Rejecting the Mere Optics of Diversity: Why I Support AAPI Independent Media

A panel from Monstress, by Marjorie Liu, published by Image Comics.
A panel from Monstress, by Marjorie Liu, published by Image Comics.

2015 has been an interesting year for me.

I’ve always identified as a proud fangirl – a lover and connoisseur of all things in nerd and pop culture. I’ve routinely brought my fandom into my writing with pieces that explore the intersection of race and gender with film, television, and comic books. I’ve done my fair share of live-tweeting Walking Dead episodes, and I’ve geeked out with the best of them over comic book superheroes and their live-action incarnations.

But in the last year, I’ve grown disenchanted with mainstream media. I’ve grown to hate the hype. Above all, I’ve developed a frustration with mainstream studios, and our preoccupation as communities of colour with major studio blockbuster films as a backdrop for enacting social justice and racial equality.

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DC Comics Does Diversity: Gene Luen Yang to take the helm of DC’s Superman (and other awesomeness)!

Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC's Superman. Where do I sign up?
Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC’s Superman. Where do I sign up?

Last year, Marvel announced efforts to broaden the diversity of their superhero lineup; only to run their main Marvel universe through the shredder this year and possibly erase all those gains. Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel have been criticized that even when they elevate the profiles of non-White and non-male superheros, previous efforts have stumbled due at least in part to failures to implement behind-the-scenes diversity initiatives; thus, earlier announcements have come across as transient pandering that lacks connection to the actual experiences of women and minorities while failing to produce opportunities for minority creators.

Today, DC announced its own radical shift that would be taking hold of the DC superhero universe in the coming months. No, not another Crisis: DC announced a major roster change in the creative teams behind several ongoing titles as well as the launch of several new books, all with the general goal of “broadening” the focus of the DC universe. In layman’s terms? DC is diversifying their superheros, and it turns out that they’re going to do it the right way: behind-the-scenes as well as in front.

MarySue is all over the news, highlighting the launch of two new titles that feature strong female superhero protagonists –– Black Canary and Starfire. This will be Starfire’s first solo title, and notably, she’s received a costume redesign that (finally) covers her top half (although, of course, she’s still wearing booty shorts).  In addition to a limited run Harley Quinn/ Power Girl (which may feature the new Power Girl, Tanya Spears who is Black and also apparently awesome) miniseries, these newly launched female-led titles will join ongoing series featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, making DC’s newly announced efforts one of the most inclusive comic lineups with regard to women.

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#FOB (or #FreshOffTheBoat): How an #AAPI sitcom hopes to reclaim a slur

freshofftheboat05

The news that ABC has made the bold decision to green-light Fresh Off the Boata new Asian American family sitcom airing 20 years after the cancellation of All American Girl, has already been making headlines.

And, if the last 24 hours has been any indication, Fresh Off The Boat is hugely provocative. Already, the show has sparked online controversy, specifically from pop culture critics questioning the possible political insensitivity of the show’s name.

This reaction is not surprising: it reflects the critics’ recognition of the term as a historic racial slur referencing new immigrants, coupled with ignorance of how “Fresh Off The Boat” (or “FOB”, pronounced “fob”) has also evolved to reference a core cultural dynamic within contemporary Asian Americana. The term “Fresh Off The Boat” is not uniquely Asian American, but it has strong Asian American connotations and distinct cultural significance for members of our community; in the context of this show, it is obvious “insider” language.

This morning, Alex Abad-Santos explored the meaning of the term “Fresh Off the Boat” for Asian Americans in a great article for Vox.com. The article quotes me in writing:

“The show is setting itself up to educate about the term,” Jenn of Reappropriate [said. She] voiced a mild concern with the title, explaining that the term lives somewhere between an insult and self-deprecating humor.

So let’s start that education process here with the question: what does “Fresh Off The Boat” or “FOB” mean?

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“Boxers & Saints” nominated for 2014 Eisner Award, wins LA Times Book Prize

boxerssaints

Gene Luen Yang’s incredible two-part graphic novel Boxers & Saints, which explores the Boxer Rebellion simultaneously from both the perspectives of the Boxer rebels and Catholic Christians. The novel has received widespread critical acclaim as a landmark work of historical fiction within the comic book genre.

Earlier this week, Yang received the LA Times Book Prize for young adult literature, and is the first graphic novel to ever do so. And today, the full nominee list for the 2014 Eisner Awards, the most prestigious awards of the comic book industry included a nomination for Boxers & Saints in the category of Best Publication for Teens (aged 13-17).

So, if you haven’t read Boxer & Saints (or American Born Chinese), now is the time to do it!

And, meanwhile, congratulations to Gene (@geneluenyang) for the great work you’ve been doing in pushing the boundaries of the comic book genre with your outstanding books!