Sunday, August 23, 2009

Like Hello Kitty,

no Asian or Asian-American women were allowed to speak on camera in The Slanted Screen. (Thanks, Margaret Cho!)

Other than actively not acknowledging half of the population, I enjoyed the film. It featured Asian and Asian-American actors talking about how Asian men have been portrayed in American media. I do understand that the film was about Asian men. However, at the end of the film, the actors talked about how change is on the horizon, and how (at the time shooting) Bobby Lee, John Cho and Margaret Cho had studio deals, so things would get better. Considering I can count five Asian characters of any gender on the upcoming fall primetime lineup, and maybe five more on cable, I do not agree that things will get better quickly at all. But if things were to get better, it would help if the film had mentioned the stereotypes that actresses of Asian descent face in television and movies. Their struggles are related and come from similar sources of prejudice and discrimination. So it would have been nice to include the women, too.

I would have been content if the film had even one Asian or Asian-American actress sitting on camera talking about anything. But the three women that were allowed to speak on camera in the film were all white, and not actors. The three women did share insightful studies of how media affects children and the problems surrounding casting and writing. One study showed that children want to see representations of themselves in their media so that they can have role models. In another study, the children expected that white people in television and movies would have roles of authority, black people and Latino people would have subservient roles, and Asian people would not be on the screen at all.

In the film, Bobby Lee told the camera, "My nickname was 'Long Duk Dong' in high school because of that character, and I think every Asian guy that ever went to an American school earned the nickname Long Duk Dong because of that character." I never thought about that when I was growing up, because I didn't have any Asian classmates until seventh grade. And then he left after eighth grade. But now, that is what I think about when some of my contemporaries laud the accomplishments of the recently departed John Hughes. They make statements like "Sixteen Candles changed my life. That's my story. I love Jake Ryan!" I don't know what a racist Asian stereotype, Molly Ringwald's panties and some naked teenage girl taking a shower had to do with your empowerment as a woman, but to each her own.

In conclusion, watch The Slanted Screen, available on Netflix. It might change your life. Probably not, but it's still good.



Asian Americanist said...

Wait, no Asian or Asian-American women were allowed to speak on camera? As in they tried but somebody stopped them? That's a bold claim. Or is it that they simply weren't interviewed for the documentary.

And considering the film is about Asian men, I don't see why it necessarily has to have interviews with Asian or Asian-American actresses. Just as I don't expect there to be many Asian roles in Inglorious Basterds. It's not what the movie is about.

Asian Americanist said...

Oh, and looking at the list on the slantedscreen site, there are a number of male entertainment people that seem left out, though it may have been that they couldn't get them. I haven't seen it, so they might have been covered also.

Chow Yun-Fat, John Woo (I guess Terence Chang kinda covers them though), Ang Lee, BD Wong, and Tim Kang come to mind. Though I give them props for including Phillip Rhee.