A-pop! June — Some dictators just can’t take a joke. Meanwhile, Glenn’s Soso brightens up OITNB

By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

Hollywood takes on North Korea

A new movie poster and trailer for the irreverent comedy “The Interview” came out this past month to mixed reviews from the public.

“The Interview” stars buddy comedians James Franco and Seth Rogen as media journalists who land an exclusive interview with a fictionalized version of Kim Jong-un, only to be enlisted by the CIA to carry out a plot to assassinate the North Korean dictator. Korean American actor Randall Park, who recently made headlines for his starring role in the upcoming “Fresh Off the Boat” sitcom, will play Kim in the film.

One major critic of the trailer was, well, the real North Korea. After viewing the trailer, a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the release of the U.S. comedy would equate as an “act of war” for undermining the nation.

“If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure,” a spokesman for its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Those are some fighting words, North Korea.

Additional parts of North Korea’s public statement insinuated that the U.S. government had specifically concocted this film to mock Kim, and that the movie had inspired “a gust of hatred and rage” among North Korea’s citizens and soldiers.

Kim and North Korea have long been easy targets for ridicule in Western media, so a mainstream film like this almost seemed inevitable. Though I imagine that, as a foreign leader, it probably isn’t ideal or easy to see an entire movie dedicated to mocking your existence.

I don’t have any strong feelings about the movie yet, but it has the potential to be overly satirical and tactless. I cringe at the thought. It’s too early to make a judgment call though, so I will reserve judgment after the movie’s release. If anything, North Korea’s condemnation of the movie will definitely give the film some early publicity.

“The Interview” hits theaters on Oct. 10.

New Asian characters on hit shows

The wildly popular Netflix comedy-drama series “Orange Is the New Black” debuted its second season to rave reviews in early June. The show, which is loosely based on the memoir “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” from American felon and memoirist Piper Kerman, follows the lives of a group of women in prison for various crimes. “Orange Is the New Black” is widely praised for its representation of marginalization groups in mainstream media due to its complex and prominent roles for lesbian and bisexual women, as well as women of color.

Season two saw the addition of a more prominent Asian character played by newcomer Kimiko Glenn. Her character, Brooke Soso, who is of Japanese descent, appears in a supporting role throughout the season and offers a quirky and eccentric personality to contrast with some of the main characters in the show.

Though the show does make occasional references to Soso’s Asian heritage on the show, it is never a primary focus. This is refreshing — to see an Asian character and actor in a popular show, and one that does not rely on token stereotypes to exist among the main characters. To further add to the complexity of Soso, the show also sees the character engaged in sexual acts with other women, further shattering standard stereotypes and expectations of Asian female characters on television. You don’t typically see an Asian female character like this outside of indie films.

Although “Orange Is the New Black” will not return for its third season until May or June 2015, I’m hoping that the producers will feature Soso in more prominent storylines next year. We need more diverse and complex Asian characters like this in mainstream media. (end)

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

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