“Asian-American’’ is a mostly meaningless term. Nobody grows up speaking Asian-American, nobody sits down to Asian-American food with their Asian-American parents and nobody goes on pilgrimages back to their motherland of Asian-America. – “What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity” by JAY CASPIAN KANG
This independent study has been a big experiment for me. It’s given me the agency to create a self-directed project, which has been my biggest complaint about higher education (how it never seemed to be what I wanted to actually learn about.) I feel that the most important part to any class is the simple principe of reading things I chose and being able to talk about them with another person on a deeper level.
I was able to ask myself what I wanted to write about and was forced to actually follow through on those desires by meeting with Professor Chien weekly. By taking my dreams and testing them out each week (and finding out that they didn’t always turn out the way I had thought they would.) I thought that I wanted to write an entire cartoon history/children’s book of Asian American history at first (I totally did not really want to do this and a much better version: Escape to Gold Mountain already exists)! My blog about K-pop is so different, and yet I am not sure if I want to continue doing this either.
Conversing with Dr. Chien about my ideas and how plausible they were was very helpful during this process. I was able to flesh out a lot of ideas that I had thought about, but never really put onto paper. This semester, I wrote multiple blogposts in a variety of styles, applied to multiple internships and learned about many Asian American spaces/publications/websites that have helped me grow as a person or have shown me what potential is possible in this burgeoning area of media.
When creating art for my zine, I struggled with what I wanted to convey. Though my blog is about K-pop, most of the pictures I made were about Asian American identity: which has always been the core of my interest with the K-pop industry.
There are many reasons why I like K-pop, but the main one is that it puts Asian faces at the center of music, dance and movies– something that isn’t seen a lot in American media AKA the world that I live in. K-pop is an escape that makes the impossible, being the center of admiration/desire/glory, actually seem possible; which is why the two things are so tied up together in my mind and on this blog. A core theme of this blog is the question– Why can Asian entertainers make it in Asia/America, when Asian Americans haven’t been able to do the same? (I know I never fully answered this question, but I am proud that I have created a body of work where I wrote about things I actually cared about, unlike the other English/History essays in which I haven’t.)
some answers to questions i had
I learned whether or not it helps if writing about the things you love (K-pop) make writing about them easier (sometimes, but not that much easier.)
I also applied to 15 media internships and had a further interview/assignment from 2. I learned from experience that getting a job in online media is difficult and hard to get your foot through the door.
I also was able to see what specific areas of expertise are in demand at the moment (e.g. PR, business, etc.)
I explored how others reacted to my writing: I submitted essays to 2 websites (BeyondHallyu.com & Adolescent.com), but didn’t hear back from either. I was interviewed by ECAASU and had to talk about my blog and ambitions about this blog face to face.
what i have done this semester
- wrote about k-pop with an academic lens (BTS)
- wrote about k-pop with a social justice lens (SNSD, political activism)
- wrote about how the asian music industry intersects with asian american identity (R!CH)
- tweeted and interacted with others on Twitter
- commented on interracial relationships and the criticism they confer
- applied to 15 different media based internships
- drew/created some (embarrassing) zine art
asian american creative websites i have learned about/learned more about that are totally inspiring!!
- Sad Asian Girls (defunct 2017)
- Wing on WOW.
- Asian Boss Girl Podcast
- Giant Robot Magazine
- Philadelphia Asian Arts Initiative
- Banana Magazine
- Hey Miyuki!
- AAWW/API Institute at NYU/MOCA
- Museum of Food and Drink Chow Exhibit
The biggest problem with this experience is that I thought that writing about Asian American identity (through the lens of K-pop) might help me deal with my personal path of understanding. I think that I have learned what is possible from the Asian American creative community and how amazing/important those things do to fill the holes in my own life.
However, I’m not sure I want to continue writing about race in the future. Unfortunately, to only write about it seems futile. I want to go further by involving other people and actually making an impact. So it’s to be continued…
things i still have to do
- create a poster/essay for the ASIA network presentation in April
Though I should have been studying for finals last week, I decided to forgo those responsibilities as I usually do by browsing my Twitter feed to see that one of my teenage heroes, an Australian YouTuber named Natalie Tran had posted a ~40 minute video, which was very different from her typically 10 minute long comedy sketches titled “White Male Asian Female”; a documentary that wasn’t funny at all and explored the sticky and controversial topic of this interracial relationships between these two demographics. Tran had created the video because of the violent and hateful comments that she has gotten over the years about her own relationships with white men. She states in the video that people have called her degrading names, insulted her cultural identity and have even threatened to rape not only her, but also her mixed ethnicity nieces.
This kind of harassment has been especially heightened because of her celebrity status and manifests itself especially on social media comments and Reddit– the nature of the source that can be anonymous and hard to understand from a username and an avatar. That’s why it was fascinating to see Tran interview a Reddit user named EurasianTiger who moderates the “Hapa” subreddit through a phone call about his perspective about the “White Man Asian Female dynamic.” Despite the subreddit’s name, which I had always taken to mean “half-asian”(apparently the definition has multiple definitions) the community is actually focused on half Asian-half White men and their racial identity: their sidebar features a picture of one of these men who claims that he’s never been able to embrace his Italian side because it doesn’t fit with how others view his appearance, and therefore him as a person.
Peculiarly enough, their sidebar also features a picture of the actor Nicolas Cage, his ex-wife Alice Kim and their son. After listening to EurasianTiger’s conversation with Tran, the implications become clearer, but they’re still unsettling: that sons of these relationships grow up with an inferiority complex due to society’s negative perception of Asian males (and therefore, half-Asian half White-men, because that’s how society perceives them.) .
Though he’s posted some pretty shocking statements on the subreddit, the manner in which he explained his own life experience and argument, as the son of a Neo-Nazi and a former Neo-Nazi himself, was well thought-out and rational. And I think I can see some of the truth in his statements: especially about how some “Hapa” people reject Asian culture in the hopes that that it might make them more accepted by the norm or so they can distance themselves from that part of their identity.
Though Asian masculinity has been discussed to a large degree, how mixed race individuals fit into that narrative is not something that is talked about much, and a worthwhile conversation to start– and something that seems to be speak to people: Tran’s video already has 375k views after being released just a week ago.
This topic reminded me about a conversation that I had with some professors about successful Asian female YouTubers, their success on the platform and how race plays into their narrative. Many of these beauty and fashion vloggers, as well as Instagram models, boast hundreds of thousands of followers for their admirable styling and beauty…Aaaand quite a few have white boyfriends or husbands.
Michelle Phan, Make Up YouTuber, 2.1M Instagram Followers
Aimee Song, Fashion Blogger, 4.7M Instagram Followers
Jenn Im, Fashion YouTuber, 1.6M Instagram Followers
Jen Chae, Make Up YouTuber, 1.2M YouTube Subscribers
So there is a trend (but there are also Asian female YouTubers who are in relationships with other Asians and those who are involved in both types of relationships who do comment on their cultural identity– and none who continue to have a negative perception of their ethnicity (the main critique of Asian women in interracial relationships is that they are self-hating and submit themselves to a white centered hierarchy.)
Though writing about Asian American media does make race the focal point of all my blogposts and there is this trend about some Asian YouTube/Instagram celebrities, I felt incredible uncomfortable about commenting about what the seemingly sinister implications about what meant– because I didn’t know these people, I didn’t know anything about their relationship with their culture and because there are people speaking about these struggles/identity issues in a positive way, I know that this is a way that the internet can create meaningful conversations about what is often left unspoken.
If vloggers and social media stars advertise their relationships on their platforms, they should expect that others will comment and judge them for their choices, as people do about looks, clothes, politics, etc.– but the idea that others can be so malicious about how other people learn their personal lives is unwarranted and disrespectful to the uniqueness of our own lived experiences.
However, as people come from different backgrounds and histories. People make quick assumptions. Perceptions persist. — that’s why conversations about this topic are important to figure out where the hate about WM/AF relationships come from and how to remember that people are more than their race, despite what they think society sees them to be.
As 2016 left us in political turmoil in America, on the other side of the world there was also another political frenzy going on at the same time when President Park Geun-hye was impeached. And while I don’t have a strong interest in Korean politics, I was impressed with the fact that the Korean people were able to push out the president through non-violent protesting and campaigning– because this seems like something that has been impossible for us to do in America.
I don’t know a lot about the protests– how frequent they were and how hard it was to actually get the president impeached, but another interesting component of these political rally is the role that K-pop has had in them.
According to the media, the impeachment of the president was due to the revelation that she was inappropriately confiding into a personal friend, Choi Soon-sil, who received special benefits and was privy to confidential information. That confidant’s daughter was the recipient of many privileges at the prestigious Ewha Women’s College– it was only after the further governmental investigation of the university’s preferential treatment did Park’s corrupt behavior come to light.
It all started with the Ewha students protesting for their college president’s resignation after creating a new majors program. As police were called into action, the students started to sing the SNSD pop hit “Into the New World.”
As the protest for Park’s resignation grew, so did the influence of K-pop as a tool to bring protestors together. Below is a video from a rally where organizers remixed the famous theme song of the reality TV survival idol show “Produce 101” to protest the president in power. **Both of these videos were featured by Asian Junkie, a humorous (and crass) K-pop commentary blog, a while back.**
— Joseph Kim (@josungkim) December 4, 2016
This protest culture is something that seems to permeate in Korean youth. One of the most popular dramas in Korea is the “Answer Me” series, which picks a certain period of time in the recent past and depicts love and family life of a group of friends. The most recent and most popular installment, “Answer Me 1988”, featured the eldest daughter and a student at Seoul National University, Bora, protesting with her fellow classmates against her parents wishes. Based on real-life occurrences, the student protests in the 1980’s were a theme throughout the show: it was college student protesters that helped bring down the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan and eventually lead to democratic elections after a decade of political abuse.
The fact that this part of history was depicted in such a popular drama speaks to the concern and attention that South Koreans pay to their politics. It’s refreshing and different from the passivity that everyday Americans seem to have about our current political climate. However, the impeachment of Park was pretty much agreed upon by all Korean citizens– there is no polarity over that topic like there would be between conservatives and liberals about the removal of Trump. However, if organizers are frustrated, perhaps someone should remix Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” to insult Donald Trump at the next Women’s March.
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