Post-Election 2016

My feelings about this Election are hard to articulate. I am a mix of shock, anger, sadness, disappointment, grief, faith, and hope.

I am shocked by the rampant misogyny and white supremacy in this nation. Shock meaning extremely disappointed and speechless. I had hoped that, considering the vast number of Bernie supporters and progressives, Hillary Clinton could win in critical states. I can only assume Trump voters prioritized certain issues and privileges over others.

That makes me angry. At them. Then at me for being angry at them. My anger is split. I want to be angry at the people who voted for Trump because we all know his presidency will be an even worse shitshow than his campaign. But then again, I don’t want to fully engage in that behavior. The class acts of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama remind me at all times to take the high road. Because as members of marginalized groups, we can’t really sink to the levels of Trump. So yes, I’m expressing my frustration toward voters. However, there is nothing we can do about it now. Clinton won the popular vote, which means a majority of Americans wanted a president who was a woman, progressive (more or less), and inclusive (again more or less).

I grieve her loss. I supported Bernie and begrudgingly supported her. She and I have different stances on a number of issues. However, I respected her. She is one of the most amazing politicians of our time, an absolute political lion. She was forced to take on traditionally masculine qualities that so clearly dominate our political system. She is a fighter in every sense of the word. I thank her for her efforts.

Clinton’s progress in the presidential election is monumental! She is probably over-qualified for the position of president. Her ability to inspire almost everyone, even some of her opponents, is powerful. The trail she blazed won’t be taken for granted.

I have great hope in my generation, the majority of 18-25 year olds in 2016.I have faith in us. I have faith in the people of America, not the “True Americans,” but the ones who care about the people and the land more than the symbols of privilege. The people of the First Nations combating colonialism and genocide for centuries. The refugees escaping religious persecution, natural disaster, and warfare. The free people making a good life for themselves where they can love and laugh. The immigrants coming to create a better life for their families. The laborers working their fingers to the bone to make a good living. I have faith that they will take care of and protect others from harm and hate.

We can rise to the occasion. We can change things by continuing to uplift each other. We can support candidates that combat racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, and xenophobia. We can become those candidates. We need to nurture the hell out of each other the next few years. We can’t expect anything from our governments (oh the irony?). We need to organize.

Speaking for an Asian American perspective:

We inherited from our ancestors the resilience and strength to endure.

We inherited from our people the power to love and resist against hate and bigotry.

We have overcame worse and we will do it again.

America won’t stop changing. Americans won’t stop diversifying. We will bring a new era of radical love.

Brandon Li Oda

He is a writer I have admired for quite some time. Most of his writing have disappeared after he fell of the face of Tumblr (and what seems like the internet). However, many of his poignant posts and blurbs still live on through the screencaps and reblogs of others. His words really motivated me, even if they aren’t the best. And though they are quite angsty, they are also mellow. His advice is reasonable and simple. It’s something I look back on when I feel like I’m losing my way because it’s strangely comforting.

This is some advice he had for college freshmen which I dug up. Being at that level in this moment, I really want to keep this on my blog to look back on.

The most important things in life that you need to know won’t be taught in school–they will be taught through people and experiences, loss and gain, and some more loss. Experience is priceless. Study abroad if you can. Travel as much as you can…Don’t fall into the illusion that numbers and grade reflect your worth. The default path of education is not the same path to happiness, that’s a different road…And remember that it’s okay to feel lost.

This is not the last you have heard from him, whether from himself or from me. It all depends on time.

My tongue is dry, my heart is bitter. Stay away from my poisonous mind.

You were warned.
The title should have scared you off.
If you weren’t then you should be pleasantly surprised to know that I am not that threatening. I’m as threatening as a feral kitten in a world of worse creatures, terrorism, and American presidential candidates.
My pretty little metaphor was a distraction from the real problem, like most of everything I say. Pardon my bitter spirit. It is almost midnight and I cannot hold in my bad vibes as I have done for more than a year now.

I want to let go of some of my worries. I want someone to talk to when I am troubled. However, in the age of text messaging when you want here hear/see people, I find speaking to be a challenge. My tongue is dried from the inside out. My words are stuck in the base of my throat, struggling. I refrain from letting them all out at once, allowing a few to come out into the open air. The rest rots and seeps into my heart, making it swell with bitterness and resentment. Those feeling make their way into my mind with every heartbeat, like poison killing me slowly but effectively. Dramatic, yes. Hopefully, it illustrates my challenge with opening up about my troubles well enough.

As for my troubles: My obsessive-compulsive tendencies are affecting my ability to get work done. Fear of having my GPA plummet has got me in a constant state of panic. I need more sleep, because my constant fatigue is inhibiting my ability to complete assignments. I just want to have friends who I can call to talk about my problems, but I don’t want to disturb them. (This has always been an issue.) My need of money and experience outweighs my need for self-care because I was raised to be like that. I don’t want for people to tell me what to do, I just want ears from certain friends. There are some people who I can see myself having this relationship with. There are many who I do not have that kind of relationship with.

I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m trying to say. O what midnight musings do to me.

After 2015

This year has been eye opening. Everything that’s happened in the media, in the streets, and in my home.

First and foremost

Let’s talk about me.

Look back on the past year, I want to celebrate some achievements: 5th anniversary of overcoming my eating disorder, 1st anniversary of my blog, going to college, and coming out as asexual.

Moreover, the twists of fate I have encountered in the past year revealed parts of me that I didn’t know existed. I am still trying to process somethings I learned about myself this past year. I should never be ashamed of my parents’ professions; they are proud of me as much as I am of them. I am jealous and petty but it’s still possible for me to get over those feelings. I am lovable but I’m not meant to find love anytime soon. I am a hopeless romantic and asexual, odd combination but that doesn’t mean I can’t build a life for myself. I am getting better at recovering from episodes of depression and anxiety. My struggles have made me more complex and empowered; they gave me more character and I am forever grateful for that.

Second

New Friends + Mentors

The people I have met this past year inspire me to be more creative. I want to learn more about photography and filming making, rather than critiquing photos and films. I want to do more crafts and make little pieces of art. Of course, I want to get better at writing as a budding academic and as a blogger. With their support, I am ready to finish some old projects and start some new ones.

Last

The social and political movements I have been caught up in have taught me so much about the importance of justice, democracy, love, and respect. I really want to do more on the streets and on my campus to promote that.

These are exciting times. I don’t want to miss a single moment.

ScarJo is not Major Motoko

I wrote this for my first-year seminar, but it’s about the timeless issue of white-washing in Hollywood. So this is really old news.

Section 9/Ghost in the Shell/Masamune Shirow

Ghost in the Shell, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga series of the same name, is set in a futuristic Japanese city and follows protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi and members of Public Security Section 9, a covert task force within the Japanese National Public Safety Commission specializing in cyber-warfare.

Not being of Asian descent aside, Scarlett Johansson is 5’3″ and lithe while Major Motoko is a 5’6″ and muscular. Even if Johansson changes herself physically, she still won’t cut it for me.

The casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi is unfortunate because

  • she lacks the emotion/physical presence of Motoko
  • it takes away an opportunity from an actress of Asian descent
  • it perpetuates a long-standing tradition of whitewashing because of the financial stability in it

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I don’t really have anything against Scarlett Johansson. She’s talented, though definitely better in some films than in others. But I just can’t see her as Motoko.

Major Motoko Kusanagi/Ghost in the Shell/Masamune Shirow

Major Motoko Kusanagi of the Japanese Public Safety Commission is both terrifying and alluring. As an elite member of a covert task force, Motoko takes command of a room with nothing more than a look. She is enigmatic and lethal, while simultaneously lonely and even vulnerable. She leads a team of men, who both fear and respect her. While she prefers to be in the body (shell) of a young female, her soul and mind (ghost) are old and wise. The old-soul-trapped-in-a-young-body cliché actually allows her character to alternate between being optimistic and cynical about human nature.

I have yet to see Johansson fulfill a role as complex as Major Motoko. In most movies, I’ve found her a too flirty and a little too infantilized—even as Black Widow. When she’s plays a “badass female,” Johansson always seems like she’s trying to be an underestimated threat, rather than an actual threat who immediately instills fear in others. Her tendency to cover the lethal nature of her characters (let’s throw Lucy in there too) makes her a very bad fit for the role of Major Motoko.

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Meanwhile, there are plenty of Asian and Asian American actresses who could have been recruited as the lead role. (Hello! Maggie Q of Nikita, anyone?) This movie could have been an amazing opportunity to enhance diversity in the industry. But those things didn’t happen and it’s a shame!

The whitewashing of Motoko, among other characters of color for live-action adaptations, takes away opportunities for both underrated and aspiring performers of color to boost representation!

USC study examining on-screen diversity found that in 2013, Asian characters accounted for only 4.4% of speaking roles in the top-grossing films. A year later, afollow-up USC study found that Asian characters accounted for 5.3% of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2014. Yay, 0.9% increase. That should be a good sign right? No, because in the same survey, we see that women accounted for 28.1% of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2014.

Given these numbers (oooo scary ~ no, more like sad), can you guess how many women of Asian decent are speaking or named character (don’t be scared of this high standard)?

Answer: A pathetically small number.

So why would the American remake star a white actress? Why would the industry continue whitewashing roles from source material that features Asian and Asian American leads? Is it that difficult to find people of Asian descent to play lead roles for these film adaptations? (Especially now that more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders performers on appearing on TV and on YouTube.) Plenty of white folks have played lead roles, why not give Asian/American actors a crack at it?

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6/1000s of problematic and/or white-washed portrayals of people of Asian

Whitewashing, the practice of casting white actors to play characters that should have been people of color, has been a Hollywood staple since the beginning of the film industry. It comes in many forms: changing the identity of characters completely, blackface, brownface, yellowface, etc.

While Major Motoko certainly transcends gender and ethnicity, the story of Ghost in the Shell is heavily intertwined with Japanese culture. It is an unfortunate that DreamWorks made a simple economic decision: Cast Scarlett Johannsson because she’s the safe and conservative choice for a “secret-agent character.”

The gist of the problem is that plenty of complex characters (who could/should have been played by actors of color) were played by white actors, because it was deemed more appropriate/lucrative/superior.

I’m sick of capable and talented performers of color being passed up on roles for characters of color, especially in anime adaptations. My heart is done with being let down when source material featuring characters of Asian descent are whitewashed, while my favorite Asian American performers have few opportunities to break out of type-casted roles.

Tuesday Night Cafe is the oldest still-running Asian American open mic space in the country. TNC maintains a passionate, positive space with a focus on promoting the work of Asian American/Pacific Islander performers.

This American remake will not my American society, which includes Asian Americans. What a sham. Looking forward to hate-watching Ghost in the Shell in 2017.

For more of thoughts on Ghost in the Shell and Asians in film:

CLAMP vs the Genres

CLAMP: Satsuki Igarashi, Tsubaki Nekoi, Nanase Ohkawa, and Mokona

CLAMP, an all-female team of manga artists and writers from Japan, has left their mark on the comics sphere with their subversion of misogynistic genre tropes. The iconic four-member team (Satsuki Igarashi, Tsubaki Nekoi, Nanase Ohkawa, and Mokona) upends those tropes by publishing works that challenge gender and age stereotypes as well as the conventions of demographic genres. One such work is xxxHolic (pronounced “Holic”) which critiques the misogynistic tendency in anime and manga to villainize older women who are sexual and powerful.

On the surface, xxxHolic conforms to many of the conventions and character tropes common to manga aimed at a male audience. The protagonist of the story, Watanuki, is male. The main female characters of the story, Yūko, has a more passive narrative role. Yūko serves as the somewhat villainous foil for innocent Watanuki. As Yūko is not granted equal screen time or narrative depth to Watanuki, xxxHolic positions men as subjects and women as objects.

Watanuki and Yūko/Chapter 1/xxxHolic/CLAMP

Watanuki and Yūko/Chapter 1/xxxHolic/CLAMP

Yūko is first introduced in xxxHolic as an eerie woman surrounded by mysterious smoke. Her narrow eyes make her seem somewhat sinister, and her long black hair is haphazardly spread across her clothing like a spider’s web. The black crescent moons that adorn her seat and the choker around her neck associate her with darkness and magic. In fact, she is the anicent and powerful “Dimensional Witch” (Jigen no Majo), capable of granting any wish for a price equal to the value of the wish (taika). When she agrees to grant protagonist Watanuki’s wish, Yūko is menacing as the shadows seem to engulf her. Therefore, the reader is led to believe that Yūko is a dark and evil witch.

Yūko/Chater 4/xxxHolic/CLAMP

Yūko’s sexiness (her shapely figure, slender limbs, and exposed skin) is arguably a negative aspect of her character. According to the conventions of shōjo manga, tall and beautiful women who possess sexual maturity are invariably deadly and evil. The overt sexuality of an adult woman is thus contrasted against the virginal innocence of a typical shōjo heroine.

Yūko is a spell-casting witch, a trope familiar to audiences not only from manga such as Sailor Moon but also from Disney movies. The witch is usually seen as an older woman who is either a black-hearted queen, an evil sorceress, or a vindictive stepmother. She is easily identified by the lethal threat she poses to the hero or heroine. She is feared for her female sexuality, for her old age, or for her intelligence and capability.

Yūko, Sakura, and Himawari/xxxHolic/CLAMP

However, Yūko the witch can be seen in a more positive light. She is not the threat that must be killed and overcome, but instead she is an emblem of feminist empowerment who should be celebrated and embraced. Though she looks wicked, Yūko is also a toughloving nurturer. Yūko does business with several troubled yet naïve young women who usually end up more miserable than they were before they met her. But a closer reading of these encounters reveals that the price Yūko asks her clients to pay is often mere self-reflection. She forces them to question their motives and beliefs in an attempt to make them understand what they are really wishing for. The price, which is often mercilessly extracted, is painful self-examination.

Chapter 46/xxxHolic/CLAMP

When she asks a client (seen above) to decide between destroying evidence of a murder she committed and being truthful to herself and the law, Yūko hovers over the woman seductively and guides (instead of manipulating) the young woman to make a difficult decision. When the client continues to avoid responsibility for her actions and insists on erasing the photo from existence, Yūko advises to not use her words lightly and grants the woman’s wish, the unhappy consequences of which she understands only after its fulfilled. The seemingly evil and uncompassionate Yūko tries to advise and protect young women like her aforementioned client from making greater mistakes and facing more terrible consequences.

 

In some aspects, xxxHolic conforms to many of the genre conventions of shōnen and seinen manga aimed at male audiences. It has a male protagonist through whose point of view readers engage with the fictional world. Nevertheless, Yūko and her position of power is prominently featured on the covers and in the content of the manga. Despite not being a point-of-view character and being a witch, she is the heroine of her hidden story within the story.

The worldwide success of xxxHolic demonstrates that female creators are able to spin gendered tropes in gendered media in a way that overturns sexist notions while still appealing to a broad and diverse audience. CLAMP proves wrong those who claim that media targeted at males has a more general appeal and sells better than media targeted at females. The bestselling manga of CLAMP (all of them) prove that readers of all genders can find great appeal both in stories that subvert demographic genre categories and in critiques of the objectification of female characters.

International Sailor Moon Day Recap

Thank you…Rachel and Travis for organizing the event.
Viz Media for your sponsorship of the Los Angeles fan gathering and for bringing back Sailor Moon.
Jane, Paige, Vivian, Claire, Jessica, Regina, Travis, Dana, Chong, Mariza, and Rachel for sharing your stories with me.

Sailor Moon has served as a symbol for strength, a beacon for hope, and of course a Soldier for Love and Justice. She and her squad of Sailor Soldiers have fought against the gender stereotypes, and empowered others to being more loving and accepting of themselves and one another.

Those who attended the Los Angeles fan gathering on International Sailor Moon Day have similar sentiments. Many of the fans at first enjoyed the animation and vibrant personalities of Usagi and her friend. Then they watched the series again and saw beyond the glitter and sparkle. They saw Usagi and her friends preach, if not display, the positive messages about femininity, girl power, gender equality, friendship, independence, and so much more!

A number of people recounted the first episode they watched and how they were so impressed by the multifaceted characters who were extremely relatable and outspoken.

Jessica’s first Sailor Moon episode was “Episode 7: An Uncharmed Life”* in which Rei Hino became Sailor Moon. Until then, Jessica had never seen a hero like Sailor Moon before. She was goofy and lazy, terrible at life, but was the Moon Princess! Not to mention, Jessica related to Makoto’s struggles as a tall girl, and admired Haruka’s sense of duty and honor.

Mariza’s first Sailor Moon episode was “Episode 5: Computer School Blues” in which Ami Mizuno was first introduced. But it wasn’t until later, when she watched the series again, that she realized that there were life lessons and ethics imbued in the show. For her, the “Sailor Says” segment was a great feature, something that she would hope to share with younger girls.

Jane was about 8 or 9 years old when she watched Sailor Moon with a friend who was all about girl power. Jane appreciated that the female characters were so diverse in personality and behavior.

Regina watched Sailor Moon on Channel 13 on Sunday morning. She loved the feminist values that were highlighted in the show. Characters were flawed and had different personalities, but they shared common values and supported each other through and through.

On top of that, folks say that watching Sailor Moon has not only changed their life in incredible ways.

Vivian, who watched Sailor Moon on Spanish TV, was exposed to issues revolving around gender and sexuality. Now in college, she understands the narrative and progressive messages about gender fluidity better.

Chong was dazzled by Sailor Moon’s music and themes of love, justice, and friendship. He overcame gender stigma and embraced his identity as a Korean-American.

Paige, who grew up as a tomboy, embraced her femininity and connected with others through the lessons she’s learned in Sailor Moon and the subsequent animes she watched after Sailor Moon.

Rachel was inspired to become a soldier of love herself. She was accepted into the Master of Social Work program at USC and stated that she wants to do non-profit community outreach.

Dana used Sailor Moon to create a safe space for herself to learn from these tough girls moral lessons and overcome her struggles with bullying. She loved the series so much, she shared Sailor Moon Crystal with her daughter, so that her daughter can find the same empowerment and strength Dana has.

Speaking of sharing…There were a few attendees who were new to the fandom. They were introduced to the show by their friends.

Claire only recently started watching Sailor Moon because of Vivian. She really enjoyed the positive messages about femininity and girl power.

By now you must have seen people repeat the same themes: femininity, girl power, morals, diversity in personalities, friendship, and self-discovery. That’s because many fans of Sailor Moon share similar values and connections to the series. They love it for all these reasons and more, because they still each have unique experiences watching the series.

Travis believed that Sailor Moon is a story for people who are trying to find themselves. It is a story of a story of self-discovery, maturity, independent and inspiration. It is a story where love conquers all.

It is that story and more. It’s also a story about self-acceptance, self-confidence, cooperation, and support. There are many interpretations of the story of Sailor Moon, most of which are correct, and can be learned when you go to the next Sailor Moon fan gathering and talk with people about why Sailor Moon is important to them.

This is for the inaugural celebration of International Sailor Moon Day in Los Angeles, and here’s to many more!


※ Because many of the attendees at the gathering first watched the DiC English dub version, I used the titles DiC gave Sailor Moon episodes.