“Hawaii Five-0” airs powerful episode about Pearl Harbor & imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII


We’re fans of the CBS series “Hawaii Five-0” for lots of reasons, including the fact that it’s a showcase for Asian and Pacific Islander actors such as Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, and the entertaining “bromance” relationship between Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan).

I always loved the original series that ran from 1968-1980, and think it’s great that this reboot uses pretty much the same arrangement for the theme song, and even uses quick-cut images that evoke the look and feel of the intro sequence from the earlier Five-0.

And finally, who can’t love a show that celebrates the coolest and best-looking of all the United States, with loving b-roll shots of both its glistening city life and its incredibly beautiful natural scenery?

This week, we get a whole new reason to appreciate “Hawaii Five-0” and tune in regularly. The producers are focusing on an aspect of American history that still remains under the radar of most mainstream American pop culture: The American imprisonment of people of Japanese ancestry in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
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The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the shame of racism

Unbelievable. Again and again, I’m reminded how some Americans have a stubborn racist streak that’s covered up by a veneer of political correctness, but comes out with just a little bit of provocation.

Last year, people expressed ignorant racist hatred against Japanese … after the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 that devastated northeast Japan. Many referred to the disaster as “revenge” for Pearl Harbor, the military attack on the U.S. base in Hawai’i that pushed the United States into World War II.

Today, during what’s supposed to be the peaceful international celebration of athletics and goodwill, competition and sportsmanship that is the Olympic Games, that same ugly reference to Pearl Harbor came up … when the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated the Japanese in a 2-1 contest for the Gold medal.

The Huffington Post quotes some of the racist tripe, such as “This was payback for the USS Arizona! Take that you Japs!” by a Twitter user who describes himself thus:
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Seriously? Controversy about Obama kids getting “Asian” food including teriyaki chicken on Dec. 7?

Obama Family Portrait

This about takes the cake for lame-ass non-issues. WUSA9, Gannett’s DC affiliate (and sister station to Denver’s KUSA 9News, the top-rated station in Denver and home to Adele Arakawa, the Japanese American top-rated anchor), posted this video and text followup about the Obama girls’ private school serving Asian food on Dec. 7: “Sidwell Friends School, Sasha and Malia Obama’s School, Opts For Asian, including Japanese Food On Pearl Harbor Day.”

If you watch the video, it criticizes the yahoos who turned the lunch menu into political commentary about dishonoring those who died at Pearl Harbor 70 years ago. But the text is much more ambivalent and invites readers to get worked up into a frenzy, even with its headline spotlighting “Japanese Food.” Come one, teriyaki chicken? Yeah, it’s Japanese but it’s hardly un-American. Nothing to convene a new HUAC investigation over.

OMG — no one should have any Japanese food on Dec. 7. For that matter, we should have any German or Italian food in addition to Japanese food, on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day. And don’t forget Korean and Vietnamese food… oh wait, there were Koreans and Vietnamese who were on our side. God forbid, if anyone gulped down any sushi yesterday, they’re traitor bastards.

This kind of crap is why I grew up dreading Dec. 7 every year.
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PHOTO: Who are these incredible women fighting fires at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941?

Women firefighters at Pearl Harbor

UPDATE DEC. 13: NBC Nightly News reported last night that one of the women in the photo above has come forward, and said that the photo was not taken on Dec. 7, as has commonly been captioned every time it’s been published for decades. Instead, Katherine Lowe, who’s now 96 and still living in Honolulu, says she was at church the morning of the attack. But she and her friends from the Dole pineapple factory signed up as civilian volunteers and she’s sure the photo was taken sometime after Dec. 7, during a training session at Pearl Harbor. It’s great to have this incredible mystery cleared up, and from my perspective, the photo is still an amazing testament to the fact that a multicultural group of women worked together in the days following the Pearl Harbor attack, for the cause of protecting our country. It’s a powerful, moving image even though it wasn’t shot during the bombing.

I thought I’d seen pretty much every photo taken at Pearl Harbor 70 years ago — so many of them are so iconic. But here’s a new one that’s already seared into my visual memory: Women firefighters aiming a hose following the attack on the U.S. Navy base that terrible Sunday.

It was included in a series of photos on the MSNBC Photo Blog, and then posted by itself on MSNBC’s Open Channel crowdsourced investigative blog when the photo began to attract a lot of attention. None of the women are identified, but it appears that there are Asians and a Polynesian or Pacific Islander (maybe African American?) woman among the group.

I’m posting it here with apologies to Three Lions/Getty Images as a public service to help get the word out and hope that someone can identify any of the women. If requested, I’ll be happy to take down the image.

Maybe someone grew up with the grandmother telling stories about being on the dock at Pearl that day….

Thanks to TzeMing Mok on the APA Mavens list for the heads-up.

“The Goods” DVD hit the shelves this week w/ racist scene intact

"The Goods" is now available on DVD, with an offensive racial scene intact."Before the Paramount comedy “The Goods: Live hard, Sell Hard” was released in August, the Asian American blogosphere was abuzz over the extended online trailer for the movie, which showed a disturbing scene with Ken Jeong being beaten up by fellow car salesmen just for being Asian, when star Jeremy Piven gets them all worked up over the memory of Pearl Harbor. The bloggers, including Angry Asian Man and 8Asians as well as Nikkei View, covered the issue enough that it led to protests and meetings between AAPI groups with Paramount studio execs.

Those meetings led to a public apology from Adam Goodman, President and CEO of Paramount.

The timing was terrible, because the trailer was airing just before the anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin, who had been beaten to death in 1982 by laid-off auto workers who blamed Japanese cars for losing their jobs. The racist scene was edited out of the trailer. However, the scene, which includes Jeong getting beaten up and then Piven joking about covering up the hate crime, remained in the theatrical release because it was too late to pull from the movie.

The leaders of AAPI organizations who met with Paramount also believed that the offensive scene would be edited like the studio was able to do with the trailer (the revised preview takes out the most obnoxious elements, including the use of the word “Jap,” even though it keeps Jeong’s beating intact).

But the DVD was released this week and is available in stores nationwide with the offensive scene still in the movie. The studio claims the production of the DVD was too far along to change the scene. Continue reading