Monday, 2 May 2011

No More Arts Council Funding For Yellow Earth Theatre


Arts Council England recently terminated public funding for UK's only East Asian theatre company - Yellow Earth Theatre. In response, two articles appeared on British Chinese website - Dimsum.



Both articles criticise the Yellow Earth Theatre for very personal reasons. Daniel York has a personal gripe with the theatre company after being turned down for the role of artistic director.

Paul Hyu's theatre projects Mulan and BEA had their funding cut in the noughties  whereas the Yellow Earth Theatre continued to receive public funding, hence the five paragraph stamping of his resume under his name as a form of childish cavalier bragging - "look at all my nominations, my work deserved funding not Yellow Earth."

Paul Hyu criticises the theatre company's orientalist use of  'Yellow,' yet this is the same man that produced a series of shorts on Channel 4 called the "Missing Chink," it received a spate of complaints from viewers, the complaints were not from the usual White liberal sensitive PC brigade, complaints came from the British Chinese community, from Chinese people, the very community he claims to represent, clearly he does not represent the interests of the Chinese community at all, he is mixed race after all, Daniel York too.

In the comment section of David York's article is a quote from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/apr/27/black-minority-ethnic-funding-cuts-theatre
"One from a mixed race Chinese actress who can't get a foot in because she can't play the role of White or Chinese."
Really? Mixed race have been purloining Chinese roles for decades. Look no further than David Yip, 'The Chinese Detective,' or should one say 'The Mixed Race Detective.' The 'Chinese Elvis'  himself, should be renamed 'The Mixed Race Elvis.'

What is the purpose of ethnic East Asian theatre? To appeal to White middle class theatre critics or to Chinese audiences?

Trot down to the hub of London's Chinatown and ask any random Chinese to name anything the Mulan or Yellow Earth Theatre has produced, you will receive blank stares, they won't have heard of either theatre company, but ask them to name the latest TVB drama in Hong kong, they could probably tell you.

Ethnic British East Asian theatre is hampered by linguistic and cultural indifference arising from the lack of homogeneity within British Chinese community, for example, a large section of the British Chinese community is highly Fobbish with an inadequate command of English, they have no interest in English speaking ethnic British Asian theatre that is overly western and targeted at a white audience.

So one begs the question, what is the purpose of fringe ethnic Chinese or fringe ethnic East Asian theatre if  it is not watched by the British Chinese community, the community  it claims to represent and serve?

19 comments:

  1. Haven't heard of these groups before and unsure of their contribution in promoting Chinese cultural values, pride and self-awareness to the Chinese community. If it wasn't significant, then the loss of funding should have minimal impact. Ted (*****@*****.***)

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  2. Daniel York writes-

    I'm afraid your article is ludicrously framed and bordering on racist.

    Is contesting that I have a "personal gripe" against Yellow Earth because they turned me down for the artistic directors's post really the best you can come up with?

    Here's some facts for you-

    I was BESIEGED by people saying I should be the next artistic director of Yellow Earth when David Tse announced his resignation in 2007. I was in two minds about applying for a variety of reasons-

    1) I'm not sure the post of full time theatre director (with all the administrative responsibilities it entails) is one I would actually enjoy.

    2) David Tse's legacy was at best an extremely personal one, with its heavy emphasis on "Eastern movement discipline" which, in my humble opinion, only panders to the white caucasian establishment's ideas on what work East Asians can and should do.

    3) The name itself. I know of at least one well known writer who told me they'd have nothing to do with the company because of the word "yellow".

    4) I have a busy career as freelance actor and my feature film has been developed by Film4.

    All this was rendered immaterial however by my name suddenly disappearing from the Yellow Earth database at the time they were "advertising" the post. Their Arts Council officer later told me he'd suggested to David Tse that I might make a good candidate but nevertheless I was in the ludicrous position of being aware that Bolton Octagon Theatre were advertising for an artistic director but not Yellow Earth!

    cont'd-

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  3. Daniel York continues-


    The company then drew up what can only be described as an eccentric shortlist of candidates from which Paul Courtenay Hyu was omitted. You may not like Paul for being a Eurasian but the company is supposed to represent ALL East Asians and Paul, as a former artistic director of Mu-lan, certainly had the relative experience. But, no.

    The company then appointed the comically inexperienced Jonathan Man (David Tse's "protege") and Phillipe Cherbonnier (the company's "literary associate) as jooint artistic directors in their time honoured practice of keeping it within the family regardless of merit, experience or vision.

    The pair lasted barely a year. The company then attempted to install Kumiko Mendl (the company's "literary associate") as "creative producer" without the bother of a troublesome and unnecessary recruitment process before belatedly realising that such dubious "in-housing" might not look good to the Arts Council before hastily arranging a cursory round of interviews.

    Once again I was encouraged to apply. In fact one of the company's founder memnbers told me, just the other week, that they couldn't think of anyone else bar me doing it. JONATHAN MAN told me I should do it! Even then, I had misgivings. I did know of one very experienced theatre director who had the profile to really take the company forward (but who wasn't East Asian but had links with China) was applying and I decided to put myself forward as "stalking horse".

    The fact that I'd been openly critical of the company in the past (including my exposure of their policy of charging £25 plus VAT for forwarding casting breakdowns to their database) had not gone down well with the board who spent the entire interview sniping and sneering at me while I answered their points one by one before, lo and behold, surprise surprise, they offered the post to Kumiko, one of the other founder "members" (it really IS a little club).

    A few weeks later, to no one's surprise but their own, their funding was cut. I fail to see, in all honesty, how ANYONE could argue that this is in some way unfair after the way the company have managed itself in the last 3 years (which is a direct legacy of what went before).

    I also fail to see how any of this amounts to a "personal gripe". These are facts. Your argument, like many of yours, is cheap, small minded and ill informed.

    cont'd

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  4. Daniel York continues-

    1) Paul using the term "chink" in his title is nothing like the use of the word "yellow" in Yellow Earth. The first is used with irony and insults the PERPETRATORS of that term. The second is used in earnest, po faced fashion that accomplishes nothing. David argues that it reclaims the word "yellow" in the way that "black" and "queer" have been reclaimed. But "black" and "queer" are angry, edgy, provocative terms, rather like "chink". "Yellow" has connotations of cowardice and piss.

    If Paul's use of the word "chink" garnered complaints from the likes of yourself then I say good!

    2) You are OBSESSED with Eurasians as if you favour some sort of fascistic racial purity. It's frankly ugly and it doesn't become you. Eurasian actors are actually (and I should know) the most discriminated against and marginalised of all. Casting directors have a mantra with says "authenticity". One told my agent once that "we specifically DON'T want any Eurasians" (replace the word "Eurasian" with "black". It doesn't look good. The BBC also complained about me not having a Chinese accent once.

    The point is that, as citizens of this country, should we be portraying ONLY East Asian people? Your arguments about specific racial casting are moribund and anti artistic.

    3) Yes, very few in Chinatown would know of Mu-lan's OR Yellow Earth's work. But then that could be said of ALL theatre in terms of the wider public. I teach acting classes and you'd be amazed at the amount of my students who don't know the play "Hamlet". It's a meaningless argument.

    You and Ted can carry on criticising from the outside in a lofty and superior manner but I really can't see what you're trying to accomplish.

    It certainly isn't "zeitgeist"

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  5. Paul Courtenay Hyu4 May 2011 at 10:51

    Do you not realise that the Chinese Elvis you are having a go at is actually the same Paul Hyu who you are having a go at?! And both times for being not pure 100% Chinese! Make the link if you're going to have a go! Make a decent argument, for God's sake.

    If Mu-Lan were so ineffectual with no one knowing their output as you claim, it is a ridiculous argument that you then make to mention The Missing Chink, which was watched by over 1.25 million people on C4, which happened to be Mu-Lan production! Cake and eat it? Make sure its a 100% Chinese cake! Wouldn't want to tarnish it with any Tate & Lyle sugar (by appointment to the 0% ethnically Chinese Queen!).

    If you had the balls to state your name I would happily debate these points further with you. It is pointless being drawn in further until you do. It is remarkable how your bravery in stating these amusing and controversial viewpoints comes at the most stereotypical Chinese price - "invisibility". You seem to be the most Missing of all of us. You are misinformed and a hypocrite and coward. Its all right for you to dish out your racist and eugenic-based ideas of Chinese purity, yet who are you? Missing, that's who. The Missing Chink is an idea, a concept that you are perpetuating. Now. THAT. Is. Irony.

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  6. It's also hilarious that "Zeitgeist" pours scorn over Mu-lan's lack of impact then cites the fact The Missing Chink provoked a "spate" of complaints from viewers.

    Clearly made an impact with SOME people, eh?

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  7. I'm not interested in hearing the internal politics of how Yellow Earth theatre is run. As a consumer, I'm only interested in drama output.

    Any televised programme is likely to attract a large audience (white audience) by default, so what? Does it follow that the Corrie storyline has a positive impact just because it attracts a big audience and the Chinese community should be flattered by its storyline? No.

    Did the few Chinese who watched your programme ‘TMC - The missing Chink’ think to themselves....yes this programme really encapsulates our race, our identity, our culture? No, it was so piss poor and racist, that is the negative impact it made, you offended your own community, I dont recall any Chinese person I spoke to at the time who watched the 'TMC' who said anything positive about it, which goes to show you have no idea what the Chinese community wants to watch nor thinks.

    What is even more racist is the fact it was made by you...a Chinese, or should I say, a mixed race claiming to be Chinese, that is crux of the problem, you are mixed race and don’t know how to make programming for Chinese people.

    There goes the use of the Ch*nk word again. I am the missing ch*nk am I? If my comments are bordering on racist, then you have stepped well over the threshold. Let me remind you, you are not even ethnically Chinese, but a different ethnicity. If a different ethnicity such as black,Indian, mixed race, calls an ethnic Chinese - a ch*nk...they are in fact the racist, yes you.

    You have just shown why you are unfit to represent Chinese community and you have the cheek to beg for donations from the Chinese community? I speak for most Chinese when I say I won’t donate to you, why would we? For you to make more piss poor programmes where the chinese are labelled ch*nks and have your cretinous friend - the ‘black n white minstrel’ Bill kwouk represent us? You are as bad as Jung Chang.

    Do you think ethnic Black and ethnic Indians can represent ethnic chinese drama? No of course they can’t, so why should Chinese expect ethnic mixed race to represent ethnic Chinese drama etc?

    State my name? BBCZeitgeist there, in plain black n white or do you mean my real name? And you state your real name do you? No you don't, you should state your real name instead of using that fake orientalist stage name ‘hyu’ of yours, change it back to your original English surname that your White English father gave you at birth, don’t be so ashamed of your Caucasian heritage Paul, embrace it, Mr Mixed race Caucasian Elvis.

    If you dont like crticism from the Chinese community - the community you claim to represent, then go set up a mixed race theatre company.

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  8. Zitty (that's your name as far as I'M concerned),

    After all that, that barely comprehensible rant is the best you can come up with?

    No, you clown, I don't expect you to be interested in "the internal politics of how Yellow Earth theatre is run" but if you're going to make lazy and unsubstantiated slurs about "personal gripes" then you'd better do so in full possession of the facts.

    Who elected YOU as the Voice Of The Chinese Community?

    The Missing Chink was a brilliantly edgy, satirical comedy that savagely exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of the British entertainment industry and it offended reactionary conservatives like yourself then it did its job as far as I'm concerned.

    No, Zitty, there's only "racist" here and that's YOU with your pathological obsession and constant disparaging of other people's racial make ups.

    Tell me, Zitty, what is it you would LIKE to see? Do you have a Utopian vision of lots of "pure bred" little Chinese boys like yourself faithfully recreating HK soaps? What have YOU ever actually done apart from mouth off on here about stuff you know next to nothing about to about 25 people?

    Criticism is great, Zitty, but generalised slurs based on race and ignorance is, to use one of your favourite expressions, "piss poor".

    If attitudes like yours are prevalent then it's no wonder East Asians are so marginalised and trivialised.

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  9. That last post was written by Daniel York by the way!

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  10. Haha Yorkie. I am responsible for the marginalisation of Chinese within british society? Anything else I should be held responsible for? Global warming perhaps? Third world debt?

    i’ll let other readers (if they feel like it) tell you what kind of things they would like to see being produced? Ok? Since this discussion is getting really childish, no need to add more fuel to the fire right? Oh btw, I should thank you, blog traffic these last few days has been crazy high.

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  11. Daniel York writes-

    Oh it's "childish", is it, Zitty? This coming from someone who slags off all and sundry without being able to get his facts straight! It's funny the way mouthy bigots like you declare things to be "childish" when you haven't got a leg to stand on. You can waffle on, pouring scorn on people's racial heritage and making crass ill informed judgements but can you actually construct an ARGUMENT?

    Reductive, regressive and leadenly conservative mentalities based on recieved "PC" doctrine like yours WILL keep us marginalised and ignored, yes, Zitty. People like you stifle any kind of edge and creativity with your dull and deadening world view. After all, you're happy enough to blame Paul Hyu for all the perceived problems facing the community.

    I don't believe you actually WATCHED The Missing Chink, Zitty. I think your brain couldn't cope with the lack of lurid plotting and background muzak you're used to in "authentic" HK soaps. It's too clever for you, face it.

    I'm glad we weren't both around in 60's China, Zitty, that's all I can say. "A hundred flowers bloom, eh?"

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  12. Hardly. If i carried on replying to you, you would return with a post every 10mins getting angrier and ANGRIER each time, I’m saving your face. The purpose of this blog isn’t to inflame professional actors.

    I pose the Q again, why define yourself by your race, ethnicity etc as a niche. i.e as an East Asian actor, East Asian artist or East Asian writer etc if you don’t produce any work that the ethnic community that you claim to represent wants to see?

    ‘Edgey,’ ‘in your face’ artistic material that Chinese ‘cannot relate to; nor ‘wants to see’ nor ‘is interested in’....except White critics from the Guardian?

    You claim TMC was a great piece of anti-establishment satire and you take great pride in ticking off the establishment, yet the white establishment were not insulted, do you call them honkys? Did you call them white trash? They watched it and probably thought... "haha these self hating chi*nks are calling themselves chin*ks, thats so funny." You only succeeded in pissing off a small section of the Chinese community that watched it, and since when did the ethnic Chinese community form part of the English establishment? They are not part of the establishment.
    You behave like arrogant ethnic dissident artists, alienated from the community you claim to fight for or represent, isnt it fitting you mention China, ask yourself this question, why is it Ai Weiwei is the darling of the western arts world, yet in China, he doesn’t even have a following among his own people, hes an unknown artist in China.
    If any Chinese person expresses an opinion you don’t like , you reply “you know nothing about artistic merit , typical regressive reactionary conservative chinese clown, thats why youre marginalised.” That is your self-serving attitude.
    If this ‘ethnically defined’ blog was only read by white’s, do you know what I would do? I would shut it down for failing to serve its purpose as an niche ‘ethnic’ blog.

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  13. Daniel York writes-

    Zitty,

    If the purpose of your blog "isn’t to inflame professional actors" why then do you make crass, unsubstantiated remarks about them?

    I'm referring to your rather typically (from what I can see on this site) superficial and ill informed reckoning that I have a "personal gripe" against Yellow Earth? I then explain the facts and you retort that you're "not interested". Well, of COURSE you're not interested! It doesn't fit your myopic and simplistic view of the world that then informs your shapeless, racist and generalised rants against anyone you decide has offended your truly leaden sensibilities.

    Why don't you just admit you were wrong?

    I honestly don't believe you've ever watched The Missing Chink. You just saw the word "chink" and responded like a pre-programmed automaton in knee jerk fashion and your knee hasn't stopped twitching since.

    "Chink". Because that's we are to a lot of people. "Missing" because that's what we are (sometimes willfully as in your case). It's quite simple if you just engage your brain, Zit.

    Your constant railing against anything you consider isn't "popular" is positively philistine. Mu-lan's final production, Sun Is Shining, sold out two 4 week runs at the King's Head Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre. It then transferred off Broadway New York. Not bad going for a fringe theatre company on a budget of £20,000 a year. As we've already established, I'm no fan of Yellow Earth, but I'm willing to bet more people have watched ONE of their plays than have read your frankly ludicrous and unpleasant missives.

    Zitty. NO ONE represents the "Chinese community". Least of all YOU. You need to remember something. Your wilfully ignorant opinions are yours and yours alone.

    And now you're having a pop at Ai Wei Wei? An oppressed artist? Is there NO depths you won't sink to? I'm beginning to think that being on your "hate list" is a good place to be.

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  14. The Missing Chink on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbW6pkA8duU

    Does Zeitgeist really not get the points being made in this show? A mainstream TV channel has given a platform to make the points that the Chinese have no one in the public eye in Britain. This is uncommon - and a point which is very much pro-Chinese! It makes the point that the Chinese are confused in Britain with the Japanese and that no one cares about the difference. That Chinese men are not considered sexy, which is surely something Zeitgeist can relate to. That East Asians are frankly, missing from public life. It is a message to make the non Chinese viewers think about these issues for perhaps the 1st time. It was not made for the Chinese, but for the British public - from a pov sympathetic to the Chinese, which makes a change. The title itself makes a political point - how can such a potentially thorny title have gotten past the broadcaster? Because, as the programme's message states (using irony), the Chinese in Britain are undervalued. This is clever, and relevant to everyone. Making a programme which just has relevance to the Chinese community, which Zeitgeist argues is the duty of a Chinese actor and blogger would be an irrelevance. Not only that - what would it be? This blog? Is this the best ZG can come up with?!

    The Chinese who complained about TMC, incidentally, did so before the show was transmitted, basing their grievances on the title of the show, and NOT the content - as Zeitgeist is still doing 7 years later. Not one complaint was received about its content. It was a similar case to the Chris Morris paedophile comedy episode of Brass Eye. And the Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand's affair provoked comment only after it was reported, thanks to the Daily Mail whipping up feeble minded support.

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  15. It was a long long time ago, I remember a question was asked to some white guy in the street...”Can you name a Chinese sportsman?” Englands leading try scorer is Chinese.

    Really? Last time I checked, Rory Underwood is mixed race, not ethnically chinese.

    Who else was used an example of a famous Chinese in TMC? The black n white minstrel himself - Bill kwouk.

    Should I be supportive of the programme when I’m being represented by non-ethnically chinese people and a black n white minstrel? No.

    Should I be supportive of a programme when the derogatory term ch*nk is used to illustrate a point for sensationalism by non-chinese for a ratings boost. No.

    Did anyone in the white establishment get your message? No

    You played right into the hands of the white establishment by playing into their white stereotypes of Asians, that is neither clever nor progressive.

    In fact, I have no idea why you are still producing material on a Chinese platform, you clearly have no idea how Chinese think. Why don't you can set up a mixed race theatre company instead?

    I will say no to Youtube, I don't wish to sit through that awful programme a second time, the first time was bad enough.

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  16. Actually, the jist of your arguments falls down to this....

    “TMC is a very clever programme, one of the best ever made for the Chinese community,”

    “Daniel York does not have a personal gripe against the Yellow Earth Theatre company.”

    There, I have said it, are you both happy now?

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  17. Daniel York writes-

    It's interesting though, Zitty. You raise the following points-

    "I pose the Q again, why define yourself by your race, ethnicity etc as a niche. i.e as an East Asian actor, East Asian artist or East Asian writer etc"

    Zitty, this is the truth. I never HAVE "defined" myself as East Asian or ANYTHING. The industry I work in DOES however.

    Art surely shouldn't be defined in terms of racial boundaries. Art is inclusive. For EVERYBODY. Not in your book however. You would have us segregated along racial boundaries because, at heart, you're a racist. You don't like white people, you don't like Eurasians, I'm not even sure you like CHINESE people.

    You bang on and an that we are making art for "white people". This is yet another example of your willingness to make pejorative statements that simply are not backed up by facts.

    Although there are no figures, Mu-lan's audiences were made up of a high percentage of East Asians. So were Yellow Earth's for that matter. Not to mention Black, South Asian and other ethnic groups. To say that both companies only appealed to "white" audiences is a gross misrepresentation and typical of your rather tenuous relationship with the facts.

    "If any Chinese person expresses an opinion you don’t like , you reply “you know nothing about artistic merit , typical regressive reactionary conservative chinese clown, thats why youre marginalised.”"

    I never used the word "Chinese", Zitty. That's YOUR style and it isn't ANY Chinese, it's only you. Oh, but I forgot. You're "uber Chinaman", aren't you? The one who knows what ALL Chinese people like and don't like, the spokesman for his "racially pure" brethren.

    Actually, I LOVE people expressing their opinions. But you don't have opinions, Zitty. You just have knee jerks.

    But I challenge you. You and me, we'll watch The Missing Chink an episode at a time and debate it on here. You write what you think, I write what I think. Because, Zitty, I honestly haven't heard you CRITICISE it. You've ranted about the title which (for reasons I've already outlined and which you're completely unable to counter) is actually very clever. You've also ranted in your usual racist style about the fact that a mixed race rugby player gets named checked and that someone I've never heard of called "Bill Kwouk" is in it. He wouldn't be any relation to the well known actor and entertainer BURT Kwouk, would he? And you've also decided that you know EXACTLY how white people reacted to it which is the one area where you're COMPLETELY without prejudice-you know what EVERYONE thinks!

    How about it, Zitty? You willing to go toe to toe on it?

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  18. Still not happy yorkie?

    If you're going to call me a racist, lets be objective.

    Are you aware ‘Uber-chinaman’ is a racial slur? You crudely, liberally and intentionally tossed up these slurs as a meme, it is not a representation of pride, but self hatred. Mixed race are not ethnically Chinese, they cant fully grasp what Chinese pride is, that is why you continually use these derogatory terms such as chinaman, ch*nk etc...in the case of TMC - trying to justify them on the basis of an progressive confrontational edgey artistic concept.

    I’ll give you an analogy of TMC using Blacks to show you how the programme concept is very lazy playing on negative ‘white on black’ lazy stereotypical themes...why blacks eat KFC + watermelon, why are there are no black executives, why there are no black swimmers , titling the show something along the lines of ...

    “The imprisoned N*gger”

    The concept of ‘the imprisoned n*gger’ is to show that black’s are fettered, like slaves, imprisoned, prevented from laddering up the echelons of white society. N*gger is justified as a term for the programme title because it was a derogatory term created by whites to deride the low position of blacks, reflecting current social norms of its terms of use.

    There are 2 black men sitting in a prison cell (based on white stereotype that Blacks are all in jail) in conversation...”why are there no black men married to white women?” Then cutting to a street interview scene where a black passerby is asked...”can you name a famous black man with a white wife?” He replies no, i cant. The passerby happens to be O J Simpson. Then asking a white passerby, can you name a BLACK singer, yes “Michael Jackson is black”

    Irony?

    You may consider it to be clever, but I don't, I dont find it clever nor flattering. I don’t even know where to begin the criticism it is that bad, that is TMC in a nutshell.

    Even the ending, claiming takeaways can massively overcharge these silly white people. The first image it conjured up was the film Falling Down with Douglas threatening to beat up the East Asian shop owner because he knew he was deliberately overcharging.

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  19. In what way does the use of Eurasian’s ie Rory Underwood subvert the notion that Chinese are invisible? You obviously preceive Eurasians to be ethnically chinese, but that is incorrect, they are mixed race, it could be argued invisibility is the result of the Eurasian agenda stealthily pushed through using the Chinese platform squeezing out/rendering the ethnic Chinese invisible, that is double irony of it.

    Playing on western stereotypes /slurs of Asians isn’t progressive, but backward. It reminds me of Youtube channel.... something like “ask a chinese guy anything”... you can guess what they asked?
    Why do all Asian’s look the same?
    Why is china so poor, so fascist and so evil like north korea?
    Why do Asian’s have names like ping pang pong?
    Why are there no chinese formula one drivers, is it because chinese are all bad drivers?
    Why do Asian’s have small *****’s?
    Whats the difference between japan and china?

    So what’s worse....the ignorant questioners or the Chinese guy for entertaining their stupidity? IMO, its the latter, he should know better, you should know better, Chinese pandering to negative white stereotypes/slurs of Asians (especially to a white audience) is one of the lowest denominators, therefore I have no interest in watching TMC for a second time.

    Discussion is closed.

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