For years, I worried about the impact of the “Red Dawn” remake, where North Koreans invade Seattle and take over the country. I should’ve paid more attention to another movie just released by the same company, Film District, “Olympus Has Fallen.”
It kind of came out of nowhere. It was expected to make only about $20 million this weekend, but instead grossed $30.5 million. (And what is it about Film District that likes these kinds of movies?!) It’s troublesome for many reasons:
1. It’s a more successful, better-made movie ($70 million budget), which will therefore have greater impact on the public, which gave it an A- CinemaScore.
2. It doesn’t feature one Asian American face — let alone someone who speaks any lines — to offset the vicious North Korean terrorists.
3. It’s directed by an African American, Antoine Fuqua, who, as a minority, should’ve been more sensitive to the racial impact of his unbalanced portrayals.
Fuqua has a lot of roles for blacks, especially those in positions of power. Angela Bassett plays the head of the Secret Service. Morgan Freeman, the speaker of the House, whom Bassett names acting president when the president and VP are taken hostage in the underground bunker of the White House. There are black Secret Service agents. After a North Korean plane shoots civilians near the White House, there are black patients in the hospital. Adding sympathy, a young black boy gets rushed into the ER. Not one Asian face.
All hell breaks loose after an entourage of South Korean officials meet with the president at the White House. Many of those close to the prime minister are, in fact, North Korean terrorists, who kill the South Koreans and anyone protecting the White House. So you can say the South Koreans are sympathetic because this ambush is a surprise to them too. But the North Koreans and head terrorist Kang (Rick Yune) dominate for most of the film.
Where’s the reminder that not all Asian people are to be feared and/or hated? Where are the Asian American Secret Service men who try to fight back? Fuqua couldn’t cast even one?
Irresponsible especially when, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio “heavily catered” to the military and cities with “major military installations,” and the picture did especially well in conservative parts of the country and was seen by a mostly older audience.
Even “Rising Sun” had more racial balance! In “Red Dawn,” though he appeared somewhat late in the picture, Ken Choy was one of the paratroopers who helped the resistance. Hell, in “Pearl Harbor,” there was a Japanese American doctor helping the wounded for about five seconds. That’s five seconds more than we got in “Olympus.”
If there was a movie about radical Jews taking over the United States (OK, you know there wouldn’t be one, but play along with me here), you can be sure there’d be prominent Jewish American characters fighting them to remind the audience that not all Jews are like that. Same thing if a group from a black country took over the United States; there’d be African American good guys trying to take them down. Why is it when it comes to Asian villains, no one thinks about balancing them with Asian American good guys?
Oh No. You Mean There’s More? Department: It was a lousy weekend for movies featuring Asian people. The other film I’d been dreading was “InAPPropriate Comedy,” which was a series of skits that exploited stereotypes of Asians, Jews, blacks, gays, everyone. For all I know, it could actually have been a true “equal opportunity offender,” daring to “go there” with the black community (and not holding back as usual) where it was all too willing to go with the Asian American one.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to see it because no one else did. It grossed only $172,000 in 275 theaters for a measly average of $625 per theatre. Wow. Talk about a major flop (most movies in the Top 10 average at least $2,000 per screen). Nice to know the rest of the country wasn’t interested in seeing this junk.
At least one joke about the genitalia of Asian women can’t be repeated here.
MANAA tried to get a pre-screening, but Freestyle Releasing, which distributed this, actually never pre-screens its films. Now you know why.
Enough Is Finally Enough Department: After enduring almost two seasons worth of putdowns, many of which are racially based, Han Lee, the owner of the diner in “2 Broke Girls,” finally had enough this week when Caroline Channing (Beth Berhrs, one of the 2) came in 20 minutes late to work and had an attitude about it.
For once, Han fought back, asking her what other career options she has, noting that the girls’ cupcake store didn’t last six months. Offended, Caroline said, “That was our dream, Han, and this is just a dumb diner.” He fired her. She got more feisty, saying she quit. Han shot back: “You must be dumber than my diner because I already fired you!”
As Entertainment Weekly cracked, “Han fires Caroline for insulting the diner. Saying vaguely racist things for two seasons has apparently been okay, though.”
Caroline promises her friend Max (Kat Dennings) she won’t return unless he makes an apology, and Han says she needs to do the same. In the end, Max gets them in the same room. After their Polish friend says Caroline did a terrible job of redecorating the apartment, Han exclaims, “I don’t know what she’s talking about, Caroline. I think it’s pretty! You make everything prettier. Even the dumb diner.”
Smiling, Caroline responds, “The diner’s not dumb; I miss the diner.” Han says, “And it misses you. You can have your job back.” It’s a touching scene. The audience “awws,” and she returns to work … to join her friend in continuing to put down his height, masculinity, etc. So all is back to normal. Greaattt…
Atta Way, Brah! Department: This week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-O” felt more authentic than it has in a long time, thanks in large part to it being co-written by Hawaii native Kyle Harimoto (who’s been elevated to co-producer this season; he wrote the teleplay himself). We saw a lot more of forensics expert Che Fong (Brian Yang), coroner Max Bergman (Masi Oka), and comic relief Kamekona (Taylor Wiley). The producers even used someone on the actors’ list I gave CBS that came from a Hawaii casting agent: Kelsey Chock.
Kawika, leader of the Kapu Gang, made a reappearance and spoke the most pidgin phrases anyone’s uttered all year outside of Kamekona. Addressing a bunch of his guys, he asked, “Eh, who wen’ give Jason Brad lickings?” In other words, as he re-phrased immediately for those who didn’t quite understand that, “Who beat up Jason Brad?”
If that wasn’t enough, Lindsey Price stopped by the office to see Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), asking why he hadn’t called her to go out. She guessed he’s married. Well, he explained, he was (she was murdered)… She wrote down her number on a piece of paper for when he’s ready to go out. At the end of the episode, Kamekona took some of the cast in his helicopter, practicing being a tour guide and offering some trivia about various Oahu spots.
It was all terrific until Max started imitating the “Magnum P.I.” theme song, which led the others to join in, followed by the actual Mike Post recording. Ugh. Thanks for reminding us of the other Hawaii show that tried its best to ignore the API population.
Another quibble: Our mumbling Australian-posing-as-Hawaiian Alex O’Loughlin continued to mangle names, referring to Kawika as “Kavicky.” But overall, great job, Kyle. We need more of these kinds of episodes — the kind that used to be the norm during the original 1968-1980 run.
Anticipation Department: I’m really enjoying the slowly developing romance between Amber (Clara Mamet), the teenager of the human family on “The Neighbors,” and Reggie Jackson, the alien teenager played by Korean American Tim Jo. A couple weeks ago, she let on that she was upset at him for ignoring everyone since getting his girlfriend. “Wow,” he responded, “guess I didn’t realize you even missed me!” “Well, I do! So suck it.”
On last week’s show, we saw Amber and Reggie laughing over something her grandmother had painted. When Giselle (Lora Plattner) comes by on her bicycle, she realizes they’re in on a joke they don’t care to explain. When she learns Amber and her boyfriend broke up, she panics: “Wait, you didn’t tell me that!” Amber explains, “It’s totally over. Everyone knows it. He just won’t go away. He’s like ‘American Idol.’” Reggie guffaws even though, as Amber reminds him, he likes that show.
At the end of the episode, her father, Marty (Lenny Venito), blurts out that Amber won’t settle for her ex because she really wants to be with Reggie. In front of Giselle, Reggie expresses surprise at the revelation, though Amber swears her dad got it wrong and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
In private, Amber tells her: “Look, I’m not stupid. I see the way you make him laugh. I know you like him. And now, he knows too. Here’s what you need to know: I like him. And I’m not going away. I fight for the things I like. I fought for Season 9 of ‘One Tree Hill,’ and I will right for Reggie. You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”
“The Neighbors” airs Wednesdays at 8:30 on ABC.
’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.