Saturday, July 28, 2007

Marriage Equality YES; Racism NO! - Community Groups Challenge Anti-Asian Adam Sandler "Chuck and Larry" Film

Community groups are challenging the Anti-Asian Racism in Adam Sandler's new film which makes a statement about marriage equality.
See Mara Math's excellent review and MANAA's statement which targets comedian Rob Schneider who is part Pilipino and has a record of anti-Asian depictions.

MANAA Blasts Rob Schneider For Offensive Racial Caricature in Chuck & Larry Movie

LOS ANGELES-MANAA (the Media Action Network for Asian Americans), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive coverage and depictions of Asian Americans, is offended by Rob Schneider’s “yellow face” portrayal of a Japanese man in the current #1 movie in the country, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James.
“Sandler showed his movie to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and edited out scenes they deemed offensive because he didn’t want to make a movie that would offend the gay community. He should’ve shown it to MANAA; we would’ve had quite a few things to say to him.
MANAA is reachable at, (213) 486-4433, and P.O. Box 11105/Burbank, CA 91510.
San Francisco-based groups like the Chinese Progressive Association, Chinese for Affirmantive Action and the gay-straight alliance building network Asian Equality are discussing some kind of local collective community response.
Coalition on Homelessness activist Mara Math's review of the film gives insight into the insidiousness of the film as it relates to queer communities, Asian Americans and other people of color as well:

Inclusivity as interpreted by Chuck and Larry may mean waving a rainbow flag, or at least waving at one, but it's an odd kind of rainbow: all the stripes are white.
Chuck and Larry boasts some of the most galling anti‐Asian stereotyping since Mickey Rooney donned false buck teeth as an Asian landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany's. In fact, Rob Schneider's chalk‐on‐a‐blackboard riff as a Japanese‐Canadian minister seems to have been recycled directly from the 1961 film.
Sandler, Ayckroyd, Schneider, and an uncredited David Spade are all "Saturday Night Live" alumni, and Chuck and Larry is infused throughout with that cocky SNL assumption, "But we're too hip to be racist." It's just soooo hysterical that the Japanese minister can't pronounce the letter "r," doncha know, that the alleged joke is repeated a dozen or twenty times. A barely‐clad bevy of Asian bimbettes gets three seconds to titter, "Tee‐hee‐hee, you so naughty, Mr. Larry!" or some such, before disappearing. And except for brief glimpses of two extras, these are the only Asians in the film.
In fact, these Asian caricatures, together with Nicholas Turturro (World Trade Center) as a Latino firefighter and Ving Rhames as the one black character, are the only people of color in the entire film — it's Woody Allen's whitewashed New York all over again. Rhames' character, Duncan, fares no better than the Asians (not even getting a first name): His "dangerousness" is exaggerated a la the Scary Black Man stereotype, before Chuck and Larry's masquerade motivates him to come out himself. The fiftyish Duncan could not possibly, of course, have found himself inspired by Marlon Riggs, James Baldwin or Audre Lorde, or even E. Lynn Harris.

Mara Math's full review

More on Yellowface

More on MANAA and other media watchdog groups

More on Building stronger alliances for Marriage Equality and social justice

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

U.S. Social forum

From the blog: Facing South
U.S. Social Forum: Another politics is possible
A driving message coming from the 10,000+ activists assembled at the U.S. Social Forum is that our country needs a new kind of politics.

Not politics in the traditional sense. Most of the grassroots activists, non-profit leaders, progressive journalists, socially-engaged scholars and others here in Atlanta aren't the kind that would go to, say, the Take Back America confab of progressive electoral leaders that happened in D.C. earlier this month.

The Social Forum goes beyond "politics as usual." The issues being discussed -- from profit-driven health care to U.S. imperial wars -- are those routinely ignored by Big Media. The voices given a platform -- people of color, poor and working-class activists -- are those typically locked out of the debate. The strategies are more aimed at challenging the imbalances of wealth and power in our society than how to impact the 2008 elections.

As a result, it's no accident that the make-up of conference attendees is so different from most progressive events (and more closely resembles the realities of our country): my quick and unscientific estimate is that about half the participants are people of color, and judging from last night's excellent plenary on immigrant rights, a sizable number are new immigrants -- just like the U.S.

My friend John Nichols, who's covering the Forum for The Nation and also covers establishment politics in Washington, gives his take of the political spirit here:
Instead of imagining what might be, contemporary politicians spend most of their time talking, at best, about treating existing wounds to the body politic and, at worst, about "threats" that no longer exist. In the former category, place all the Democratic and Republican politicians who promise a "new direction" with regard to the Iraq quagmire but never get around to rejecting the neo-conservative -- or more precisely, neo-colonial -- policies that got us into the mess in the first place. In the latter category, place all the partisans who suggest that the problem with our health-care system is too much government involvement -- which is a little like claiming that the problem with a headache is too much aspirin.

At a certain point, you just want to say: "Get over it! At a point when only one in five Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, isn't it time we changed course?"

That's the message of the thousands of Americans who have gathered in Atlanta in recent days for the U.S. Social Forum.
I think it would be interesting if the people who came to the U.S. Social Forum were put in the same room -- or mega-convention center -- with people more closely involved in progressive electoral politics. In 1972, Julian Bond -- the civil rights veteran (and co-founder of the Institute for Southern Studies) -- argued in his book "A Time to Speak, A Time to Act" that it was imperative for 1960s activists to "transform our movement into an electoral instrument," to translate the era's grassroots base-building into political power.

The disconnect between the amazing display of activist energy here in Atlanta, and the decisions being made in Washington, make clear that this is also an issue today.

But it's also clear that our political establishment needs shaking up -- and that, as always, there's a need for powerful movements outside conventional politics that tackle the hard questions, and force new issues and ideas into the national consciousness (and in the process, help us realize that ideas now dismissed as the fringe -- like universal health care -- are actually mainstream).

As Nichols at The Nation says:
There is no question of the need for such a movement. Our electoral processes are a shambles, as evidenced by the dubious results of the last two presidential elections. Our campaign finance system is a crime. Our media aids and abets all that afflicts the nation. And working families find it harder and harder to make their voices heard on the job, in the school or in the community. The crisis is clear. What's exciting about the U.S. Social Forum is that the solutions -- fundamental structural and policy changes in foreign and domestic policies, rather than tinkers around the edges -- are coming into focus.
Labels: u.s. social forum