More Queer than Gay, ‘The Half of It’ is Wholly Necessary

Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu in "The Half Of It". (Photo credit: The Half of It / Netflix)

By Guest Contributor: Kim Tran

This post first appeared in Wear Your Voice Magazine and contains mild spoilers for the film “The Half of It”.

I was terrified of watching The Half of It. The dearth of representation for queer Asian American women means that, fair or not, a lot is riding on this lone film firmly situated in the variegated ‘coming of age’ genre. Based on early trailers, it’s obvious Alice Wu’s long-awaited follow up to the groundbreaking Saving Face could have easily fallen into convention. A reboot of Cyrano de Bergerac with a new ‘diverse’ cast. It could have been a sweet, yet flat rendition of a familiar tale. It could have been Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) cast as the quiet, whip-smart, puppeteer behind her un-clever, friend Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) both in love with the same girl. It could have just been yet another version of that story except with a Chinese American lead struggling to actualize her sexuality in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. It could have been trite and saccharin and perfectly watchable. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Instead, The Half of It shows us how queer a Netflix movie can be when it takes identity as a given and not a destination. Stripped bare, Wu’s newest film is a rare gift, a movie that embodies queerness and Asianness with ease and space. 

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Without Air For So Long: Asian American in the Age of Coronavirus

A person holds a hand-written sign that reads "I'm Not a Virus".

By Guest Contributor: Amy Zhou

This piece was originally published in The Wake Magazine.

I often wonder: will I ever be American enough for the country I was born and raised in? Will I ever be Minnesotan enough for the state that I grew up in? From Chinese exclusion to Japanese internment, has there ever been a time when Asian Americans weren’t a hair’s width away from being aliens? Our history has been manipulated and molded into something palatable that whiteness is comfortable with. We have been doled out slivers of humanity on the condition of our complicity. But anything — a war, a pandemic, a skit — can expose how dispensable we have always been to them.

I miss the bustling streets of Shanghai with their never-ending streams of pedestrians going to and from work. The smell of cigarettes and a slight hint of sewage, but also of the cong you bing frying on a nearby street cart. I miss the yell of Chinese and the concert of people moving, going, hustling, doing. The streets of Shanghai are where I’m from; my parents immigrated in 1990. I was born nine years later in Corpus Christi, Texas, a world away from the origins of my blood. I grew up grossed out by the Chinese food my mother made and embarrassed by my parent’s accents when we went out in public. So much of my life has been spent trying to assimilate myself into my whiter surroundings, rejecting all the yellow parts of me.

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OPEN LETTER: UCLA Law’s APILSA Responds to Prof. Stephen Bainbridge’s “Egregious” Tweets

UCLA's School of Law

By Guest Contributor: UCLA Law‘s Asian/Pacific Islander Law Students’ Association (APILSA)

Editor’s Note: On February 25 and on April 6, UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge posted tweets musing whether his Chinese students were carriers of COVID-19 and linking Chinese consumption of exotic meats to the spread of novel coronavirus. Professor Bainbridge later deleted the tweets and blocked UCLA Law students who criticized them. Facing mounting criticism, yesterday Professor Bainbridge engaged people on Twitter — including the editor of this blog — walking back the content of his tweets.

This is an open letter written by UCLA Law’s APILSA regarding Professor Bainbridge’s tweets. Full text of this letter can also be viewed on Google Docs. You can add your name as a signatory to this letter here.

Shortly after this letter was made public, Professor Bainbridge deleted his Twitter account.


Dear Law School Community,

On Tuesday, February 25, 2020, Stephen Bainbridge (@ProfBainbridge, Note: now deleted) issued the following (now-deleted) Tweet:1Stephen Bainbridge (@ProfBainbridge), Twitter, [https://perma.cc/GL4F-AMMZ] (Feb. 25, 2020)

“If we ask nicely, do you think we can get China to ban eating bats, civets, and other wild animals that serve as viral hosts?”

On Monday, April 6, 2020, Stephen Bainbridge issued the following series of (now-deleted) Tweets:2The original tweet links to an NPR Morning Edition Episode, which actually discusses the racism that Chinese students are experiencing due to COVID. See Coronavirus Concerns Weigh On Chinese Students At U.S. Colleges, NPR (Feb. 6, 2020) (noting that racially insensitive comments “have led to a sense of ill-ease among some Chinese students here and that’s amplified by social media back home”)

“1/ The Economist reports that an antibody test for the novel coronavirus will soon be available.  I would be most curious to take one. As some of you know, I had a horrific cold/flu in late January/early February that I assumed was a bad case of bronchitis.” 

“2/ But I have a number of Chinese students in my class this semester and I wonder if one of them might have brought the virus back from China.  I assume not because I know of nobody else at the law Schoo [sic] who got sick, but still… One wonders.”

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What I Want From Chester Tam’s Upcoming Rom-Com Film

Photo credit: Monique Jones

By Guest Contributor: Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet)

Note: A version of this article originally appeared last year in Just Add Color.

A few months ago, during one of my shifts for Shadow and Act, I reported on Gabrielle Union’s upcoming starring role in a new Screen Gems rom-com. The film is unique among Screen Gems’ repertoire: it’s about an interracial relationship between an Asian man and a Black woman, and is written by Chester Tam.

The film is based on Tam’s real-life relationship experiences. Currently, no actor has yet to be cast opposite Union as her romantic interest.

From my article:

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chester Tam will direct a rom-com for Screen Gems starring Gabrielle Union. The film, based on Tam’s own script, will be semi-autobiographical and follow “a newly single African-American woman who begins dating a recently divorced Asian-American man,” per the article’s description.

The logline, the article states, hasn’t been fully revealed, but will focus on “how a drunken one-night stand leads to a secret relationship that eventually becomes public, surprising both friends and family of the couple given that neither is typically the other’s type.”

While the plot of this upcoming film sounds interesting, I’m hesitant. Given this backdrop, how will this film present heterosexual interracial relationships between Asian men and Black women — and might it do more damage than good?

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Focusing on Parasite’s Success Misses an Opportunity to Challenge Anti-Blackness

The cover image of the Parasite DVD/Blu-Ray

By Guest Contributor: Nicholas Wong

Last month, people around the world celebrated the underdog success of Korean film Parasite as it swept through the 92nd Academy Awards to win four Oscars. Each new award for the film ratcheted up a breathless excitement that culminated in a historic win for Best Picture, the first foreign-language film to ever take home that honour.

The victory was especially meaningful to Asian North Americans1Writing as I am from a Canadian context, I use the term “Asian North American” here to collectively refer to the broadly similar sociocultural categories of “Asian American” and “Asian Canadian”; however, I recognize that these categories warrant distinction under other analytical circumstances. , who took to social media in droves to express their pride in the film’s achievements. For decades, Asian North Americans have lamented the deplorable state of Asian representation in Western pop culture. In North American media, Asians have been either almost non-existent or, when portrayed, depicted through harmful racist stereotypes. In recent years, high-profile controversies surrounding films like Aloha and Ghost in the Shell – both of which featured the “whitewashing” of ostensibly Asian roles – have amplified the call for more Asian representation in Hollywood.

A positive shift in this cause has occurred over the past two years, with Asian-led films like Crazy Rich Asians, Always Be My Maybe, and The Farewell garnering box office success and critical acclaim. These films, all helmed by Asian directors and featuring Asian actors in starring roles, have been praised within the Asian North American community for proving the viability of Asians in pop culture, authentically portraying our experiences, and debunking stereotypes. Add on Parasite’s Best Picture win, and it would appear as though Asians have finally broken through Hollywood’s bamboo ceiling.

However, the reading of these films’ significance as primarily tied to their success in achieving Asian representation reveals a limited capacity for Asian North Americans to critically evaluate their own media. The perceived scarcity of – and consequent hunger for – Asian popular media representation has foreclosed the possibility of talking about our successes in anything but celebratory tones. “If we don’t support our own at all costs,” the thinking goes, “we may never get another chance.”

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