That’s A Wrap

I would like to review my original argument and how each post is significant to the broader scope of Transnational Asian Americans.

Originally my title is happageisha. I chose this to be my title because there are often misinterpretations of identification with such terms. As I explained earlier, I identify as a happa because I am Japanese American. Then again, does the term identify the practice of both cultures or only the bloodline? Has it shifted over time? I decided to add geisha because that term can also be misinterpreted at a more cultural level. (Not because I am also a geisha, because I am not.) For example, in Memoirs of a Geisha, geishas were depicted in a slightly false way. Controversy emerged because the geishas almost appeared as prostitutes rather than a hostess/entertainer (artist). Adding additional information, maybe the misconstrued perception was because a white man in the United States directed the film. Perhaps the fact an English man is writing about another culture is where the deeper meaning of culture is lost. Not only that but the fact Chinese actors performed the Japanese role of geishas. Combining those two issues not only brings up past issues between cultures, but also puts them in a modern day film.

I began my blog with a reflection about culture. This piece reflects on identity. I compared my own reflection with that of a Vietnamese American, G.B. Tran through his illustrated novel.

My post “Whose Team Are You On Anyways?” incorporates the NBA star Jeremy Lin and the fact multiple countries want to represent his success based on his bloodline. This is another identity crisis from the outside. I then connected him to Susan Douglas’ about technology and the ‘global village.’ Jeremy Lin is appearing in several media texts and it is nice to reflect this real life example to that of an article about how technology is capable of connecting people around the world, and learning more about other cultures.

Within my post, “Misconceptions of the Truth” I used both a fictional piece and an article to compare and contrast both how reality and stories contextualize perspectives about other cultures.

In “Dare to Define Another” I focused a lot on stereotypes and how racial slurs are used amongst different people and text. In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s character was a Korean War veteran who openly says racial slurs. Opposite this perspective, Ping Pong Playa plays on racial stereotypes in a comedic and “cheesy” way. This change is also seen in the generation gap, a war veteran verses a lazy teenager. This age difference illuminates the intentions behind such comments. Also, it almost seems younger individuals are more wiling to say such comments around friends, etc. This is also seen with memes. Memes today that include racial comments on them are not intended to be taken seriously.

Also, in Ping Pong Playa there were also gender issues. Not only was there a competition for Miss Chinatown and the woman seen in the trailer says racial comments that were viewed as ridiculous to the Asian community who heard her.

Overall, each post includes a controversy over gender and/or culture. The posts include various texts including articles, stories, films, and books that argue their thoughts about Transnational Asian Americans and those of Asian roots, their culture, and how the outside world perceives them. With constant perfection of technology, thoughts, arguments, and racial slurs are easily transmitted around the world, as well as interpreted differently by readers.

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Works Cited

Chow, Rey. Writing Diaspora: Introduction. pp: 2-26.

Dinh, Linh. “Love Like Hate.” pp: 9-22.

Douglas, Susan. “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World.”

Kunzru, Hari. Transmission. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. Print.

Marshall, Rob, dir. Memoirs of a Geisha. Columbia Pictures, 2005. Film.

Pham, Minh Ha. “Susie Bubble is a Sign of the Times.”

Tran, G.B. Vietnamerica. New York: Villard, 2010. Print.

Misconceptions of the Truth: Culture Unraveled?

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There are several misconceptions about people and places. Two specific pieces I think about include Rey Chow’s Introduction in her article Writing Diaspora and Linh Dinh’s fictional piece Love Like Hate. Learning about other cultures and maintaining originality is impossible with constant adaption to the modern world as well as moving to a different country.

To begin, Rey Chow is arguing against Stephen Owen, who believes that in order for someone to truly maintain his or her culture, words should not be able to translate to another language. He clearly argues, “Much of what is written by non-Western poets is, he complains, no longer distinguished by a true national identity but is instead ‘supremely translatable.’” (1) I don’t necessarily agree things that are translatable lose cultural context. I agree some things are difficult to translate but originality remains in tact within certain circumstances. I also think cultures slowly shift in time because of numerous influences around the world. Who is to decide what originality is and the limitations on those practices?

Furthermore, Rey Chow brings in Michelle Yeh’s argument in her article as she talks about how Owen “not only ignores personal and literary history but also underestimates the power of poetry as a vital means of spiritual survival, of affirming individual dignity and faith when virtually all else fails.” (2) Owen only seeks to understand if the piece remains original although it is translatable, misunderstanding the point of literature and why writers write to begin with. Not only that, but he also begins to compare writers of the “first world” with that of the “third world.” With this broader scope, it almost appears that all intellectuals will soon be “victimized.”

A few major points in the article include the role of your ethnicity verse the role of your beliefs through literature and other texts as well as the role of hegemony and the possibility to resist it.

Furthermore, in Dinh’s fictional piece, Huyen depicted America as a dream country, forgetting the groups of people who were homeless or live in “sketch” areas, provided little income. Love Like Hate talks about cultural changes as America is misperceived to be perfect in whole. Huyen is a Viet Kieu who met a man from online, and they are getting married. After seeing several “American films in which smiling beautiful people lived in vast houses with slick, space-age appliances” (17). She agrees to go to America, believing she is in for a well off life. On the flight over, Huyen is upset she and Jaded, her soon-to-be husband, were served meals after the white people (which was not the case- they were vegetarians who happened to be white). Continuing, she is shocked at where she ends up in America. She ultimately changes her perspective on the world as she ends up working at a fast food restaurant, and she alters her language and habits, adjusting to her surroundings. For example, at the end of the story there is a quick exchange at work: “When the other crew members greeted her with ‘Yo bitch!’ she’d answer, ‘Whattup, assbucket?’” (23). Huyen is an example of not only a misconception of the truth but the impact changes in environment have on one’s identity and cultural practices.

After going over these two pieces, one can see misconceptions within different scenarios regarding one’s culture, both from outside perspectives. Owen failed to see meaning behind text relating to originality of writers. Huyen mistakenly compared American films with America as a whole as well as adapting into the practices of her environment.

I understand these two pieces are quite different, an article and a fictional piece, but that goes with my argument. Both articles and stories include examples of misconceptions and misunderstandings of other cultures. I recommend the reader to review both pieces.

Hypothetically, if Owen and Huyen both realized their misconceptions, how would they reflect it on themselves and their perspective of others?

“There are two sides to every question.” Protagoras

Dare to Define Another

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I think it’s interesting how this generation is more open to saying racial comments as jokes than previous generations. I know my grandma would probably not pull a “Just ‘cus I’m Asian” phrase on someone or any other common phrase. For example, my friend and I call each other “happa” or throw in the support of Asian pride somewhere in a conversation amongst our other Asian friends (international or not). One friend is nicknamed Bei Jing Swag. In this post, I focus on the fact that both the generation gap and advancements in technology have impacts on cultural perspectives and practices.

 In the broader spectrum, such comments appear not only verbally, but through other media texts as well. For example, racial stereotypes can be seen in movies and memes. This also makes me wonder if this transition is due to technology and current events?

Memes have become a huge part of the younger community with openness to say several things about any topic. Memes are usually designed as jokes with the intention to not take personal offense to them. This also makes me wonder if the makers of these memes are of diverse communities, including Asian.

There are also several films that cover racial jokes, including Gran Torino and Ping Pong Playa.

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s character makes several racial slurs as seen in the following link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsXHVC8wM1M

This is a more serious side of racial slurs compared to that of Ping Pong Playa.

Ping Pong Playa draws out racial stereotypes in a more comedic form as well as a younger audience. The film is clearly pointing out common stereotypes including language and sports affiliations. It is better to watch the entire film, but below is a link to the trailer.

Both films consist of expectations of the Asian community due to their culture or common stereotypes. I think technology has had a huge impact on the spread of stereotypes and its everyday presence as well as the opportunity to learn more about why comments have shifted to more acceptable to the younger audience.

Reminding you that my blog includes the loss and revival of culture, would you think those who practice a specific culture would support racial stereotypes anyways (jokingly) or is it looked down upon (even to the younger audience)?

“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” Rene Dubos

Geishas and Gender

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I never really looked into Japanese culture. I guess although I am half Japanese I did not see significance in learning a culture I barely grew up understanding. After studying different stories of Asian Americans and how media has the ability to spread information I decided to watch the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

I understand it is not the first movie that comes to mind when discussing other cultures but the film does bring up some questions. This film includes gender portrayal as well as racial controversy.

First I will discuss my thoughts on gender. I usually think of Geishas as beautiful women who are dressed to impress. Other than that, I did not know a lot about their life. After watching the film, but not reading the book, I was surprised how they were portrayed. I did not realize their lack of freedom and their lifestyle as a geisha. There are a couple of quotes that stuck with me throughout the movie about the definition of a geisha.

1. “It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for Geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances. She sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows. The rest is secret.” -Narrator

2. “Mameha: [in voiceover] Remember, Chiyo, geisha are not courtesans. And we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. The very word “geisha” means artist and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art.”

These women are seen more as objects and fantasies than actual human beings. Geishas have no further purpose but to entertain men. From their viewpoint, they understand it is the art of movements they use, no further physical interactions. Being said, after further web surfing, I discovered controversies have been discussed of the portrayal of the geishas in the film, and how they were similarly portrayed as prostitutes- which is not the case in reality. Geishas represent a womanly etiquette in society; it is something to be desired and upheld. Would feminists disagree or dare to adjust even though it is imprinted in society?

Furthermore, race was also a controversy because geishas identify as part of the Japanese culture yet the main characters were Chinese actresses. This was a problem not only due to preexisting cultural tensions but also that it alluded to the fact all Asians look similar. Race was such a huge ordeal to the film and cultural history that it was banned in China.

Memoirs of a Geisha definitely taught me something new about the life a geisha as well as cultural controversies that were brought to surface as I did further research.

Contributing, here is a link to a Q&A. The geisha being interviewed is actually the subject of the movie. The is lawsuit going on due to her identity in the film. She has written her own book about the life of a geisha to allow readers to gain a better understanding about geishas that were falsified in the film.

http://bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/qa/documents/02473409.htm

 

Furthermore, I would like to discuss another article that relates more to present day technology, women, and fashion. Minh-Ha T. Pham’s article “Susie Bubble is a sign of the Times” focuses on female bloggers who are drawn towards fashion. I thought of this article when blogging about Geishas because it reminded me of the desire of beauty many women are drawn to. Technology is able to spread these ideas globally, influencing women from different cultures and fashions.

Skipping through, I would also like to relate beauty and technology to Hari Kunzra’s book Transmission. With no summary I would like to talk about Leela and her role as a computer virus. Reflecting on all of these texts, I realized Leela was also objectified as people around the world watched her dance on their computers. This is an important example to me, because in the film Memoirs of a Geisha Sayuri complains about wishing she could have a life of her own. At some point in Transmission Leela became known as a virus rather than a human being. She was a victim of something she could not escape from, and it ultimately affected her life and decisions.

This is not mirroring a geisha’s life, but there are parallels to objectifying women within different scenarios. (I hope this makes sense)

The complexities of beauty and objectifying women raise issues across several cultures as media and technology portray and spread different depictions of them.

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Whose Team Are You On Anyways?

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The other day a girl approached me asking if I was a happa. With pride, I responded, “Yes, yes I am!” I recently took pride in the term and I am surprised of how many people use it. It’s practically it’s own community.

My focus is the fact it was a question, a guess. Often times it’s difficult to guess the race and ethnicity of someone. One time in class we discussed how people depict one another. For example, if someone is Asian but you do not know specifics you will just identify them as Asian instead of mistaking them for the wrong ethnicity.

The same class, I did a group project about a certain NBA player, Jeremy Lin, and the cultural uproar that is happening due to his success. Lin has become a commodity around the world, being identified as Linsanity. He was born in California yet China and Taiwan are trying to call dibs on Lin due to his family background. Lin’s parents are from Taiwan, but older family members have been associated with China. Lin identifies himself as Taiwanese American. This draws attention to transnational Asian Americans, and if a birth certificate matters more or less than cultural foundation.

There are so many complex aspects that go under identity from the viewpoint of outside perspectives, but when does it start to matter what the individual claims to be?

Due to media, Lin has been able to attract growing numbers of fans worldwide. Susan J. Douglas wrote an article The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World, which goes in depth about the ability of technology and it’s capabilities- instant communication around the world. The argument is whether countries remain inclusive or exclusive to others. There is a theory about the ‘global village,’ claiming, due to increase technology cultures are able to learn about other cultures and come together. Douglas argues that the opposite happens; a country will remain ethnocentric.

My point is if Douglas is right or wrong. I agree with Douglas without even thinking about it, but I hope to change that. First, after claiming that I am a happa, I do not know anything about the term or it’s history. Second, in a broader scope, although Jeremy Lin is known in several countries, what is the probability people have taken time to learn about the cultures of the countries arguing to claim him?

It’s a rather reflective point about how often we tend to remain ethnocentric and not learn about other cultures. Technology is a very empowering mechanism that I personally do not take advantage of for the use of a global village.

“Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world.” Egyptian proverb

A Loss of Culture or A New Direction

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Reflecting on your culture can be frustrating when you don’t know much about it to begin with. For me, I get asked if I know how to speak Japanese or if I eat any Japanese cuisines. That’s understandable. But, when I say no, other Asian Americans tend to be surprised. They think that no means I just have very little of it. But when they find out that it means none, they remain baffled.

G.B. Tran is a Vietnamese American who wrote an illustrative novel, Vietnamerica. I really enjoyed reading this book because I felt like I could connect with his personality and all the shenanigans that happened while he was slowly learning about his family’s history and culture. First, he did not seem thrilled to learn anything about his past. When I was around ten, I could not sit still long enough to learn about my grandparents and the concentration camps. Later, G.B. goes to Vietnam to visit family members. He encounters new things, including spicy food. This brings me back to when my grandma made my sister and I eat Japanese crackers and seaweed. It almost felt like punishment. As G.B. continued to grow up, he found out more about his past and eventually became interested- as it results with the novel. I, too, became interested as my classes began to mention wars and Asian culture. Unfortunately, my grandparents passed away when I was young and I was not able to ask them questions that I have now. I am still able to talk to my mom about it but it’s clearly not the same.

In the book, the reader can easily feel the tension between G.B. and his father. There is a point where his dad insults western culture and how G.B. has grown up different from Vietnamese culture.

This makes me wonder about me and my family. I am two generations behind G.B. My mother married a Caucasian man, resulting in the first interracial marriage on her family’s side. My mom grew up in Los Angeles to “western customs,” and a less Japanese influence. This, then leads to my case, not knowing anything about Japan’s culture, including language and cuisine- other than simple words and meals.

So when asked about my culture, I don’t know if I should be considered Japanese American due to my bloodline or my lifestyle. How do you define Japanese American?

“Divide an orange–it tastes just as good.” Anonymous