INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Racists Still in the ‘Big Brother’ House

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By GUY AOKI

A lot has happened in the month-and-a-half since I last wrote about CBS’ reality show “Big Brother,” where over a dozen contestants’ every move and word are captured on cameras and microphones as they try to avoid being the person voted out every Thursday. 

The show made headlines because at least two houseguests, Aaryn (a blonde model from Texas) and GinaMarie (a pageant coordinator from New York), had made racist remarks about Asians, gays, and blacks (the latter called welfare “nigger insurance”). Unbeknownst to them, both have been fired from their jobs.

Helen Kim, the only Asian American in the house, who initially struck me as a weak player (she cried when one of the alpha male guys got in people’s faces about something), emerged as one of the strongest movers and shakers in the game. She and her allies convinced two men in the “Moving Company” alliance to turn against one of the strongest men and vote him out. After that shift in the house, Helen and company called the shots.

Aaryn — who at one point had told Helen behind her back, “Shut up! Go cook some rice!” — knew she was in danger of going home, so made a deal with her: If Helen saved her from eviction and Aaryn became Head of Household (who gets to nominate two people for eviction that week), she would put up whomever Helen wanted. So Helen saved her and Viola, Aaryn won the HOH competition and true to her word, did Helen’s bidding.

It seemed as if Helen and her allies Elyssa, Amanda, McCrae, and Andy would kick out Aaryn, GinaMarie and Caitlin whenever they wanted as revenge for not only being racist but “mean girls.” The latter was evicted.

But Howard, a black contestant, lied to Helen about having been in the “Moving Company” alliance, so Helen knew she couldn’t trust him. Candice, who’s part black and was the object of racist taunts from Aaryn, became close to him, so both of them became suspect in the eyes of Helen and her friends. 

When Candice tried to make a deal with Helen, telling her she knew “you run the house,” Helen got so upset that she walked out of the room and Candice then became public enemy #1.

Here, Helen demonstrated her cold ability to separate the truth from truth-that-hurt-her-game because she didn’t want to become a target.

So even though Helen and Andy (who’s gay) had earlier comforted Candice when Aaryn put her down racially, saying she was going to win and they were going to vote out the racists, they eventually voted Candice out while the racist players remained. 

Worse, Amanda, who had confronted Aaryn on her racism, ended up taunting Candice during an argument, calling her a stereotypical black female name (although it hasn’t been shown on the telecasts, she’s supposedly said worse on the live 24-hour feeds).

It was sad. Amanda was becoming the person she hated, and when the viewing audience had the chance to vote for whom they wanted to be the third person nominated for eviction, she kept going up on the block.

Aaryn, who had previously been so full of herself, ingratiated herself in front of those in power and did their bidding when she once again won “HOH,” putting up whom they wanted. But when Andy (the spy/double agent) told Amanda and McCrae (who’ve become a romantic couple) that Helen wanted to nominate Amanda for being too strong a player, they turned against her and voted her out.

Unfortunately, in her exit interview with Helen, host Julie Chen didn’t ask her about the racist remarks Aaryn had made against Asians, nor did she ask how she could form an alliance with Aaryn and vote out the black players. 

There was a twist in the game and Helen and four previously evicted players were put in a competition where one of them would return to the game, but Helen failed, so she’s just part of the jury who will vote for who deserves the $500,000 prize.

“Big Brother” airs Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights on CBS.

You Call Yourselves Journalists?! Department: I can’t tell you how many letters and press releases I’ve worked on for MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans) that the press ignored. So while putting together a press alert that MANAA was asking Fox to re-shoot scenes from its upcoming sitcom “Dads” because of racially and sexually offensive material against Asians, it was liberating to feel that they were going to eat it up.

Why? Because in my experience, when the press is already interested in a subject, it’s easier to feed them more on it (as opposed to getting them interested in something new). And the press hates “Dads.” Many had seen the pilot at the Television Critics Association event and suggested it was biased against Asian people. MANAA just verified that from an Asian American perspective.

I began putting out the press alerts at 3:02 a.m. and just an hour and 17 minutes later at 4:19 a.m., Daily Variety had written an article about it. The only problem was they didn’t list all of the objections we had to the pilot, just mentioning use of the antiquated term “Oriental” (which is like calling a black person “Negro”) and one of the dads warning you couldn’t trust the Chinese. 

No mention of Brenda Song’s employers pressuring her to put on a sexy Asian schoolgirl outfit to help grease a deal with Chinese businessmen or the “he has a tiny penis!” groaner (and despite the fact that I said we sent our letter to Fox on Monday, they reported we’d sent it out the same day as the news release, Thursday).

So what happens? The usual snide online remarks from people wondering what the big deal is and why things have become so “politically correct” that everyone’s offended by everything (the usual backlash from white men who never understood how it felt to be in the shoes of minorities in the first place). 

I already know this country has a long way to go in becoming sensitive to the perspective of Asian Americans and how they‘re portrayed. But man, at least provide them with the full information to consider; otherwise it does a disservice to the issue.

The other problem is that many online outlets copy and paste articles from sources like Daily Variety, so that gets regurgitated and/or they run even shorter versions of it, so the “facts” get even more diluted. Luckily, publications like Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood did a better job… before others took shorter versions of the articles and left out a lot of pertinent details.

When I sent out the follow-up notice that Fox had declined to re-shoot the scenes, I made it clear in a short two paragraph “cover letter” than MANAA was asking to see succeeding episodes they already had in the can (why wait until September to see them, especially since you’re promising Song’s character will usually have the upper hand over her bosses in the future?). About half the articles I saw failed to mention that. How hard is it to add just one sentence denoting that vs. repeating what you’d written in the previous article? You call yourselves journalists?!

Worse, The Los Angeles Times’ Greg Braxton, who had previously quoted MANAA in many articles, got mad at me years ago for calling him out on his biased overage (he only cares about diversity for African Americans like himself, not for anyone else) and has since ignored us. When he was forced to cover the issue — because everyone else had — he didn’t even mention MANAA, just saying it as “an Asian American media watchdog group!”

Rila Fukushima and Hugh Jackman in a scene from “The Wolverine.” (20th Century Fox)

Latest White Male Fantasy Department: I read the original “Wolverine” comic book mini-series that came out in the early ’80s, which became the basis for the current “Wolverine” movie. So I was hoping it wouldn’t end the same way. 

In the comic book, Wolverine journeyed to Japan, where he fought an elderly Japanese man and fell in love with his daughter Mariko. In the end, Mariko ends up killing her own father and makes a stereotyped speech about how he had dishonored the family, so didn’t deserve to live. Oh Gawd.

(Spoiler alert.) 

OK, in the movie, Mariko does kill the villain (updated to her grandfather), but she doesn’t make the nauseating speech, so I guess it was OK.

But it’s another one of those clichéd stories where the white guy goes to an Asian country, beats up all the Asian guys (and every single one of the Japanese men in this film are bad and all the Japanese women are good), and walks off into the sunset with the Asian woman. 

In this one, he even has a Japanese sidekick, so in one scene when he regains consciousness, he has not one but two Japanese women looking at him with concern.

Yeah, just the latest white male fantasy. Sigh.

’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

Guy Aoki, co-founder of 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.

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