Chow Yun-Fat

A couple of Chow Yun-Fat tidbits.

First, there's word that he and John Woo have teamed up to direct a snazzy-looking video game designed in the style of one of their old Hong Kong action films of the early to mid-1990's. The video game is entitled Stranglehold, and was previewed at the E3 conference earlier in the year. (The following video shows gameplay of the game, here is a link to the trailer)

This game looks hot! The gameplay seems to be dynamic in how you can control the character, and the fact that you can interact so fully with the environment is incredible. The gamplay action looks like it's movie-quality, and John Woo's signature scenes (i.e. the doves) are given new life by being rendered in video game form.

What I'm most happy about is that Chow Yun-Fat is rendered very well in this video game format — because he and Woo are in charge, we don't see any emphasis of Chow Yun-Fat's Asian features in order to make him “look more like himself”. We see more of that kind of thing with Western video game developers who don't seem to be able to include Asian characters without giving them tiny slanted eyes and yellow-tinted skin, so it's refreshing more Asians becoming involved in video games behind the scenes.

However, the first image of Chow Yun-Fat as Sao-Feng in Pirates of the Carribean 3 was released earlier in the year, and I just now came across it.

And, just, wow. It might be the tint of the picture, but it looks like Chow is wearing yellow make-up in addition to being costumed like a Fu Manchu knock-off. I am so not looking forward to Pirates 3.

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 1

So, unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I got stuck in traffic and walked into the apartment at 7:09, just in time to catch the tail end of the Asians discussing the “Puka” tribe that they've been tossed in. Hopefully I haven't missed too much and anyone who is actually here trying to watch the show with me (if there are, in fact, any of you), I hope I didn't lose you.

7:09
Cao Boi (the 'ol Asian hippie archetype) is discussing why he feels apprehensive about being in an “all-Asian” tribe because he's “never fit in with Asians… because he doesn't fit into the stereotype”. Cao Boi proceeds to describe typical Asians in terms of the model minority myth: studious, unassuming, eager-to-please. Here is the problem with the model minority myth in many aspects: it not only divides Asians by constantly establishing a “standard of Asianness” which uses external qualifiers to decide a person's own racial authenticity. Also, Cao Boi assumes that the myth is fact.

7:16
After the Black tribe (“Hiki”, but let's get it straight, these names are more arbitrary than usual. They are, and will be to all fans, the “Black” tribe just as “Puka” will be the Asian tribe) discusses using this stunt to “represent” and… show that Black people can swim… we move on to the “Raro” tribe (the White tribe) where we immediately hear a typical White guy stance on race relations: “it's going to be a cool social experiment” (nice to know that Mark Burnett circulated the talking points to the ones who look like him), a White guy who still can't tell the difference between race and ethnicity (and doesn't care to find out, preferring to just use it interchangeably to refer to “Other”) and a White guy saying that race doesn't matter to him, and it wouldn't matter “what kind of people” he was teamed up with.

We also find out that the White people in the portion of the episode I missed stole a chicken from the Latinos (I think), as well as having one of their own. So, as in history, the White-folk start out with resources privilege by stealing from the brownfolk.

And then they lose the chicken.

7:21
We return from commercial break to see the Black-folks dancing after they find the water source. After the danced when they found their flag. And then the Black women have “Black woman drama” and the Black guy is shown “being lazy” because he takes a nap on a bamboo sheet while the women busy themselves with trying to start a fire. Yeah, this show is really going to be challenging stereotypes.

7:24
More stereotypes — the “sorority chick” immediately throws herself at one of the Neanderthal-ish frat boys “because it's cold out”.

7:25
Further challenging stereotypes, Cao Boi, the Asian hippie, proceeds to go all Mr. Miyagi on one of the Asian boys who was suffering from a headache by diagnosing him with “bad wind” and “marking him” on his forehead. Cao Boi cites traditional Vietnamese mysticism. The younger generation of Asians dismiss the mysticism, but then the headache-sufferer (Yuka? God, I need to learn these names) claims that the headache remedy worked. Because all Asians in touch with “the Orient” have magic hands, and Asian American youths are all Americanized with massive disdain for their heritage. Thus far, it almost seems like Burnett and company are actually writing this show, with the sheer number of racial stereotypes and cliches we've seen, in only the last twenty minutes.

7:30
“Aitu” is the Latino tribe, which is apparently red, so apparently the chicken was stolen by the Whitefolk from the Asian Americans. Look how the Whitefolk screw the Asianfolk in the first fifteen minutes. That's racist!

Alright, the challenge is presented — it's basically a big puzzle race, which is probably too complicated for me to describe. They are competing for three flints, one for each of the non-losing tribes, and the winning tribe will also get a “fire-starter kit” (wait, isn't that just a box full of wood? ooooooh….) As the teams do the competition, I'm going to take a minute to say that these team colours don't make any sense: if they were going to make this the racist season, they might as well have just made the team colours Black, Brown, Yellow, and White. With the Asians being the “green” team makes me wonder if we should be calling them the Hapa tribe?

Glancing up, the “stereotype-exploding”, “representing” Black tribe gets off to a miserable start, incapable of putting together their boat (which needed to be assembled like a puzzle). Anyone who bought into the racist belief that Blackfolk aren't smart enough to solve a puzzle, this isn't helping matters. And, of course, further compounding the stereotypes, the Asians successfully solve all four puzzles in record time and win the thing. Yay flint and their box full of straw.

The Latinos come in immediately after the Asians, and the White team come in third, leaving a teary-eyed Black team re-thinking their earlier comments about swimming.

7:39
This episode is like a bad parody of a horror movie: again, a Black person is the first person to get snuffed out. The “twist”? Before going to elimination, the Blackfolk get to decide who from the other teams gets to go to Exile Island. Immediately, the two men of the Black tribe decide that the chicken thief is going to Exile Island.

Probst decides to get all social scientist on us and actually observe that the Black men made the choice of who got exiled, while the women stepped back and let the “mens” make the decision. But of course, Probst doesn't actually say anything about it — what good is a social experiment if the experimenter is too stupid to make observations of potential cultural sexism? Was Probst perhaps worried of looking like a racist?

7:44
The Chicken Thief disdainly says in his voiceover that he stole “the Asian guy's” chicken and “the Black guy” screwed him. And we get that White entitlement thing, too, because the Chicken Thief actually talks about how he feels wronged for being “punished” for stealing from the minorities. You even get a hint of the “damn minorities, all uniting against the poor 'oppressed' Whitefolk” from him as he bemoans his fate spending a night or two from his tribe.

7:47
Immediately, the Black team returns to the island and divides along gender lines with the three Black women talking about voting out the larger of the two Black men (the “lazy one” who had fell out during the fire-starting incident. Apparently, his name is Seku, but I didn't catch the spelling). The two men reach out to Stephanie, the more ostracized of the women in hopes that she will ally with them, and in so doing, Seku makes a number of sexist remarks including suggesting that the women couldn't build a shelter without the men and that he would be the one to start a fire, and when he does, the women better “keep it going”.

7:51
After Probt's usual teasing apart of team/interpersonal drama, Probst drops the question: “How are things different with tribes divided by ethnicity“? Incidentally, every time Probst talks about ethnicity and this season's stunt, he sounds more and more like the ugly, ignorant White guy who is offensively curious about racial minorities (in that way that's like when a White person wants to touch a Black person's hair to “see how it feels”).

Not surprisingly, the Blackfolk laugh at him. Why? Because as uncool as Probst has seemed in past years, he sounds even dorkier trying to talk about race “without being politically incorrect”.

7:53
As they vote, I just have to say that it would be stupid for the women to vote out Seku, but they'll do it. Early on, it's most important to have a physically strong tribe, because so many of the early challenges are unfortunately based on brute strength. But Stephanie won't see this — and she might feel like she has good reason to vote out Seku because of his sexism.

And, not surprisingly, Seku is gone. And the Blackfolks are unfortunately at a strength disadvantage because Burnett can never get past casting hyper-masculinized men with massive bulging muscles, as if Burnett is over-compensating for something in himself.

As this episode winds down, my first impressions of this show is that it's a typical, tawdry Survivor season, completely mindless and distracting, this time with a healthy seasoning of racism and ignorance. It'll be fun seeing how long I can live-blog these episodes before my brain implodes. Hope my masochism is entertaining to you!

Next episode: Cao Boi makes anti-Asian jokes, making him the most self-hating yet stereotypical Asian man on television, while a large Latino man is lazy.

Survivor Premiere Tonight

I have a habit of masochistically subjecting myself to shows that I know from inception will piss me off, and of course, this season of Survivor is no exception. It's my intention to live-blog tonight's premiere, and to use that as a determinant of whether or not to continue live-blogging for the rest of the season.

Please tune in if you're also subjecting yourself to the same horrors: I will be live-blogging at 7pm PST or 10pm EDT. If you're in my timezone, you can keep the show on (7pm, CBS) and refresh this index page to watch as my comments roll in.

For East Coasters, you get Survivor two hours earlier; it will be coming on at 8pm, CBS so you'll get to find out what happens long before we get to see the show.

Before the show starts, consider these choice quotes by Jeff Probst (from this morning's AP article):

Later, when a number of players have been voted off, the thinned-out ranks will be consolidated and integrated. Then, Probst explained, the issue becomes whether to stay loyal to members of your own ethnic group, “because you've already made bonds based simply on skin color.

“Or, more likely, will you look to make alliances with people who … will help you to the end, so you can win?”

Yes, because an alliance in this season's tribe is different than all others we've seen previously because this time, contestants will make bonds based on race, and not because they've been pre-sorted into race-based tribes and don't have the option to make non-race-based alliances.

A Blow to the "Gazelle-like"

Reuters is reporting that Madrid's fashion week, a premiere fashion show, has stirred controversy by launching a ban on “overly thin” models, citing the promotion of unhealthy body image as leading to eating disorders like anorexia and bullemia.

Roughly a year and a half ago, I blogged about “Skinny White Bitches“, referencing mainstream standards of beauty as being unhealthily skewed towards the unbelievably thin and racialized to marginalize people of colour. At the end of my rant I asked,

But then again, I look at Sarah Jessica Parker and Joss Stone, and I wonder why it is that the Gap and other clothing companies, which carry so much influence over young women's sense of beauty, can't promote more representative body types of all colours? Why can't traditionally white magazines like Cosmo and Sixteen feature beautiful, full-figured women of colour?

I responded to these questions by saying:

The bottom line is that, in the short term, that would translate into a loss of sales as the women already socialized into hating their own bodies would refuse to buy the magazines.

I'm glad to see that I was wrong.

I was pleasantly shocked this morning when I read the headline — could it really be? Was the same fashion industry that has for a generation lauded the “famine-druggie-chic” of Kate Moss once again promoting more healthy female forms that leave room for a woman to possess internal organs in their proper placement? By placing itself at the forefront of this socially responsible act, Madrid is sending the message that it's not just about money anymore, that industries must take responsibility for how their products can cause deleterious effects on society, even if those effects are intangible and hard to quantify.

Of course, what's most fun about the article is not the ban on overly-thin models, but the modeling agencies' response to the restriction. Cathy Gould of New York's Elite modeling agency is quoted as coming to the defense of (get this) “gazelle-like” models:

“I think its outrageous, I understand they want to set this tone of healthy beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer[?]”

First of all, I think the word of the day must be “gazelle-like”. Talk about a great euphemism for “starving”. Imagine if the U.N. started sending humanitarian aid not to regions of famine, but to rescue people from “gazelle-like” conditions. Or that you couldn't buy clothing in S, M or L, but in “gazelle-like”, “gazelle-ish”, and “gazelle-not”.

And secondly, why should I care about discrimination against the model? If I were worried about discrimination against fashion models, I would speak out against the treatment of fashion models as walking clothes hangars, without brains, doomed to an existence of being seen and not heard. I would speak out against the inherent sexism of dressing women up and parading them around like dolls to be leered at by salivating men. I would speak out against an industry using women to tell other women how to think about themselves, other women, and the world around them.

But talking about discrimination against skinny fashion models — with the emphasis on skinny — is like talking about discrimination against Whites because we want to remove White privilege. Talking about discrimination against skinny models is like saying that Aundrea, Aubrey, Dawn and Shannon of Danity Kane fame are losing out because D. Wood's bootylicious ass (far left in the picture below) is getting paid to be on the same CD case as they are (albeit clothed in more layers than the rest of their outfits combined to hide the “rolls” and pushed off to the side so that we can focus on the skinny White bitches who get to take center stage).

Yes, after this restriction, it might be harder for a skinny fashion model to get a job, but only harder because now the playing field is being equalized as more “plus-sized” models (as in, plus compared to size 2) get the jobs that have been long denied to them because of discrimination they face in favour of the skinny models. And as a girl who wears size 8-10, I'm all the happier because of it. The fashion industry needs to realize that we (the “plus-sized” women) are beautiful and their consumer base.

And maybe all this will actually lead to the second necessary step in the fashion industry: revolutions in clothing that can actually fit a normally-sized woman. How often has the average woman seen a beautiful outfit that they would love to wear, except that it only fits right when made in sizes 0-4? As a buxom curvaceous woman, it's virtually impossible to find a trendy outfit that not only fits my curves, but actually hangs properly when it does it. So many of the latest fashion trends have been made to fit those with “gazelle-like” figures: from Uggs to those poofy skirts, to the peasant tops — all these cuts of clothing tend to make any but the most stick-figure thin look short and dumpy.

Activists are frequently asked for pro-active solutions to social problems. For Asian Americans, for example, we often must address the question if Asian American screenwriters are doing enough to increase the quality and quantify of Asian American representation on the big screen. And when we say “no”, we're usually cited as being impossible to please and asking too much.

Well, here, Madrid has set a fine example of what can be done by leading members of a particular industry. The Madrid fashion week is a prestigious event and rather than shirk from what it feels are its moral obligations, Madrid threw care to the wind and took a bold stand — one which the fashion industry is more-or-less forced to abide by. Madrid's stance has also made the world consider more closely the role that fashion models play in our standards of beauty and the connection between that and ever-increasing instances of eating disorders in the world's youth. Madrid has shown by its action that this is an international problem with an equally international (and, really, relatively simple) solution. All it took was one person (or in this case, one city) to take an unpopular stance.

That being said, one down-side is that Madrid will be using BMI to make its determination of who can and cannot participate in the fashion week. Although it's better to use numbers than subjective characteristics, the BMI is a flawed index that is incapable of distinguishing between fat vs. muscle content of a person's body. Although it's hard to conceive of a more precise measurement that is as easy to take, that probably would have been preferred over supporting the BMI.

What Are You?

Yes, I'm just catching up on my email…

Eric Stoller blogged recently about his girlfriend being confronted with the “what are you” question, and queried as to why many Whites feel the need to put people of colour into identifiable little boxes.

To me, it's just a by-product of the Other-izing of minorities. For many Whites, who are, by definition, never face the racial degradation of Otherizing (or even conscious membership to a racial community) see nothing wrong with being curious about a “different person”'s background or appearance. For some, there is a fascination with being visibly different, for others, it is a belief that racism exists only as racial slurs and sodomizing broomsticks, and cannot be found within an “innocent question” posed by a curious and nonetheless open-minded White liberal.

The truth is that people of colour loathe the “what are you” question because it's a reminder of the inequality we face inherent to our racial background. “What are you” suggests that we are not them, we are not normal, we are different. Though the White querient may believe the question is not harmful, they never consider how the very non sequitor nature of the question not only reminds us of our “Other”-izing but showcases the mindset of Whites who feel entitled to the knowledge.

I'm frequently asked by Whites “what I am” — and these questions are usually followed by comments about Chinese culture that supposedly connect them to my background. I haven't quite figured out how to respond to these kinds of questions, but I certainly know that I'm tired of being a “what” in the first place.