Not Unnoticed: Asians in Pop Culture

I’m a pretty chill guy.  Not critical at all.

No, that’s a lie, I’m pretty darn critical.  That being said, most of the things I like to argue about and criticize are hypothetical, and not something that I feel passionately about.  Usually, it’s because I’m discovering whether I care or not as I discuss – usually by the end of the argument, I care very much.

So it is with the Asian presence in pop culture.

Something is off…

When I first encountered this issue, it was (as it was for a lot of people) upon viewing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  Short Round was just… offensive.  I was a child, so I couldn’t really put my finger on it.

Then I watched Big Trouble in Little China in elementary school during afternoon day care.  I was surprised when a character in the middle of the movie started fighting everybody with clear, practiced moves, as I had assumed the character to be a helpless bystander.

“He can fight?!”

Brandon, the aide watching my class during afternoon day care, said “He’s Chinese, so in this movie, of course, he knows kung fu.”  Then he and the students around me laughed; his laughter was because the movie was making fun of pop culture by enabling it, and the students’ was because that logic just made sense to them.

I just didn’t get it.  I assumed it was a plothole.

I grew older.  I grew up on Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Yuen Biao – and absolutely anything by Tsui Hark, Corey Yuen, or Yuen Woo-Ping.

I found out that Jackie Chan was going to be in a movie with Jet Li.  It would be called “The Forbidden Kingdom.”  This is the poster:

forbidden_kingdom_ver8_xlg

It would get a western theatrical release!  How exciting!  Choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping?!  Yes, yes, yes!

So imagine my surprise when the movie was in English.  Okay.  Interesting, considering almost nobody in the movie speaks it as a first language.  Then I saw the most offensive part.

Jason

Who the flying Funk & Wagnalls is this, you ask?  It’s the star of the movie.

What, was there not enough star power with Jet Li and Jackie Chan?  These are international powerhouses.  The marketing alone shows that they were aware of how Li and Chan would draw people in.

I was reading The Joy Luck Club with my class, and I decided to watch the movie.  I didn’t end up showing it to my class because a lot of the movie has a mother talking to her daughter about her life at home in China – all in a thick, Vietnamese accent.

I got mad about it.  I read Yellowface in college and got mad some more. Then I decided that the world needed to take a chill pill.  It’s not worth being mad about, I thought.  The world will learn, people will see.

Nobody sees.

Warning: the following image may cause intense physical pain to the viewer if they are in any way appreciative of the manga/anime Dragon Ball.

dragon ball evolution

I can’t even talk about that one without seething for the rest of the day, (no matter who apologized) so I’m going to discuss one that all Americans have a chance of understanding.

Bones is one of those rare shows that both my wife and I enjoy.  In it, a forensic anthropologist named Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan works with her FBI partner Seeley Booth to solve crimes by looking at the clues found in murder victims’ human remains.  The show is entertaining because it has action, mystery, romance, and even elements of science fiction (the multi-million dollar Angelatron named for the Bachelor of the Arts grad that can hack into anything and create facial reconstructions from remains – no matter how grotesque of a condition they may be in.  Once, the victim was already cremated.)

I was binge-watching the series with my wife on Netflix today when we got to an episode of Season 10 called “The Lost Love in a Foreign Land.”  In this episode, Bones and Booth discover an underground human trafficking ring in which women were being trafficked out of Yianbian, China.

The murder victim looked pretty Korean to me, but that’s okay, I reasoned.  [Further research explains this, as Yanbian is on the border between Korea and China.  I didn’t know this, but before you start forgiving people, keep reading.]

Then it got insulting.

The Angelatron used facial recognition (or some other garbage tech) and pulled out a list of suspects.  This led them to their suspect, Sung Dae Park.

sungdaepark

I’m just so thoroughly disturbed by how Vietnamese his accent was.  At this point, I realized that the story they wanted me to buy was that this Vietnamese guy had a Korean name and lived in a village in China.  Maybe you can’t hear it, but his accent might as well have been Australian, and his name Igor Boris Natasha – that’s how noticeable these things are to an Asian audience.

I understand that the Korean thing can be explained by the bordering Korea thing, but you can bet that if it was a white person speaking Spanish, they would bother to explain why he knows the language.  They just threw us Chinese people with Korean names… then had them played by Vietnamese people.  Even if you excuse that, the accent!  The ACCENT!  Worse, the accent was a choice – by either the director, the producers… or Scott Ly, the actor himself.    How do I know that?  Look, Ma, no accent!

(“Ly” is a Vietnamese name, in case you’re doubting me.)

Maybe they couldn’t find anyone to play this character more authentically, you think.  Well, Bones was filmed in Los Angeles.

 

enough

 

This was just like the lady in The Joy Luck Club.  If Jackie Chan can play a Vietnamese guy in his upcoming movie The Foreigner, then surely this is to be expected, right?

Wrong.  I know I can’t effect change all by myself, but I’m putting them on blast.  You thought surely nobody would notice?

We all notice.  Be ashamed.  Do better work.

That being said, I’m torn – because The Foreigner looks awesome.

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The Bathroom Issue

This debate is one that often transcends any single plane of argument.  One minute it’s about logistics, the next it’s about ethics.  The situation starts as a simple hypothetical: A student asks to use the restroom in the middle of your class, at a time when you’ve just started getting your class into gear.  What do you do?

Online, I’ve noticed that there are several lines drawn here.  Parents almost unanimously cry foul at a teacher’s refusal, citing human rights for why their angels should be allowed to use the restroom whenever they feel the need, and that furthermore, they shouldn’t feel pressured to put themselves out in any way upon feeling said urge – the teacher needs to just let them go and suck it up, they say.

Students feel the same way – “We’re young adults, you can’t tell us what to do.  Just go, no matter what the teacher says.”

Teachers are divided: Half say “Don’t let them go.”  The other half says “Go, you don’t want to get sued, especially if admin won’t back you up.”  Sad truth.

I will first tell you my bathroom policy, followed by my responses to these arguments.

I tell my students that my class is like a car ride, and that they need to go before they get in the car.  If they ask to use the restroom, I use Classcraft to take 10HP from them with a preset called “Go on your own time,” or I say “No.” until they ask again.  I do tell them that they are at my mercy, as in my class I am the Morning and Evening Star.

Is this a power trip?  No.  I will explain.

First of all, this argument needs to be put into context so that I don’t have a swarm of Common Sense Media parents clamoring for my execution.  I teach high school.  Young adults, they’re called.  Not elementary students.  My policy is based heavily on this factor.  The three skills that I focus on in my class are the same that I would want my own kids to develop as young adults, and they’re the same traits that pushed me into adulthood and maturity.  Students find that mastering these three things is the only thing they have to do to be sure they will do well in my class – the rest happens by itself, usually.

Phan’s Trinity of Maturity
  1. Managing Time
  2. Managing Priorities
  3. Managing Communication

At my school, students are given a passing period to use the restroom, etc. and of course breaks and lunch.  If students don’t use the restroom during this time, then they are not managing their time, and they are certainly not prioritizing their own well-being.

What about a medical condition or an emergency?

The contingency I do allow is reliant on the 3rd skill.  If you have a medical condition or an emergency, you need to adequately and effectively communicate it.  That’s just survival.

My child shouldn’t have to humiliate themselves in front of the class to use the restroom.

Then certainly it’s their job – or at the very least the PARENT’S job if the student is determined to be helpless – to tell the teacher ahead of time and work out some kind of signal system if they have a condition… I mean, it’s not like effectively conveying need in an emergency situation in a quick and efficient manner is a life skill or anything.

Communication is the major skill here, because I’m not a robot!  If you can convey the gravity of the situation, you probably have nothing to worry about.  It’s about knowing why the system is in place.  The system says nobody can go, but the system is not in place to stop people with full bladders.  It’s to facilitate learning.

If you need to pee and you’re not just trying to escape class because you’re bored, then you’ll have no worries, because you’ll have no problem finishing the sentence you’re on before going.  You won’t have any qualms about handing over your phone while you’re gone either, right?  Since you’ll be right back and it’s not like you were going to call your friends or tweet for 45 minutes and come back when the bell rings?

It’s messed up to take points away for having to use the bathroom in class!

If you really need to go, you can’t control it, right? It’s like having bad weather that cancels your practice.  If you take the hit, then work extra hard to make up for the hit!  That’s being responsible.  If you accidentally break something, you still own up.  If you have to go to the bathroom, it’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s not your classmates’ fault, so obviously it comes down to you to deal with the issue – and sometimes that means taking the hit.  You know what?  Life will go on.  I don’t know what the aversion is to losing points for things that aren’t anyone else’s problem.  That’s life.  If I’m paid by the hour for a job and an asteroid strikes my car and keeps me from going to work, I’m not going to insist I get paid anyway.  No, I take the hit.  If your dog eats your homework, you take the hit and then in the future you take better care of your homework – and your dog.

And as for the student insistence that they have the freedom to just “go, no matter what the teacher says?”  That’s true, you have that freedom.  A teacher won’t bodily stop you.  I can technically walk out of the classroom whenever I want, too.

You see, freedom comes only to those who accept the consequences.  If a teacher forbids you to go, and you need to go, then by all means go.  Then take the referral the teacher writes you, serve the detention, whine about it to your mom, and sleep soundly knowing you were in the right.  Then use your knowledge of your teacher’s jerk attitude and the system to avoid having to go in their class anymore.

As for getting sued… well, honestly, no teacher can do anything if they fear being sued.  My advice for that is usually just to be smart, be transparent, and always do your very best to do what’s right in your heart, and the world will have a hard time condemning you.

Yeah, sometimes I’m more naive than the students.  I don’t really see how anyone who isn’t an idealist in some fashion or another can become a teacher, though.

2017 Fourth Annual Northern California Instructional Technology Summer Summit #mouthful

summitlogo17m

NOTE: I do talk about this event in the latest episode of the Podcast.  Go listen!  Phan’s Homework is what it’s called, and you can find it on Google Play, iTunes, or… here, on this site.

So I just got back from the first date of Phan Summer Tour 2017.  Basically, I was asked by Classcraft to go to the Fourth Annual North –

No.  I’m going to call it the Redding Edtech Summit from now on.  That other name is awful and long.

Anyway, if one is part of the Classcraft Ambassador program, Classcraft will occasionally send one of you to the big Tech Summits to represent them and spread the word about how awesome a tool it is.  This one was kind of a special case, but I needn’t bore you with specifics.  In any case, I was there to represent Classcraft and to network.

When I showed up to that DMV-looking building they call an airport (it legit looks like there’s a parking lot outside that just happens to have airplanes in it once in a while), there was a dude there with a sign with my name on it.  Yeah, you’re jealous.

So we went straight from the airport to the actual event.  It was very obvious that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore*, because there were more than 3 kinds of trees.  Yep, San Jose pretty much has 3 trees:

  1. A maple looking tree
  2. A palm tree
  3. Whatever tree you’re allergic to

*That figure of speech doesn’t quite work when it comes to travel in the US, does it?  Stay with me, folks, I’m still in California.

Ryan Johnson (@mrjbusteacher)  was there.  Man, let me tell you, that fool does not play around.  What I mean by that is not that he is not a playful guy (he is).  What I mean is that he does nothing halfway.  This guy was 100% involved in the planning of this event, down to the individual vendor.  He was an outspoken advocate for Edtech in his community, and obviously a mover and shaker.  He also was the main reason I didn’t need an Über, because he either drove me around himself or arranged it with other people.  I actually did very little waiting for transportation.

Anyway, the Summit was at Parsons Junior High, and not only was I teaching a session on Classcraft, but I had also been shanghaied at the last second by Ryan to do the closing keynote.  I was well-received, I think.  You can be the judge: Ryan also took a video of my presentation, which cuts out right as the speech ends so that you have to take my word for it that people actually clapped.  Here is the video:

Although my table was the jankiest one there and held the least amount of swag (the pirate definition, not the weird millenial definition), Classcraft obviously had a rep at this place.  People had heard of it, and if they hadn’t, they were quickly wowed within minutes of a demonstration.  What’s not to like?  The artwork of Classcraft is awesome.  If I were to have a fantasy portrait of myself done, I’d track down their artist.  Look at this:

 

PhantheProphet.png

 

There were other vendors too, including but probably not limited to:

  • Texthelp
  • Keyboarding Without Tears
  • Peardeck
  • PowerSchool

So all in all, a great trip.  Tons of networking, and I got to promote a product that I’m really happy about.  I was very impressed also at all of the uses for tech talked about in Redding.  I’m from the Silicon Valley, but I had to admit that Redding’s technology game was surprisingly strong.  If you want to hear more about this, listen to my Podcast!

#GAFESummit in Modesto next!