Letter Of The Week
Chinese American Idol
I very much enjoyed David Ng's "Hung Out to Dry" [The Essay, April 7-13] However, there is one thing that Ng neglects to mention.
William Hung, intentionally or not (well, pretty clearly, unintentionally), serves as a fuck-you to the horrible generic adver-pop cobbler that the American Idol line chefs churn out. He's more culturally important (relatively speaking) than any of the "winners" whose dreadful, prefabricated mewlings have sold 100 million copies.
Ng may be right that the general public image of the Asian male is derisive, but it's important to acknowledge that Mr. Hung is choosing to do what he is doing. Considering the condescension, perhaps he should choose differently. But that's up to him.
Hip to Be Square
David Ng completely misses the point regarding William Hung in "Hung Out to Dry" [April 7-13].
What's really going on here is the popularization of geek chic, not some insidious Asian American stereotyping (and as a geeky Asian American, I feel qualified to say this). William Hung is basically the Asian American Urkel. Can anyone out there say that Urkel became popular because he reflected something about African American stereotypes? No, people love geeks, especially geeks with lots of personality.
Clay Aiken became popular because he is a lovable geek. The two white guys on American Idol who have survived thus far (John Stevens and Jon Peter Lewis) are about as geeky as you can get, and not all that more talented than the white football player (Matt Rogers) who was cut. And who is the most popular cast member on BET's College Hill? Jabbari, the Star Trek-loving computer nerd who carries around his meditation stones in a pouch. Do any of these guys represent anything about Caucasian or African American stereotypes? No, they represent the geek world, where people like myself, William Hung, and Urkel live.
I think America is sick of the slick, over-produced, unreasonably good-looking people, the Nick Lacheys and Jessica Simpsons of the world. We are looking for people who are themselvesno matter how geekyto rally behind. This is what William Hung represents.
Lesley Kim Grossblatt
William Hung is a person who appeals to many (nonracist) people because of his charm and indefatigable spirit. It is David Ng who turns Hung into a stereotype when he writes "Most people know or have met a William Hung, and I met mine while . . . "
Cho vs. Liu
David Ng's article on William Hung was dead-on and a pleasure to read. Back in the day, Anna May Wong sold Asian style to promote Chinese culture and explore her own identity (Wong was American). In doing so, did she unwittingly set a precedent for today's Asian American entertainers?
Nowadays, the solo entertainer must decide whether or not to use race as a selling point. There are two main types of Asian Americans in entertainment: the Margaret Cho camp, where you make fun of yourself before anyone else can, and the Lucy Liu camp, where you refuse to act as a spokesperson. I'm not sure where Hung falls, and I'm not quite sure he knows, either. He's a perfect model minority, but I wouldn't want to do himthat's where his geek chic differs from Clay Aiken's.
Maybe the Asian American community is so fiercely diverse that it lacks the unity to form a proud, cohesive identity, seen more readily in black or Latino culture. On the other hand, many people seem all too eager to label. After all, we are a previously untapped consumer group and marketing dream. See Yao Ming.
Avoiding a Bum Rap
Re Dasun Allah's "The Hip-Hop Cop" [April 7-13]: It is good to know that police in New York and other major cities are keeping an eye on the rap music industry. It's not a race thing; you fish where the fish are. African American music artists who croon syrupy love songs to older audiences are less often accompanied by thugs than those who sing about assaulting women and police officers. If the latter attract police interest while the former do not, where's the racism in that? Of course, I would hope the police also devote a little time to the white thugs who hang around the racist skinhead music scene.
We should have no tolerance for wiretaps, entry without warrants, or other illegal activities, but attending public events, taking photos in public places, and clipping newspapers should be fair game. Management is responsible for controlling costs, but the problem with intel is you seldom know what was the right thing to spend resources on until after the fact.
J. Keen Holland
I am pretty liberal, I hate this administration, and I really hope that we can withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible, but this article about the kids deserting ["Soldiers Choose Canada," by Alisa Solo-mon, April 7-13] makes me sick.
I don't care how much you disagree with Bush or the war; you join, you serve. There is no draft, and if you really object to killing, why did you join? Those kids are using politics to cover for the fact that they are cowards.
Thank you for printing Alisa Solomon's "Soldiers Choose Canada." I sincerely hope both Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman can obtain the amnesty they are seeking. It is good to see someone act solely on conscience, and good to see someone take a stand against the Bush war machine.
I was drafted in 1969 and will never forgive LBJ for taking from me the only chance of a career I could have had. We had no business in Vietnam, just as we have no business in the Middle East. It is not our oil, it is not our land, and it is not our right to shove our brand of capitalist democracy down their throats.
"Ratner Rules" by Matthew Schuerman [April 7-13] reminds me why taxpayers should just say no to using public funds for any new major sports stadiums. In ancient Rome, the government attempted to curry favor with the masses by offering free bread and circuses. Today, we have sports pork.
How sad that New York City taxpayers are continually asked to pay for new stadiums. Public dollars on the city, state, and federal level are being used as corporate welfare to subsidize a private-sector business. The only real beneficiaries of these expenditures are team owners and their multimillion-dollar players.
It is impossible to judge the amount of new economic activity that these so-called public benefits will generate. Between selling the stadium name, season skyboxes, and reserve seating; cable, television, and radio revenues; concession and souvenir sales; along with rental income from other sports, rock concerts, and commercial events, it is hard to believe that New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner can't finance his new stadium on his own.
Professional sports are not an essential service and shouldn't qualify for government subsidies. Increasingly scarce taxpayer funds would be better spent elsewhere. Let the current team owners float their own bonds or issue stock to finance new stadiums!
Great Neck, New York
Not Necessarily the Nude
While Richard Goldstein's "Grinning and Baring It" [March 31-April 6] definitely contained very eloquent examples of women's empowerment, and, more to the point, men's abomination of women's empowerment, he seemed to overlook one aspect of the whole phenomenon.
Many acts of nudity, as in the case of Karen Finley, are very much rooted in activism à la performance art, but I am hard-pressed to see quite the same motivation in those Girls Gone Wild videos. Surely Goldstein can't be equating all forms of tit chic with empowerment? Americans may nurture a perverted sense of sexuality steeped more in Puritanism than progressivism, but that isn't to say that the objectification of women still isn't alive and well.
The image of drunken, self-disrespecting sorority women lifting their shirts can hardly be grouped with Liberty Leading the People in the sense that it's at all empowering. Although I do think that Goldstein was very much on target about Courtney Love's own pathetic escapades as a woman on the edge, ascribing politics to it is a bit of a stretch. Instead, the rocker being suckled by a stranger outside Wendy's seems more a case of someone taking advantage of a train wreck than an expression of girl power.
Natalie Hope McDonald
The Truman Show
Goldstein's article comparing Courtney Love to Janis Joplin is an insult to the memory of one of America's great musical voices. Janis was charged with sexual energy, while Courtney just acts whorish and slutty. If that is female power, then women have no hope of dignity in this violent man's world.
Avenel, New Jersey
Another Little Piece
Goldstein talks about Janis Joplin, saying that her death was "why I stopped writing about music in the early '70s," and adding, "but that's another piece." I'd love to read that piece, and I'm sure others would agree. I hope Goldstein writes it and the Voice publishes it.
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