Chin Chen Chins Chens

March 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

Last October, news of a brand new Asian-American sitcom stirred the interest of the APIA community. This show, called The Chin Chens, has finally released a trailer:

[The video has since been “removed by the user ” & replaced with this.]

Extended trailer has been discovered by Angry Asian Man:

The plot revolves around a Chinese father and Vietnamese mother who live with their three children and grandmother. The Chin Chens was created by Will Hollins, CEO of the Atlanta-based Bright Ideas Entertainment company.

Angry Asian Man has already deemed the trailer “unfortunate” and “just not funny.” I have mixed feelings.

On one hand, I applaud Hollins for his endeavor. We all know that American TV could use more Asian-Americans. The most prominent sitcom featuring Asian Americans was the 1994 All-American Girl, and more recently, NBC’s Outsourced. The actors in the Chin Chens seem like genuinely likable people, and I want to root for this small show with a small budget to succeed.

Yet, there are quite a few unavoidable things wrong with this production, starting with the name of the show. The alliteration of “Chin Chens” bears a remarkable similarity to “ching chong,” which hits home for anybody who has been mocked by this derogatory phrase. I’m not saying that the resemblance is deliberate, but it certainly makes it easy for ignorant people to mistake one for the other.

“I felt the Asian community didn’t have a proper voice on broadcast television,” Hollins said back in October. His cause is noble, but I’m not convinced that the execution is quite right. If you look on the Bright Ideas Entertainment website, this is the description of the show, which appears to be in need of an update:

Both Will Hollins and Lady Gaga need to learn that “Orient” and “Oriental” are considered outdated and offensive terms. It makes me worry because it demonstrates a lack of knowledge and sensibility to the contemporary APIA identity. We are no longer content to lie under the weight of stale stereotypes or false representation.

My concern that the writers of the Chin Chens might not be in contact with a comprehensive group of real Asian Americans who care about the characters being presented as well-rounded people who are funny on their own without having to draw on clichés such as “my teenage daughter is a terrible driver” or “grandma hates your ‘hippity-hoppity’ music.”

At this point, it seems that the Chin Chens is pandering to a non-Asian audience who will understand Asian Americans no better after watching the show. I urge the producers to reevaluate. Yes, profit is important, but if Hollins is truly concerned about the Asian community having a “proper voice,” he should portray them as more than one-dimensional personalities.

It’s possible for a show like this to be outstanding. A look at the immensely popular community of Asian Americans on Youtube is enough to prove that we can create and star in entertainment of good quality. I still have hope for the Chin Chens. After all, it can’t be worse than the K-Town reality show, right?


The First Step Is Admitting…

October 29, 2009 § 13 Comments

I have an addiction.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but there have been hints of it here and there.

“Why do you like listening to music you can’t understand?” people have asked.
Well, there are many reasons for that, but my question for them is, why would that inhibit me? Music is aural pleasure; comprehension is not completely necessary.

When I listen to music in English, I listen very intently to the lyrics — as a vocalist, I enjoy being able to sing along. If I listen to a song too many times, however, the lyrics start to get old, and then I can’t stand listening to that song anymore. Foreign songs, though, present a distinct challenge to learn [if I bother trying], and usually take much longer before fatigue settles in. For example, I’ve listened to the same Lee Jung Hyun songs since middle school and still have yet to evict them from my iPod.

If I like a song enough, though, I’ll look up the lyrics to find out whether my impression of the song rings true. Even if the lyrics turn out to be tasteless and puerile, at least it won’t greatly impact my experience — although I feel like America has the most issue with retarded lyrics.

As much as I love French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese music, my addiction is specific to Korean pop.

Why Kpop?
I’ve written before that I’ve always had an appreciation for Korean music, limited though my knowledge of the industry was. I don’t like using the term “fangirl” because of the squealing teenage image it evokes, and I’m not nearly as hardcore as some can be.
I attribute LC as my biggest influence in this area; over the summer and even a bit last semester, she fed me with Kpop photos and videos and the like, fanning what had been steady embers into a full-fledged forest fire. I take ownership of my addiction now, but I couldn’t have made it without her.

Key Kim Kibum

Key from SHINee: love at first sight

Anyone who assumes that all Asian music sounds the same is stupid. The majority of mainstream Chinese music is wimpy. Some of it is lovely, but I have a very low tolerance for weak vocals and pining lyrics. Japanese music is great too but can get comparatively weird [it’s Japan after all]. Although Korea has been infiltrated by our hated enemy, autotune, they don’t overuse it to the point of giving singing careers to people who clearly can’t sing, and Kpop always has a kick to it — I love music I can dance to.

America churns out lively pop music too, you could argue. Of course: Lady Gaga will always be my hero. But the American music industry as a whole is in a disappointing state right now, with very little originality flowing through. Having watched innumerable music videos, I feel justified in saying that Kpop feels like it’s of a higher quality than its American equivalent. What I hear on the radio sounds like people have simply stopped trying, and I refuse to support their half-assed efforts. I can’t fully describe how refreshing it is to go from the countless U.S. music videos of the singer(s) swaying lamely in a club to actually choreographed, visually stimulating music videos from Korea. Even their phone commercials have ridiculous full-length songs with corresponding choreography!

Kpop stars also seem more charming than the drunken deadbeats we have in the States. The Korean music industry is much more controlling of the lives of their stars [living together in dorms and prohibiting dating is unheard for people of such celebrity], which surprisingly doesn’t make them turn out emotionally unstable even if they start their training young. This also means that they do a lot of fun collaborations, makeovers, and variety & reality shows.

More importantly, it means that these stars actually have talent. Kpop stars can sing and dance, AND they’re attractive! These kinds of celebrities are difficult to find in China, which I am very sad to admit. Knowing all this, though, Kpop can seem very contrived, but for those who really care, there are groups that play their own instruments and many who write their own songs.

When I think about the situation, it’s about quality of product [apart from the obvious aural appeal]. And I have found that the most consistent success in caliber lies within Kpop, so I shall unabashedly air my preference. I qualify that statement by noting that I have not completely given in to Korean culture — I refuse to watch dramas or learn the language. Music is all I want.

To conclude, I leave you with a screenshot of me watching a DBSK mv against my DBSK wallpaper [:D ILU JaeJoong!].


V For Peace

October 8, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hah! Wong Fu Productions created a mockumentary on posing for pictures, primarily the poses of Asians. My favorite 13 seconds start at the 10-minute mark.

POSER! — The history and evolution of the “Peace Sign”


July 22, 2009 § 2 Comments

As I took a walk around my neighborhood this afternoon while talking on the phone with AT, I passed a group of teenage boys riding their bikes on the street going in the opposite direction [on the wrong side of the street, might I add]. There were more then ten of them, and they looked to be around 16 or 17. I ignored them and continued my phone conversation, but through my dialogue I heard those infamous words of mockery.

“Ching chong ching chong!” and a couple of chuckles.
“Fuck off,” I breathed into the phone as my eyes widened in disbelief.
[“Are you driving?” AT asked me.]

A sort of shocked fury rose within me as my mind searched for a proper reaction. I looked back at the group of guys, and the one closest to me, the only African-American one, was the only one looking back.

Really? I thought. I was reminded of one time when I was walking in downtown Chicago. As I passed a black boy [probably around 12 years old] he said those same words to me. I had raised my eyebrow at him and kept walking. It also brought to mind this incident, posted on Facebook by a Chinese-American friend of mine:


Of course, black people are not the only ones who provoke. I have heard stories about my friends getting into altercations with white girls, although those usually involve straight-up racial slurs instead of sidelong insults.

In the end, I responded only by venting to AT. What was I supposed to do? [“Go back to Africa, jackass!”?] I wanted to beat the shit out of him. Seriously, it’s 2009. We’re in a thriving suburb of Chicago, not some ignorant backwoods town still stuck in the 50s. My high school had at least 100 Asian-American students, which is to say that there is no reason for anybody to think that this kind of behavior is appropriate.

So I am not sure how to deal with this situation. Last week at small group we learned about forgiveness. We didn’t get much deeper than talking about road rage, and I didn’t imagine that I would have to apply the lesson to something like this. But as I walked home, I knew that I had to forgive that person for his ignorance. I suppose I can console myself with Romans 12:19.

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