Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Chinese with British accent = weird?

With my new found interest in photography I have been looking through some videos on YouTube about the topic. One of the video channel I've been frequent is Digital Rev TV. It is basically a web series with the format that is not too dissimilar to Top Gear except featuring cameras instead of cars. Although it is based in Hong Kong the entire series is presented in English by a British Chinese guy Kai Wong, who described by many viewers as the Chinese version of Jeremy Clarkson. His presenting style is humourous, cheeky and very articulate but one thing that seems to fascinate people is the presenter's flawless 'British' accent. This is not a big deal to us and Kai is most likely a BBC who was brought up in the UK, speaking with a regional English accent is as natural as walking on two legs. However for others it seems to be something unbelievable or impossible. Although most of the comments are camera related, but you get remarks directed at Kai's accent popping up once in a while. Here's a collection of  some of them:
Jeez do people expect him to speak like 'fly lice you plick'?
I wondered too....he might have picked it up from a Jamaican?
And there's some positive ones:

At least a few people have some common sense:

So you get the picture. Whenever people see a Chinese face they often assume we speak English (or none at all) with some stereotypical Chinese accent. It seems even the American accent is more acceptable on an Asian face, maybe because we used to seeing them on TV and films more often than British Chinese. At least this is mostly the case for people outside the UK. I know we get told how people are fond of the typical British accent (mind you many also hate it too), however when it's spoken by a Chinese person it somewhat becomes an alien concept. Thus why we see the ignorant comments and reactions like above on the Digital Rev videos. The British Chinese population (especially ones who speak with an English accent) is so minuscule in the global community we barely get much recognition at all and our existence appears to be an anomaly to many.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wong Fu Productions

Ted Fu, Philip Wang and Wesley Chan

Last week Wong Fu Productions have made a huge announcement last week that they'll be going to Taiwan to direct a new music video for Taiwanese singer Wang Leehom. Wong Fu Production is a great phenomenon that grew from a group of friends to a proper indie production house with a huge following around the world. It was back in 2006 the film Yellow Fever that first brought them so much attention and remained to be one of their best known works. Since then they've been constantly putting out shorts, music videos and comedy skits on Youtube, whilst gaining increasing number of fans. Some videos even get several millions of views. Comparing their earlier productions which seemed so amateur to the ones they've been doing so recently, they've come a long way. The qualities look so professional considering most are shot with a tiny or no budget, a perfect example of guerrilla film making. Now that they're working with Wang Leehom, an Asian superstar this had to be their greatest achievement yet.

A little thought on the side; the internet is a very powerful medium if utilized in the right way and Wong Fu have certainly took advantage of it to become what they are now. Of course you can't overlook the fact they are a talented bunch and very committed to their works. Even though they're not exactly mainstream but I think has played a part in creating a presence for Asian Americans in the Western media. For this I really do admire their effort and they have also inspired me do to get my cameras out and start my own project possibly sometime in the future.

Wong Fu Productions

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Doing the Asian eyes on Vogue Japan

Vogue Japan or rather the editor of Vogue Japan Anna Dello Russo have caused controversy with a video showing a shoot of the model Crystal Renn with her eyes taped back, some how resembling the slanted 'Asian' eyes. It's not sure what's the intention of doing that to her eyes or whether it was done to imitate the eyes of East Asian. The reaction has been quite mixed from what I have read, some find it offensive whilst others did not see it as a big deal. The fashion and art world has been known for crossing the boundary of political correctness and causing controversy.

The eye pulling gesture has been known for the mockery of the distinct Asian feature, however in Asia this gesture does not have any offensive means compare to Asians living in the West. Baring in mind this is a fashion shoot for Vogue Japan. So is Vogue being racially insensitive or is it others being too sensitive? Personally I find what's been done to the model's eye to be rather hideous looking, the taped eyes aren't symmetrical and as some have mention she looked a bit like Boy George. If this is what they call a tribute to Asian beauty then obviously this is a failure.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Take away murder

Image from the Guardian website

I'm a little late as usual but recently found out about a gruesome murder of a Chinese takeaway worker Simon San by a gang of racist youths in Scotland. Of the four that were involved three of youths were prosecuted for the crime. the controversial part was that the Lothian & Borders police did not acknowledged the crime to be a racially motivated attack despite what the San's family had claimed. It seemed the police made little effort further into the inquiry and had only assumed that the victim was 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'. Considering it happened right outside of the premises where he worked it sounds pretty obvious that wasn't the case. Only now that police had admitted and apologised for mishandling the case. Unfortunately none of this will change anything for San's family and what they've been through. More on the story:


Over the years there has been many similar cases where take away workers are subjected to harassment and violent attacks from gang of youths. It's a concern that many Chinese (or anyone) working in the industry had to deal with. Isolated and open till late at night, these premises are an attractive spot for delinquent youths to cause trouble. Even though it might not always result in physical harm or deaths, it's still to many a frustrating environment to work in. Most Chinese are unable to do much but to accept the situation and get on with business, as doing anything more it will only bring more trouble.

Many have cited the dissatisfaction with the police, usually getting to the scene too late or taking the problems too lightly to prevent it from happening again, ignoring the possibility that the next time it happens that their life will be put at risk. It doesn't make things better when take away workers are not very fluent in English and that makes communication very difficult at times. Chinese organisations are not always within reach for those who live far away from the city when support is needed.

Anti-social behaviour and the lack of police authority are part of the problems which stem to tragedy like this. We've seen this in the recent rioting. On a whole it effects everyone in society but for the Chinese community that are too often invisible and silent will end up bearing the brunt of it. The irony is that these are the same hard working people who pay taxes, the same money that goes into the police force and probably the welfare that supports these ASBO youths. Where's the justice in that?

For far too long Chinese in this country has been perceived to be the 'model minority', which means working hard and staying out of trouble. Although that sounds all and well unfortunately this means we're vulnerable when trouble comes looking for us. The majority assume being one of the most economically successful ethnic group, means we're the least discriminated and the most integrated in the British society. In reality this is only half truth, a lot of the struggles we're facing are actually hidden away or brushed aside. All-in-all now it's the time for the Chinese community to get the voices and concerns out into the mainstream. But for the moment it's easier said than done. If each of us British Chinese individual like myself are more politically aware and active even on a local level, it'll be a good start.

Here's a very insightful report that was published few years ago that I recommend reading:
Hidden from public view? Racism against the UK Chinese population