Digging into the Racial Politics of ‘Ugly Delicious’

A screen capture from "Ugly Delicious". (Photo credit: Netflix/Ugly Delicious)

By Guest Contributor: Rachel Kuo

The popular reception of David Chang’s Netflix series Ugly Delicious – which seeks to open conversations about food, culture, identity, and politics – demands investigation into how the show actually engages these questions. Beyond troubling concepts like ‘authenticity’, what does Ugly Delicious offer and where might it fall short?

Ugly Delicious has received positive reviews from popular food sites like Eater, while publications like the New Yorker, New York Times, the Boston Globe, Vulture, and Indiewire specifically laud the show’s ability to tackle the cultural politics of food and engage difficult questions about race, class, and power in food culture. Chang himself states that the show uses food as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to talk about broader social topics as well as to represent histories and tell cultural stories about food.

Through Ugly Delicious, Chang is able to talk about the “elephant in the room: racism” (Episode 7: Fried Rice). By leveraging his elite status in the culinary world, his success in building restaurants that ‘mix’ and ‘borrow’ from different cuisines, and his ability to expertly navigate his Korean American identity, Chang is able to engage in debates about culinary appropriation in mainstream media where other people of color who have written bout food and race have been met with criticism, backlash, anger, and trolling.

Ugly Delicious offers introductory conversations around the racial and cultural politics of food. For example, in ‘Fried Rice‘, ‘Tacos‘, and ‘Fried Chicken‘ episodes, the show establishes that in order to talk about food, taste, and authenticity, one must engage the ways in which structural racism decides whose food gets valued and why. What do we do with food when white supremacists want their Del Taco while seeking to deport Mexican immigrants, too? Chang contends with his conflicted emotions about the popularization of Korean food, evoking Ruth Tam’s writing on the frustration of being shamed for one’s food when white people make it trendy.

Despite provoking these nuanced ideas around race and food, Ugly Delicious also reproduces harmful cultural logics and narratives, such as the overemphasis on representational visibility as viable markers for social progress; the exacerbation of problematic racial dynamics around white self-identified cultural experts; and, the erasure of colonialism, militarism, and war when stating that certain food cultures have ‘always’ had global influence.

Given that the show intends to open up conversations about social issues through food, my hope is that it can spark further discussions about the intersections of food, race, power, and capital.

Continue reading “Digging into the Racial Politics of ‘Ugly Delicious’”

Upcoming “Titans” TV Series Casts Ryan Potter as Beast Boy

Ryan Potter (left) and Beast Boy (right). (Photo credit: IMDB / DC Comics)

2018’s planned Titans TV show has it’s Beast Boy — and it’s Big Hero 6‘s Ryan Potter.

For several weeks, a casting notice (after the jump) had circulated among Asian American acting circles suggesting that Titans show runners were seeking an Asian American actor for the role of series regular “Jax”, described as a 13-15 year old Asian male. The character is described as “funny, self-deprecating, and charming” leading fans to suspect that the role was for the team’s Beast Boy.

Continue reading “Upcoming “Titans” TV Series Casts Ryan Potter as Beast Boy”

Daniel Dae Kim in Talks to Join “Hellboy” Cast as Major Ben Daimio

Daniel Dae Kim

Variety reports today that actor Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-OLost) is in talks to join the upcoming Hellboy reboot as Major Ben Daimio, a role vacated by actor Ed Skrein (The Transporter: RefueledDeadpool) following online controversy over whitewashing. The character of Major Ben Daimio is Japanese American. Skrein is not Asian American, whereas Kim is Asian American (but not Japanese American).

Continue reading “Daniel Dae Kim in Talks to Join “Hellboy” Cast as Major Ben Daimio”

Daniel Henney Joins Main Cast of “Criminal Minds” in Season 13 Premiere

“Wheels Up” — Coverage of the CBS series CRIMINAL MINDS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Daniel Henney (Special Agent Matt Simmons), Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia). (Photo credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Although Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was canceled earlier this year after two seasons, fans of the Criminal Minds franchise need not despair about losing their fix of Special Agent Matthew Simmons any time soon.

In breaking entertainment news reported earlier this month, CBS revealed that hunky and all-round-awesome-guy Daniel Henney (Big Hero 6) will join the cast of the long-running main Criminal Minds series in the show’s season 13 opener, reprising his role as Simmons.

You can read my exclusive interview with actor Daniel Henney from when Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders debuted in 2016.

Continue reading “Daniel Henney Joins Main Cast of “Criminal Minds” in Season 13 Premiere”

Designated Survivor Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, ‘The Oath’

Something terrible is about to happen to the fictional president. (Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)
Something terrible is about to happen to the fictional president. (Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

If I ever have to deal with an assassination attempt moments after uncovering major threats to American democracy, I can only hope to deal with it all as competently as Maggie Q’s Hannah Wells.

Continue reading “Designated Survivor Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, ‘The Oath’”