deserve.  And yet! women can also exhibit gross avarice for wealth and social status, taking love for granted and neglecting their partner.  It's not just misogynistic Chinese men who are capable of such selfishness.  And so the key principle to take away is that neither women nor men, who are equals, should ever treat their partners like an unimportant piece of shit.  Pretty much.

As the movie progresses, the predictable happens.  By interacting with Frank and his daughter, Wen begins to realise what having a family and true love really means.  An enjoyable and what my dad called a "nuanced" performance from Tang Wei sees Wen transform from the materialistic fobby brat to a humble woman who realises how meaningless money really is in her life, especially when her credit card suddenly stops working because her lover is being investigated for corruption - another veiled criticism of Chinese society.   Pregnant in America, knowing little English and without any money, Wen has to start working.  And Frank is always there to support her.

In comparison, I loved how we never saw Wen's lover appear on screen but were only able to hear his voice when she talks to him through the phone - a virtual lover.  He would console her, promise her he'd visit but these promises were always broken and inadequately compensated by another LV bag sent via mail.  His physical absence, especially during the penultimate scenes where she flies back to China for one last crack at a life with her original lover are a devastating reality for those women who think that being a mistress of a rich man is a satisfying expedition to happiness.

In those scenes, Wen walks around an apartment where the huge rooms are literally gold and filled with ostentatiously expensive Louis XIV furniture.  The camera pans across the rooms and shows us how utterly magnificent the apartment is... and yet, it's an airy, empty place - a home completely devoid of love and warmth.  We knew that she was reluctant to fly back but now she has truly recognised how pathetic her life has become.

With tears streaming down her face, Wen leaves a life of LV bags and Mercs and carves out a happier life in America as a single mother, starting her own cooking blog and learning how to fix her own broken taps (literally).  Of course, you get your happy ending with Frank, which is what audiences want but which I actually disliked because it ultimately perpetuates the idea that a woman needs a man to be happy.  Wow I sound like a feminist.

The great thing about this movie is that it doesn't demonise Wen because she is a mistress and thus doesn't exacerbate the current rifts among Chinese women.  It demonises Chinese society for encouraging spoilt, selfish and superficial behaviour, with Wen symbolising this perfectly at the beginning with her obnoxious tantrums and money-solves-all attitude.  Because she is able to improve, the movie shows that China too can change.

Overall, Finding Mr. Right is a deeper movie than its rom-com genre paints it as and would mean much more to a Chinese audience than audiences elsewhere.  Not quite an award winning masterpiece but an effective and simple caveat for Chinese women to look beyond the ¥¥¥ and perhaps more implicitly, strive to break the social conventions that have suppressed them for so long by empowering themselves through their own achievements.