Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Jeff Yang on Angry Asian Men

My fellow journalistic Jeff _ang goes deep on the subject of Angry Asian Men. If Imus turned the table onto Black masculinity, Cho has turned the table onto Asian American masculinity. In this instance, pop culture and racial profiling and free speech issues are coming together in a much different way. Big props to Mr. Yang for exploring the subject in such a great way. A must-read. Here’s a taster:

One might say that it’s been an annus horribilis for the Asian American man. From the racist rantings of Kenneth Eng, to the conviction of Hmong American Chai Vang in the shooting of six fellow hunters, to last month’s horrific murder spree at Virginia Tech, events seem to have conspired to swing perceptions of Asian males to the point where any sign of aberration is being transformed into evidence that we represent a simmering danger, a repressed wellspring of vitriol and violence waiting only for the right trigger to burst forth.

Actual aberration, or imaginary: One of the truly strange signatures of the media analysis around the Virginia Tech tragedy is how blurred the line became between reality and creativity. In the wake of the murders, pundits provided line-by-line critiques of a handful of plays that killer Seung-Hui Cho wrote, trying to find within them harbingers of the horror he would unleash. They compared movie stills to poses Cho struck in his video testament, hoping to identify cinematic inspiration for his violence, and reported breathlessly on Cho’s love of computer games, even suggesting that he used them for “training” purposes.

The art-as-evidence phenomenon quickly extended beyond Cho: In Cary, Ill., on April 23, high school student Allen Lee was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and removed from school after submitting an essay that his teacher said contained disturbingly violent content — despite telling students that the assignment was to write a creative work depicting strong emotions, on which there would be “no judgment and no censorship.”

Around the same time, in Fort Bend, Texas, another Chinese American student was arrested and expelled from Clements High School after parents of classmates informed authorities that he’d created gaming maps based on the school for the tactical combat game Counterstrike. A search of his bedroom revealed five decorative swords and a hammer, which was enough for the police to declare him a “level 3 terrorist threat.”

The hammer may have been what sent the police over the edge. After all, such a tool featured prominently in one of the most widely seen images from Cho’s video “manifesto,” a self-portrait in which he’s grimacing at the camera and holding a standard claw hammer over one shoulder.

But the height of absurdity was reached with the controversy around the April 22 episode of HBO’s mafia epic, “The Sopranos,” featuring Ken Leung as Carter Chong, a mentally unbalanced Asian American youth who erupts in a spasm of violence. Comparing it to the Virginia Tech massacre, pundits called it an “eerie,” “astoundingly awful coincidence.” Media blurbalists wrinkled their brows and tsked at the “torn from the headlines” parallels.

posted by @ 7:15 am | 1 Comment

One Response to “Jeff Yang on Angry Asian Men”

  1. Horace Rumpole says:

    I think there’s quite a bit of misconception pertaining to the theme of the ‘Angry Asian Man’, whether referred to in general, or aimed at a specific group. One misconception would be that they’re all frustrated men that cannot get a date. The other major one of course that relates to the topic of the blog, as being one who will act out in violence, or a display of hatred.

    The positive I see with the ‘Angry Asian Man’ theme, is that it’s the only one I can think of that challenges societies sub-conscious glorification of the White man. The only other one I can think of, albeit less direct, would be the protest by Native Americans on the usage of Native American mascots used to honor the tetosterone of the American athlete (and not to honor the Native American)in a mostly White domininated sports industry.

    This tendency to self-glorify, unfortunately was not confronted when White musicians got hold of the “Blues”. White rock musicians took an ethnic musical style, and use it as a means to promote the sexual glorification of the White male. This has been done by covering the songs that originally highlighted a ‘hyper-sexual’ theme, or adding their own lyrics to promote the White individual’s own hyper-sexuality, or writing their own songs to do this with a ‘Blues’ beat. As a result, a unique ethnic style of music in it’s purest form has been sub-labeled “Folk-Blues”, and written off as music on old scratchy vinyl.

    I do see signs that blogs with an “Angry Asian Man” theme ‘do’ present a strong challenge to some White men in this regard.

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