Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics


Hyphen TV: Can't Beat the Backbeats

The unbearably adorable Backbeats

I am a FOOL for not watching The Sing-Off from the start. Thankfully, I have rectified the situation and caught up on all the a capella goodness I've missed. The Backbeats were an early stand-out for me, particularly the group's adorable creator, Kenton Chen. Joining him is alto Catherine Ricafort, and I can't discuss the group without mentioning the gorgeous voice of Joanna Jones. LOVE THESE GUYS. Their energy and wackiness are nicely counterbalanced by their emotion -- I got chills during last week's performance of "Landslide." 

We are freaking about how awesome we are! Akk!

They placed third overall in the competition, but I know they'll be just fine. Check them out! LOVE THE BACKBEATS.

In more celebratory news, Dale earned his first win of the Top Chef: All Stars season with his absolutely delicious-looking elimination challenge dish: Sunny Side Up Egg Dumpling, Braised Pork Belly, Milk Ramen with Bacon, Beef & Pork. If you're not drooling right now, I don't want to have anything to do with you. Having been given the difficult task of cooking something that would fit in with the famous molecular gastronomy of Wylie Dufresne's restaurant wd-50, Dale wisely chose to be inspired by, and not straight-up imitate, Dufresne's scientific style. He also knew of the chef's "egg slut" status and exploited that with his own tasty egg dumpling. Bravo, Dale! How about a celebratory meal? You're cooking thanks bye.

Y-U-M

Don't worry, Calvin is still alienating his fellow contestants on The Fashion Show with his aggression and bossiness. Though those qualities ended up sort of working out for him this week, since the designers were working with the Real Housewives of New Jersey and Orange County. He had one kind of ugly exchange with one of the housewives when she was being impatient, which led to The Soup having an opportunity to show a clip of the testy conversation, which led to their spoof Tran: Legacy trailer.

I don't know about you guys, but I always involuntarily cringe anytime an accented Asian is mocked, or even if an unusual amount of attention is drawn to him or her. I get this defensive, "No, he's cool, he's one of us" knee-jerk thing, though I do always try my best to see past my tendency and see if there is, indeed, anything I can laugh about there. I know it doesn't need to be explained, but this is where making "jokes" that have to do with race or culture is especially difficult: are you talking about the person or the generalization/non-fluent English/foreignness? Too easily and too often it's the latter, and I find myself screaming, "Let's see how smart YOU sound in a foreign country, buddy!" at the television.

How can you hate on this guy?

All this to say that I'm okay with what The Soup did; it was what he said ("explosion, and then darkness") and not just the way he said it (okay, "here go hell come" is now at the level of classic) that's funny. In other words, he's just a weird guy! Anyone, accented or not, explaining that he wants explosions and then snapping when people don't understand why or how is pretty strange. They're making fun of Calvin for Calvin! Not "the Vietnamese guy" or "the FOB" or whatever; the crazy, bitchy freak! What do you guys think?

On a completely different note, I totally watched all four hours (fine, I guess it was more like two and a half hours without commercials) of the Lifetime original movie Marry Me starring Lucy Liu. I was intrigued after reading that Liu's part was intended for a Southern blond type, and apparently the part wasn't changed at all after Liu was cast. I was surprised to see that it seemed true; in the miniseries Liu plays Rae Carter, a social worker who helps foster children. She decided to work for the government because she herself was adopted (her adopted mother is played by Annie Potts, who you might recognize as the sweet, Southern voice of Bo Peep in Toy Story). No further explanation is given about the circumstances behind Rae's adoption; it was apparently domestic because she went through the social services system that she now works in, no reason is given for why her family has southern accents and she does not, and not a single syllable is ever uttered concerning her race. Not a one! No "exotic" or "Asian" or "almond-eyed" from any one of the THREE men who propose to her over the course of the movie (it's Lifetime, after all).

Yes, remain distracted by the pretty jewels as I work my handsome man magic.

As stupendously cheesy, coincidence-ridden, and happily ever after as the movie is, it was truly refreshing to see an Asian American woman being allowed to be that cutesy, whoopsie-daisies cornball without having to justify her existence as a woman of Asian descent in the South, dating non-Asian men, working for the government, and who's not even the sassy sidekick to a hapless white or black friend -- in fact, she has her very own office pals who offer her constant advice and kicky one-liners. Amazing! Lifetime may not exactly be a prime hotbed of racial breakthroughs, but it's in both the transcendent and the mundane alike (perhaps even more importantly in the latter) that minorities of all sorts send the message that they're just as heroic, flawed, funny, and strange as anyone else. Thanks for helping to push that message along, Lucy!

Rockin' Sunday church chic as well as any blonde

About The Author

Dianne Choie

Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.

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