A Potential New Stereotype: “Asian Men Hate Shirts”

With all the buzz surrounding K-Town on the blogosphere, Jen over at Disagrasian warns us to tone down the joking. And she’s right — this is serious, folks. Jen warns that K-Town could invoke a new, very harmful, stereotype against Asian Men…

that Asian Men hate shirts.

I applaud Jen for being vigilant in this matter. As she describes in her post, the consequences of this stereotype to hard-working, honest Asian American men is profound. We could be talking about scores of Asian men turned away by employers who require shirts be worn every day of the week — even Casual Friday! Thousands of Asian men might find themselves applying for jobs in fields where they won’t be unfairly penalized due to the anti-shirt stereotype. Do we really want our Asian brothers forced to work as strippers, cabana boys, and life guards?

Think about the self-hate and shame that will be invoked amongst decent, well-meaning Asian men when they hear phrases like, “Hey, dude, chill out! Keep your shirt on!” or “What are you, a nudist who lacks commitment?” Think of the pain Asian men will have to endure when they become targeted by new racial slurs, like “shirt-hater”, “Chippendale”, or “nipple-flasher”. And will Asian men who take their shirts off — even while performing reasonably no-shirt activities like swimming or taking a shower — be accused of being sellouts for perpetuating the shirt-hating stereotype?

But, I do disagree with Jen on one thing: let’s put the blame where it belongs. The “shirt allergy” stereotype against Asian men did not begin with Peter Le, Young Lee or Joe Cha. No, these boys are mere symptoms of an institutional stereotype that just hasn’t received sufficient media attention until now, when K-Town finally exposed the stereotype’s full impact on our Asian brothers. These poor souls are only acting as they think they’re supposed to, because the “Asian men hate shirts” stereotype has been so deeply internalized into their self-identity. In a way, these men are heroes, for bravely shedding light on a silent oppression.

Consider how many other innocent Asian men have fallen victim to this syndrome:

So, you ask — whom should we really be blaming?

Well, I think the answer is clear — the blame lies squarely on the man who first brought this dastardly stereotype to American audiences.

That’s right: Bruce. Effin’. Lee. That frickin’ nipple-flasher.

Act Now! I’m declaring August 1st to be National Asian Male Shirt Solidarity Day. Wear a shirt and show your support. Spread the word.

K Town: Giving the Bird to the Model Minority Myth

These are true Asian American heroes — bustin’ the model minority myth one shot of Grey Goose at a time.

Y’know what would really give the middle finger to that pesky stereotype that Asian Americans are goody-goody math nerds? Tyrese (aka Black Ty) has the answer: a Jersey Shore-style reality show following the booze-fueled antics of eight ridiculously good-looking Asian Americans being the trashy, promiscuous, melodramatic, and shallow people we’ve come to expect from MTV.

Damn. Why didn’t we think of it sooner?  

ChannelAPA reports that filming of a pilot for the proposed series, tentatively titled “K Town”, took place this past weekend in L.A.’s Koreatown. Eight Asian American twenty-somethings — four male and four female — partied at several local establishments, taking part in stereotype-busting activities like binge-drinking, shirt-stripping, and karaoke.

And in the tradition of such high-brow fare as Real World and Jersey Shore, K Town looks to have chosen its cast based around the same 7-8 archetypes developed since the first fateful day when seven strangers were picked to live in a house and have their lives taped.

This is all just my speculation, based on superficial generalization and assumptions from the shoot photos “leaked” onto Facebook, but let me know if you think I might be onto something here.


The All-American Jock
This guy has incredible upper-body definition, and the classic Asian guy ‘do (fade around the sides, spikes up front). He’s gonna be the sorta shy “nice guy with the amazing body” that the girls will lust after, ‘cuz he doesn’t know his own pretty.
Played this season by: Peter Le

Peter Le

The Class Clown
What he lacks in “good guy charm” he makes up for by being the entertainer — which involves shoving alcohol down the throats of all his castmates. Don’t worry, his flamboyance hides his secret insecurity and inner geekiness.
Played this season by: Young Lee

Young Lee

The Playa
What he lacks in muscle-rippling physique (and he would argue that’s all relative), he more than makes up for in game. When he’s not chasin’ tail to prove his manliness, he’s ‘roid ragin’… to prove his manliness.
Played this season by: Joe Sugil Cha

Joe Sugil Cha

The Playa Hatah
Desperately trying to compete with the other larger-than-life personalities, this is the guy who thought he was jock-ish, clown-ish, or playa-ish enough to be on the show… until he met the rest of the cast. But he’s too sensitive, too funny, or generally too much of a real person to be on this show, so he’ll fade into the background by episode three (and only re-surface when he has something catty to say in the Confessional). Don’t worry, tho’ — the playa hatah is either completely forgotten, or ends up being the secret fan favourite. 
Played this season by: Steve Kim

Steve Kim


The Princess
This is the girly-girly chick that all the guys on the show — and all the show’s male fans — wish they could boink. She likes bikinis and shopping, spends half her on-screen camera time in the communal bathroom, and is possibly just a little bit whiny. The Playa Hatah or the Class Clown may have a crush on her, but she will probably end up hooking up with the All-American Jock by episode 6, followed by relationship angst for the rest of the season.
Played this season by: Jennifer Field

Jennifer Field

The Sassy Drama-Queen
She stirs up drama like it’s her second job. Count on her to say the shit no one else would say about her castmates, and possibly to get into a screaming match with anybody who challenges her. Her arch-nemesis is usually The Princess. She could be a hair-puller, or even a biter. She might also be the one to dance on the bar by the end of the night.
Played this season by: Violet Kim

Violet Kim

The Nymphomaniac
No season of reality TV is complete without a Tila Tequila-type girl who just loves having fun — with her castmates, with producers, with random people she meets in the club. The All-American Jock may try to save her from her hypersexualized ways with soulful conversation, but she’ll probably be too busy in the hot tub with the Playah to notice. Don’t worry though, her free spirit tendancies also make her the most fun castmember on the show. She’s possibly also a nudist.
Played this season by: Jasmine Chang

Jasmine Chang

The Girlfriend (With the Off-Camera Boyfriend)
Often, this is the level-headed girl who seems to have gotten off at the wrong subway stop and found herself on the set with seven drunk morons. She’ll be the most rational and reasoned — which means that the camera will quickly forget about her. If she doesn’t have hormone-soaked drama involving cheating on her off-camera  boyfriend with an on-camera roomie (which is what all the producers are hoping for), she’ll end up spending most of her time sneaking away with the Playah Hatah for a smoke on the patio to lament how she ended up in a house full of crazy people. If she does end up having monogamy issues, count on her to rack up the most time in the phone booth room having very long, awkward, tear-soaked conversations with a disembodied male voice.
Played this season by: Scarlet Chan

Scarlet Chan

 So far, K Town is just a pilot shopping for a home. I’m sure we’re all waiting with bated breath to see if it gets picked up.

“Lost” and Found

The phrase "rest in peace, Losties" seems particularly apropos

This post is about the last episode of Lost. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s probably because you got lulled to sleep by the 30 seconds of Lost followed by 2 minutes of commercials format they went with for the finale. If you don’t want spoilers, go drink some coffee and cue up your TiVo. 

Don’t worry, I’ll wait. 

Seen it now? Cool, let’s get on with the water cooler discussion, than. 

A couple of weeks ago, I asked if Lost had jumped the shark. But like any faithful fan (or drug addict), I kept coming back for more. Last night, I hosted a Lost watch party (complete with Lost-themed food and drink) for the 2 and a half hour series finale. And, honestly, I think Lost may have partially redeemed itself with its series ender. 

Lost is clearly a series that intended to explore spiritual matters from the beginning. Each of the main survivors appear to suffer from a spiritual emptiness in their off-island lives. The island is a place where the line between life and death is blurred, and ghosts haunt the living. Jacob and the Smoke Monster are clear representations of pure Good and Evil. Hell, the main protagonist spends the entire series searching for his lost father, Christian Shepherd — a name that was revealed back in Season 1. Fans predicted (both rightly and wrongly) from the beginning that all the characters were dead and that the island was some sort of purgatory. 

Yet, Lost became ensconced in mystery after mystery, that seemed to multiply exponentially with each season. Every answer given seemed to expose more questions, and unfortunately, most of them remained unaswered by the end of the Lost finale. What is the true nature of the Source upon which the island is built? Who built the underground cavern that houses The Source? What was Charles Whidmore’s plan involving Desmond (Whidmore didn’t know about the location of The Source, so he must have had another plan)? How did the Dharma Initiative find out about the island and what was the purpose of some of the more elaborate experiments designed by Dharma? How did Walt develop his “bringing things back to life” power and Miles develop his “talking to people in the Flashsideways purgatory” ability? What was the magic of the numbers? 

With the theme of the finale, the show’s writers basically asserted that many of those questions were meaningless — and, as a fan of the show’s mystery, I was frustrated by that message. Instead, the writers argue that it is the journey that the characters were on, not the destination, that was important for them. The answers to the questions of the island (i.e. the purpose for why each of the characters were marooned on the island) didn’t matter when compared to the relationships formed between the Losties over the course of their time together. 

I saw this movie, once, called Waking Life, which suggested (among other things) that the after-life was actually a prolonged dream state that occurs in the process of dying. At this time, the brain knows no concept of time, and the person recollects his or her life in an abstract experience that can feel like an entire lifetime, but occurs in reality within a fraction of second. This dream state ends at the moment of brain-death, but could it be that death can only occur when the person chooses to end the process of processing his or her life (and wishing to go on living), and accept his or her death? 

This idea seemed to be reinforced in last night’s episode of Lost. Last night, it was revealed that the Flashsideways universe is a form of purgatory, where each of the survivors went to at the moment of their deaths, whether they die in the past (as with Shannon, Boone, and Charlie), in the future (as with Kate, Claire, Hurley, and Ben), or in the present (as with Jack). While some have asserted that this purgatory is an afterlife, I believe that the purgatory was supposed to exist within the dying moment of each Lostie. For example, while Juliet dies in Sawyer’s arms in the opening episode of Season 6, she says the same things she said in her conversation with Sawyer in the Flashsideways universe: “Let’s do coffee” and “Let’s go Dutch”.

Who knew that one of the most heart-rending lines of the episode could be "let's do coffee"?

Furthermore, when Miles allows Juliet to talk from beyond the grave, she tells Sawyer “it worked”. At the time, we thought Juliet had seen an alternate universe where the island never happened for each Lostie, but last night it became clear that Juliet was talking about salvaging a chocolate bar from a vending machine for Sawyer. In addition, the fragment of conversation that Miles picked up from Juliet (“it worked”) occurs earlier in the Flashsideways conversation between Juliet and Sawyer, not after the “Let’s do coffee” and “Let’s go Dutch” lines, further suggesting that while the Flashsideways continuity appears linear (for the purposes of storytelling), it all occurs instantaneously and simultaneously. Clearly, for Juliet, the Flashsideways purgatory universe didn’t happen after she died; she was living her existence within the Flashsideways universe in the seconds before she died. 

People seem to experience the purgatory universe as a natural process of dying, as a place where they can recollect the choices they made in their lives and ultimately find peace with their death. Each Lostie is oblivious of the true nature of the Flashsideways universe, trudging through their mundane lives (perhaps endlessly?) until they are faced with a moment of realization that it is better to “let go”. For each Lostie, the circumstance for their relevation is different, but generally involves a moment of deep connection with another person they met on the island. For Kate, it was delivering Aaron and realizing it is time to stop running. For Locke, it was being cured of his dependence (both physically and emotionally) on his wheelchair — which he had been using as a crutch (pun intended) to hide from reality. For Jin and Sun, it was being reminded of the daughter they brought into the world. And for Jack, it was finding peace with his father’s death. In all cases, the Losties seemed to find peace and accept death by resolving an emptiness they had suffered in life, often through the people they met on the island. They learn that a fulfilled life isn’t necessarily about the big things we accomplish (or leave unresolved), but about the people we meet and affect (and who, in turn, affect us) along the way. 

Or to beat the metaphorical dead horse, it’s not about the destination (which is largely unaffected by whether or not we get there), it’s about the people we ride the plane with. 

As an agnostic, this finale resonated with me. While the overt Christian imagery is there for the Bible-thumpers, the finale doesn’t explicitly state that “letting go” means going to Heaven. Indeed, (“white light seen through the doors of a church pushed open by a Christian Shepherd” aside) I prefer to think that all the Losties simply found peace in death by “letting go” of the need to keep living (and re-living) their lives while seeking fulfillment they didn’t know they had already found. Whatever happens next to the Losties (Heaven, Hell, reincarnation or oblivion) is as unimportant to the Losties (if not to us) as the true nature of the island; in death, what was ultimately important was the experience of deciding to embark (or not, as with Ben) on the adventure of “letting go” together. The final episode emphasized the strength of personal choice, rather than predestination, in the lives (and deaths) of the Losties: and their version of Purgatory is, in many ways, shaped by the limitations of human consciousness and perception. And, despite the fact that this all just metaphysical hand-waving, there’s something comforting in the notion that even if our last moments of life are experienced in the final, random pinging of a dying brain, we do not die alone. 

Although most of us would probably be creeped out by drunk Daddy groping us in a church in our final moments of Purga-life...

While the big ticket items were not resolved in the finale of Lost, I’m strangely satisfied with the ending. The Losties found each other in death, and achieved fulfillment in their lives. Touching reconnections between each of the characters in the episode’s final scene spoke to not just the friendships made between the characters over the course of the series, but also to the friendships made between the actors in the show’s filming. The show may have jumped the shark in killing off Sayid, Sun and Jin in a single episode, but I find myself kind of sorry to see it go. 

Final Thoughts:

  • It was appropriate that Hurley became the new Island Guardian. Jack was never cut out for a prolonged Jacob-esque existence, whereas Hurley would be deeply fulfilled by caring for the island and its inhabitants.
  • Ben makes a good number two. It was nice to finally see him become special.
  • I was thoroughly annoyed by the Temple of Doom-esque set of The Source, and the big bathtub plug that seems to keep The Source… ehrm… Source-y.
  • The reunion between Sawyer and Juliet was touching and sweet. The reunion between Sayid and Shannon was just kind of grope-y.
  • Sun and Jin’s post-revelation encounter with Sawyer was touching. Jin managed to convey so much knowing and joy about seeing Sawyer again without saying a word. At the same time, both of them also somehow managed to make the whole thing a little creepy, so you could see why Sawyer was totally weirded out by the whole thing.
  • I guess Michael and Walt just didn’t make enough friends on the island, huh?

Meanwhile, I’m kind of suffering from a post-Lost depression. This show took six years of my life: what will I fill my own TV void with? I’m thinking Hawaii Five-0. Why? Could it have something to do with the fact that I have a major boy crush on Daniel Dae Kim and a major girl crush on Grace Park? Of course not. 

That's just way too much pretty for one beach.

Lost With “Lost”

Because nothing says 'castaway on a deserted island' like a strappy metallic dress and a tailored suit...

Spoiler Alert! This post is about last night’s episode of “Lost”. If you haven’t seen it, you live under a very big rock with no electricity. If you plan on not being a pop culture dweeb and actually catching this episode before you catch a bad case of spoiler, do not read on.

You have been warned.

Has “Lost” jumped the shark?

Okay, perhaps this is an over-reaction from a devoted fan who has followed the show from the beginning, but last night’s episode may have finally convinced me that Lost has lost all appeal.

For those of you who need a refresher of what happened last night (or, I guess, for those of you who just would rather read a spoiler than watch the show), three of the main characters of Lostwere offed last night: Sayid, Sun and Jin.

That’s right, three.

That’s 75% of the Asian American actors on Lost who just found themselves written out of the main storyline. And all of them were killed in a single episode. Ken Leung has got to be downing multiple shots of tequila for making it out of Lost‘s little Asian American massacre last night.

Now, obviously, I’m upset primarily because Sun and Jin were, by far, my favourite characters on the show. I rooted for Sun and Jin through three seasons of emotional turbulence, when these two star-crossed lovers were separated by geography, time, and the apparently sadistic nature of the show’s writers.

But last week, we were treated to a touching (if somewhat melodramatic) reunion between Sun and Jin. Finding one another moments before being captured by Charles Whidmore, Sun and Jin hugged, kissed, cried, and inexplicably chose to communicate with one another in stilted English. Fans of Sun and Jin were delighted — we had been tortured by the prolonged separation of these two characters, and we believed that they would get to enjoy their “togetherness” for at least an episode. Perhaps one (if not both) might even make it off the island to care for their child, Ji-Yeon.

But, no. Lost just doesn’t work like that.

Having been reunited for only about twenty minutes of on-screen time (and about half a day or so of Losttime), Sun and Jin are brutally killed in the episode’s big reveal: Fake Locke’s smoke monster (i.e. “Locke Monster”) devised an elaborate plot to murder all six of the candidates at once by luring them into the submarine and blowing it up with some C4 set on a timer. With nowhere to run, the candidates were sure to die in the resulting explosion, leaving Locke Monster free to leave the island.

Now, Sayid’s death I actually have no problem with. His angsty “maybe I’m evil — no, wait, I’m not — err, than again, maybe I am” character arc was a wee bit annoying, so I wasn’t too sad to see him go. This wasn’t made any better by Naveen Andrews’ patented “evil intensevacant stare” that he was using to convey his character’s general badness. Furthermore, in both the main universe and in the Sideways universe, Sayid is a sociopath, which hardly makes him lovable. While I’m unconvinced that his final actions truly redeem his character as good, it was nice to see Sayid cut the puppet strings for the final few minutes of his life and try to run the bomb away from the other Losties. Sayid’s character was a statement regarding the influence of individual choice when it comes to morality; despite having taken orders all his life (and adapting his moral code to not conflict with those orders), Sayid’s final sacrifice is a conscious choice fueled by his personal moral code. To that end, Sayid’s death shows the final evolution of his character — he goes from an unquestioning torturer with emaciated personal morality to a self-sacrificing (anti-)hero who dies for something he believes in.

But Sun and Jin’s death? Now, we’re just talking bloodlust when it comes to Lost‘s writers.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lost producers said that Sun and Jin died because they felt the need to establish, without a shadow of a doubt, the evil-ness of Locke Monster. “There is no ambiguity,” says [Lost executive producer Carlton] Cuse. “He is evil and he has to be stopped.”

But, after having watched last night’s episode, that excuse seems a little thin. I was pretty convinced that Locke Monster was downright evil when we realized that he had trapped all six candidates in an underwater metal cigar tube with four bricks of C4. Whether everyone had died, or only Lapidus (talk about an underwhelming death scene, by the way — it’s only a shade better than Ilana’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it death), the insidiousness of Locke Monster’s plan was inescapable.

And so, we’re left with Sun, trapped in a sinking submarine and pinned down by debris following Sayid’s self-sacrifice. Jin tries desperately to free Sun with his bare hands (if ever a man needed a class in introductory physics — use a lever, dude) while Jack is forced to abandon the couple to save an unconscious Sawyer. Sun urges Jin to leave and save himself, Jin tells Sun that he will not leave her again, and then they drown.


I’m sure the show’s producers weren’t thinking about the image conjured by killing all three prominent Asian American actors on Lostin a single 60-minute episode. I’m sure they weren’t considering the fact that, by offing Sayid, Sun and Jin, Asian Americans lost three of only thirteen primetime TV regulars portrayed by APIA actors (that’s roughly 25%, folks) — all in one night. And, I’m sure Lost producers weren’t deliberately giving the bird to all the fans who were skeptical of Sun and Jin in the first season — when Asian American activists worried that Jin was abusive and Sun lacked any hint of a feminist backbone. And, yes, it is nice to see an Asian couple on American primetime television serve as the symbolic Romeo and Juliet.

But, still! Just ‘cuz Shakespeare killed his star-crossed lovers in a symbolic (if ultimately empty) gesture, doesn’t mean that Sun and Jin had to suffer the same fate.

I’m going to watch this Lostthing through, but what’s going to keep me tuned in without Daniel Dae Kim’s love-hate relationship with clothing?!?