Ms. Kamala Marvel takes off

Kamala soon discovers that shapeshifting doesn’t make her life easier, but it gives her more power, more agency, and the ability to reflect on and create her sense of self.

Tammy Oler

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Awesome. That’s, like, the definition of navigating multiple identities, and to have it illustrated (literally) by a teenage, Muslim, female, superhero in the Marvel universe…well, yes, I think awesome really is the word to describe it. I’m talking about Kamala Khan, the newest incarnation of Ms. Marvel. She’s a teenager, a Muslim, a woman, a shape shifter, and a resident of New Jersey. And she’s getting rave reviews.

How great is it to have a major universe (Marvel) do this for an established franchise (Ms. Marvel has been kicking ass since the late 1970’s). It warms my heart to have a popular Asian American superhero.

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I Like Mindy Lahiri

I like Mindy Lahiri. I like her and her creator, Mindy Kaling. The character might make kind of a crazy friend (the kind that that you love telling stories about later even though you’re really annoyed at her while those memories are being made), but she’s not a role model. She’s insecure and self-centered and boy crazy and that’s ok. Because that makes for good TV. Some people have wondered aloud and publicly “Why doesn’t Mindy Lahiri date an Asian guy? Why’s she always dating white guys? Does Mindy (the creator, not the character) not care about creating healthy portrayals of Asian American relationships? Is she trying to white wash her character? What’s going on? She could find a funny South Asian American guy to do an episode…”

You can see Mindy Kaling address her take on the character’s South Asian American-ness, or you can read mine. Which is this: Mindy Lahiri isn’t a role model, remember? I know, I know, singer and movie stars and professional athletes have asked not to be held up as role models, but this is a fictional character. She’s a fictional hot mess and racial pairings aside, her relationships aren’t particularly healthy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it a liberating sign of social progress that women of color can play flawed characters that don’t reflect on an entire race?

 

Movie Review: Innocent Blood

From the Boston Asian American Film Festival last weekend, Innocent Blood — a closed case reopens, his son is kidnapped, and ex-LA detective James Park must confront past transgressions to save his family.

 

Why should you watch the movie?

If you like thrillers, it delivers. It keeps the suspense coiled tight through the whole movie, which is an impressive feat. If you’re not interested in ethnic studies or issues of social justice, it focuses less on issues of Asian American community/identity/racial politics, so much as it questions whether the pursuit of justice can be both noble and effective. The freedom to present broken, fully developed, Asian American characters in a full length feature film, without having to defend of define their racial identity is refreshingly fun. If you like buddy cops, damn. The supporting tall/short detective combo is funny.

 

Why shouldn’t you watch the movie?

If you’re distracted by clunky dialog, the story and the actors are solid, but the writing tends to feel a little stilted and forced. If you don’t like violence and moral ambiguity, you may feel a bit uncomfortable with how often both make their way into the movie. If you’re tired of Christianity being used as a shorthand for morality, there’s that trope, too. Also, the pan-ethnicity of the movie gets a bit muddy.

The 5th Anniversary Edition of BAAFF

That’s the Boston Asian American Film Festival. I’ve always had fun at BAAFF, when I’ve been able to go, but it always felt like a cool, home-grown, local-as-all-hell kind of an event. So you can imagine my shock when I went to the website to check out this year’s line up and saw…

1) A drawing by Tak Toyishima, the man behind Secret Asian Man!

2) A special appearance by Ang Lee!

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What? I might just have to find a way to be in Boston that weekend, to see how crazy this festival has grown. Check out the full lineup here.

Oophh

After 3o hours in and out of airports, I need some time to recover. Back soon, I promise, but until then, enjoy a Public Health announcement from Filutonu:

 

Filitonu is Tonga Family Health’s drama group which began in 2000 as part of the Adolescent Reproductive Health project.

Filitonu translates to mean ‘right choice’ in English. The drama group deliver performances to Tongan schools and communities that explore issues that effect the local youth – such as drinking, obesity, violence, peer pressure and sexual health. They also perform entertainment at a variety of local events to raise the profile of the Tonga Family Health Association.

Fili Tonu is currently made up of nine volunteer artists, but is open to the broader public to join. All the dramas are scripted and written by Fili Tonu.

Radio Lab and Kao Kalia Yang

What happens when one group of people privileges their own form of knowledge over another groups? In the case of Radio Lab interviewing Eng Yang and his niece Kao Kalia Yang (professor and award winning author in her own right), a world of hurt happens. If you have the time (no, even if you think you don’t have the time), I highly recommend Yang’s post with the Hyphen blog, relating what happened and her reactions to it.

 

Her post cut deep, so I read the Hyphen response, and started to get heated. The response did a very good job at breaking down the assumptions and biases of the Radio Lab folks, excerpt by excerpt, but before I let myself get too carried away, I went back and listened to the Radio Lab segment (the edited one, since the original is no longer available). After all, I didn’t want to overreact to quotes pulled out of context that made the situation seem worse than it was. Without reiterating what they said, this is what I heard–

 

Radio Lab said that they wanted to find the truth. The cold, hard truth on whether someone was using chemical warfare on the Hmong people in the late 1970’s. Western trained scientists said “No, no chemical warfare. There was yellow stuff falling from the sky. It was bee poop.” Eng Yang said “Are you crazy? I saw yellow stuff fall from the sky and it killed people. I know bee poop. Bee poop doesn’t kill people.” And Radio Lab said “Are you sure? The scientists say its bee poop. Did you really see this happen? How do you know what you really saw?” The Radio Lab host actually calls Eng Yang’s testimony heresay.

 

What Radio Lab did not do was treat the preeminent scientists in a similar manner. They did not go to the scientists and say “Did you calibrate your instruments? Did you consider that the toxin may have dissipated from the samples over time? Because we have an eyewitness, who says that he watched people die from chemical toxins that fell from the sky.”

 

And that’s the crux of their argument. Science can’t be wrong. It’s science. Therefore, the eyewitness must be wrong. He’s only some Hmong guy, anyway. When they apologized, they apologized for upsetting the Yangs, not for treating them badly.

 

That’s the worst, isn’t it? When someone says “I’m sorry your upset. It hurts me that you’re upset, but I didn’t do anything wrong.” So caught up in their own world view, that they don’t know how to value someone else’s.