Kollab Watches: Fresh off the Boat 2.05 – “Miracle on Dead Street”

One of the things that executive producer Melvin Mar said that he was most looking forward to this season at CAAMFest San Jose last month were the holiday episodes. Since the first season began as a mid-season replacement, the show never got a chance to do any special episodes of the kind. That’s what made this week’s episode very special, it was the very first holiday storyline for Fresh Off the Boat, and it really was an episode of firsts: Louis’ first Halloween in the suburbs, Eddie’s first “normal” trick-or-treating experience, and Jessica’s first restored house since partnering up with her mother-in-law and Honey. However, as it tends to be the case when it comes to the Huang family, things never quite go according to plan.

Louis is psyched for his family’s first experience of celebrating Halloween since their move from Washington, D.C. However, he is disappointed when his youngest son Evan informs him of how they live on a “dead street”… and no, contrary to Louis’ original assumption, it has nothing to do with the walking dead or anything like that. As Evan explains, they live on a street where trick-or-treaters rarely visit. Unwilling to miss out on his first suburban Halloween, Louis guides everyone with preparing their street for the ultimate trick-or-treating experience (and all in a total of only five hours).

Meanwhile, Jessica- who has never been fond of Halloween as it gives kids an excuse to behave badly- has her hands unexpectedly full when her newly restored house is in danger of being attacked by a group of obnoxious teenage boys. She at first tries to get them preemptively arrested for something they planned to do. When that back fired, along with a failed attempt at recruiting her family to help, Jessica makes it her mission to protect the house at all costs.

While Halloween can be seen as a children’s holiday, this episode of Fresh Off the Boat focused more on Louis and Jessica’s experiences. Like in the last episode “The Fall Ball,” Louis’ obsession with American culture and fulfilling the American Dream was on display in full force. While it may have seemed corny when he made that heartfelt speech about bringing the Halloween spirit to their neck of the woods (with lines stolen from Field of Dreams), it makes sense when we remember where Louis is coming from: He’s a man who immigrated from Taiwan and has been working from the ground up for his family to be as successful and comfortable as any other American family.

Meanwhile for Jessica, her story highlights the darker side of Halloween; the side that adults may face when their property becomes a potential target for intrusion and vandalism. While she may seem like her usual wet blanket self, she does have a valid point about how Halloween is a time to be wary of pranks. The different outlooks from the two Huang parents is part of what make Fresh Off the Boat very unique; as it continues to expose different layers of common American traditions from the Huang’s Asian American experiences.

It was also fun seeing Halloween celebrated on Fresh Off the Boat; especially when it came to the costumes (though I confess to looking up who was dressed as who on Angry Asian Man’s blog post about the episode, for I didn’t recognize most of them). Despite her not having a big role in this episode, let’s please take a minute and zoom in on Grandma’s Garfield costume, for she looks incredibly badass in it!

Lastly, I also wanted to note Nicole’s return in this episode, for I was certainly surprised to see her (and that Eddie actually had enough dignity to talk to her without giving her a death stare). In a way, I can see her appearance making sense, not only because she and Eddie attend the same school, but also because his mom is friends with her stepmom. I wonder what role she will play from here on out?


Featured image courtesy of ABC

Kollab Watches: Dr. Ken 1.04 – “Kevin O’Connell”

On last Friday’s episode of Dr. Ken, Hong Kong detective Wei Shen goes undercover into the seedy underbelly of California’s HMOs on his most dangerous mission yet… and if you understood that reference, then we can be best friends! Actually, in this episode we get our first proper guest star in Will Yun Lee’s Dr. Kevin O’Connell, a plastic surgeon, Korean adoptee, and Allison Park’s ex from med school. He’s also smoking hot and charming, which immediately sets off Ken’s more petty tendencies.

Much of the episode is spent exploring the aftermath of Ken discovering that his wife’s ex-boyfriend is essentially a “Korean Channing Tatum.” To make matters worse, Dr. O’Connell also immediately charms Ken’s co-workers and his kids, often by providing the attention that he’s been too self-centered to give himself. Everyone’s smitten by the perfect visiting doctor, except for Allison, who never told her husband about what her ex looked like because of his jealous nature.

It all comes to a head at the Welltopia Employee Banquet, where Ken is set to provide a “comedy” routine for entertainment, AND where Kevin is set to be the guest of honor. His jealousy and insecurity reaching a breaking point, Ken decides that Kevin will be the topic of his “biting satirical comedy” and proceeds craft a vicious roast of the child-saving, scar healing plastic surgeon. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go over well at first, but he pulls through thanks to some support from his missus.

The B plot in this episode involves Damona (one of the nurses on Ken’s team) encouraging Dr. Julie Dobbs (one of the doctors on Ken’s team), to be more open to socializing with colleagues. It was nice to get some more time with these two characters, especially Julie (Kate Sises continues to be the secret comedic weapon of the hospital scenes). Although not much character building actually took place (Demona was still sassy and Julie was still socially sheltered), both characters were able to get some good jokes in.

The high points for this episode came from the interactions between Ken and Allison. The fight between the couple after Ken brings Kevin home was an excellent showcase of Suzy Nakamura and Ken Jeong’s chemistry. The family scenes of Dr. Ken remain the most consistently funny, with Molly also continuing to nail her scenes. However, little bro Dave remains the weakest link in the Park family so far, suffering from a lack of characterization since that first episode (where did that artsy kid who didn’t give a crap about what everyone thought go?).

The other bright spot was Will Yun Lee as Dr. Kevin O’Connell. It was pretty awesome to see a portrayal of a masculine Asian dude on TV outside of Hawaii Five-O (where Lee also moonlights as a guest star) where he wasn’t some triad member or henchman, but a normal doctor guy who happens to be really good looking. Also admirable was how the only joke made about his “Asian-ness” was the initial misunderstanding about his name. We didn’t hear any dim-sum euphemisms about his sexy bits, or dwell on the fact that he was adopted. To me, that screamed progress! One of Dr. Ken’s strengths has been the portrayal of its characters as just regular people, despite being anything but in the world of network television.

Dr.Ken was picked up for a full season last week thanks to its strong performance in a tough Friday time slot. Personally, while I’m happy that the show was picked up (more stuff to write about!) I’m still waiting for the episode where the show finds itself and really makes a statement for that second season. With the way the show’s been improving since the pilot, here’s hoping that moment isn’t far off!


Featured Image Credit – ABC

For some inspiration and laughs, Why Not Mindy Kaling? – A Kollab Book Review

It’s not much of a secret I am a big fan of Mindy Kaling as a role model and leading woman in comedy, and when she announced her second book Why Not Me? I knew I had to read it.

Kaling, star of The Mindy Project, also wrote Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in 2011 about her life, career, and lessons learned. Why Not Me? continues on that same theme, but includes more stories about how she worked to where she is, deserves to be there, and will stay content there until she moves on to bigger things.

“If you believe in yourself and work hard, you have a fighting shot at having your dreams come true.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

The book’s broken down into four sections, starting off with “For the Ladies,” the obligatory chapter on beauty secrets, a story about Kaling’s brief time in a sorority, and some of the friendships made in Los Angeles. The other three sections delve into her career and life, updated since her first book to include less of The Office and more about The Mindy Project. My favorite chapters in the book talk about how she got The Mindy Project, the ways that beauty standard impacts her, and the titular chapter “Why Not Me?” where she talks about self-confidence. Kaling is honest and vulnerable, but never self-deprecating to the point where it sounds like her success is a mystery or undeserved.

Her overall feeling of content and confidence mixes with a sassy, big sister tone as she recounts tales of her past and career milestones. Kaling never sounds like she’s retelling specific stories for the glamour or name-dropping, coming across as more “I’m telling this story for a reason and to inspire, but this is pretty glamorous with all these names in it, right?”

“But my secret is this: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

I highly suggest Why Not Me? to both fans who want to support Kaling and those who aren’t familiar with her. I wouldn’t call Why Not Me? a literary or social justice masterpiece, or particularly thought-provoking. But I feel Mindy Kaling is very under-appreciated in a business that strives to showcase its diversity. Why Not Me? is Kaling’s answer to that, asking why she doesn’t get the same recognition for doing much of what other actresses and comedienne’s already do. Because when people do think of great current role models, why not add Mindy Kaling to the list?


Featured photo courtesy of Mindy Kaling’s Twitter

Representing the Movement: Fong Tran on the Power of Presence and Passion

With over 200,000 views on YouTube, thousands of subscribers and more than 500 reblogs on a single poem, spoken word poet Fong Tran speaks to quite the extensive audience who want to hear what he has to say.

And he has a lot to say. Earlier this year, Fong’s poem “Don’t Be An Activist” circulated all over social media, revealing the hard truth behind activism and the call for compassion in community organizing. Prior to that, “Dear Young Man of Color,” his piece about the struggles of being a man of color in America, prompted powerful discussions across the Internet. Fong also delivers the truth beyond social media, securing performances across the United States from Wisconsin to the Bay.

But there’s more to Fong’s activism than his ability to drop the mic. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Community Development from UC Davis, Fong has committed himself to activism as an educator and continues to represent his values of social justice and intersectionality through his work.

Kollaboration had the chance to speak with Fong about his roots as an activist and how he pursues his passions today – right on the UC Berkeley campus where it all began.

Nicole Arca & Fong Tran – from fongtranpoetry.tumblr.com

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and how does that influence your work?

I grew up in South Sacramento. My mother fled from Vietnam and raised five of us – I have three older siblings and one baby sister. In that context of being in a big family, being raised under welfare, food stamps, not having a father in my life… that informs what I do in terms of activism in my poetry. So I was lucky enough to be the first in my family to go to college and even luckier to go to Berkeley…I had the mentality that I just slipped into the thing – the “imposter-syndrome.” My philosophy of always giving back and helping others – people in Richmond and Sacramento – to go [back to] college was instilled in me. I wanted to help others overcome the barriers I went through.

How did you get into poetry?

I studied abroad in Vietnam for about six months, traveling all over Southeast Asia. The day I came back, President Obama was inaugurated…. the world [was] different. And I came back with the mentality: “I wanna try new things.” That’s when I was like, “Ima try poetry.”

In the beginning, I always thought of and saw myself as a bad writer. And so I internalized that. But what ended up happening was in the process of writing, and getting a little bit better each week, I started really enjoying it for what it was, which is really doing the art and writing for you versus writing for somebody else.

The poem that changed everything was when we got the prompt of writing something traumatic in our life… I decided to talk about what it was like to not grow up with a father and being raised by a single mother, and it was one of the very first times that I had been public about that issue. In that poem, I just kind of let it all out – and the revelation was not making this just about pain and oppression but also about strength, resilience, and triumph.

When I performed it, I started shaking, trembling and stuttering and I think the crowd kinda knew that the words were very personal to me. [At the end of the poem]… practically everybody was crying. And that was the moment where it was like, “I get something out of this and I think the audience can get something out of my piece [too]”

How else did you further your activism?

I worked at a non-profit in Sacramento called Asian Resources, an all-around social services organization. I mainly focused on job development for young people as well as higher education: helping young people get internships and jobs, as well as getting them to sign up for community college classes.

Why do you think the arts are important in the API community – especially when they aren’t seen as valuable?

I think the conservative thinking that most API parents may have is informed [by] trauma and oppression and larger institutions of poverty. So, when your folks are coming from a place of “I need to survive,” they’re gonna want the same thing for their kids: “I want you to survive and thrive.” And in their eyes, thriving is high income, high status positions like being a doctor or being a lawyer.

I think it’s vital for Asian Americans to engage in art because on the surface level, we need to diversify the archetypes of what Asians can be and what we see in media and what we see in society. I also believe that stories, essentially, [its] one of the most vital things in our community. It’s a political act to tell stories, to reclaim history. If we’re not telling [your] history, then someone else is telling it for [you].


You ended the poem “Don’t Be an Activist” with a call for compassion. How do you think people can show compassion through activism in whatever they do?

I think [in a lot of activists spaces], there’s a “call-out” culture. I really think that’s unproductive. I mean, there’s a space [for that], but otherwise, I always take the approach that somebody may not be quite sharp about a certain issue[s] or particular community – so I really want to work with them to create empathy around this issue or this topic. Compassion is systemic and essential to activism. It’s wanting equity because we don’t currently see equity that meets people’s needs.

A lot of people are on the defense when it comes to these conversations, about race and identity and gender and sexuality and social justice, but you have to approach it from an open-mind standpoint – even if I’m an advisor, I’m still learning from my students, and I can never approach it like, “I know more than them.” I may have more experience in certain arenas and that’s valuable to them and I can gift that to them, but they are teaching me just as much as I am trying to teach them.

How would you communicate the need for social justice to spaces that do not believe in its necessity?

The best form of social justice is to always represent it. I think that’s the most sustainable and most impactful [way] in my life – to represent the values that you want people to follow and emulate. That within itself is difficult sometimes – to be resilient, especially within your families, to come home and bring these conversations to them – which feels like leaps and bounds sometimes.

Who are your activist role models?

I think I thrive much more in group settings, so I can’t really pinpoint individuals who model how I work. I think it’s being in spaces – Key Club, REACH! (Asian Pacific Islander Retention and Recruitment Center), SASC (Southeast Asian Student Coalition).

My students are always gonna be the biggest form of mentors for me. Tupac has this quote: “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” I might not change the world myself, but I know I’m gonna help develop the young people that will. If that could be my form of activism or my legacy, then I’m good.

If you could give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would it be?

Generally, I don’t think from a regret model – I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for the events that took place. But ultimately, something that all young people don’t get enough of is love and affirmation. I would probably just tell my young self, “Hey, do what you’re doing, do it hard, be confident, be un-wavered, be relentless at learning.”

Learn more about Fong and his work at his website www.fongtran.com.


Kollab Watches: Dr. Ken 1.03 – “Ken helps Pat”

Maybe it’s the rep sweats talking, but I definitely wouldn’t be following a show like Dr. Ken if it wasn’t starring an Asian American family. I’ve mentioned on the KollabCast, the official podcast of Kollaboration that I also host (shameless plug), that in the “Must See TV” days, I was always more of a fan of Scrubs over Friends, and come to think of it, I haven’t really actively watched a multi-camera sitcom in a very long time. All that is to say while Dr. Ken isn’t my “style” of show, I have been enjoying following it, if only for the potential of what this show can become. But more on that after the summary!

The main story line of this episode was all about Dr. Ken’s relationship with his team. When confronted with the fact that he’s become out-of-touch  since ascending to senior staff, Ken attempts to negotiate on their behalf to get them out of the mandatory Saturday shifts mandated by his boss Pat. Half listening, Pat invites Ken over to his Yacht for dinner to discuss further, while really having his own selfish intentions for the meeting. Ken being unable to ‘read the room’ is not new territory, after his misunderstanding with Nurse Clark last episode, but it was interesting to see him pitted one-on-one with Pat for the first time and for him to learn how out-of-touch a “rich guy on a yacht” can really get.

Ken’s interactions at work are still some of the most awkward scenes in the show. You can feel that his co-workers are supposed to be friends, but everyone’s too busy throwing zingers that it’s hard to see it. While there’s been some character development over the last few episodes, the crew right now is still just a collection of sitcom archetypes (the sassy lady, the teacher’s pet, the one-sided bff) constantly throwing shade at each other and at Ken. Ken’s scene with Pat on the yacht is significant, because it seemed to slow the pacing down to expose some genuine character moments. Most of it is from Ken, who we see as a conscientious doctor. Pat on the other hand is still very much a cartoon character.

While Ken is out fighting on behalf of his crew at work, the Parks at home are faced with another challenge, Dave’s new unfortunate nickname from school, “Clompers.” It was fun to see the roles of the parents reversed from the pilot, with Ken being the passive dad and Allison becoming the overprotective mom (with an obvious chip on her shoulder). It was Molly, however, that stole the show as being the only member of the family with a plan (and kudos on her for understanding her particular set of skills also had a worth). I was kind of bummed that we never got to see her “Olivia Pope” her brother’s problems away, but I hope they continue this story line of Molly being the only rational member of the family.

All in all, it was a solid episode of Dr. Ken, which seems to be slowly catching it’s stride. Luckily, with its solid ratings performance, it might actually get the chance to find its footing despite the critical reviews, and I absolutely hope it does. Like I mentioned in the intro, I was a huge fan of Scrubs, and shows about doctors are rife with opportunities for emotional story arcs. Being a doctor is hard, and though we’re catching Dr. Ken after his rigorous life as an intern and resident, there’s probably going to be future episodes where Ken brings the stresses of having to make tough diagnoses home. I believe that’s when we’ll see what this show is really capable of.


Feature Image Credit: Ron Tom/ABC

Kollaboration SF 6 Brought Musical Mash-ups and Familiar Faces

On the evening of Saturday October 10th, in the midst of San Francisco’s Fleet Week, the Marines’ Memorial Theater was occupied by excitement of a different kind: the 6th Annual Kollaboration SF Showcase. Unlike past Kollaboration shows featuring fresh-faced finalists competing in front of a panel of judges, all of the acts this year were alumni of past shows, with each of the six alumni would collaborate with another in a non-competitive exhibition of talent.


R&B group ANAK – winner of Kollaboration SF 2 – and R&B/Soul band The Delivery – a finalist of Kollaboration SF 3 and 4 – were the first mash-up to perform. From original songs to covers, the two groups were a good mesh as vocals (from both sides) and instrumentals collided in an almost Motown-esque kind of vibe. They kept the energy high onstage and the performers were really engaging with the audience.


The energy went from high to mellow as the next collaboration took to the stage. Melvin Sings!– a finalist of Kollaboration SF 4 – and &Blue – winner of both Kollaboration SF 4 and 2013 Kollaboration Star – were accompanied only by a guitar as they sang their set in a chill, laidback vibe. Their voices blended harmoniously together with each song they sang, as the audience soaked in their serene yet fun performance.


The final performance brought together the musical talents of violinist CryWolffs Violin – a finalist of Kollaboration SF 3 – and a cappella group SanFran6 (whose members include a number of finalists from Kollaboration SF 4 and 5). Kicking off with a showdown between CryWolffs and SanFran6 member DRC Beatbox – winner of Kollaboration SF 5 – the rest of the a cappella group, who were also previously seen on NBC’s The Sing-Off, came together for a musical explosion made up with covers of hit songs. Together with CryWolffs as the solo instrumentalist, the singers of this collaboration performed along with him with melodic voices and skilled beatboxing.


Host Ashly Perez of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures kept the audience entertained throughout the show and in between acts. From making her first appearance by dancing out onstage to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” to recounts of youthful shenanigans and even a rendition of “Smelly Cat,” she was an enjoyable and hilarious host. She even served as the judge for the audience singing competition that immediately followed the intermission and she, along with everyone else in the audience, was blown away by the astounding vocals of the eventual winner, Kollaboration SF staff member Layla Yu.

It was a fun night of tunes, jokes, and cheers; all without the stress of wondering who would be the winner at the end of the night. If anything, the night’s events served as a reflection of the words spoken by Executive Director Daisuke Kojitani in his introductory speech, explaining how powerful entertainment is in its ability to send messages and influence thoughts and lives, and why it’s so crucial now than ever before to provide a platform for a more accurate representation of the Asian American community.

In other words, it’s all about “Empowerment through Entertainment.”


Fresh off the Boat Recap 2.04 – “Fall Ball”

It’s not unusual for an Asian household to be multi-generational. While it varies from household to household, living with extended family is a lot more common in Asian American families. Having three generations living under one roof can be pretty hectic; especially when members of different generations are either trying to help another out, or are butting heads. In this week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat, we get a little taste of both.

Jessica is in desperate need of a loan in order to strengthen her career as a real estate agent by going into house flipping. Conveniently, Grandma Huang’s late boyfriend (who, for some reason, everyone knew about except for her) left money for her in his will. Seeing an opportunity to get the money she needs, Jessica – who’s always had stiff relationship with her mother-in-law – attempts to get on her good side. Not one to be fooled, Grandma lays down some harsh truths about Jessica’s attitude that causes her to stop and re-evaluate her motives and relationship with her.

Meanwhile, the Fall Ball at Eddie’s school is coming up, and Louis is more psyched for his eldest’s first school dance than Eddie himself. Having never been to a school dance himself, all he knows about them are from re-watching the John Hughes classic, Pretty in Pink, over and over again, back when he worked at a New Jersey pizza savers factory with Jeremy Lin (er, I mean, Chau). However, when he sees how ill prepared Eddie and his friends are for the dance (cue his horrified expression as they demonstrate their dance to Shaggy’s “Boombastic”), Louis takes matters into his own hands as he helps the boys get ready.

I think it’s safe to say that this was one of my favorite episodes so far this season, and while there are several reasons that come to mind, the main aspect I enjoyed was really the character development exhibited in the episode.

Grandma Huang has always been a fan favorite with her funny one-liners and just generally being awesome. In this episode however, we began to see and learn more about her, and that especially goes for the scene where she calls Jessica out on her scheme to get her money. It’s a genuinely interesting direction the episode took with her, though I have to say that her remark about white people being the cruelest race went a little too far, even for her.

I got to see this episode screened in advance at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Hella Asians on TV event last week. During the panel discussion afterwards, comedian Jenny Yang pointed out that the scene between Jessica and Grandma Huang proved just how revolutionary Fresh Off the Boat is as a TV show starring an Asian American family. She discussed how incredible it was to see a conversation on an American sitcom conducted entirely in Mandarin – and that the one Mandarin line where subtitles didn’t show up for was when Grandma calls out Jessica on being cold-hearted. That is surely something you hardly ever see otherwise from other family sitcoms.

The other character that I felt got to develop more this episode was Eddie. After encountering Allison (the flute-playing girl from the end of the second episode), he developed a new crush on her. While he’s eager to pursue her, his insecurities show when he reveals to Louis how he doesn’t want to go through heartbreak again. It’s a sign that he’s growing up, and it’s a clever storyline to follow as we continue to watch Eddie transition into adolescence.

Overall, it was a fun episode of Fresh Off the Boat that continued its streak of NBA guest stars with a cameo from Jeremy Lin, as well as its ongoing effective 90’s throwbacks (remember frosted tips anyone?). Also, congratulations to the cast and crew of Fresh Off the Boat, for it has recently been announced that the show has been given a full season order!

Please note that Fresh Off the Boat will not be on next Tuesday, but be sure to tune in the week after that.



Featured image courtesy of ABC

Hyphen presents Real Talk about #HellaAsians

On the evening of October 8th, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, in collaboration with Hyphen Magazine, hosted Hella Asians on TV. The three-hour, sold out event included an advanced screening of the episode, “The Fall Ball,” from ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, followed by a panel discussion about the shifts and challenges that come with representing the Asian Pacific Islander American community in mainstream media.

In the dimming sunlight overseeing the Civic Center Plaza of San Francisco, the museum slowly came alive as the event kicked off with a happy hour, 45 minutes prior to the doors opening to Samsung Hall for the screening and panel itself. Not a single seat was left empty as Hyphen Editor-in-Chief Michelle Carlton made the introductions to the episode.

Photo by Vi Son Trinh
Photo by Vi Son Trinh

The lights went out and the screen flickered to life with the Huang family at it again with their day-to-day shenanigans. Laughter ensued for the next 20 minutes for what was surely an episode that was worth seeing five days ahead of its air date.

The discussion kicked off immediately following the conclusion of the episode with a panel that included comedian Jenny Yang, comedian/performance artist Kristina Wong, and author Jeff Chang. They began by discussing the episode, as Chang noted how the relationship between Louis and Eddie in the episode felt very much like the Season 1 episode, “Persistent Romeo”, when the sex talk is given. Yang found it particularly trippy when a conversation between Jessica and Grandma takes place entirely in Mandarin- subtitles and all- on an American television show.

Photo by Jenny Yang
Panelists Jenny Wang (left), Kristina Wong (center) and Jeff Chang (right) – Photo by Jenny Yang

On the show in general, Wong stated how she’s constantly wowed it’s still on the air, for she’s always scared that it’s suddenly going to go away. As far as the statistics go as to whom is actually tuning in to Fresh Off the Boat, Yang revealed that the largest Asian American viewership is Filipinos. She also noted how there’s a large Black audience for the show as well.

The panel touched on a wide assortment of aspects regarding Fresh Off the Boat; from their worries about how it could turn out wrong prior to the series premiere, to how the actors portray their characters, as well as the controversy surrounding Eddie Huang’s outspokenness on his stance on the show based on his life. They went beyond Fresh Off the Boat and discussed the number of Asian Americans that are on television now, from returning shows like Agents of SHIELD and America’s Best Dance Crew, to new shows like Dr. Ken and Quantico.

While the panel made it evident throughout its discussion – as well as during the Q&A – that it’s wonderful to see an emerging diverse media landscape, they made sure to point out how there’s still more progress that needs to be made. However, the fact that we’re at a point in time where we are finally seeing “hella Asians” on TV – such as the first Asian American family sitcom in 20 years – is a wise direction to go in.

Watch the Panel here:



Featured image courtesy of Hyphen Magazine & Asian Art Museum

5 Reasons Why Disney’s Casting of Moana is a Big Deal

Last Wednesday, Disney released a video about its upcoming film Moana. Along with the video, Disney also announced who was cast as the lead character in the film.

And guess what? Moana is a Native Hawaiian princess… who will be played by an actual Native Hawaiian girl, 14-year old Auli’i Cravalho.

While the decision is hardly innovative (letting people of color play people of color? How revolutionary!), it’s a big deal. Given the underrepresentation as well as the misrepresentation of people of color, Disney’s latest move is an important milestone in not only the company’s history, but also in that of film and TV.

Here are five simple reasons why casting decisions like Disney’s Moana are much needed:

1. Recurring media representations of any given group of people over time will affect the way we perceive those people.

Photo by: Bob D'Amico/ABC
Sandra Oh as Yang on Grey’s Anatomy – Photo by: Bob D’Amico/ABC

For example, according to shows like Baywatch or even Spongebob Squarepants, we may believe that lifeguards have the luxurious task of strutting around all day, basking in the sun while folks swoon over them. In reality, lifeguards sit in a chair 4-5 hours a day until disaster strikes. Luxurious? Probably not.

A more serious example is the common stereotyping of Asians in the media – see O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill as the Dragon Lady and Christina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy as the model minority.  

2. Withholding the right to self-representation has historically been a form of oppression in the media, especially for people of color.

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Case and point: the long history of yellow face in Hollywood. Asian actors were actually restricted from playing major roles even if the character was of Asian descent in order to secure jobs for white actors.

Although there are certainly fewer instances of this intentional oppression today, we’re still tackling the acceptability of white actors playing people of color. When non-white cultural narratives are already so hard to come by, these opportunities that do exist shouldn’t be denied to actors and actresses of color.

That being said: thank you, Disney, for recognizing this truth by conducting an open casting call to find the next Moana.

3. Disney princesses are role models for many young girls – and not every girl looks like Snow White.

Disney Princesses at the coronation of Merida - photo by Candace Lindemann/Flickr
Disney Princesses at the coronation of Merida – photo by Candace Lindemann/Flickr

The Disney Princess effect suggests that many young girls model themselves and their actions after princesses they see in Disney movies. So what happens if a girl of color notices that barely any of the princesses look like her? She’ll likely aspire to look and become more like her role model – who will most likely be white.

The residual (and subconscious) effects of privileging whiteness in the media are dangerous. For example, they lead us to believe fair skin is more valuable than darker skin.

4. More stories need to be told.

Viola Davis at the Emmy's. Image source: Mic/AP
Viola Davis at the Emmy’s. Image source: Mic/AP

Remember Viola Davis’s epic Emmy speech from a few weeks ago? If not, let us refresh your memory: Davis said, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” Davis’ words perfectly encapsulated the sentiments behind a conspicuous statistic: despite the diverse cultural demography of the United States, the majority of film directors, writers and actors in Hollywood are white and male.

A note to media makers and creators everywhere: Culture is complex. In order to be accurately portrayed, it needs to be represented by someone with the lived experience of being from that culture. The actress or actor thus will feel more accountable for the intentionality behind his or her character’s portrayal. Otherwise, the portrayal is susceptible to simplification – or stereotyping, which does nobody any good.

5. Because of the reasons above, it doesn’t matter if a character is animated or not – it’s still representation.

The cast of The Last Airbender - via knowyourmeme
The cast of The Last Airbender – via knowyourmeme

Looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan. When accused of whitewashing in his film The Last Airbender, Shyamalan defended himself by saying, “The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous.” Never mind the fact that, as per Shyamalan’s casting choices, Dev Patel plays the film’s villain Zuko and just so happens to be the only brown person in the entire film.

But that doesn’t mean that narratives of people of color should be exploited through faulty representation. Disney has been so guilty of this (see Pocahantas, Mulan, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog) but they’ve proven they can do better and we have our fingers crossed with Moana.


Featured Image Credit: Disney