Hollywood's Color Blind Fallacy
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the strong Asian lead podcast, a podcast about Asian-Americans in Hollywood. Here we celebrate our achievements and discuss ways that we’re going to be breaking those bamboo barriers and entertainment. I’m Emi Lea Kamemoto, and I’m David Moriya. We’re two activists and entertainment, and we’re building an Asian-American movement in Hollywood.
Emi. David, here we go again, many hours in conversation, zoom calls. So many things that would lead up to this point. But here we are, and I’m stoked for this. So why don’t you introduce us? What are the strong Asian lead podcast we’re here getting together, having candid conversations about Asian Americans in Hollywood.
We’re celebrating our achievements and Hollywood’s, and very importantly, we’re discussing how we’re going to break those bamboo barriers in the entertainment world. I’m Emi Lea Kamemoto, David Moriya. both of us are activists in creating a movement within the Asian-American Hollywood space, because we both feel [00:01:00] that Asian-Americans are not highlighted in Hollywood as much as we would hope.
And as we’re seeing all these movement between the Asian American entertainment space, we’re seeing it from a side that it one it’s very slow in its movement, but at the same time, we’re still here hitting the barriers that we’ve been hitting all the time. We’re not actually making any major, movements within the space.
so that’s why we’re building this. And Emi , go ahead and like, interrupt, . Let’s do the whole interruption kind of thing cut me off. That’s fine. I think as long as they’re both cutting each other off, that’s the other difference.
If we’re not, we’re either both hitting each other off or not doing it at all, I think challenging me, but yes, it can be that space. but when we’re really talking, you’re saying yes and stuff like that, and you’re. Doing things. And I’ll start, I do interrupt you in real life too. So yes. Yeah.
Leave it like that. And it works. It really does work and we loosen up the whole thing. Yeah.[00:02:00]
And honestly, and honestly, this is probably going to go to the podcast. You’d just be like, this is where actors we have that we have that tendency to be in. You know, we don’t, we want to listen to each other. And so being in this podcast space where it is very candid, very, um, Uh, fluid, not trying to be so structured.
We’re having to pull back, pull back these things and like be more human than you’re trying to be. human because we’re all human here. And we argument professionals. This is just what we live and breathe every day.
And when we have more fun, you, people in the audience have more fun with us. So let’s, going to all enjoy this, but we’re also going to get some real topics down because these conversations really aren’t had, um, amongst the, uh, larger public. They’re having sometimes they’re behind closed, not, not closed doors, just in small batches.
You know, we have them in small zoom, zoom calls that are totally public, but nobody joins in, , their conversations between me, Emi and I doing certain [00:03:00] things or here and there, but they’re not like happening in the elite. Arrows. They’re not happening in the corporations, in the executive branches because there aren’t any agents up there.
And if they are taking place, they’re only in their, an Asian, only rooms, which is important. And we need these conversations to be heard by more people. So they understand what barriers exist for Asian-Americans in Hollywood and how we can all be a part of breaking down barriers. For a proper representation of our very nuanced identities.
Right? I think one of the reasons you and I are so frustrated with the way Asian Americans are represented in Hollywood is because it’s so one dimensional where the smart kid, the sidekick. God forbid there be people with different Asian identities in one show, like, would you have allow a Japanese and a Korean guy hanging out?
Like, no that’s never happened. Yeah. Or like you just [00:04:00] sent me that article with the Vietnamese during the war with Chris Pratt, but he’s Chinese. Like they’re not even representing the right cultures within the right people. Like we have plenty of Vietnamese actors who could play that role. And, and, and we’ve talked about this too, is like they could do an accent and it wouldn’t be stereotypical.
It wouldn’t be, um, It wouldn’t hurt because it’d be so real and right. And being by the family’s accent, right. They’re basing it off their uncle. Right. And they’re, and it’s something that’s real. And someone’s going to give him shit for it. But at the same time, uh, certain things don’t. Are going to translate, you know, if anybody hears on the podcast is listened to, um, uncle Roger, do the fried rice and stuff.
Like it’s super hilarious, it’s it complete accent, but he came from a right place of doing it and it wasn’t hurtful. It wasn’t a stereotype. And even when he had, he had come on his own podcast and said, other people were. Dressing up as him for Halloween. Oh my God. White people were white. People [00:05:00] were dressing up as him for Halloween or they weren’t giving him an accent.
They weren’t doing an accent for it. So he was like, they’re being respectful. And I think that’s, that’s the movement we want to see. We want to see that within the society saying that we’re going, we want to honor these people. And really like, these are really cool people and not make fun of them.
Because I feel like that’s what we’ve usually we’re used to and because we can get so triggered by it because it happens all the time, but if we can start making our own stuff, that makes it really fun and real, and, we’re not embracing the stereotypes, but like knowing that they can be a stereotype and working with it.
If maybe even though there are characters, embracing the characters and it not being the stereotype, that is the highlight of that. How incredible that. People want it to be uncle Roger, but then they also understood that boundary of respect, where they didn’t have to do the [00:06:00] accent. And maybe they did the accent, you know, to remind people what this character was, but they thought the character enough was worthy of respect and celebrating overhaul a weed.
That is incredible. I mean, gosh, I remember when I was at. Second grader. I dressed up as Lieutenant Jordy from star Trek, who is Lamar Burton, black and, and blind. Right. He has these amazing spectacles, um, that help him see, but when I was a kid, I just wanted to be Lieutenant Jordan. Cause he was my favorite character from star Trek.
It didn’t, it was awesome that he is black and I was able to respect his character without. His character in black face. You don’t do black face on it because you don’t want to see those photos. But that’s, that’s the split difference is that they didn’t like these character people who dressed him, um, just up as like a Roger didn’t slant, their eyes back, they didn’t take them back and do that part of it.
They didn’t like, fuck your teeth [00:07:00] out or anything. So like that’s, that’s the, that’s the fine line that people need to get through. But at the same time, I feel like Asian Americans haven’t been able to embrace that part of it. Like when I was younger, I dressed up as Ash Ketchum and, and that was great.
but anime is a little different, but at the same time, You know, uh, after that, after we started after high school kind of era, I stood away from all my Asian things, anything that was Asian, I stepped away from it because I didn’t want to be associated with being Asian. And, you know, I think it’s, um, it’s a part of people made fun of Asians and I was made fun of for being Asian and because I’m mixed race, I’m half white and half Japanese.
Um, I, I, I knew a lot of white culture. I stood in that, so I kind of gravitated more towards that and my dad separated us from our Japanese side and he’s very Western or simulated. So I didn’t have any full references of an [00:08:00] embracing of my culture.
And it wasn’t anything that I could really stand by. So anything people would make fun of me for being it. And I didn’t have anything to do with it, except from being what it looked like. So, stepping away from it and distancing myself from being Asian, uh, helped me not be Asian and maybe not associate with the people who were Asian because, and unfortunately too, like the hard part once I got into college and moved in, I was.
My, we, we, we applied for me as Asian and for my housing, I was applied as Asian, but I got stuck with Asians and I got, and they put all the Asians in one dorm, not in one dorm. Every one of my roommates was Asian. So my first, my first roommate was Asian. He a chill dude. His name was Patrick, but, total exchange student.
And I didn’t know a lot of English, um, played video games all day, 14 hours. Now I’m like, how do you even get any studies done? And I’m sure he did, but that’s all he did was play video games. Um, And [00:09:00] then about two years later, I had some other, another roommate and he was Asian, but he was a total Dick. I didn’t even talk to him at all the whole year, but the year after I got, two or three other Asians who all played video games, 14 plus hours a day.
So did this start to become your idea of what. Asian like exchange students were who they were. Yeah. and then second group wasn’t even exchange students. They were the second generation, but all they did was play video games and had their parents buy them their food, do their laundry. You know, they made the same meals every day, ham, ham, rice, and eggs, and you know, responsible nails.
I’m sure they’re all super smart. I don’t know where they’re at these days, but you know, that’s my mind associated that with being I’m like, I’m not that I don’t play video games 14 hours a day. And because I’m living with these people and then see these I’m like, That’s not me. And so I must not be Asian.
And so [00:10:00] I got up when we first started working together that it was almost brought to your attention that you are Asian in your twenties. Yeah. So I I’m say hearing this part for the first time where there was kind of this dissociation from Asian identity, because it wasn’t something that you could connect with during college, with the, the agents that were around you and Asian-Americans, and then it.
When your twenties, you were in a space where suddenly you were called into a conversation because of your Asian identity, yeah. I distanced myself in the only, the first thing that came into like my.
Idea of being Asian was I first did my first Japanese class in college. And within like a month I dropped out because I couldn’t get it. I wasn’t do you know, any Japanese, they knew any writing and everybody else did, and they weren’t Japanese, they weren’t even Asian. And so it made me feel like, Ooh, I’m, I’m not even representing my culture here.
I can’t do this. And so it made me feel ashamed for doing that part. So I even further [00:11:00] distanced myself. From from doing that. it was a lot of internalized racism against being Asian, being fobbed. Like I’m not, I’m not fog.
I’m not fresh off the boat, not any of those things. So, and my parents aren’t here. My dad isn’t his dad hurt his parents. Weren’t. I guess his dad was, but his mother wasn’t, uh, and her mother wasn’t there, we’ve been in this country for over a hundred years. So it feels so, so distanced from, Japan and any Asian cultures.
So I disassociated myself from that. Even my sister got a little more, uh, Asian education, like being around, like being in the suburbs in California, a white suburbs, mostly white and Hispanic suburbs. I didn’t have any Asians to have friends with, so I didn’t have any other references either except for TV, except for TV and film.
So. The stereotype that that was always played out. That’s what I got. That’s what I understood being Asian was. And I’m like, that’s not me. So I sh I don’t want to be anything [00:12:00] like that. So I don’t want to, I don’t want to have anything to do with being Asian, but it wasn’t until I was 25. So after he became an activist and was out in New York, like being out in New York was the first time I was in a major metropolitan city
so. You got me exposed to a lot of different cultures. And even then it wasn’t a lot. It was not a whole lot of Asians there unless you go to China towns and different areas. But it got me to understand and open up my mind to what other cultures there are and what it means to listen to other cultures.
when I started protesting it, wasn’t, you know, about 10 months into doing that stuff. Somebody pointed out to me cause I was a photographer. And photographers and photo journalists are supposed to say unbiased. They’re not supposed to pick a side and not do anything, but obviously I’m like, I’m progressive, I’m blue.
I’m gonna fight and help, progressive people. And, but when I was talking to them like, no, no, I’m not a part of this conversation. I’m just kinda here to help. I’m here to do the thing and help you guys move your message forward. And she pointed out to me like, no, you are a part of this conversation.
You’re a [00:13:00] person of color, you’re Asian. And it blew my mind. Wow changed my world to be like, I’m what you’re right. I am Asian. I don’t know what that means. I’ve I started to understand what it means to be black and Latina, and even LGBTQ. I started understanding these things because I was living in a city for many years and getting more viewpoints on these things, which wasn’t happening in my hometown.
And, you know, Ontario, California, even Riverside, California. that wasn’t the thing. It was all masculine, white masculinity and, um, just kind of a lot of hate and just like any, or if you’re, if you’re gay and then the things you’re kind of in the closet, it was very colorblind. Period. Haterade sort of culture haterade culture.
And if you will, you were that, uh, oppressed group. You were, you just didn’t talk about it. It was that whole colorblind. If you didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t real, you kind of knew, [00:14:00] but it wasn’t real. Um, so when I went to New York, that all changed. And so I had been focusing on all the other cultures because that’s what I was surrounded with.
Um, but when I realized I was Asian, I was like, I haven’t really seen an Asian in years. And if I’ve been around an Asian, we didn’t talk about being Asian. So being Asian. And then I was like, what does it mean to be Asian, to really be Asian. Wow. And what does it mean to be Asian in America? And they’d go further for myself.
What does it mean to be Japanese and Japanese American in America? Because. Having looked at all the other cultures and seeing how deep those went into identity work. I didn’t know anything about myself in that kind of identity.
Emi: Right. And a lot of the times the people we’re interacting with in the Asian-American community are [00:15:00] often more recently connected to the fatherland or the motherland because they’re, you know, second, third, first generation, but you’re fifth generation.
So over a hundred years in the U S America’s culture is yours and there’s an unexplored Japanese American identity that it blows my mind to like, even think about your, that experience where, you know, you’d grown up being told that being Asian wasn’t devalue, and then suddenly this person pointed out, you have a voice here.
Like please speak in this conversation because you are Asian. That’s so powerful. It was, it was, it was life-changing. And after that, after that moment, it was I’m going to go home and kind of rethink reset, and I’m going to start Googling. I wasn’t in my hometown, so I wasn’t near Asians. I wasn’t, you know, [00:16:00] LA is very eight.
K has a larger population of Asians. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. And. I was like, I wanna, I just want to figure it out. I want to see what it means. W what does it mean to be Japanese? I hadn’t made her rice ball in like five, six years, and I was like, I need to find, I had bought the rice cause that’s the kind of rice that I liked, but that are just eating.
But then I was like, I’m going to actually make a rice ball and. It changed me. Like I was like, it’s just rice and salt and it made me so much different. Like I was like, this tastes different. It tastes like home tastes like childhood because it’s like that weird buttery flavor. So it doesn’t have any butter in it it’s like me with the hands or something that like, it just makes it buttery and it just did.
And then I started like giving it to my friends who were living around me and they’re like, this is. Good. What’s in this Mike it’s just rice. And like, and it changed people around me to like, see what [00:17:00] I was doing. Like when I started sharing my culture, that changed too. It was like I had something to teach them and it was something that I enjoyed doing and like literally filled a hole in my heart that I didn’t know.
Was there. I in my soul, whether it was like, I’m never, I’ve never really had miso soup, made miso soup. I’m going to make miso soup. I’m going to what’s this thing called Okonomiyaki. I’m going to make that, um, because I had that Japanese language class for that one month, I was like, I know how to say things.
Like, it’s not like I got to screw it up so much that I can say it like, okay, I know that’s how it’s said, or I can see how it things pronounced so I can like look things up. And then the kind of regurgitate them, but then, you know, just Googling things. I started to understand the culture of Japan and then I was like, okay, so that’s Japanese culture.
what does it mean to be Japanese in America? Because. I know that it has to have some influence a new it just by, just by understanding, migrations and how cultures [00:18:00] interact with each other. And that’s how they change. What are Japanese American fruits, right? Start, start there. Like where, how, how has food changed in, in the recipes?
Um, What what’s been lost. What, where did those things come from? We were just talking about you and I were just talking about food and how it’s developed over time, but like I wanted to see how that changed. Um, and then, you know, the Japanese concentration camps, because my family was there.
A lot of my family was there and my grandmother is still alive. A lot of my other family is still alive, but they’re in Sacramento. So I don’t see them very often. Almost never talked to them. But my grandma who lives down the street. And so she told me, like, I hadn’t even talked to her in like years because we’ve been separated because of my dad.
Then I went to college and then I went to New York and it was like, I needed to call grandpa. I need to call her. I just want to say like, like, how are you? I, I just like, I just, for that moment, like I saw her. Right. I saw her, I saw her struggles. I appreciated her [00:19:00] so much more. I saw and regretted how much, how it should have a person.
I wasn’t as a kid, and so when I realized that I was like, Oh, I need her back in my life because I know she taught me things.
And then I’m never going to learn again, unless I continue talking with her. And she became such a valuable person in my life that she’s, she is my best friend and none of them back home. Like I get to see her every week. Um, you know, we made Moshi last this past weekend and it just changed me.
So, , shortening the story a little more, understanding my culture, understanding where I’d come from and the history of my family. Became so important for me to understand who I am and what does it mean to be Asian in America? And what, what barriers am I seeing?
What barriers have I been faced against that I didn’t know were there, but now that I now have like, um, I got woke, I got woke on that whole thing and like, Oh, now I see how racist you are against me. And I see [00:20:00] how you ignore me, make me invisible and I’m not gonna stand for it anymore.
Yup. I, I almost cried like four times in this story because I really do resonate with the lack of representation of those stories of our stories.
Our history on TV or in the textbooks made it almost impossible for you to find out more about your culture. Before you were like 25. It just isn’t. If it, if, if the Asian-American story Japanese American story had been a part of regular TV shows or movies that he’d been watching, then you might’ve been inspired to ask your family and your grandma earlier about this, I went through a similar.[00:21:00]
Over indexing on my culture at some point in my life and like rebalancing process, probably around the same time, because I was actually raised in Japan until I was 11. but in a very. Multicultural environment. So I actually assumed that most people had one Japanese parent and one non Japanese parent.
I felt like I was part of the majority until I moved to the States. And suddenly people started asking me, what are you, where are you from? Wow. Your English is so good from if you’re from Japan. And they had no concept that people in Japan could speak English or that there were international environments, even in Japan.
And so I felt like it was my duty to represent that Japanese ness, even though prior to that point, I had never really over-indexed on it. I was just a little girl in Japan. Obsessed with hello, kitty. Yes, but that’s everybody there. Um, and then when I came here to the States, I [00:22:00] suddenly felt like I had to know I had to be the expert.
I had to be the person who could answer all of these questions about Japanese culture. And that led me to becoming closer to my grandparents actually as well. When I went back to visit them suddenly, I was very. Interested in cooking with my grandma and going out into the garden and seeing that a lot of American kids didn’t have this like culture to cling on to.
Um, I also started to get easily more easily offended when I came back to the U S and saw Japanese culture represented in silly ways. Like, I didn’t understand why people wanted to carry Katana swords around at like Comicons and like, I didn’t feel like my culture was being respected in many ways. Now, six new hair actually, Whoa, major Collin.
I did wear chopsticks in my [00:23:00] hair and also wore clothes. That was more like Asian inspired because I thought I had to represent that. Okay. Now I’m having a little bit of a therapeutic moment here where it’s, where. Because Japanese or Asian-American identity wasn’t represented in the world around me. I felt like I had to represent it all to the people around me because they only saw me as Asian, despite the fact that I always, that I’m half American and half Japanese, they could never understand this nuance, complex identity of being multiple cultures in one.
So. That over-indexing took me to finally an extreme point where I didn’t feel comfortable like representing Asian-American identity. Cause I saw, you know, with the diversity that exists in America, I saw different Asian cultures. You know, I learned about Korean culture,[00:24:00] Chinese culture, Vietnamese culture, all of these different.
Countries and lands that I hadn’t known before. And I realized that like, I don’t have the place to represent those cultures or identities. I can only represent Japanese identity, , my own Japanese identity to that point as well. So it felt. It felt like something could have been done about this like identity crisis that I was going through in my younger years, had I been exposed to this conversation that identities are valuable, Asian identities are valuable, beautiful, worth celebrating, but also very normal in the U S not just the mother country or father country.
And to that point, I feel like. I feel like my dad had told me, like, don’t, don’t be Asian. Right. It was don’t show that identity because you’re either, [00:25:00] I’m sure he got made fun of it as a kid growing up in the sixties and seventies, like in the eighties, you know, and gone to the Detroit automobile industry.
he said, I’m pretty sure you’re like, don’t, don’t make, don’t make anything of it. Don’t make anything of being Asian, don’t be the Asian, don’t put that self out there, kind of hide it all. And we’ll be safer if you don’t right. To be safer. And that hurt, like I just accepted it and I’m like, okay, then that’s telling me what to do.
And I’m sure it’s coming from a place, but like, That’s the time, like the nineties, when it supposed to be colorblind, that’s what’s have any race and that’s because you’re not supposed to do those things, but then it really hindered. It hinders your ability to understand and embrace a part of who you are.
Yeah. And so, so, and I was making fun of the chopsticks things. I know, I hear that’s mostly a stereotype. It’s mostly a thing. Is it a real thing? Uh, I don’t think Asian people actually put chopsticks in their hair. If [00:26:00] anything, that is a very Asian American thing, much like the fortune cookie, also an Asian American thing that doesn’t exist in Asia, Japanese American thing.
It’s not even Chinese. It’s like the Japanese made it and the Chinese took it over. Um, crazy. I mean, when you shared this article, that’s from the Guidara, um, And amazing. Well, I don’t want to get into that. Right away. but I want to hear more about your story. I definitely talked about talking to myself a lot.
Um, but I want to hear more about how you’ve been able to, you know, you’ve transitioned from Japan for 11 years and you’ve gone throughout all the States. You’ve gone into all the way to DC and politics. Um, which Asian Americans just generally aren’t represented in there. So how did you navigate some of those spaces and.
why have you felt it important to then now [00:27:00] embrace that Asian part of yourself?
I actually did end up navigating a lot of my life based on my identity. Once I came to a deeper internal realization that I could be a hundred percent Japanese and a hundred percent American and be in one body. I saw that this is something that differentiated me from people around me, but it also was valuable.
Right. I was able to share my culture, have those same experiences as you did, David, where I could bring together people for a takoyaki party and share in the fun of making these little. Octopus balls on a frying, like on a frying pan. Um, and nobody, everybody was like, what are we doing? This is weird. And it’s allowed us to bond over our cultures and identity.
So, you know, going throughout college and sharing Japanese culture became something that was important to me. But when I went to my first job, I actually worked for the [00:28:00] Japanese embassy and I represented the Japanese government’s interests on Capitol Hill. There, my value add was that I could speak English, but I could also speak Japanese and understand the culture.
So I could translate what the intentions of the diplomats were to the staffers who were making decisions for their members of Congress. in English, I could say this is, you know, Translating this heavy Japanese document into something that you and I can understand. This is what they’re asking, and this is the benefit to you and your state don’t you want in, on this deal?
And my value became wrapped up in who I was culturally. When I moved away from politics because the world of politics is very heavy, very exhausting, and working us in Japan hours on a regular basis was a too much. I came to California [00:29:00] where I thought maybe my Asian identity could still continue. I’d still be able to speak Japanese.
And I found that to be totally untrue. My first few jobs out here were. Not related to my culture. So first jobs that weren’t related to Japanese identity. And then I started working at an agency in their human resources, learning and development section. That is where I saw the power of identity. Really be under utilized.
And some, and sometimes very appropriately utilized. What I saw was that the Hollywood industry and this agency world asked you to check your identity at the door to become part of the agency’s culture. But what I also saw was anybody who refused to check their identity at the door were the ones who excelled.
In the agency, they knew who they were. They could tell stories about their identity. They could tell [00:30:00] everybody why stories about their identity were valuable and they were very well-respected. So I started to think, okay, here’s another place where culture and identity that isn’t. White or isn’t the normal Hollywood identity could be beneficial.
I mean, if Hollywood is always looking for the leading edge story or something different, right. A different type of story, why is it under indexing on Asian Asian-American stories and other stories of people of color. So . I became very committed to highlighting my identity internally, but externally it was very hard to flip the script because I had checked my identity at the door. People didn’t see me as Asian. They saw me as the person who worked in learning and development in HR. And when I wanted to be passionate about Asian American things and Asian content, people started to get confused and be like, Oh wait, [00:31:00] wait, wait, wait.
You’re suddenly you’re Asian. And I was being forced to choose one or the other. And that is a place where I don’t want anybody else to experience. So I really would rather that we could just. Share the nuance complexity of Asian-American identity on screen in history books. So that people don’t have to be like, Oh, you got to choose one.
Yeah. And, and when you went to, um, when you went to talk with that agency and talk about Asian things, it all changed, right? Hollywood has now been fixed because, uh, we talked about being Asian and they really accepted it, embraced it. Right. We had that one Asian event check Mark, you know, we’re all done.
We’re done. We got it. A great Asian client then. And that’s what we see reflected in the industry. It’s not just the agencies. It’s every studio has had their Asian story, their Latino story, their black story, [00:32:00] still waiting on different people with different abilities status is still okay. what’s that about?
But yeah. Once that production has been done and like the deal is closed and it had a great launch. Maybe it like made a lot of money in Asia. Check Mark. We’re done. Yeah. Why not have story have complex Asian Americans identities. There’s no reason not to. Yeah, no.
I almost feel like we we’ve limited ourselves within. Hollywood within even story writing to say there can’t be like too much extra flavor that can’t be too much soy sauce, too much like Curry powder or, spiciness from a different culture because it confuses the story. However, that is a very limited way of thinking because the rest of us have existed our entire lives, living our story with those cultures.
Living beautiful lives that are worthy of telling and recreating on TV and on the screen. Right. And you can either only have one Asian on the screen or everybody’s Asian, [00:33:00] right? So in America, that’s how that works. That’s either have the one Asian and then you are now you have a touch of color and then you can’t have any more Asians on the screen.
Might have someone who’s South Asian because they look okay. More tan than anything else they look in between. Um, but even then maybe, uh, cause of things, maybe like master of none or you have a full production everybody’s Asian, but then you move all production to China or Singapore or South Korea.
And that’s it. So you’re either one Asian American or you’re all Asian in Asia. And that’s just not how the world is or how America is. And if Hollywood is a slice of representation, even the fictional is still representative of America, that’s not what’s happening. And it’s really dangerous if what Hollywood is representing.[00:34:00]
Isn’t the truth of what the world is. We have seen how entertainment has influenced people to think a certain way about different identities and cultures. you and I can speak to the Japanese representation in entertainment during world war two and the propaganda videos that were put out to show that Japanese people were the enemies and the result of that was in carceration.
Racist acts against Japanese Americans and a hatred of this other country. You know, whether it’s the people magazine article that shows how to identify a Chinese person from a Japanese person, right? So that you on the street could identify that type of Asian and say, Oh, there’s a, a job. We’re going to use this because this is what was happening at that time.
And then have them arrested, for example. Hollywood entertainment. Media needs to [00:35:00] take responsibility for the narratives. It puts out there about identities so that people don’t believe these lies like the lies that all black people are criminals. The lies that all Latin a women are sexual or like creatures that are.
Here to sweep you off your feet like drug dealers or Yakuza the samurai, or, anybody who’s had any type of major stereotype, uh, native Americans being savages, like all these things that are just not true. It’s all from one perspective of the white perspective. Right. And because Hollywood is predominantly white and have the predominantly white storytellers, that’s the perspective they’re coming from.
And until they include those people to represent their people, then you’re only getting them as the enemy. storytelling is always about two sides of the story. You’re only, [00:36:00] you’re mostly you’re following one person. So I love movies that have the villain who actually has a, like a reason for what they’re doing.
They’re not just doing, they’re not just villains to be villains. And when you’re being taught screenwriting, you’re taught not to write villains as villains. You’re taught to write them as people with a different viewpoint. So I, the one thing that’s, I don’t know why it’s coming to my mind right now, but it’s like, I think it’s that, that movie, um mega mind with, um, welfare.
Yeah. He’s blue or even despicable. Right? They’re the villains in that, in that movie, because they’re doing villainous things, but they have a heart. There’s a reason for what they’re doing. Um, they’re sometimes they’re like, Oh, even fantasy. I believe that we can change the universe and reset the universe by deleting
half of the universe. Okay. behind his logic is his logic. It’s reasonable and he’s doing it for the good of the universe. It’s an [00:37:00] extreme action, but you can connect with his reasons and his vision, which I, we don’t even give people of color the same. No villains on in Hollywood, like we humanize villainous, killing people more than we humanize people of color and people with different identities in Hollywood.
That’s really weird. Right? So it’s, it’s we have to come to this point that you’re not making, like, in some suddenly those are fictional characters. I’ve just named three or four movies that are all cartoons. And that’s one thing you can do that. And I think you’re not going to get a lot of pushback, but to do it to real people has real consequences for those people.
And when you have a president who is saying in spewing racist things about a certain community, that community is going to be hurt because of that, because everybody thinks it’s okay. The president said it’s okay. So it’s [00:38:00] okay. And. Yeah, that’s literally every single community of color in this country this year , has fallen under the weight and pain of a hammer.
That’s being wielded by one person in a presidential office and the media that falls in line with what. He says
the media twists and turns it, and then everybody hears it too. Then the public is able to latch onto that and say, well, it’s normal so we can do it. It’s okay. And then the police get to it and they go and say, it’s fine.
Not nothing’s wrong. I just had another story that a woman got punched and they didn’t, the police did nothing. I’m like, there’s no counter narrative, right? There’s no counter narrative to this news media, and current entertainment, media driven narrative that people of color are evil, problematic, um, [00:39:00] sexy, nerdy, you know, very one dimensional, usually negative stereotypes.
So. People who are watching this. And yes, the majority of the American population is white supposedly. Um, because the census is skeptical is white. Um, they don’t have anything, no interactions with people from different cultures or identities to counter this negative narrative, no TV shows that are countering this negative narrative.
So what we need to change that. Yeah. Yeah. And they’re not countering them because one is white Hollywood. So they have nothing, they don’t disagree. Generally. They don’t, and they don’t know how to disagree. They don’t know how to disagree with it. Cause they don’t know, they don’t know Asians. And so the agents need to speak up us and I feel like that’s on me from that’s my responsibility as an Asian American who.
Presents as Asian-American and Asian, um, more than I do white, like [00:40:00] people see me as Asian. And so I’m going to have a certain effect, on people. And I want to, I want to utilize that for good it’s using that. I’m using my Asian-ness as a privilege to then help our people. And because we need you to speak up and I’m going to speak up.
Whether people wanting to disagree with me, I’m okay with that disagree. I’m still going to fight for what I think is right in our community and try to uplift our voices
that drive that you’re sharing right now. Like your passion for this. This is one of the reasons why we really connected earlier this year when we got on our first zoom call.
After the young entertainment activist event that we met at, I saw on your website, strong Asian lead. Which borrows from Netflix’s strong black lead. And I was like, Oh, this guy is willing to poke it Netflix and say, Hey, what are you doing about the Asian American identity and Asian stories collat back.
Exactly. Can you [00:41:00] tell our listeners a little bit more about why you decided that strong Asian lead needed to be a thing?
Well, I saw what Netflix was doing. I thought it was wonderful. All right. I was actually going to apply for one of their jobs and I was going through the whole culture. They have their famous culture deck, which is beautiful.
It’s like understanding. we’re not a family, we’re a workplace. Like, you know, we’re not going to be on just because you’re family, you work hard and you will be treated as working hard. we’re not going to, um, tell you what your hours are. We’re not going to tell you how to do your work.
You’re going to do your work because you feel like you should do your work. And if you stop doing your work, then you’ll get fired. Like that makes sense to me. And you want, they were like, we are going to listen to you. You don’t have to go up the chain to make a change. If you think that’s the right thing to do and people around you think it’s okay, you can just do it.
Some people were doing like SEO, like the SEO for LGBTQ was not working. So we’ll change it. That’s [00:42:00] great. when I kept digging in and they were like strong black lead and like, Ooh, what’s this they’re really promoting their diversity and inclusion.
So they had strong black lead, strong LGBTQ lead, a strong female lead, strong Latino lead, but he left out the Asians. Yeah. I was like, wait. You stopped there. He stopped there and they had the one video out of all the videos that they put out on their YouTube is one video for always be my baby. And they had all the agents come out and say, why was it so important?
But that was the only thing they did. And so I was like, okay, is anybody else doing Asian American entertainment? The way Netflix is doing it? Is anybody doing Asian American entertainment? The way Ava DuVernay is doing it with array, is anybody really pushing? They’re pushing for , diversity, equity, inclusion.
They’re pushing for more storytelling, but then, and that’s the larger [00:43:00] umbrella of things. So some people just what they put on and then they say people of color, but then I never see any Asians in their lineup or I’ll see. And they might do black and Brown leads. I don’t see any Asians. And so I was like, well, it needs to be built.
Someone, someone has to step up and really make this happen because if they’re not going to do it, someone in our community has to do it. And not that I need it to be me, but I’m willing to put in the work. I’m willing to say, okay, I see the problems in Asian America. I see the issues within the entertainment industry.
I don’t need to be an executive to change that. You start that from the ground up and you can build that for yourself. It’s not something that is, uh, only for the elites. That it’s literally mostly for the grassroots efforts, because that’s how it starts. That’s what makes the change elites will [00:44:00] have a perspective for money and for making things the way they want to make them a hearing to an audience you’re hearing to the Chinese market.
And the American market, if they think the American market doesn’t want the Asian stories and the Chinese market only wants certain types of stories. And that’s the only thing they’re going to go to. That’s not what I want to do. I want Asian Americans all across the gambit and across the diaspora to tell their stories the way they need to tell their stories, not in trying to adhere to our market.
A lot of stories don’t adhere to the market. They are here to what they need to be done. And then they make great films almost by centering on a message that needs to be told versus looking where the money will be for that movie. It’s not about getting a blockbuster hit it’s about really telling stories that make a change.
And you know, I’ve given up on the Academy awards. Yeah, going to go for the Emi awards, but even, but that’s because [00:45:00] I’m trying to do TV, but yeah, the same time I’m I don’t care about the awards. It’s what I really care about is making a difference within society for all really griping about representation.
Then we need to put in the effort to change that, but we can’t just be putting on band-aids and making our own stuff for then the elites to then say no. We need to be able to have a team, a workflow, a process that says yes, more yeses than nos pain of command or people who are sitting in decision-making seats that are.
Asian-American who don’t need to have the nuances of those stories explained to them. They intrinsically understand them and can see why the story needs to be told. Okay, see the empathy. They can feel the empathy like, Oh, I understand this story. I understand Vietnamese boat people, Japanese survivors, the Chinese railroad.
They can see those things. I’ve listened to tons of, filmmaking podcasts and screenwriting podcasts. I [00:46:00] almost never hear them interview and any Asian. Maybe once and they didn’t talk about being Asian. They just talk about being a writer and that’s that same check your race at the door and that’s what happens.
And then we don’t get any agents at all. So that’s why strong agent lead. That’s why I created that. And it’s not even about the name. It’s really about the movement because we need to be spearheading this, to do something about it. And so I know we’re about to, we want to close out pretty soon, cause I know you have another meeting to go to, but I want to get to.
Really where, where this came from, this idea came from, I had been trying to figure out what’s the mission behind being Asian-American in Hollywood. and my mourning process was reading the Gita papers from the 1970s, 1980s.
It was a grassroots Asian American scene by called students who want to talk about their issues. they were being left out of the press. So they had to make their own. Right. And there was this one article I’m not to a and. It’s called [00:47:00] Amerasian culture. And Amerasian was the word before we had Asian American, because it wasn’t invented for the next like three years. So, uh, I’m going to read snippets of this that I think is great ,
——- through Hollywood where you want it to be the Cowboys instead of the Indians. As children, we wanted to play the Americans, not the Japs, the cop, not the robber through the media, the lines between good guy and bad guy were clearly drawn.
And who wants to be the bad guy if being the good guy and getting the grill in the end means we are Americans not Japs the Cowboys and not the Indians.
Then what is the psychological effect on the minds of young Amerasian children and the hopes for the future? racial stereotypes furthered the concept of the great society of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant and the myth of assimilation success.
Thus media has been used as a psychological or pressor against the people of color we can reach the logical conclusion that is necessary [00:48:00] for Asian Americans to develop their own media. That will define our people as we are, rather than the racist stereotypes of a nice Oriental students or the Vietcong books.
We shall start by the redefining ourselves, the term Oriental connotates, Oriental, Jade, or Oriental rugs. Something nice and very cultured to have around the house. The word Oriental creates the mystique of the East of the geisha girls in the Chinese food that never fills all part of the charm of a civilized culture.
The history of our people here in America has not been a VAT of a mystic of the East, but one of the sweat of the rail yards and the fields of the concentration camps in the Chinatown, slums, we are not Oriental. We are Asian-American the majority of us do not belong to the first generation from the old country.
We are of Asian descent raised here in the United States.
this part of it, it really made me think about the psychological effects of what the media does to our minds. And I saw that in myself and [00:49:00] how it screwed with my mind and what it meant to be Asian. And Asian-American because it’s like the idea of, Oh, you can only be Asian.
Not Asian-American so limiting it’s limiting. It’s not true. So that’s what strong Asian leads for. And that’s why we want to share this conversation. Have these candid conversations with each other, but with you, the audience, like let’s talk about this. Let’s let’s have guests talk about their issues within the industry.
Let’s be the voices of our community. To change what we want to change. We see that it’s wrong there’s not so many people like disagreeing with that. It’s statistically off. And so we were standing up for ourselves. Yes. There’s more issues than just being the Asian Americans in Hollywood.
There’s a lot more issues, but this is where we start, and this is what we can, and this is what we can talk about. Exactly. These are the identities that we hold. So we want to start [00:50:00] from the community. That is our own, it doesn’t make sense for me to be advocating for the LGBTQ plus.
Identity first when that’s not the one that I hold, I want to be an ally. I want us as Asian-Americans to figure out a system of pushing our stories, getting our stories made so that we can share the process with every single identity group that isn’t represented in Hollywood. And when I saw strong Asian lead and we had our first conversation, it was very clear that we both saw this.
Same problems in Hollywood from different perspectives. Me on the corporate side and you on the artistic side. And we knew that together we could start to puzzle together. Solutions. And so audience, you’re going to have to call us in call into us, call us in, you know, call us out. We’re not gonna have the perfect answers because we [00:51:00] need to be discussing this together, building the solution together, making this movement together.
It cannot just be two people changing the entertainment industry. And it’s already not just two people. There are. Many committed people in the Asian-American artists, community doing this, but we want to start organizing. Yeah, we can’t have these small bubbles. We have to do it together and there’s no one way to do it, but we have to start somewhere and being too Japanese backgrounds, we need everybody’s background to come in and say, well, this is another thing that you’re missing because I’m not going to understand something that’s in Korean.
I’m not going to understand some of the Korean culture or Chinese culture. And other people won’t understand the Japanese culture. There’s just, there’s so much difference throughout the diaspora. So we want to call that in, start this conversation, get Hollywood to change. And so we’re going to call those out now.
Thank you. You know, this is just our teaser. This is start of our conversations. This is just the beginning, but it is not the [00:52:00] end. So yeah, because we’re organizing a movement and we’re activists and entertainment that, and this is the strong Asian lead movement. This is not a moment. It’s a movement. Yeah.
Uh, thank you all for turning in. and we look forward to more conversations like this. can’t wait. Thank you so much, Emi. —Thanks, David.