Friday, November 30, 2007

... is in the Heart

Watched Searching for Asian America last night, mainly because I couldn't convince Mi Hermana and bro-in-law to watch it with me when I was in Michigan, and I really want to get to the other films in my Netflix queue. It features three profiles of Asian Americans: Gov. Gary Locke, two Filipino doctors in Oklahoma, and actress/artist Lela Lee. The documentary has three episodes, which I think were part of a larger PBS- and NAATV-affiliated airing.

The segment on Gov. Locke was great. In 2003 when he gave the Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union address, I was in Orlando for a conference. I have no shame in admitting that I skipped that evening's social activities (which included free wine, btw) to watch Gov. Locke deliver the address on TV. Like most public officials, he did some good things and some not-so-good things (including cutting some child care funds that partially paid my salary and got me laid off from my first "real" job out of college. But whatever. No bitterness... I got to meet him several times, before he axed my funding stream, and he was a nice, everyday, humble dude.) At any rate, it was a good episode. It was also fun to recognize other Washington State politicos in all the shots.

Episode 2 randomly featured two Filipino doctors who settled in Guymon, Oklahoma. They were best friends in med school, then moved to the States and drama happened. Aside from their experiences as the only people of color in the town, they had a falling out. The interviews with them focus more on the immigrant experience: one wants to stay in OK, the other wants to eventually go back to the Philippines. I don't quite know why these two guys were featured, exactly. To tie in current experiences to a historical perspective? To reinforce cultural ties to nations of origin? It was an interesting segment but ultimately a little out of place.

Angry Little Asian Girl's Lela Lee was the focus of the last "episode" in the documentary. I first started reading her ALAG comic strip when I was in college and was something of an Angry Little Half-Asian Girl. (I've mellowed. A lot. Really!) Back then, the strip was solely about the ALAG dealing with stereotypes of Asian Americans, and it was edgy because it directly countered the image of Asians as quiet, submissive, cute little people. Since then, Lee has branched out and added other characters -- the strip is now Angry Little Girls, of all backgrounds. In Searching for Asian America, some cultural commentators mention that the strip also became wildly popular with non-Asian women, because some of the same expectations of silence, submission, and cuteness are normal socialization modes for females in general. That one was a great segment, too.

One thing I did find weird was the emphasis on telling how each of the featured people met their spouses. I couldn't figure out if it was an attempt to humanize them all more or to ironically link them back to the stereotype of Asian family ties. At any rate, it was obviously part of the formula for the episodes: interview person, tell beginning of story, interview friends and family, then suddenly throw in how they met/dated/married their partner, then tell rest of story through interviews of everyone.

Good stuff for procrastinating!

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