I just had an interesting phone conversation with Leo Duran, a producer at KPCC public radio in Los Angeles, about a burning issue the media must address: Why are there no Asian Santa Clauses?
Granted, the image that immediately springs to mind when you say “Santa” is a big fat white man with rosy cheeks, a bushy white beard and a twinkle in his eye, who guffaws “Ho! Ho! Ho!” at the drop of a pointy red hat with a puffy white snowball at the end. But I’ve seen black Santas, and Hispanic Santas. I’ve even seen women in Santa suits sitting in, I suppose as “Mrs. Claus.” I’ve seen Santas with real beards, fake beards, and even dark beards. I’ve seen old and impossibly young Santas. I’ve seen really fat, fake fat and too skinny Santas.
When I posted the video yesterday, of a 1970s Calgon commercial that showed Asian Americans in a stereotypical role as laundry shop owners who used an “ancient Chinese secret” to get clothes cleaner, it was an homage to an earlier era when such stereotypes in pop culture were commonplace. I didn’t expect that one day after Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month ended, I’d be alerted to a new commercial that uses a fresher stereotype that still portrays us as foreigners.
The TV commercial for KFC’s new “Kentucky Grilled Chicken” shows a bunch of people paired up, arguing whether they like fried or grilled chicken better. You can now have both in the same bucket, KFC announces. The problem is, of the quick flashes of people, there are whites and blacks, young people and older, and… two Asian men dressed as sushi chefs, with their “hachimaki” headbands, hapi coats and aprons.
At first glance, they look like they’re wearing martial arts “gi” (the loose-fitting fighting clothes), which would have made it even worse.
What’s worse, is that these two dudes, who may or may not actually be Japanese, speak in Japanese accents. Continue reading →