Is it just me? I really think “Ask a Ninja,” a free video podcast that consistently ranks among the top-5 popular video podcasts on Apple’s super-influential iTunes store, is dumb. Really dumb.
Here’s the setup: A blue-eyed “hakujin” (white guy) is wearing a cheesy black ninja costume and stands against a red background. He speaks in a rough voice, with a mostly indeterminate accent that veers from almost sounding like a yellowface parody of an Asian to a pretty straightforward New Yawker. He answers questions submitted by viewers like “Why is 3 the magic number?” or pontificates on topics, like reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
He looks intense (since he’s a ninja, only his eyes are uncovered) and he waves his arms around and makes hand movements that kinda mock martial arts. And the camera work is very dynamic and moves around and zooms in and turns him upside-down while he rants and raves.
My first response whenever I see something like this is a clenched gut and a revulsion to wards what I assume immediately is campy yellowface (a tired and disgusting old cliche that marginalizes Asians even as it acknowledges that Asian culture is mainstream). Then I get really irritated by the fact that this guys is just plain appropriating Asian culture — MY culture — and making it, well, less Asian.
Maybe he grew up loving ninja movies like I did. Maybe he ran around playing ninja instead of cowboys and Indians like I did. Maybe.
Am I jealous that he’s wildly successful and is probably making some and maybe lots of money with this harebrained idea? Sure. Do I wish I’d thought of it first because I’d do it with ever so much more cultural sensitivity? Uh… yeah, sure.
Do I wish I were white and had blue eyes? Definitely not.
Mostly, I just hate the fact that he’s stupid and not very funny, and yet people think he’s great. Go figure.You don’t need an iPod or even iTunes to check it out, just visit the guy’s Web site, and let me know what you think.
well, howdy, gil. great to see you have settled in and have time to blog from your new digs. always enjoyed your post pop posts at the post (especially about music and pop culture) even though they were constrained by time and work.
so far as this ninja guy goes, i remember running across him on one of those internet video dump sites some time back and thinking pretty much the same thing you did. poorly executed, not-so-subtly racist, too annoying to watch more than two times and . . . wish i’d thought of it. heck, i could be a MUCH better blue-eyed ninja. exceedingly clever, compellingly dramatic, maybe even riveting. yeah. except, as you know, i live off-grid and don’t have a webcam.
details, details, details . . . .