I can’t figure out why lists of positive, progressive representations of Asian Americans on primetime television keep forgetting Hawaii Five-O. Really.
When we think about Asian Americans on television, we will rattle off several of the usual suspects — The Mindy Project, Community, Lucy Liu on Elementary, Ming Na Wen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Glenn on The Walking Dead. But then there’s bizarre pop culture blind spot for Hawaii Five-O, a show that features three (count ’em three) regular Asian American cast members: Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly; Grace Park as Kono; and Masi Oka as Dr. Max Bergman. It also gives a home to a breath-taking rotation of Asian American guest stars, including Brian Yang in the recurring role of Charlie Fong.
(Funny story: I was at an exhibit opening for Secret Identities’ Marvels and Monsters, and was introduced to Yang — there to promote Linsanity — by photographer Corky Lee. Lee said to me, “do you recognize this guy? He’s famous!” I stared at them both blankly and said, “err, no.” “Really,” asked Yang. “I’m on Hawaii Five-O!” “You are? Huh.” “Do you watch it? Don’t you recognize me?” “Yeah, I do watch the show. But…. huh, no, I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you at all.”
Ooops. This is why I’m terrible at networking. I’m sorry, Brian Yang! )
Sure, Hawaii Five-O will never be mistaken for a fabulous crime procedural. It’s formulaic and campy, and an unabashed vehicle for gratuitous bikini shots and/or Alex O’Loughlin’s abs. And, sure, the two main characters — McGarrett and Danno — are about as White as the driven snow.
But, against this backdrop, Hawaii Five-O also is quietly doing some amazing things for the Asian American community.
One of the most ground-breaking events was last week’s episode commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbour. And, strangely, it aired with virtually no fanfare from the APIA community.
So I have some very bad news everybody. I just heard from the Hawaii State Attorney General’s Office today, who told me that the #iVOTED contest is in violation of a Hawaii State Election Fraud statute, specifically Chapter 19-3, which you can read here:
As a result, I’m afraid I’m going to have to withdraw the #iVOTED contest. I’m so sorry to everyone who took the time to submit. I received some really amazing photos and was so impressed with how enthusiastic you guys were. If I could think of any legal way to keep it going, I would do it in a heartbeat. I’ve even thought of other alternatives I could offer to encourage people, but apparently it’s even illegal to offer a tweet session to say thanks. Again, sorry.Though I’m happy to comply with the law, I do have to say that it saddens me that in the state with the lowest voter turnout in America…
Whether or not I’m able to host a contest though, I hope you’ll still get out there and please vote; and I really hope you’ll keep sending me pics and tweets showing you did. I promise you I’ll be smiling when I see them.
Thanks again everybody. Also mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines and The Modern Honolulu Hotel for their support. I’ll see you on twitter, Facebook and of course, your TV screens.
With deepest aloha-
That totally sucks, because I thought DDK’s contest was creative and inspiring — a testament to his interest in encouraging civic participation. And, besides, y’all should be voting anyways, folks!
So, even though DDK had to withdraw his contest, this isn’t any reason to choose not to vote. Vote now, vote early, vote by mail. vote on Tuesday (ok, don’t do all those things at the same time though; that would be both a time paradox and voter fraud). Further, just because you won’t get a chance to fly to Hawaii and meet Daniel Dae Kim and the cast of Hawaii 5-0 is no reason to notstill Tweet fun pictures showing evidence that you voted with the hashtag #iVoted to @danieldaekim.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m advocating spamming @danieldaekim with #iVoted pictures.
And yeah, maybe you won’t win a trip to Hawaii. But, you could still entertain the coolest celebrity on the planet with your civic involvement. Just a modest thank you for having been willing to host this contest in the first place.
If ever you needed proof that Daniel Dae Kim, of Lost and Hawaii 5-0 fame, is the coolest celebrity on the planet, here’s the skinny on a Get Out the Vote contest he’s hosting for his Twitter followers:
In an effort to encourage all of us to vote I thought I might do more than your usual PSA or well meaning-tweet. I’ve decided to hold a little online contest where the winner will get to spend some time here in paradise and visit the set of Hawaii Five-0.
Here’s what you need to do to enter:
1. GO OUT AND VOTE! It doesn’t matter whether it’s early voting, absentee voting, or the old fashioned go-to-the-polls kind. It doesn’t even matter who you vote for. Just get out there and do your thing.
2. Show me proof. Take a picture of yourself at the polling station, or with your postage ready absentee ballot – something to show me that you did your part to shape the future of our country. Then ATTACH THE PHOTO TO A TWEET AND SEND IT TO ME WITH THE HASHTAG: #iVoted
3. Wait until November 9, when I will go through the submissions FROM THOSE WHO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER and announce the winner!
How will I choose the winner?
I will copy all of the tweets from followers who attached their photo along with the hashtag #iVoted and store them starting today, so early voters get just as much of a chance as those who vote on November 6th. In fact, voting early will probably help you get noticed and counted since so many more of us will be voting on Election Day.
The more definitively you can show me you voted, the better your chance of winning. If it’s kind of questionable based on the pic, I may not count you in for the final round. On the other hand, if you take the time to show me a little flair or creativity with your post or photo, it may not guarantee you’ll win, but it will definitely help you catch my eye and get put into that final selection group. From there, I’ll pool all the eligible submissions and choose someone randomly.
Once chosen, the winner will be personally contacted by me on twitter, and we’ll start making travel plans!
I’ll fly you and a guest to Honolulu from wherever you live in the CONTINENTAL US, ALASKA or even HAWAII (in case you don’t live on Oahu :).
You and your guest will stay at the Modern Hotel in Waikiki (courtesy of me and the good folks there), where you’ll stay for 3 nights. All travel should be complete by the end of February 2013.
On one of those days you’ll also get to visit the set of Hawaii Five-0 as my guest and watch us shoot.
That’s it! Now I’m kinda new at this whole contest thing, so I don’t know all the legal mumbo jumbo, but hopefully everyone who participates will do it in good faith just like I am. Feel free to retweet this link to all your friends, but be sure to tell them that if they want to participate, they must follow my account so I can be in touch with the winner.
*Finally, as a little added BONUS, on Election Day I’ll go online to hold a live tweet session (I’ll let you know the time later) with all those who entered, just to say thanks for doing your part.
Thanks so much for reading this very long post, and thanks even more for voting. In the election of 2000, a difference of only 536 votes decided the presidency of the United States. Your vote CAN make a difference. Let’s make it count.
Getting to participate in the American Democratic process and getting the chance to hang out with the super-awesome (and need-I-say-it genuinely good-lookin’) Daniel Dae Kim and castmates on the beaches of Hawaii? I am so bummed I’m Canadian.
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.