“If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it’s not funny.”
— Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors
Before I get to the actual subject matter, let me begin with an aside.
Last night at Kickass Karaoke, we spiced up our friend Erik’s number. As he went onstage to perform The Vapors’ 80’s hit Turning Japanese, a half-dozen Asians (including me) formed a line behind him and stared him down in mock disapproval as he sang. It was a schtick that we played up for laughs, which we got in healthy amounts, and it was all in good fun.
We got even more laughs at the end of the number when I took the mic and said “Support your local Asian! We help you with your math homework and we keep the cell phone industry afloat!”
That bent. Quite well, I daresay. Keep the “Bent or broke?” question in mind as you read this.
Last week, while sifting through my “suspected to be junk” email folder, I found anonymous email pointing my attention to the now-infamous Details magazine piece from their April 2004 issue: Gay or Asian?, written by one Whitney McNally. Here’s a scan of the page on which it appeared:
I’ve included the full text of the piece below, since the scan isn’t at the highest quality setting, and for the benefit of search engines:
GAY OR ASIAN?
One cruises for chicken; the other takes it General Tso-style. Whether you’re into shrimp balls or shaved balls, entering the dragon requires imperial tastes. So choke up on your chopsticks, and make sure your labels are showing. Study hard, Grasshopper: A sharp eye will always take home the plumpest eel.
1. DIOR SUNGLASSES: Subs as headband and amplifies inscrutable affect.
2. RYAN SEACREST HAIR: Shellacked spikes, just like that crazy cool Americaaaaaaaan
3. DELICATE FEATURES: Refreshed by a cup of hot tea or a hot night of teabagging.
4. DOLCE & GABBANA SUEDE JACKET: Keeps the last samurai warm and buttoned tight on the battlefield.
5. WHITE T-SHIRT: V-neck nicely showcases sashimi-smooth chest. What other men visit salons to get, the Asian gene pool provides for free.
6. LADYBOY FINGERS: Soft and long. Perfect for both waxing on and wacing off, plucking the koto, or gripping the Kendo stick.
7. LOUIS VUITTON BAG: Don’t be duped by ghetto knockoffs. Every queen deserves the real deal.
8. EVISU JEANS: $400. A bonsai ass requires delicate tending.
9. METALLIC SNEAKERS: When the Pink Lady takes the stage, nothing should be lost in translation.
My first thought was “Someone got paid to write this? I’ve seen better paper after wiping my ass.”
(Even on a bad day and having drunk more than our fair share of beer, my buddy George and I were capable of far, far better back during our reign at Golden Words, the humour paper at Crazy Go Nuts University.)
Naturally, the piece has generated quite a bit of ire amongst various groups and associations of Asians and gays. In a Village Voice article, writer David Ng has suggested next month’s issue should feature a piece titled Racist Bitch or Whitney McNally?. Others have voiced their displeasure, including:
- Organization of Chinese Americans
- Asian American Journalists Association
- National Association of Asian American Professionals
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
- Korean American Coalition
- Chicago Lambdas (Wow, how offensive do you have to be to offend a fraternity?)
In the movies, the white hero and the black hero get at least one make-out scene with the girl, but never the Asian guy. He fills a certain small set of roles, and that’s about it. Just check any made-in-Hollywood movie where Jackie, Jet or Yun-Fat is the hero. As best as I can recall, the Asian guy didn’t visibly get the girl in an American movie until Dragon.
I’ll admit that Gedde Watanabe’s “Long Duk Dong” from Sixteen Candles — a movie that pre-dates Dragon by nearly a decade — did end up picking Joan Cusack, but he’s part of that unsexy Asian guy stereotype, a tradition carried on today by that bozo, William Hung, who’s not helping matters.
Tak Toyoshima, artist behind the comic Secret Asian Man, has come up with this response:
Others are responding a little more directly. There’s a protest scheduled for Friday, April 16th at 12:00 noon outside the offices of Details (7 West 34th Street — at 5th Avenue); details (hah!) are available here.
Not everyone in the Asian-American media is up in arms. Here’s a snippet from the New York Observer:
“Probably tens of thousands of Asian people bought Details because this came out,” said Erik Nakamura, editor of Giant Robot magazine. The item itself, Mr. Nakamura said, scarcely seems worth the trouble. “The Gay-or-Something joke is getting old anyway,” he noted.
Like Shaquille ONeal spouting ching-chong gibberish at Yao Ming, “theyre just guilty of making a crummy joke.”