A-pop! Heroes and villains — Racists think they’re not racist, and Asian heroes make their debut

By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

From racist music videos to Asian superheroes, July was an interesting month for Asians and pop culture. And by “interesting,” I mean equal parts disgusting and awesome. Read on to see what’s going on!


Import model Levy Tran “starred” in the Day Above Ground music video.

Racist music video “Asian Girlz” makes many Asianz mad

Los Angeles-based rock band Day Above Ground recently released their music video “Asian Girlz” on YouTube to much dismay from the Asian community. The video features scenes of import car model Levy Tran parading about in racy lingerie and bathing seductively cut between footage of Tran going on a series of dates. It’s worth noting that all members of the group are white save for their bassist, who is Indonesian American. If the song’s title doesn’t already give its subject matter away, the front man croons about how sexy Asian women are … by using a litany of racist and sexist lyrics to express it. Here’s a taste:
“I love your sticky rice / Butt (expletive) all night / Korean barbecue / (Expletive) I love you / I love your creamy yellow thighs / Ooh your slanted eyes / It’s the Year of the Dragon / Ninja (expletive) I’m stabbin’”

Their lyrical eloquence continues on for another few minutes. Clearly, a lot of thought and originality went into the lyric writing.

The band’s front man Joe Anselm fired back at critics in the video’s comment section, claiming that the song was intended to be satirical as to poke fun at the band’s obsession with Asian women. While they acknowledge that the video does feature some absurd content, the content is meant to be “endearing,” and to openly worship Asian women.


Day Above Ground

And, as if this were to justify the video, Anslem argues that their band is, in fact, quite multicultural because their bassist is Asian and was born in Indonesia. So, yeah, that totally doesn’t make the band racist at all.

There are countless offenses to point out about this video. And while fetishizing Asian women is, unfortunately, nothing new to American pop culture, what makes this video more infuriating than normal is the fact that the band has no understanding or acceptance of how or why this song is offensive to Asians and Asian women.

To her credit, Tran apologized to fans for her participation in the video after its initial backlash. But Anslem — while continuing to speak on behalf of the band — never apologizes for the offensive video, and continues to reiterate its supposed satirical and reverential nature. He never perceives himself or his band mates as racist despite producing a video that focuses exclusively on a woman’s race that both sexualizes and pigeonholes Asian women into a box. Is he being willfully ignorant? Or is he just straight up ignorant?

Either way, it’s painful to read Anslem’s interviews without wanting to bang my head on the table. Even writing about this song has been difficult because who wants to give this video even more visibility than it already has? Still, racist acts need to be accounted for, even if the instigators fail to take responsibility for their actions.


Leehom Wang (Photo by Lomomars)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s an Asian superhero!

Yes, that’s right. An Asian superhero! Taiwanese American singer-actor Leehom Wang was recently cast in comic book writer-publisher Stan Lee’s “The Annihilator,” a movie adaptation of the comic book series by the same name, which centers on a Chinese expatriate and prisoner who obtains  superpowers after undergoing a dangerous genetic surgery.

Wang, whose filmography includes a supporting role in director Ang Lee’s critically acclaimed drama-thriller “Lust, Caution,” was born in New York, but became a huge Chinese music star overseas. He now pursues professional projects both in Asia and the U.S.

Securing Wang as a lead actor in a Stan Lee-backed film was a wise move for all parties involved, and I’m pumped to see Wang in a leading role in mainstream media.

(Can we also give props to the production team behind “The Annihilator” for having the foresight to actually cast an Asian actor for a film role based on an Asian character? No racebending or yellowface going on here, no sir. Although, I’m sure the mega fan base Wang yields wouldn’t hurt box office sales either.)


Olivia Munn (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Speaking of superhero movie casting, actress Olivia Munn recently spoke out about how her half-Chinese roots would prevent her from getting her dream role of Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is a popular superheroine character from comic book powerhouse DC Comics. Munn most recently appeared in “Iron Man 2” and “Magic Mike,” an action-superhero film and drama respectively. She currently stars in the political drama television series “The Newsroom,” where she plays a journalist.

Munn is also known for her devoted following among comic book fans, and is often considered to be a “geek celebrity” due to her self-publicized love for comic books, as well as her regular appearances at Comic-Con, an annual convention for comic book fanatics in San Diego, Calif.

Though Warner Bros. has not confirmed reports that a film featuring a slew of DC Comics superheroes is in the works — based on the superhero team the Justice League, which Wonder Woman is part of — Munn has already expressed a vested interest in wanting to portray the character. But she remained skeptical about the ethnicity of who would be chosen to play the role.

“It would be great, though, if the producers could make Wonder Woman an Asian-American, but that’s probably not what they would do. I don’t know a lot of Asian-American women who are getting great opportunities yet, and the other actresses (vying for the role) are probably really famous and Hollywood tends to go for the girls who are already in the big movies,” said Munn, to the Associated Press.

As dismal as it sounds, Munn’s words do speak some truth. While it’s no secret that Asians have long been underrepresented in American media, it’s still disheartening to read when an actor views their Asian heritage as a professional hindrance. It may be the current reality, but it almost seems defeatist to admit it.

With that said, I could see Munn lobbying hard for the part if and when the DC Comics film becomes green-lit. And Munn would be a good candidate for the role too, as Wonder Woman’s physical appearance would easily be appropriate for an Asian American actress given that the character is a dark brunette. Plus, Munn already knows the character’s history, and even shares an affinity with the heroine by referencing her jokingly in the title of her book, “Suck it, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek.”

Basically, if there are any Warner Bros. casting directors reading this column, please consider Munn for the role of Wonder Woman. You won’t regret it. (end)

Vivian Nguyen can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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One Response to “A-pop! Heroes and villains — Racists think they’re not racist, and Asian heroes make their debut”

  1. sonnykwan says:

    Good article about Asian sub-pop culture and how they are perceived in the public eye.


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