Kung Fu’s Gavin Stenhouse knows he’s pretty privileged.
As the only non-BIPOC person in the predominantly Asian cast on The CW’s Kung Fu, Stenhouse understands the responsibility of being part of this monumental drama — the first Asian American-centered drama on primetime television. Stenhouse has been using his platform to lift up his costars and the writers of the series instead of putting his own input when it comes to the cultural nuances of the Chinese American experience.
Presented by CAPE and The CW, join the cast of Kung Fu — Olivia Liang, Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Kheng Hua Tan, Tzi Ma, and showrunner Christina M. Kim — and The Nerds of Color Editor-in-Chief Keith Chow for a conversation on reclaiming martial arts, shattering stereotypes, and being an Asian American family on primetime TV.
It has been almost 50 years since the premiere of 1972’s western martial arts series Kung Fu, which starred white actor David Carradine yellowfacing as a mixed Asian Shaolin monk. Back then, that was the norm for Asian character roles. But now, Kung Fu is getting a complete reboot/retelling of the story and righting the wrongs that were made from the original. Developed by Greg Berlanti and Wendy Mericle, the new series centers around a Chinese American woman, Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang), who returns home to San Francisco, after spending three years at a Shaolin Monastery in China to escape the familial pressure to be successful and marry into a nice Chinese family. Her time at the Monastery is cut short when her mentor/teacher, Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai) is murdered by a mysterious assassin. With nowhere else to turn to, Nicky returns home to face the family she abandoned and somehow find Pei-Ling’s killer.
Earlier this month, Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino publicly broke ties with the live-action Netflix adaptation of the Airbender series. The news was quickly followed by unverified rumors that Netflix is trying to “whitewash the series.”
Back in April 2016, I helped launch the #whitewashedOUT hashtag alongside YA author Ellen Oh and a whole team of Asian American activists and authors. If you recall, the spring of 2016 was a rough time to be an Asian American consumer of pop culture.
Since 2004, Kim has been a fixed entity on our television screens through ABC’s mystery series LOST and CBS’s Hawaii Five-0. Since leaving Five-0, Kim has been working nonstop on acting and being an executive producer.
This weekend’s cover story in Entertainment Weekly features Constance Wu and Henry Golding from next year’s can’t-miss rom-com Crazy Rich Asians. Since Asian Americans on the cover of EW is so rare, we brought in the story’s author, Shirley Li, to talk about her behind-the-scenes look at the movie all of Asian America is pinning its hopes and dreams on (no pressure, Jon Chu!)
With the latest release from Netflix, it turns out that Asian Americans will continue to get the shaft in 2017.
In March, Netflix released their trailer for the American adaptation of Death Note, a wildly popular manga series, which debuted on the world’s leading Internet television network on August 25. Death Note is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. As of 2015, the series has over 30 million copies in circulation worldwide and has won international awards as well as numerous award nominations domestically in Japan. It is regarded as one of the top 10 manga series of all time. It also happens to be one of my favorites, so this fight on racist bullshit has just became personal.
The superhero genre is slowly expanding its insular universe with Wonder Woman and the highly anticipated Black Panther. Though just a drop in the bucket compared to white male superheroes, such images can significantly impact audiences who have never seen themselves portrayed as (s)heroes. Recently at Comic-Con in San Diego, one Asian American girl, Ashley Keller, teared up when she met Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman) in a video that went viral, demonstrating the real-life impact of on-screen role models:
For those living in the Los Angeles area, the Hollywood Fringe Festival is upon you. Perhaps you might have seen their flags flown throughout the city or perhaps you might have heard whispers of it from your actor friends yapping away about which fringe play to watch. And you go, “What the heck IS the Hollywood Fringe Festival?”
The second season of AMC’s Into the Badlands concludes on Sunday, so our intrepid live tweeter Laura Sirikul joins Keith to look back on one of our favorite shows! Of course, they can’t help juxtaposing Ballands and Iron Fist, but they also explain Daniel Wu’s previous comments about whitewashing and why Oliver Stark needs to be a guest on a future episode. They also share their predictions about the finale and how Keith decided to mashup Badlands and Hamilton for #IntoTheHamLands.
With the ever-growing list of whitewashed and white savior films and television series — including the recent release of the live-action anime film Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi — it’s no wonder many people are upset. However, a comedy troupe from UCB Los Angeles called Asian AF has decided a smart way to shed light on the whitewashing problem.
In the first part of a special podcast crossover with DC TV Classics, Keith chats with Into the Badlands co-creator Al Gough. They talk about Al’s start in Hollywood with his writing and producing partner Miles Millar; working with Hong Kong cinema legends like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, and Daniel Wu; how difficult it is to accurately portray kung fu on broadcast television; and the importance of representation and why the onus is on producers and directors to find and cast diverse talent.
Subscribe to DC TV Classics or download part two of this interview here.
Last week, we hosted a special live-streamed edition of Hard NOC Life with filmmaker John Brougher about his new short film Iron and Rage. John talks about his inspiration for creating his own #AAIronFist and why representation of Asian American humanity on screen is so important.
The art of “translating” a media property from one cultural context to another requires more than simple language transliteration. Translating works of art has existed from the moment people from different cultures encountered one another. But at what point does translating something for an American audience necessitate whitewashing as well? Today, we’re going to look at two animated properties available on Netflix — Yo-Kai Watch from Japan and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir from France — to determine at which point whiteness trumps cultural context when making a kids’ show more acceptable to American audiences.
Doctor Strange. Iron Fist. Ghost in the Shell. It’s hard out there to be an Asian American actor. Or an Asian American consumer of media. Or someone who would prefer to see more Asian Americans on screen (and behind the scenes). That’s why guest host Valerie Complex (whose #IAmMajor clapback recently went viral) gathered an all-star panel to talk about being Asian in Hollywood: feminist pop culture writer Clara Mae, Geeks of Color Creative Director (and Finn Jones’ favorite person on Twitter) Asyiqin Haron, Man in the High Castle actor Lee Shorten, and (the man who should’ve been) Iron Fist’s Lewis Tan.