Speaker 1: Well films like minority winning the academy war and Marvel Shai coming Outland. This year, Asian American representation of media has never been better, but at the same time hate crimes, cuz the, a API community is sort of the last year tax happening. GA we have to ask now what
Speaker 2: I'm here with Jimmy Wong star, the Netflix animated film, wish dragon to talk about this problem and the role that increased representation in media plays as part of the solution. First [00:00:30] off, congrats on wish dragon on Netflix. So, uh, I really enjoyed it. One of the things I liked about it, and this is a film that set in modern Shanghai, uh, your little touches, like your character delivering dump. Yeah. Uh, as opposed to like a pizza delivery guy. Right. But the thing of it is, was it was never called out as, you know, a Chinese film or a film in China. It just was right. And I'm curious, you know, the thought that went into crafting a story like that and, and presenting a story in this way where you're, it's clearly, you [00:01:00] know, Asian touches and influence is, but it's not necessarily an Asian
Speaker 3: Film. Right. So the director, his name is Chris Aons. Uh, those of you listening may notice that the last name Aons does not denote in Asian heritage. Um, but Chris lived in China for three years and this movie's actually dedicated to one of his best friends he had out there. Um, and he's someone that is a hundred a creator artist, you know, type, they, they feel the work that they do. You know, you can really tell that when he speaks about the movie, [00:01:30] when he's drawing it, he's really soft spoken. He has this sort of like ethereal quality about him. And I think that's the perfect kind of person to take a story like this, which is a cross-cultural one and make it into a sort of a story that, that anyone can enjoy regardless of where you're from, because it's presented, like you said in the way that isn't very much in your face, it's not like this is a Chinese movie about Chinese representation.
Speaker 3: It's like, no, this is a story about a boy who wants to find his best friend back. And he's a guy that makes ends meet in the meantime. He's very much a just regular [00:02:00] teenager. Um, and when I was watching the movie this last weekend, uh, my wife's dad who grew up and was born in China was chuckling a lot because he kept seeing things in the scenery, posters signs, things that you would not see in an American movie because it's just not an American, you know, movie. So he, he was laughing because he was like, oh, wow, look, that's, this is that that's that? And it was great cuz he recognized things that, you know, completely I missed when I watched it, even though I've been to China a bunch of times. Um, so it [00:02:30] was really cute and fun to see that the cultural authenticity was there, but it wasn't done in a way that distracted the viewers because I didn't see it. And I've seen the movie what, four or five times now, but on his first viewing, it was like little nuggets of Easter eggs. And I could tell it actually made him really happy because I just don't think he expected that from a movie that was, you know, an American main movie based in China.
Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely. Bring up the point about representation and seeing these little things, these little elements that, that maybe like, I wouldn't even recognize, but maybe my parents would. Yeah. Um, [00:03:00] I mean for one like the, for me like the mother character, which was great, uh, Constance who plays her like very, very much like the mother I had in terms of personality, like little, little personality traits that I was able to pick up. Yeah. I'm, I'm, I'm curious, you know, we've, you know, with films like wish dragon and you know, we got shows like Kung and I know Chan Cheese's coming out later this year. It seems like there's a rise in representation in media, but I'm, I'm curious from your, from your perspective, like how far we've actually come. I know, [00:03:30] right? Looking back to like 2018 when crazy rich Asians came out and like, it seemed to signal this Renaissance of you Asian American represe, but where are we in this, uh, in this cycle?
Speaker 3: I think, uh, crazy rich Asians was like our big fat Greek wedding, but for Asian culture. Um, and I think personally, I think we're entering into world have entered into a golden age of Asian representation in cinema because of, you know, there's so many forces pushing it forward both from [00:04:00] a cultural standpoint, with the rise in anti Asian crime. It's more important than ever that people are making these stories. And you can tell there is a renewed urgency from filmmakers and creators from the internet where I'm really familiar with all the way to sort of like the Hollywood circles. Um, and at the same time we, you know, and this is no shade at all on Kung for, because it's a movie that was originally completely whitewashed with David Carine playing the lead now with Olivia land, doing it and a bunch of Asian actors.
Speaker 3: So it's like sort [00:04:30] of reclaiming space that was taken away originally. Um, but it's still called Kung Fu and Chan Chi at the end of the day is still a martial arts movie, right. In a lot of ways, but it's set in the Marvel universe. So it does expand, it's reach outwards quite a bit. Um, I think we are much, much further than we've ever been. There's obviously tons of grounds still to cover, but where we've gotten to, right. We have movies like minority, which is just a, like really just about a family at the end of the day, a struggling family and a country like America. It could be about any immigrant family, but in this case [00:05:00] is about a Korean one. Um, and that's receiving Oscar knobs. We have Oscar, uh, Chloe Ja winning Oscars as a director behind the camera and doing movies like the Eternals.
Speaker 3: So as far as like the representation goes from in front of camera and behind the camera, I think we're in a great spot. We have so many talented, hardworking individuals out there making new and bigger things every day. It's I think really a matter of, of a couple of things, Hollywood is driven primarily by money. Um, so the movies that we're making need to be successful in order [00:05:30] for the momentum to keep going or to receive critical acclaim. Uh, and the other side of it is are those opportunities gonna be continued to be granted to marginalized groups in minority filmmakers and stuff, uh, and actors and all that. Um, now I just auditioned for a role like yesterday, for instance, that was about a, it was a coach for an eSports team. And that's great because that role right back in the day, someone said, you're a coach for a team may not have envisioned, oh, this is gonna be an Asian person, [00:06:00] but we're also in the point in society where eSports is so big and so popular.
Speaker 3: And a lot of the big coaches are Asian and you see them all the time on streams on like LCS and the, and like all of the legal legends tournaments and stuff. And every eSport has major Asian players and coaches that that role is now so seen as when we go out to audition for this it's open ethnicity, it could be anyone and they specifically wanted to audition. I think me because I have history in the gaming space, but I do genuinely look kind of like people that might play in that league because it's something that has [00:06:30] arisen over the past five, six years, more so than ever. So I think there's just a lot of different factors compiling together to make this a great time for range and representation. And it's just the beginning.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, I imagine it's very Bible given that you were on video game high school. There's, there's definitely some cred there. I could definitely see in that role. Uh, speaking of that, I'm just curious about the, the, the importance of that, that aspect. You talked about those elements that your, uh, your grandfather, your father recognized in wish and how, like how important is it [00:07:00] that I think folks can watch something on screen and see themselves there? Like what, and the importance of that just cause I was thinking back at like the cartoons I used to watch, uh, and, and there, there, and like power Rangers. Right. And it was always, the Lee character was almost always, it was always, always, yeah, a white dude, always a white dude. Right. It was, it it like, and, and I thought back to the point where even when I was sort of role playing when I was creating characters for myself, like yeah, the main character [00:07:30] tended to be a white guy, because that's just all I saw. And I'm just curious what your, your thoughts are that and, and how this increased representation might change
Speaker 3: Things. Yeah. Well, a lot of layers to this, the ironic thing is that as soon as that main character put on a mask and started doing martial arts or fighting in any power Rangers, it's 1000% a Japanese or Asian stunt person in, in the costume. So it's funny that they're doing all the hard work in the moment that they take off the mask. It's like, it's me, not the stunt person that was grinding it out and getting themselves potentially hurt doing these off some stunts. [00:08:00] Um, and so I think like a lot of people don't realize what having role models on screen feels like when you are not part of minority. And it's, you know, I, I hate to use the word privilege cuz I think it's a loaded term and people just have a, uh, reaction to it, but we all are privileged in different ways.
Speaker 3: And one of the P is that I think minority and marginalized groups don't really have as much growing up as that. They don't get to see themselves portrayed as the good guys necessarily or the hero or the guy that gets the girl [00:08:30] on screen. And I specifically remember growing up and always loving James Bond. You know, I thought James O was so cool whipping out his gun and like doing that whole intro sequence had me so up every single time. And my equivalent of that was not with a gun and cool spy gadgets and swab ness in getting the girl. But my equivalent was, and again, no shame to them because I loved them very much. Jackie Chan and jet Lee who were fighting comedically, you know, Jackie had a big goofy face and did awesome martial arts and incredibly impressive [00:09:00] stuff, but still had to speak with an accent.
Speaker 3: Didn't get the girl, you know, wasn't seen like as a romantic lead that he was more often like a comedic thing, uh, and almost, you know, and what he did was so incredible. And if it wasn't for the fact, right, like think about Jackie Chan had to literally perform at a capability that no other human on screen has really come close to like save, I don't know, bus or Keaton maybe, um, for him to get that acclaim and that ability and same with jet lead, they had to use that physical aspect of them to be so impressive [00:09:30] and so amazing for them to become those lead actors. And that's a privilege at that. A lot of, I guess, mainstream white actors and white roles don't have because they don't need to be amazing at martial arts. They can just be themselves and still be the lead of something.
Speaker 3: So if you think about it that way and that they had to have such an incredible amount of prowes and something in order to even get to that point, I think that speaks a lot to why representation matters, cuz me growing up, I didn't do martial arts. I am not physically, they gifted in a lot of ways. So that was like something I just saw and was impressed by. [00:10:00] But I didn't see myself in now when I watch Harold and Kumar with John Cho and you know, he gets the girl at the end and he, they barely talk about being Asian at all. Both the actors are Asian and they are, you know, suave funny, clumsy, crazy. And they go through the entire story as the heroes. That to me resonates so much more because I was like, oh my gosh, that's so cool. John Cho is so cool.
Speaker 3: And I can see myself in that. Um, that's why I think I loved animation growing up is because when you see someone [00:10:30] on screen, that's animated, you don't necessarily know what race they are, especially in like Japanese AE when all the features are all over the place and their hair is blue or whatever. So I think there is so much of a, you know, like in the same way that a kid stick, a baby sticks out their tongue. When they see you sticking your tongue out at them, we do the same when we watch movies and TV and read stuff and see things on the news. And you know, we really become a reflection of all that. So I think the more positive role models we have, the more positive news and things that we have, the better that we can see ourselves reflected in society.
Speaker 3: And then that helps us [00:11:00] elevate ourselves to a higher level. And this goes across the board for everyone, even the white kid that did have the white heroes on screen, maybe they felt the same way I did. Like I don't, I don't get the girl. I don't shoot guns. I can't do cool fight scenes. I don't see myself in there. But then along comes a plucky little hero in an animated show that a kid that's just trying to get by. It's like dipper and gravity falls. And they're like, I see myself in that. So it's really important to give those opportunities for young people growing up. Cause that's what I think really inspires them to, to grow into something more.
Speaker 2: [00:11:30] All right. Well, I wanna take you back to March, uh, in the wake of the Atlanta shooting, you, you posted an emotional, the young Institute Ram or it something that actually some of the media failed to do, at least initially it was to, to really call out victims as opposed to focus on the shooters. Yeah. Uh, and for me, at least it, it kept off a very freshing year of just watching incident after incident.
Speaker 3: Uh, so first off ask how, how has this past year been for you? It, I mean, rough, obviously [00:12:00] mentally, I think waking up in and opening Instagram and seeing five fresh attacks, six more old women punched in the head, stabbed, brutalized, whatever it is, uh, is never a fun way to sort of like, be like, ah, yawn, yay. Let me get my cup of Joe in the morning and get at it. So I think that to me was like a really frustrating thing because after all that humans are still so easy to predict in a lot of ways, like [00:12:30] maybe not predict, predict might be, not be the right word, but just like, oh cool, something's wrong. You wanna blame something and this is how you take it out on them. It's frustrating because you hope that society and civilization has evolved further past that.
Speaker 3: And then you have to sort of look at the fabric of why this is happening more in America, not to say it isn't happening internationally, but why is it happening so much in America and in our major cities and all that. And there's, you know, know it's such a hard question to untangle because you just get into such sticky things immediately. And [00:13:00] there are things of like, you know, you see comments blasted across these messages being like, well, it's only black people doing this and it's like, well, that's like one just not true, but two it's also partially true that yeah, there are a lot of black people and white people and there's just, you see it happening of time, but you can't necessarily associate a hate crime with the person doing its race. You just need to look at what they're hating more than anything else.
Speaker 3: Um, cuz you know, like one thing that I always think about is like back during when the internment camps were happening, uh, for [00:13:30] Japanese citizens, other Asians would wear tags saying that they weren't Japanese. Right? Yep. Are you, does that, does that make right now, now does whoa, what does that mean? Right. But it's like, no, it's more about the fact that there is an anger and hate against a race and that everyone is being affected by it. And the people that are maybe perpetrating the attacks. It it's like, why don't you look a little, like one step deeper. And that's why I always want people to do. It's just like take the issue at hand and just take it a step further back and look little bit deeper. What is actually happening? So for the killer in Atlanta, [00:14:00] was it racially motivated maybe, but let's look at who this person was.
Speaker 3: Oh, he grew up in a hyper conservative community, went to this church where they preached all of these very conservative ideals and things that made him feel extremely, I guess, guilty about these sort of things that he watched law and, and the, the things that he engaged in. And so as a result, he took it out on more innocent people that had nothing to do with it. And instead of being like added surface, like what exactly is this? Is it a racial attack? Like, well it only primarily killed [00:14:30] Asian people. So like, yeah, you probably can classify it as that, but then you need to look a little deeper and then you look, okay, why are black people attacking Asians more? Or at least that's what the media's reporting on. It's like, oh, is it a media thing? Is it the fact that these are in big cities or does it have anything to do with institutionalized and systemic racism having, you know, does it have anything to do with the fact that America has an incredibly deep scar in it that has separated two races and has over the course of 250 years, put one into a lower, you know, into a lower sort of state of vibrance of, [00:15:00] uh, you know, so it's just like what, what is actually happening is what I'm always trying to ask people to do and ask and, and not just sort of jump to the conclusion of what you see on the surface, because it's just an impossible thing to a tackle, even if you have all the answers.
Speaker 3: Um, so at the very least, hopefully we can just get a little bit more recognition of, of the general situation and that will lead to a larger understanding of what's happening as a whole, from a macro perspective. And maybe from there we can make some more meaningful change. I don't
Speaker 2: Know. No, you bring up a good point. [00:15:30] That's a lot, you just some pack there. Um, and I think that's part of the issue is because it's so complicated. There's so no, so much nuance and there's a lot of history and institutionalized problems that are in place that it's hard for folks to really wrap their brain around. It's much easier to focus on blaming someone or focus on just the sheer act of it. Right. Um, and then I think that's, that's why it's really hard for folks to understand it. And I've, I've written about it. I've been very outspoken about the, you know, the linkage between, you know, words [00:16:00] like Chinese flu and Kung flu and the volume are commuted. I get the same exact reaction from people. No, it's actually just black people doing this. I it's. No, don't don't well, don't blame Trump. That's like that's and so I get a lot of the same reactions. Yeah. Cause I think it's easier to point fingers than, than it is to try to understand what's going on. Yeah.
Speaker 3: And everyone, I come on, like at the end of the day, this is America. We are all about ourselves here in this country and I'm not gonna spend, right. Like if I, if an issue is happening and it's not [00:16:30] directly affecting me, why am I gonna spend more energy it than just being like, well, that's the problem. I'm gonna go back to my life now. So I think like that is just the thing too. Like we don't really have much sense of community here compared to geez. I mean go to anywhere in Asia and look at people's connections to their family here and then look at the divorce rates in America, right? Like something is fundamentally kind of messed up and it's causing a lot of, I don't know, lack of caring, lack of empathy. And as a result we get really, and I I'm this way too. Right. Like [00:17:00] I always tell people to live your best life and to treat yourself right. Um, and to care for you above others first and foremost. So like, I, I espouse these same ideals in a lot of ways, but I can see that the other edge of the sore, or is a, a world that cares more about themselves than others.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, that's a good segue cuz the, I mean the question I ask a lot of folks when I have these conversations is like back in March when this happened, I think it brought to light to the public people started to understand that there was a problem with, uh, [00:17:30] with right violence against Asian Americans. I think there were some folks who just weren't even aware that these attacks
Speaker 3: Were happening. There are people that still aren't aware, by the way I get comments being like, I've never seen this happen before. So my friends say it doesn't happen. So it doesn't, it's like,
Speaker 2: Cool. Well, my favorite is, uh, I've got, I have an Asian friend and he says there hasn't been anything. And so I think we're good. I think, I think it's all being made up. Right. So, yeah. Um, but the, you know, the, it was part, it was in the public or the national conversation for, you know, a [00:18:00] week after the shooting and then something else happened and then something else happened and yeah, five
Speaker 3: More mass shootings happened or like six
Speaker 2: Tragedies removed at this point. Right. Or even right. And so I, I guess the, the question is like how there was attention on this? Like how, how do you maintain that focus or that attention on this issue? Because it is still an issue. I think for folks who keep tabs on this, like I do, I mean, I still see tax like on a daily basis. How, how do we sort of get folks to realize I, this is still a problem? [00:18:30] Or is it just sort of the lost cause because we have such short attention spans now,
Speaker 3: I don't know, man. I mean like think about what it took for BLM to happen. It took a, it took for a police officer to murder someone in broad daylight being filmed by people, screaming for him to stop for that, to get to the point that it did. And this is after decades in centuries, even of, of racism and lynchings murders, KKK, and all that Asians have gotten under attack. [00:19:00] We had the internment camps. We had, you know, we had, uh, railroads, Vincent chin, we had Vincent chin. Right. And yeah, we obviously need to address it. We, we need to do our best to fix it, but it's nothing compared to some of the other like struggles that, right. Like relatively, if you think about it, right? Like Asians came into this country as immigrants. We were not brought here as slaves. And so our struggle is completely unique as well.
Speaker 3: And so we need to almost separate ourselves from this issue, but at the same time, our issue is not the primary [00:19:30] issue in this country. And it's not the one that people are gonna care about as much because it's just not theirs in a lot of ways. And I don't blame anyone for it because that's just human nature. And especially in the individualistic sort of like self-serving society that America has created. So I think like for me, I just wanna attack and even I just need to take any appeal to onion back even for a other. I want to dismantle the way that we get hounded by media every single day. I want to take apart the fact that everything [00:20:00] is fear based and I wanna create more community, more communion ship and more gatherings and more ways for people to find each other and, and connect so that they can have that Asian friend that does tell them, Hey, something is happening and you should care and they'll go, oh wow.
Speaker 3: Well, my Asian friend told me, so I'm gonna comment on this thing being like, yeah, this is messed up. My friend said this and I don't think we get there unless we really work on a lot of the fundamental and maybe there's a good point to the, the entire systemic issue of why things they [00:20:30] are the way they are in this country. So I think for me, it like, it's, I, you can't just keep yelling about something, um, because people just stop listening, right? So maybe we have to play a little bit of a deeper game, uh, and it sucks to even call it a game, but we're at the point where, you know, BLM happened and, and George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. And really not that much has changed in terms of policies and things, right. [00:21:00] Small shifts here and there, maybe things to appease certain people Juneteenth.
Speaker 3: Great, good job. You made a holiday. That doesn't mean [inaudible], you know, so I think we're just at that point where, where it's just like talking about things isn't gonna happen. We have to find ways to enact change on a broader, deeper level. And I really don't know how to go about that because I'm just an actor in the movie. So I just gotta lead by example and keep making things that people get inspired by. And hopefully that will create conversations and someone on the policy, side's gonna have to do that too. Someone [00:21:30] in the tech side's gonna have to do that. Someone in the engineering world, right? Every single field needs to find a way to attack the issue at its core together. I think in that way, we can sort of change the foundation of what things have been.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. Well, Jimmy, thank you for, uh, humoring me on this, this heavy, heavy conversation, uh, really appreciate your time. Us has been Jimmy Wong star of the new Netflix film west dragon.