As the crappy year of 2017 comes to a close, YOMYOMF would like to revisit the last topsy turvy 365 days and reflect on the 10 Best Asian American Moments. Inspired by the 100 AZNS — Celebrating Asian Americans 2017, which is part pop art piece “showcasing the immense talents, creativity, and leadership among Asian-Americans in 2017,” it was bound to leave some people out.
Granted, it was a solid list and the criteria was to show Asian Americans that we would consider contributed to “the cause,” we cannot ignore some diametrically adverse individuals, as well as some gnarly shit that went down at the detriment and abuse of Asian Americans. Therefore, here are our Top 10 Asian & Pacific Islander American moments of 2017 (in no particular order):
Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park leaving HAWAII FIVE-0 — The two Asian American stars left their long-running hit show over pay disparity with their white male co-leads this past summer, shining a light at the continual mistreatment of PoC when it comes to Hollywood. The argument from CBS was that both Kim and Park were given bigger raises, so they basically should be happy (never mind that they were a part of the show from the very beginning, when it was sold as an “ensemble”).
Personal factors aside from their decisions to leave the show (it was entering its 8th season), the point was that gender and minority disparity exists. Kim, or DDK as his fans lovingly call him, issued an official statement that sums up this controversy as a teachable moment:
I’ll end by saying that though transitions can be difficult, I encourage us all to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture. The path to equality is rarely easy. But I hope you can be excited for the future. I am. 5-0 continues on after one of its strongest seasons. I’ve got new acting projects on the horizon, and as a producer, my company, 3AD, has its first show, THE GOOD DOCTOR, set to air this fall on ABC. I hope you’ll tune in.
Aside from being cast in the HELLBOY remake after the casting debacle that project faced and THE GOOD DOCTOR being the highest rated new show of the season, it looks like DDK is doing pretty well. Let’s hope more Asian Americans like DDK become decision makers and gatekeepers to change Hollywood from the inside out.
Justin Chon becomes an auteur with GOOK — When Justin Chon’s explosive GOOK world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it surprised audiences for being such an explosive debut that harkened to the work of Spike Lee, Matthieu Kassovitz and Charles Burnett. We loved the film, and so did the Sundance audiences, which gave it the NEXT Audience Award.
It was a confident film that explored race relations without pulling any punches, and serendipitously released during the 25th anniversary of the L.A. Uprising. We’ve been tracking this film all year, from film festival screenings, to interviewing Chon and the cast during its press junket, and it being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, we cannot be any happier for Chon. And to read the news that his next film is set up with Macro, the team behind MUDBOUND and FENCES, well, the sky’s the limit for Chon who has become a defining new voice in Asian American cinema.
Taika Waititi does the impossible — … As in he’s made a THOR movie actually enjoyable and not only that, one of the best films in the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe! From giving the tired franchise a reboot by giving it an ‘80s vibe, to hiring Aboriginal crew members during its Australia shoot, and ultimately making a fun, rollicking film that infuses not only New Zealand humor but also Maori and Pacific Islander influences into the story, which resulted in a film that has grossed over $800 million worldwide. Rumors abound in regards to Wapiti’s next film — we do know that he is attached to direct an animated feature film about Michael Jackson’s pet chimp Bubbles, but there’s been unconfirmed reports of him taking on the long in development AKIRA live action remake, and apparently there’s an “informal” offer from Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy to him to direct a Star Wars film.
Shit, I might as well start a Taika-con in the next couple of years because this Kiwi is going to be taking over the world. And he’ll look good to with those floral print rompers!
Ajit Pai trades in free speech for dollars — Now, for some of the bad stuff, which we need to point out. The head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been stomping his fist against net neutrality and when President Drumpf gave him the post, his first directive was to dismantle Obama consumer protection regulations that defined the Internet as a utility, shielding corporations from manipulating internet speeds, charging higher prices, or blocking competitors with slower internet connections.
Eliminating net neutrality is a fundamental attack against civil rights, but Pai doesn’t see it this way, and has been a jackass online, trolling celebrities and producing a lame video, which he stars in (it is unwatchable and Pai comes off as a smug Martin Skireli ass-wipe that you just want to punch him in the face). He’s tech’s biggest douchebag.
Resistance Auntie is all of us — Well, all of us at YOMYOMF at least, but I am sure for a big portion of AAPI communities as well. They say “a picture speaks a thousand words” and in the case of #ResistanceAuntie, who participated in the protests during Inauguration Day, became a viral sensation. She captured the feelings of tens of millions of Americans and countless millions more across the globe on the exact moment we felt on January 20. To have his image and countless others, soon to be followed by the historic Women’s March, where 3 million people marched in protest as a rebuke to the Trump presidency was astounding. Long live #ResistanceAuntie.
The Beating of David Dao — Racism abounds, especially when it comes to Asians and air transportation. We all know the incident earlier this year on a United Airlines flight, when passenger David Dao was beaten, dragged and bloodied, after refusing to give up his seat when the flight was overbooked. It was caught on video and caused an uproar. No one came to the defense of Dao, as he was dragged across the aisle like a maimed animal. It just goes to show the airline industry’s inhumanity, especially when targeting non-whites as “the Other.” If it were a white man or woman, would you think United and the police would have donned similar egregious action against them? Hell, no.
Granted, Dao will get a hefty settlement, United gets off scott free, and life goes on. But, it does show systemic racism, especially against immigrants, who are considered expendable and below human, at least on a customer level.
The Tico Sisters need a spinoff — Everyone agrees that Star Wars: THE LAST JEDI was the most divisive film in the saga. But for AAPIs, we cannot deny that the inclusion of newcomer Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, was game changing. Just like how THE FORCE AWAKENS centered on a Force sensitive young woman and a black Storm trooper, inclusion is key in the new series of Star Wars films, and we are all for it. The racist trolling aside, the fact that young Asian girls can now cosplay as someone that looks like them, it leaves a mark for an entire generation of new fans—representation matters, per LA Times reporter Jen Yamato’s tweet.
Not only Rose, but we also have to give praise to Veronica Ngo for her heroic turn as Paige Tico, who sacrificed herself for the greater good that kicks off THE LAST JEDI. Her brief, but impactful appearance has also garnered a major following of fanboys and girls, and people are clamoring for more story about her and Rose.
Kumail Nanjiani’s THE BIG SICK is the highest grossing indie film of the year — Sweet and genuine, Kumail Nanjiani’s THE BIG SICK, which he wrote with his wife Emily V Gordon (based on their real courtship), became the highest grossing indie film of the year, and has popped up on several best of lists, including awards nominations. It’s opened major opportunities for Nanjiani including becoming the first Pakistani American to host Saturday Night Live.
THE BIG SICK was truly a special film and Nanjiani joins a growing list of actors who are creating projects for themselves and excelling at it for a mainstream audience. Heck, you can even see it on Pornhub.
Nikki Haley isn’t doing any favors for the country — As the first Asian American to be appointed a Cabinet position in Drumpf’s regime, there were not much hopes from the left for Haley to be a reasonable and balanced voice. For the most part, she’s been a shill for her boss, as the U.S. representative at the United Nations. The playground antics Drumpf is doing with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, with Haley either defending her dotard of a boss’s late night tweets, sometimes painting Haley into a corner to defend what are clearly unvetted info, is not doing Americans any favors. And when the majority of nations in the UN condemned the President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Haley threatened them with a letter saying that the U.S. will jot down names and threaten them with repercussions, the majority of the UN went forward with the vote anyway.
Haley’s expression was priceless. She is not doing America any favors. Thanks for making the country a laughing stock around the world. Time to pretend I am from Canada the next time I travel overseas.
Hawaii stands against the Muslim ban — Specifically State Attorney General Doug Chin, who issued a stop against the first Muslim travel ban signed by executive order earlier this year. Chin, who is Chinese American, grew up as a child of immigrant parents. Living and working in Hawaii, where the population would be affected by Trump’s travel ban, was one of the first individuals to stand up against the President, seeing the ban is anathema to basic American values.
The travel ban has been challenged and unfortunately, parts of it will be upheld and already implemented as the law of the land, but people like Chin, who just announced plans to run for Congress, is part of a bigger picture of resistance, especially from AAPIs. From the use of social media by politicians like Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono and Ted Lieu, to point out the wrong-headed GOP agendas, to the mass resignation of AAPI members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a movement is in full force.
More young people are getting their voices out there in resistance to the people in power, to the patriarchy, to the system at large. Amanda Nguyen, the founder of Rise, who lobbied hard for new law to implement rights for sexual assault survivors, is part of a sea change of exposing men of power and their systemic sexual abuse of women across a spectrum of industries. With Democrats winning crucial local and state seats in recent elections, and looking forward to 2018 and 2020, a resistance is building.
To paraphrase Rose Tico, people are “not fighting what we have, but saving what we love.” OK, that may sound cheesy as hell, but being cohesive and celebrate our shared experiences while also fighting for our individual perspectives is what makes us a great nation. It’s not flags, MAGA caps and coal mining.
If there is anything to come out of such a shitty year, is that voices are becoming louder and louder from Asian Pacific America. It’s a time for action, in the voting booth, to our computer screens, the big screen and television sets. Resistance and celebration of our diversity go hand-in-hand.
Happy New Year, everyone!