Link Round-Up: Top Chef, Obama in Cairo, and Carradine

This week, I’ve got a nice set of deep and thorough posts on some things you may have seen recently, but not really thought about what was happening beneath the surface.

Up first, a really thought provoking analysis of Top Chef and the racial divide provided by Tamara Nopper of Temple. I love watching Reality TV, not just because I like to melt my mind, but also because there are so many raced and classed things occurring. This post marries sociology and bravo tv… I’m in heaven.

I love the show Top Chef. I watch it religiously and regularly chat about it with fellow fan and friend Kevin Eddington. Although more of a foodie than me—he actually knows what sous vide means—we share concerns about the show’s racial dynamics, some of which I want to discuss here. Specifically, I want to explore how Asian Americans and African Americans are represented on Top Chef and in the process, draw from approaches emphasizing the Black/non-Black divide.

Asian Americans are present as contestants, chefs, judges, and of course, hosts, and Hung Huynh won the title on season three. Yet Asian Americans face particular racial expectations: they’re encouraged to talk about their ethnicities or immigration histories, badmouthed for cooking too many Asian-influenced dishes, or expected to cook Asian food regardless of training. For example, Huynh was told that despite his skill and “technique,” his food lacked “soul.”

White head judge Tom Colicchio, reminding Huynh of Huynh’s Vietnamese background, said he didn’t “see” him in his food. Such comments reinforce the model minority myth, which celebrates “Asian” work ethic and mechanical productivity while denying us unconditional subjectivity, sociability, and authority automatically afforded whites.

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This past week, in my opinion, President Obama gave a really amazing speech at the University of Cairo. But more than just words are needed. Here is a very in depth and insightful post by Number 2 written before and after the speech from There is No Spoon. By the way, that blog is so dope that it’s banned in China … not to mention it’s one of my other blog homes, so bookmark it!!!!

This is a general problem with most US foreign policy types. They are interested in improving America’s image, without addressing the reasons that image has slipped with a less-than-acceptable level of honesty. They also are either completely ignorant, or disingenuous, about the Muslim world. I’ve spent time in some of these countries, and let me tell you, they know their politics. I’m not talking about the rich, well-to-do, professional class. I’m talking about the peasants, the street vendors, the cab drivers…the “people”, if you will. Unlike mainstream America, which knows less about history and current politics than it does about the previous round of American Idol (something I largely attribute to a poor education system and a press that I at times consider somewhere between Pravda and Hearst’s New York Journal), Muslims are much more aware of politics, even if they throw some conspiracies into the picture.

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Lastly, the death of David Carradine got some media attention but one thing that I expected to see, but didn’t hear much of was a commentary like this. Racialicious publishes a controversial analysis entitled, “David Carradine’s Legacy of Shame” by Atlasien, here’s a taste:

He was a famous and much-loved actor. Tributes to Carradine are pouring in. In discussion threads devoted to Carradine, you’ll find many nostalgic accounts of childhood evenings spent watching his TV show, Kung Fu.

Some Asian-Americans, such as myself, may find these tributes quite upsetting.

I remind myself that David Carradine was an actor. He was doing a job for money. It’s difficult to draw a work/life dividing line when it comes to celebrity actors, but the line does exist. And I cannot presume to judge the moral worth of David Carradine’s life. He was a human being whose life is just as worthy of respect, just as precious, as the life of any other human being.

But I can judge his career. Fuck David Carradine’s godawful racist career!

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Alright, you all should be full off of that. Leave some thoughts… and not just over on facebook, on the original blog post too… don’t worry you can use your facebook login :)

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