Thursday, April 3, 2014

A defense of Suey Park, the activist behind #CancelColbert


Let me address right away what I thought of the #CancelColbert debacle. The joke that aired on The Colbert Show that paralleled the real life craziness of The Washington Redskins’s owner Dan Snyder’s racial insensitivity was funny satire, but I thought that the tweet from the official Colbert Show Twitter account was just asking for trouble by featuring a racist comment with no set up. 
The verified account for The Colbert Show tweeted the words
"Ching-Chong Ding-Dong" and "Orientals"
with no link to the video or any type of set up for the joke.
The offensive tweet was dumb and deserved to be called out; and social media activist, Suey Park, the woman responsible for the recent Twitter racial conversations #NotYourAsianSidekick and #HowIMetYourRacism, was the one to do so, and considering her history, she was logically the one to do so.  I disagreed with the tone of her tweets, but those tweets definitely did not deserve the shit storm that followed. While some people supported Park’s campaign, others spewed racial and sexist slurs at her and called for her rape and death. The original issue about Dan Synder’s team and foundation was drowned out, and it soon became Suey Park vs. The Colbert Show, which led to Suey Park vs. the liberal media, which then led to Suey Park vs. nearly everybody.
@ChippahsMudder writes: "@suey_park Please kill yourself.
I hope you die of beast cancer and aids combined you chink."
And people wonder why Asian-Americans are hurt
by racial stereotypes masked as jokes?
Watching all of this happen, I couldn’t believe how this hashtag turned the liberal media against a social justice activist, who in the #CancelColbert instance may have picked the wrong battle but was still fighting for the worthy cause of protecting the representation of Asian-Americans. Critics argued that Park’s hasty rush to anger eclipsed the real issue of Dan Snyder, and although they are correct, the magnitude of the backlash she received was heinous and overblown. All in all, it seemed as if the racist and misogynistic vitriol spewed her way was pent up hatred that people were dying to lash onto someone, and Park made herself stand out as a target by being a loud, angry voice in a minority group that many tend to view as “the model minority,” a stereotype which is the reason so many groups feel it’s okay to mock Asian-Americans. People aren’t afraid to say Ching-chong because Asians-Americans have never been known to fight back on a scale that was truly terrifying. Worse, many Asians thinks it’s okay to mock themselves, which further opens the door for other groups to join in. Case in point, this headline from Deadspin:
Deadspin's headline: "Gooks don't get Redskins joke" came from Asian writers,
so it's okay to publish, right? Right? Um...
People weren’t afraid to use Asian-Americans as the punchline of jokes that is until Suey Park figuratively stood up and told people “fuck you.” This message was jarring and abrasive, and most of all it was new and dangerous, which is why it scorched the internet for a few wild days.

Since the craziness has died down, and the news cycle has moved onto another story, I cannot help but be impressed with how Park handled herself. Although many may have disagreed with how she handled her original reaction to the offensive @ColbertReport tweet and the fact that she never apologized for the #CancelColbert campaign, I have come to respect her defiance. While many who would have received the barrage of hate spit her way would’ve deleted their accounts and hid, she faced the world and never stopped telling people her message. In fact, she kept saying it until others started to wonder if maybe she had a point. Even if others refuse to acknowledge the validity of her views, no one can deny that she has forced people to confront them. I agree with The Nation's article “Who’s Afraid of Suey Park.” Park has something every writer wants—the power to be heard and the power to move people. Park may have faced a backlash with this campaign, but let’s not forget that every leader has made mistakes on his or her journey for change. Park has proven that she is not going anywhere, she has proven that she has something to say, and she has proven that she’s going to say it whether or not people like her.


Personally, I find this refreshing, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

15 shows on TV that are more racist than The Mindy Project: a comprehensive racial analysis of all of the comedies on network TV

Recently at South by Southwest, Indian-American Mindy Kaling grew frustrated during a Q&A when one audience member asked her why she was the only doctor of color on her TV show, The Mindy Project. Past experience having dealt with questions about race may have led her to fire back: "I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I'm just gonna say it: I'm a (bleeping) Indian woman who has her own (bleeping) network television show, OK?" But what she added next was even more interesting and thought-provoking. "No one asks any of the shows I adore -- and I won't name them because they're my friends -- why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I'm the one that gets lobbied about these things."
"No one asks any of the shows I adore -- and I won't name them because they're my friends -- why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I'm the one that gets lobbied about these things," Mindy Kaling
Mindy does have a point. She's the lead of her own TV show, and the show is even named after her for fuck's sake. Just her being cast as the lead is already a big progressive step forward in representation for minorities, but for the sake of argument, let's examine a promotional shot from season two. Although the majority of actors are white, 2/7 people on the poster are minorities. Add a bonus point that Mindy's the lead, and we'll give The Mindy Project a racial scorecard of 3/7. This may not seem like a lot of diversity to some, but when you see my analysis below, you may change your mind. (And if you're not happy about the diversity numbers, I provide contact information to certain networks.)

Even if Mindy were the only minority on her show, she's still the lead,
not a sidekick, and that means something.



But before we get there, let's examine Mindy's previous statement. I know that people zoom in on her, hoping that not only would she break the door open for herself but for other minority comic actors, that she would understand the importance of having positive diverse representation in the media, and that she should be the comedy world's parallel version of Shonda Rhimes (creator of Scandal and overall pioneer of true color blind casting). However, I agree with Mindy's point that she has made strides, and criticism of her isn't fair. After all, she started off getting bit roles before she finally landed her own show, and she may not be in the power position yet to do all the things for minority representation that people hope for her. Additionally, this is just the beginning of more great things to come from her. So really everyone, give Mindy a break, but most importantly, give her some time.
"So really everyone, give Mindy a break, but most importantly, give her some time."
Furthermore, Mindy is right that it is unfair that people lobby her, the minority star of her own show, but they don't lobby the creators of other shows that unnecessarily lack minority representation. Out of 26 live action comedies on network TV, fifteen shows were highlighted in red in this report because they had a low or zero score when it came to non-white representation. Despite my sensational title, I do not think these shows are necessarily racist, but the numbers are glaring that Mindy is right when she said people are lobbying the wrong person. 

For this report, I have analyzed the racial diversity of every live action, scripted comedy on broadcast TV for the Spring of 2014, and from there, I analyzed the network's representation. I based the analysis purely on the casting information provided by the network on its website. Considering that the network website is the self-generated representation of the show, I felt that this was the most fair way to determine the show's image. Additionally, there may be slight deviations with my tallies, but I based my conclusions off of available media, which in addition to the cast page includes bios or other online sources.

CBS
2 Broke Girls 
I like the fact that 2 Broke Girls is about two female best friends, and it was created by one of my favorite funny women, Whitney Cummings. (Although this report is purely about racial representation, I should note that positive female representation is lacking as well so it's nice to see comedies about women.) Based on CBS's cast page, the show has six main characters, two of which are people of color which gives 2 Broke Girls a racial diversity score of 2/6.
CONCLUSION: About as diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen shot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/2_broke_girls/cast/
The Big Bang Theory 
For a show about science nerds, there's surprisingly a lack of Asian characters. (You know it's true.) Out of seven cast members, only one is a racial minority and two are hot blondes. Racial diversity score: 1/7
CONCLUSION: More white than The Mindy Project
Courtesy of http://www.cbs.com/shows/big_bang_theory/ 
The Crazy Ones
The Crazy Ones is a workplace comedy set in an advertising agency so there is really no excuse for its lack of diversity. It after all takes place in modern times, not in the 1960s like Mad Men. The racial diversity score of The Crazy Ones is a crazy low 0/5.
CONCLUSION: A lost opportunity to feature diversity
Courtesy of the cbs page: http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-crazy-ones/cast/
How I Met Your Mother 
I really like How I Met Your Mother, but this group of New York friends is about as racially diverse as Friends, which is not diverse at all. The five white characters in New York City rarely interact with non-white people unless they're doing yellowface (see Ted's cringe-worthy fu manchu below.) Based on the cast, the racial diversity score is 0/5. Based on the yellow face, I give this show a negative rating and a big sad face. 
CONCLUSION: The show put its cast members in yellow face.
Courtesy of http://www.cbs.com/shows/how_i_met_your_mother/
Fu Man Fuck This Episode
Mike and Molly
When Mike and Molly premiered, it was met with controversy because it featured two leads who looked more like the average American than audiences had typically ever seen on television. One Marie Claire blogger was so taken aback by the show that she stated that it would gross her out to see fat people making out. Her post created a firestorm of criticism, and the writer has since apologized. I have to admit, I don't watch Mike and Molly, but I not only respect that it earned a decent diversity score of 3/9, but I also respect its uniqueness in the television landscape.
CONCLUSION: About as racially diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen shot of http://www.cbs.com/shows/mike_and_molly/cast/ 
The Millers
The Millers is a family comedy that revolves around Will Arnett's character, a recent divorcee. He moves back in with his parents, and shenanigans ensue. When it comes to family comedies, it is understandable if there's a lack of racial diversity, but at least The Millers included an obligatory minority friend/neighbor, which you will notice as a trend as the analysis goes on. Racial Diversity Score: 1/7
CONCLUSION: The Millers follows a common casting pattern that is seen on network TV, and the pattern makes this show less diverse than The Mindy Project but sadly more diverse than other shows.
Screen grab of http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-millers/cast/
Mom
Mom is Chuck Lorre's latest creation, and it's about a single mom navigating the dating world and her family life. Since the mom is the youthful Anna Faris, there could've been opportunity to have more diversity when it came to casting friends or coworkers, but alas, this show gets a score of 0/8.
CONCLUSION: Another opportunity to feature diversity blown.
Screenshot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/mom/cast/
Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men is known for its chauvinistic humor, and it's no surprise either that it's not sensitive to representing minorities. This show scores 0/5, but on the bright side, it is ahead of How I Met Your Mother, which has a sad negative score because I personally can't stop picturing Ted in his Fu Manchu.
CONCLUSION: No diversity, but no yellow face either.
Screen shot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/two_and_a_half_men/cast/
CBS' OVERALL SCORE: 6/52=12%
Out of 52 cast members, only 7 are actors of color (Remember that I shaved off an additional number because of the yellow face), and none of them were the stars of the show. Learning this statistic, it becomes more apparent that it is unfair to criticize minority actors, writers, or filmmakers, when in fact we should be supporting them. After all, the odds are stacked against them, and instead of tearing those minorities down, maybe we should focus instead on contacting networks about their lack of diversity. If you would like to talk about the lack of minority representation on CBS comedies, you can tweet at them https://twitter.com/cbs.

NBC
About a Boy
About a Boy is based on the movie created from Nick Hornby's book of the same name. It has a small cast, and a racial diversity score of 1/4.
CONCLUSION: About a Boy is about as diverse as The Mindy Project was during its first season.
Screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/about-a-boy/about
Community
NBC's Community is about the students and staff of a community college, and it does a good job of representing the diversity that one would typically see on a campus. Not only is the cast racially diverse but each character also has moments where he or she gets to be center stage. I've never once watched this show and felt that the casting was done just to appease bloggers like me to stop us from writing score cards like this. Racial diversity score: 4/10 
CONCLUSION: A modern premise with modern casting.
Screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/community/about
Growing Up Fisher
Growing Up Fisher is about a family that gets closer after divorce. Because it focuses on a white family, the majority of the cast is white, but it does appear to follow the trope of having one minority friend/neighbor. Racial diversity score: 1/6
CONCLUSION: Another show about a family that uses the minority friend trope
Growing Up Fisher screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/growing-up-fisher/about

The Michael J. Fox Show
This possibly-going-to-be-cancelled show starring Michael J. Fox focuses primarily on Fox's family, and like I mentioned numerous times before, it follows the standard casting trope of having a white family with one ethnic friend, giving this show a diversity score of  1/8.
CONCLUSION: The show follows the super obvious family trope that I had mentioned first during The Millers' analysis.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation features a talented cast of comedians, and it focuses on the wonderful female, comedian, Amy Poehler. Even more impressive, the show is set in a small town in the Midwest, yet it is still more diverse than numerous CBS comedies set in metropolitan areas such as New York.  Racial diversity score: 4/9
CONCLUSION: Parks and Recreation is doing it and doing it well.

Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a late night institution, but it has seen its share of criticism from different minority groups because of its lack of representation on stage and in the writers room. Recently, the show hired 6 new featured players, all white, and this decision brought an onslaught of complaints, which resulted in the show finally hiring an African-American female cast member, a space that had been left unfulfilled since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Current racial diversity score: 4/17
CONCLUSION: Now that they've cast a black female, would it be too much to ask for an Asian or Latino cast member?

NBC'S OVERAL SCORE:15/52=29%
NBC features double the amount of minority actors than CBS does, and while the minority actors may have supporting roles, they often receive just as much or more buzz than the leads of the show. Examples include Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari and SNL's Jay Pharoah. 

ABC
The Goldbergs
This is a show about a Jewish family in the 1980s, and it appears as if they did not add the obligatory ethnic neighbor to the cast so The Goldbergs get a racial diversity score of 0/6.
CONCLUSION: I'm pretty sure there were people of color in the 1980s, but maybe they just didn't live by The Goldbergs.
Photo from: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-goldbergs/about-the-show
Last Man Standing
I've seen a few episodes of Last Man Standing, and I thought there actually was more diversity than the show's cast page represents. BUT since the analysis is based on the promotional material provided by the network website, I'm going to have to give Last Man Standing a Racial Diversity Score of 1/8.
CONCLUSION: The white family with one minority friend trope has struck again.
Screenshot of the show's cast page: http://abc.go.com/shows/last-man-standing/cast
The Middle
The Middle is about another family that does not have any minority friends or neighbors nearby. The racial diversity score: 0/5.
CONCLUSION: Another comedy on ABC about a white family without a minority friend or neighbor.
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-middle/cast

Mixology 
Mixology is about one night in a bar, and the various stories that can come out from being single in that environment. It features a hip, young cast, and thankfully, its diversity reflects what would be found in a modern day metropolitan area. Racial diversity score: 4/10
CONCLUSION: Every cast member is given his or her chance to shine, which makes Mixology a diversity winner.
Screen grab http://abc.go.com/shows/mixology

Modern Family
Modern Family has deviated from the family model of the other shows on ABC by featuring variations of the nuclear family. This has resulted in a fresh, modern show with a racial diversity score of 3/11.
CONCLUSION: This is a well-written show with a lot of dynamic, diverse characters. 
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/cast

The Neighbors
The Neighbors is about the Weaver family who moves into a neighborhood inhabited by aliens in various human disguises. Racial diversity score: 2/9
CONCLUSION: Slightly less diverse than The Mindy Project
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-neighbors/cast
Suburgatory
Suburgatory focuses on a family adjusting to life in the suburbs, but unfortunately, it's another ABC show about a family that scores a zero when it comes to racial diversity. Racial diversity score: 0/7.
CONCLUSION: No minorities in the suburbs, I guess.
 
Trophy Wife 
Trophy Wife is about a reformed party girl who becomes the third wife to an older man. The show has a racial diversity score of 2/8.
CONCLUSION: About as diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/trophy-wife/cast
ABC'S OVERALL SCORE:10/56=18%
ABC surprised me with their dismal score, which was only slightly higher than CBS'. Perhaps I expected better from the network because of the diversity of its flagship comedy, Modern Family, but after examining how many of its comedies feature only nuclear white families, I see that the network isn't as modern when it comes to representation as I had originally thought. If you would like to see a change in programming you can contact them here: http://abc.go.com/feedback or tweet at them https://twitter.com/ABCNetwork

FOX

Brooklyn Nine Nine
Unlike other TV shows set in Brooklyn or New York City, Brooklyn Nine Nine is actually diverse, and the majority of the main cast on the show are non-white. Racial diversity score: 4/7
CONCLUSION: This is the first show in my study where the white characters are in the minority. A truly rare thing to see on network television. 

Photo from http://www.fox.com/brooklyn-nine-nine/
Enlisted
Enlisted is a new show about three brothers in the military who are sent overseas. From the website, it appears as if the main cast is only the three brothers, which brings Enlisted's score to 0/3.
CONCLUSION: The main cast is small and the show is relatively new, so maybe the cast will grow next season. UPDATE 3/16/14: I was notified by an Enlisted fan on Facebook that the main cast is larger than just the three brothers and that there is racial diversity amongst the supporting cast. However, out of fairness to the other shows, I have to keep the score based purely on what was on Fox's website at the time of the study.
Screen grab from http://www.fox.com/enlisted/
The Mindy Project
Criticism of Mindy Kaling because of this show inspired my analysis of people of color in comedy in the first place. People, who attack Mindy for not having enough minorities on her show, should go back to this list and realize out of 26 network comedies, she is the only minority lead and only minority female lead!!! This show deserves way more than the extra point I gave it, but alas, it scored 3/7.
CONCLUSION: After reading this blog post, how can anyone ever shit on Mindy again?

New Girl
It's nice to see a diverse group of 20-30 somethings in a major coastal city, which proves that in the 2010s, we don't have to follow the Friends model of television where everyone in the big city is white. Racial diversity score: 2/5
CONCLUSION: I wish other shows would model themselves after New Girl.
Photo courtesy of http://www.fox.com/new-girl/
Raising Hope 
Raising Hope is about a family raising a kid named Hope, and from the Fox website, it looks like 0/6 people on the show are non-white.
CONCLUSION: All broadcast networks have at least one show with an all-white family.
Photo from http://www.fox.com/raising-hope/
FOX'S OVERALL SCORE: 9/28=32%
Fox has the best score when it comes to racial diversity, and it is the only broadcast network to have a lead show about a person of color, let alone a woman of color. It is also the only broadcast network to have a show with more minorities in its cast than whites.

To sum up my findings:
  • Fox is the most diverse broadcast network when it comes to live action comedy casting, and CBS is the least diverse.
  • The Mindy Project is the only comedy on network television to have a lead of color and a lead with a woman of color. 
  • Nine comedies on broadcast television featured ZERO people of color in its main cast.
  • Four comedies on broadcast television featured a cast that consisted of a white family and one minority friend or neighbor.
  • There were 41 actors of color represented in this study; there were 147 white actors.
  • Out of the 41 actors of color represented in this study, 19 were African-American, 12 were Asian-American/Asian-Pacific Islander, 10 were Latino, and 1 was Iranian. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Advice to Screenwriters-turned-Authors from YA novelist Jennifer Quintenz

I'm excited to introduce Jennifer Quintenz, who has had a successful career in television writing and writing YA novels. She has written 23 episodes of TV--11 for "Wicked, Wicked Games" and 12 for "American Heriess," and she has written comics, feature screenplays, spec pilots, and three published novels. All in all, Jennifer is a prolific writer with an amazing resume, and she took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about transitioning from TV writing to writing books.

Jennifer Quintenz
TL: How did you come up with the idea for the Daughters of Lilith series?
JQ: I love taking existing mythology and playing with “what would happen if this took place in present day?” But I will say, the succubus has always been one of my least favorite “monsters” because it’s always (or often) portrayed as a sex-object / male-fantasy creature. The story of Lilith, though, is pretty freaking interesting. So I wondered, what would happen if a modern-day teenager found out she was a descendant of Lilith? How could she balance having all those predatory instincts and powers - so often used to destroy - with her own sense of self / humanity? I didn’t want to paint Braedyn as a sex-object, or show her transformation from normal girl to Lilitu as something that totally takes over her personality. I love exploring how she manages to integrate these insane powers into her life while still struggling to do what she knows is right.

  
TL:You have had a very successful television and film career. What made you decide to write novels, and what advice do you have for other screenwriters turned authors?
JQ: I love writing for TV and film! But the frustrating aspect of it is creating so many worlds and characters and mythologies that end up as great specs… and that’s it. I originally wrote “Thrall” as a TV pilot. Usually when pilots don’t get picked up you just turn your attention to the next story, but this world and these characters (and all the stories I wanted to tell about them) just wouldn’t leave me alone. So I talked it over with my awesome and supportive manager (Marc Manus!) and we agreed to give this whole YA novel thing a try. With Marc’s help I got a NY book agent, and we did the whole submitting around to publishers, etc. But as we shopped it around to publishers, I started reading more and more about indie publishing, and started to become fascinated by the level of control writers could have over the process, everything from cover design to controlling book pricing.

My advice for other screenwriters thinking about publishing a book? DO IT. DO IT NOW. (Well, as soon as you have a great book. :) Don’t rush it too much. But seriously, do it.)

TL: Why did you decide to publish independently instead of try the traditional publishing route? What challenges have you faced as an indie author, and how did you overcome those challenges?
JQ: I think - after spending seven years in the film and TV world, I just wanted to get my stories to an audience - and more and more it seemed like indie publishing was the way to go for me. Wow - this is material for a whole interview in itself. To keep it brief, I’ve been telling stories long enough that I have confidence in my abilities, I know the kinds of stories I want to tell, and I have a great network of amazing readers, reps, and editors who keep me on track and help me make the most of the stories I want to tell. So I felt very confident that I could deliver a great book without the traditional publishing process as a safety net. Beyond that, again - control of the book, the cover, the content, etc, and the ability to get my stories directly to an audience who might enjoy them. I just wasn’t interested in navigating through the gatekeepers of yet another industry.

 The challenges I’ve faced - really the one big challenge - is visibility. With the advent of the kindle / ebooks, the beautiful and amazing thing is that anyone can publish a book. But that also means there are hundreds of thousands of books out there competing for readers’ attention. Somehow you have to intrigue a reader enough to get them to take a chance on you and read your book. So I’ve tried to reach out to the amazing community of book bloggers that exists and many of the have been willing to read and review my books for their blogs / goodreads / etc. They are always honest, so sometimes you end up with a distinctly not-glowing review, but I figure that’s helpful, too - because there are definitely readers who won’t enjoy my books as much as others, so these bloggers can warn them away. And then there are some reviews that come back as total fan-girl love letters and they make my day. I am a fan-girl myself, and so I get so giddy when something I’ve written inspires someone else to gush. Visibility - that’s the major problem, and one I continue to work at solving. It’s a never-ending process. Well, maybe if you’re J.K. Rowling you don’t have to worry so much about getting the word out about your new book… :)

TL: What is your typical day like? 
JQ: My toddler wakes up at the crack of way-too-early, then comes and hang out with me in bed while I try to summon the strength to get up. We play for a while, then I take him to preschool. I come home and write, usually take a 10-15 minute lunch break, write, then go pick him up between 4 and 5. Then it’s all toddler time, or playdates, or park trips, dinner, bath, get the kiddo off to bed, hang out with my husband for a bit, then crash. This schedule gets shifted around when I’ve got a meeting or a pitch, but generally that’s my day. Oh - and some of the “writing” is my day job, writing articles. But much of the time it’s work on novels, tv specs, tv pilots, or other projects not related to a traditional paycheck.

If you'd like to learn more about Jennifer, you can find her on the following sites:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Every person needs to watch South Korea's 200 Pounds Beauty, and here's why...

I recently watched South Korea's 2006 wildly successful romantic comedy, 200 Pounds Beauty, and for those who aren't familiar with this award-winning movie, this "lighthearted" flick is about an overweight woman who goes through extreme plastic surgery to win a guy and a career, a message that I found both disturbing and strangely honest. This film, which would never get made in the United States, is a prime example of the difference between South Korean and American culture. It is wildly known that South Korea  is a plastic surgery mecca and has the highest rate of plastic surgery amongst any other country. Americans obviously get plastic surgery too, but a pro-plastic surgery film would never be made in our sensitive culture where people such as Maria Kang aka Fit Mom are met with controversy for going against the American love-yourself-mentality. Because Americans would never make this type of film (at least not as a sincere feature film and but maybe as a satire or documentary), I think it is worth watching to create a dialogue about beauty standards and the hypocrisy of vilifying those who try to meet those standards. 
200 Pound Beauty gif courtesy of http://ifangirl.tumblr.com 
The movie introduces us to its lead, Han-na, who is an overweight singer who provides the voice to a sexy pop star, Ammy, a talentless bitch who uses Han-na and treats her badly. Ammy, Han-na's love interest, and various members of society ridicule Han-na for not being skinny and "pretty," and watching the beginning of this movie made me cringe. There were numerous cruel fat jokes or gags, and they were so ridiculous that I really wondered: Are overweight people not common in South Korea? Is it really that acceptable in that society to fat shame to the extent that this movie did? It would be one thing if the cruelty came from the adversarial characters, but it was the filmmakers who seemed the most cruel with their jokes. For instance, Han-na, who probably weighed in at 200 pounds like the title suggested, was backstage at Ammy's concert, and she stood on a platform. Because of Han-na's size, the platform collapsed, and as I watched this scene, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief with how stupid the gag was. Could two people not ever stand on that platform? I mean, seriously...

The closest example to an American film with 200s Pound Beauty's style of fat jokes would be 2001's Shallow Hal, and that movie ended with the lead character realizing that he loves his overweight girlfriend, just the way she is, a far cry from the message of 200 Pounds Beauty that people really don't see beyond the surface.

The movie turned for me when Hanna decided to change her life. She pled with a plastic surgeon to give her a full body makeover, and after some blackmailing, he obliged. With some exercise and the surgeon's knife, Han-na transformed from an overweight backstage artist to a skinny, beautiful leading lady. She changed her name to Jenny, and she reentered her old world with a new identity and became a pop star, outshining her nemesis Ammy. At this point, I started to understand what the film was trying to say. Han-na as the skinny, beautiful Jenny had a better life. People treated her better. She felt better about herself. Not only did she finally get to shine, but she finally got to live.

Then the movie started to get really interesting to me when people who discovered that Jenny was not a natural beauty began to judge her, spray painting her car with the word "Phony" and threatening to expose her "fraud" to her fans. All in all, the cutthroat world Han-na/Jenny inhabited was vicious. It  both shunned women for being not "pretty" and shunned women for the audacity to change themselves for "vain" reasons. At this point, no matter how much I hated those fat jokes from before, it made sense to me that the filmmakers put so many of them in the movie. For Hanna to live a fulfilling life, she had to become Jenny because living in a cruel world was never going to be easy but conforming to societal beauty standards, no matter what it took to do so, at least gave her a chance to fight for herself.
200 Pound Beauty gif courtesy of http://ifangirl.tumblr.com 
The climax of the film occurred at Jenny's largest concert where her secret identity was going to be revealed to all of her fans by her nemesis. Knowing that the ruse was over, she confessed to her fans a tearful admission that she underwent head to toe surgery because she was unhappy with herself and wanted a change. This scene actually made me tear up because I felt the desperation and sadness that went behind Han-na/Jenny's actions, and seeing her happy made her fans happy and they forgave her for the "sin" of wanting to be beautiful. The movie ended with her receiving her happily-ever-after, and the final scene was another "plain" woman begging the plastic surgeon to give her a total body makeover. If there was any doubt that this was a pro-plastic surgery or pro-traditional-beauty-standards film, then that final scene erased it from the audience's mind.

Hollywood has plenty of makeover films because yes, Americans also recognize that being attractive can open doors to a better life. However, Hollywood movies wimp out and include a love yourself message that seemingly wipes away the messaging that it originally conveyed; although beneath all the warm feelings, Hollywood movies also say that you should love yourself but first get attractive. Plus, Hollywood movies would never use plastic surgery as the catalyst for change. They'd advocate getting fit or putting on some makeup, but in real life, many starlets actually do get plastic surgery to achieve their movie star looks.  So although the message of 200 Pounds Beauty may seem off-putting on the surface, is it actually just guilty of being honest. It made me uncomfortable at first because it seemingly was a light rom-com (no pun intended) that was actually a mirror to various societies' own obsession with beauty. Although this was a South Korean movie, this was a movie for women of all cultures, and whether or not we like or agree with its message, it is definitely one that should be talked about.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Jennifer Quintenz lists four YA books that everyone should read

Young adult author Jennifer Quintenz (The Daughters of Lilith series) was awesome enough to recommend four YA books that everyone should check out, and her list features some classics and newbies! If you'd like to connect with Jenn and talk more about books, you can find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennq or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JenniferQuintenz.

Also, make sure you return to the website next Monday, March 10, 2014, where you will find an in-depth interview with this indie author. We talk about TV writing, self-publishing, and finding inspiration. See you then!
Check out Jennifer Quintenz on Amazon!

JENNIFER QUINTEZ:
The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee  
I discovered this book back in high school.  It’s one of those books that I return to over and over again, set in a dystopian future before dystopian futures were the hot new trend for YA.  It’s an incredible story, kind of a Romeo & Juliet tale, but the characters and their journey - and the world with it’s socio-political backdrop - are just breathtaking.  Once I read this book twice in one day.  It’s not over-long, but it’s so completely satisfying.  

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Another book I tend to turn to over and over again - I don’t know if this counts as YA - is “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card.  This was the first real science fiction book I ever read, I don’t think I was more than 10 or 11 at the time, and I’m sure a lot of it was over my head but I fell in love with it instantly.  I tend to circle back to this book every couple of years.  I don’t even know how many copies I’ve bought.  For years I kept loaning them out to friends and they’d never come back to me.  One is somewhere in Italy, now.  But whatever - it’s an awesome story and maybe it’ll make its way into a new reader’s hands.  Also - this story is finally available for the kindle, so now I have a book I can’t lose!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
One of the newer ones - I love “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore.  It’s such an interesting world - she’s really created something new and intriguing.  LOVE the relationship between the two main characters.  And the rules of the world are just - it’s so well done.  Check it out if you’re into fantasy.  

I’m also a big fan of the Scott Westerfeld “Uglies,” “Pretties,” “Specials” series.  Another truly imaginative universe, dystopian future, fun twists and turns, and some great characters.  I especially love how the main character changes over the three books.  I haven’t yet read “Extras” but look forward to it.