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Volume 96: March 22, 2019
Art from upcoming Asian American podcast, Self Evident
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Asian American representation gets a glow up 

When most people hear “aspiring country music star”, “Texas native” or even “undocumented immigrant,” they probably aren’t picturing a Filipino American girl like Eva Noblezada. But when filmmaker Diane Paragas sought to tell her story, she had no one else in mind but the burgeoning Broadway star.

“Yellow Rose” is the story of a teenage girl who dreams of performing country music, and runs away after her mother (played by the legendary Lea Salonga) is deported in order to avoid the same fate. The film premieres in May at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Speaking of busting stereotypes ...

An Asian American superhero is coming to life. Chella Man has been cast as Joseph, the mute hero Jericho, child of the iconic DC Comics assassin Deathstroke in the live action series “Titans."

You might know Chella Man from his many platforms (Instagram, YouTube, freakin’ Conde Nast) where he writes about being deaf, genderqueer and mixed race.

Seeing an Asian American superhero is revolutionary enough, not to mention that Joseph is white in the source material. But it’s pretty extraordinary (and sadly rare) to see an actual disabled person play a disabled character. How’s that for heroic?

And late-night TV is starting to look different

Netflix has greenlit a new comedy series by Mindy Kaling about a 15-year-old Indian girl and all the awkwardness and growth that comes with your teen years. It’s a big year for Kaling, who also has a series debuting this summer where she plays a new writer at a failing late night show, hosted by Emma Thompson.

The fictional Katherine Newbury joins an extremely small community of late night hosts who are not white men, but that circle is about to get bigger. Lilly Singh announced recently that she’s taking over the third slot on NBC’s late night line up.

Yes, that’s right, a bisexual Asian-Canadian woman will host a late night talk show on a major network. Singh got her start with her explosively popular YouTube channel and will break a multitude of glass ceilings when her show. A Little Late with Lilly Singh premieres this fall.

Jessica Yi, editor, is ready to start her Asian-American creators’ bingefest

Uh, did you know Young Justice was back?

NOW PLAYING: Netflix’s Queer Eye just launched its third season, and what do you mean you haven’t already binged the entire thing? Hailed as a show that makes huge strides for LGBTQ representation in media, Queer Eye takes everything that worked about its first two seasons—charm, sass, style, and aggressive self-love—and keeps it going strong with eight new million-dollar makeovers.

Starring Antoni “Actually Cooks This Time” Porowski, Bobby “Still Does the Most” Berk, Jonathan “Serving Face” Van Ness, Karamo “Those Sequined Jackets doe” Brown, and Tan “Also Brown and Damn Proud” France, alongside a more diverse cast of everyday folk than ever before: women and men, gay and straight, even a pair of sisters who run a small barbecue joint and don’t really seem to need a makeover… but wait until you see what Tan can do with a French-tucked t-shirt and stretch jeans.

What these people have in common, aside from living in Kansas City and carrying more than a little baggage, is open hearts and the desire to change; and they’re the real stars here.

Let’s be real: the Fab Five is never going to show up at your doorstep in fitted shirts and perfectly-coiffed hair, ready to give you a bear hug and hours of one-on-one time. That is just the stuff of (my) fantasy. But we watch makeover shows because we can see someone move from entertaining the possibility of life improvement to its glorious actualization, and that’s what makes Queer Eye so damn relatable.

So forget your problems for a few hours this weekend and enjoy watching beautiful strangers tackle theirs. *mwah*

Andrew Cheng, editor, who doesn’t believe money is the answer but would like a new house by Bobby nevertheless

Self Evident explores America through Asian America

The following is an excerpt of our full story on Self Evident. Read it on Medium. 

When it comes to podcasts for marginalized folx, there's Code SwitchThe Stoop, and Nancy. There's the Potluck collective, Asian Not Asian, and Asian Boss Girl. And now, there's Self Evident, an upcoming podcast hosted by the IACP award-winning Cathy Erway.

Self Evident is a podcast that takes on what it means to be American by telling Asian American stories,” says managing producer James Boo. “This is a show that tackles who America is, who we should be, who we’re going to be. And the way we do that is by presenting reported stories, community conversations, and personal stories, by and about Asian Americans.”

The podcast, which launched its crowdfunding campaign this week, is one of several Asian American media efforts that appeared in the wake of Crazy Rich Asians, a film touted for its East Asian American representation, though criticized for its lack of meaningful Southeast or South Asian representation.

Self Evident, Boo says, is deliberately trying to avoid that trap. “We learned from Pacific Islander storytellers and leaders that you can’t flippantly use [the term “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders”],” Boo says. “We have Iranian voices on the show from the very first episode, as well as South Asian experiences, referencing the history that’s often ignored when there’s so much focus on East Asian history.”

With a “community panel” of over 200 members, who provide regular feedback on early episodes, Self Evident is being careful when interpreting Asian American identity, and making that feedback loop a literal part of the show.

“Everyone would agree [diversity and inclusion] is nice to have,” says Boo. “But the real question is how you do that.”

Interview Highlights

Highlights of our interview with James Boo follow. Read the full transcript of our interview.

On Self Evident’s thesis statement

We’re really centered on this question of American identity, because I think that’s what the whole country is grappling with right now. And in a lot of ways, that’s what we’ve seen and what’s inspired us. It’s undeniable that more Asian American community leaders and community voices are getting up and not waiting to speak up.

We don’t think these are new voices, but I think that there is a new way of voices joining the stream. We’re trying to build a storytelling hub that’s very concerned with this question of, “what’s our stake in America?”

This is not about you learning what Asian people are like. I think it goes beyond that. I think it’s time to make that connection, particularly because it’s 2019 and next year there are a lot of things happening, at a monumental scale.

So we’re trying to build a show that is open enough.

On tackling politics in the show

It factors in broadly speaking. I think it’s a big reference point. It’s something we’re all aware of, and in terms of stories, we have stories that touch on and report on homelessness and inequality. I think in this first season, we’re not doing a lot of direct election coverage or political campaign coverage. We’re asking questions like, do the political parties make sense for Asian American communities? Why would it matter if, say, a Vietnamese American chooses to vote Republican or not?

Those are different conversations, quite frankly, from asking whether a white person votes Republican or not. There’s a lot more depth. And a lot more that’s very close to stories that have been told, but we’re trying to see how it fits in right now. And especially what that means to people who make decisions about where they’ll fit in, who they’re going to vote for.

On tackling new vs. well-trodden Asian American issues

Our general approach is that we trust that people can Google stuff. For example, “self evident,” the name — that is a name we’re very intentional about. Because we didn’t want a name that would signal to everyone that we only think Asian Americans are East Asians, and that’s it.

And we wanted something that would acknowledge two things: one, this is something about American identity writ large, that Asian Americans have been a part of that for a long time. And that we’re very intent on looking forward with the confidence that we have a stake in this, and we’re trying to explore what that stake is, and what our stories tell about being part of this country going forward.

It’s a done deal — we’re part of the American story as broadly speaking, we’re the fastest-growing minority group.

This is something I’m confident I’m saying: we don’t believe we have to catch everyone up to one spot and then you can have the next conversation. One advantage of podcasting is you can have the conversation you want to have, you can tell the story as fully as you can. And people will respond to the story, and if they feel like they need to learn more, that’s great. That’s an amazing outcome.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who, disclosure, is a donor to Self Evident's campaign
Support Self Evident's crowdfunding campaign

I'm never massively concerned about what somebody is wearing, as long as it makes them feel really good about themselves.

— Tan France, fashion designer and television personality

This Weekend ... 📅

  • GO ON AN "UNEXPECTED EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER" with Anne Vorrasi, a second-generation Korean American woman who wrote this moving piece on Margaret Cho's sadly all but forgotten "All American Girl." Featuring "Korean American women who my mom and I could've [...] been slightly offended by, but also laughed at," "All American Girl" sounds like a ruckus worth revisiting. I'm putting it on my list.

  • BASICALLY TRY TO BECOME MITSKI in Pitchfork's latest on how Mitski (and some lady named Solange) (I'm kidding please don't flame me) represents the very opposite of the submissive Asian woman by channeling the power of the Wild West. To Mitski, having cowboy energy means embodying "radical freedom": something an Asian woman in the Wild West could never have.

  • DITCH HAROLD AND THE PURPE CRAYON or at least supplement it with the sumptuous children's book art of Minh Lê, whose almost-biographical book "Drawn Together" is definitely worth a child's first book. KoreAm has some excerpts here.

  • LEARN TO CATCH SCORPIONS with scorpion hunters in northeast Thailand. Listen, I don't even need to whip up some fancy description. Read this quote: "In northeast Thailand, scorpions are regarded as a delicacy. The arachnids are viewed as both food and medicine.
    To help meet growing demand from restaurants and street vendors, one man has decided to start breeding scorpions." HOW ARE YOU NOT ALREADY READING???

  • FLOCK TO MANHATTAN for the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network and Asian American Writers' Workshop's "A Discussion Among Writers," featuring Viet Thanh Nguyen, Amy Quan Barry, Matty Huynh, and more, moderated by Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, Mimi Khúc, and Isabelle Thuy Pelaud. Why yes, this panel is stacked.
This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, aspiring scorpion chaser. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

 

Brian Hsieh • Marina Cheung • Billy Huang • Kevin Lin • Paulina Dao

 

AJ Grey • Delwin Lau • Mandy Diec • Carl Shan

 

Patrick Trinh • Lloyd Lee • Emily Chi • Naomi Iwata • Kyla Hsia

 

Gloria Lin • Yi Cao • Cat Xia • Curtis Leung

 

Crystal Shei • Jerome Finuliar • Ryan Ikeda • Meher Kohli • Matt Young • Sooyun Choi • Abby Wang • Tracey Baumann • Mika Kennedy • James Boo • Chris Moe • Alexander Quion • Jeffrey Wang • Vivi Nguyen

 

Angela Yang • Diane Lee • Katherine Chin • Paul Kerr • Talisa Chang • Claire Tran • Sara Mitchell • Teresa Nguyen

who are always in season. Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

See ya next time.
Copyright © 2019 The Slant, All rights reserved.


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