Drafting Our Own Existence: On Vincent Chin, Activism, Community, Blogging, Loss, And Adoption

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

From a chapter written in 2021 on Vincent Chin, Community, and Blogging. While I think it turned out different than originally planned as I couldn't help but find these tethered pieces of adoption and loss that also started to permeate my writing--I like the dual conversation.

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I think Vincent Chin has stuck in the minds of the Asian American community and activists--as it should--because his murder and the reasons behind it were so blatant, so transparent, and so brutal. If we couldn’t get justice where two men could beat a man to death because he was Asian American, his killers tried three times with the same result of no jail time, when would we ever get justice?

In 2007 during APIA Heritage Month, I started the blog “Slant Eye For The Round Eye” (aka Slantyapolis). It was my way to contribute to the dialogue that was happening online in a larger, more connected way. The name was a nod to pop culture, tongue-in-cheek because the site was for and by the Asian American community, and my way of saying if people still wanted to be racist to us just because we were Asian American, I’d do the same. Along with the pseudonym “Slanty”, it was both a representation of what the blog’s overall tone was going to be—irreverent, sometimes profane, double meanings, a place where I would, and could, say anything I wanted—as well as misdirection. If some people came to find new Asian American music or entertainment, pop culture, or simply to see a litany of four-letter words scrawled across the digital space, at the same time they would find fact and history, numbers and data, somber moments from shared experiences and those who fought against those moments and ones like them.

When I think about Detroit and that night Vincent Chin was killed, I can’t begin to understand the fear, the loss, the rage—all the emotions he must have been feeling with each blow to his head that would end his life, realizing he wouldn’t make it to see his wedding day only a short week away.

As far as I can remember, I was always an observer. Vigilant. When I had the words and understood the landscape around me, I would use my voice to do what I could to help right the wrongs I saw, or to help show who we could be, who we were—sometimes on a more personal level, and sometimes with the hands of others across the community. From late night conversations and writings, to protests and community work, to just trying new things from another point of view (because while we can build on the history and work of others, we also need to blaze our own paths to continue movements forward)—blogging and outlets of that same ilk, was and continues to be, an extension of that observer. Still vigilant. Still in part a survival mechanism.

I never knew you, but we share that bond of the first family being taken away from us. You much older, those bonds that much harder to make, your life realized with something you had looked forward to, only to be taken away again. Your life, once more, out of your hands.[1]

Through blogging and online activism that bled into on-the-ground activism and community organizing, I was able to meet so many great people in the Asian American community across so many diverse paths and locations in the U.S. and around the world. Because it was intentional to highlight the Asian American community (as well as the motherlands), to talk about racism and racist structures, and to try to do it on a regular basis--at every turn I got to know something new about our community. At every turn I got to know someone new in our community. Musicians, writers, activists, politics, films, books, directors, journalists, other bloggers, chefs and foodies, actors, businesses—so many people and places that were pushing the faces and ideas of Asian Americans into a larger view—an ever-evolving ledger of who we were as individuals and as a community, connected at both the micro and macro. One of the first interviews I ever did on my blog was for The Slants, an Asian American band from the Portland area pushing their own sense of dance rock music, who over a decade later, went to the Supreme Court over their name and the right to call their band however they saw fit. What started out as a group’s desire to showcase Asian American music eventually turned into something that would affect more than the Asian American community. It’s those small ripples, making waves and crossing ponds, and the way they fit into the dialogue of our community and the movements that we encompass that I think is the most important.

Unlike you, I’m still alive. While I’ve known White Hands around my neck trying to squeeze the life out of me, an adopted mother’s eyes filled with rage when I was still a kid, I’m still breathing. While I think to myself that I’ve been fighting Whiteness and colonization since the day I came here, a product of the Vietnam war, but not Việt Nam’s war, I understand there is still work to do because even though we both found life outside of an orphanage, your life was taken away from you—the people who loved you denied the simple fact of knowing who you could become. Unlike you, I’m still alive.  

Malcontents with good hearts, thinkers and newshounds, people who didn’t quite feel represented, sometimes even among our own kind, “blogosphere” and emerging YouTube channels were showcasing who we were, tackling tough conversations, and shedding light on our communities. The Antisocial Ladder, Bicoastal Bitchin, The Minority Militant, Disgrasian, Degenerasian, 8 Asians, Strictly Platonic, Angry Asian Man, Nikkei View, Hyphen, YOMYOMF, channelAPA, MANNA, AArisings, Alpha Asian, Asian-Nation, NEAATO, Big WOWO, YellowBuzz, Original Spin, Sepia Mutiny, Kimchi Mamas, Rice Daddies, MetroDad, APA’s For Progress, Racebending, A Fistful Of Soundtracks, AAA-Fund, Reappropriate—the list goes on with many of the above still in existence in their current forms or spread to other media—I like to think of those blogs, during my early years especially, as this golden age of a generation who took to digital spaces to spread their truths.

I wonder what Lily Chin would say if she were alive today? To see the crimes against Asian Americans become more and more commonplace because of COVID-19. To see us being blamed, like her son was blamed, for something so far out of our control.

While I can talk about the merits and power of using online community building and a way to spread messaging far and wide in a way that individuals never had the power to do before its existence, there’s also the power of physicality. Seas of individuals washing over streets, shutting down interstates, coming together to fight against a common cause. It’s easy to delete a thousand e-mails if you don’t want to read them (regardless of if you’ll eventually have to deal with them)—but it’s much tougher to ignore a group of protestors standing in front of you day after day.

The two work together. There’s a balance. An intersectionality.

If the online world was where I could draft my own existence, the physical world was where I would help grow that existence into what it is today--adding a voice and a face to Miss Saigon protests, Fong Lee protests, shutting down streets and standing with communities for Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd—with so many other names that could be added to that list—there is a power in standing in your own skin, in the light of day, next to someone else you may or may not know, but standing together for what you believe in.

I think to myself that Ronald Ebens is still trying to get away with murder. That somehow if he tries hard enough, he can abscond away with history, without paying his debt to you and your family. And while I think that is an important lesson—that hate exists without remorse and that we have to be prepared to defend ourselves, because the world is not just—I take comfort in the community that watches over you. The community that defends you.


[1] Vincent Chin was adopted at age six from an orphanage in China. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2002-jun-14-me-chin14-story.html

Playlist For The Day #StopAsianHate An Asian American Playlist Vol. 2

Saturday, August 20, 2022

 


•Main Channel: http://youtube.com/danielions •Instagram: http://instagram.com/danielionsmusic •Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/danielions •Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/danielions •Support me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/danielions •Vlog: http://youtube.com/danielionsvlogs


Tracklist: 1 - 0:00 - keshi - always 2 - 2:52 - slchld - pieces 3 - 5:17 - Jay Park - Dank 4 - 8:36 - No Rome - Hurry Home (with beabadoobee, Jay Som) 5 - 12:32 - KATIE - Classic 6 - 14:46 - Nieman - One-Sided 7 - 17:36 - keshi - less of you 8 - 21:02 - eaJ x Seori - It just is 9 - 24:01 - slchld - don’t waste your time 10 - 27:01 - Sonny Zero - Looking for 11 - 29:42 - DPR IAN - Dope Lovers 12 - 33:03 - Michelle - Not About Love 13 - 35:40 - Sway Bleu - Why You 14 - 38:05 - JUNNY - AURA (feat. pH-1) 15 - 41:32 - DPR LIVE - thirst 16 - 44:09 - nafla - gucci girl 17 - 47:30 - DPR LIVE - Playlist 18 - 50:22 - DPR IAN - zombie pop 19 - 52:16 - Jay Park - V 20 - 56:03 - pH-1 - Like Me 21 - 59:56 - Jay Park - All The Way Up 22 - 1:03:37 - CHAI, Sam Kim - Color You 23 - 1:07:28 - Sam Kim - Touch My Body 24 - 1:10:52 - LambC - Love Like That 25 - 1:14:28 - John OFA Rhee - WAITING 26 - 1:18:36 - LambC - Dear. Caramel 27 - 1:22:42 - slchld - she likes spring, I prefer winter 28 - 1:26:09 - Daphne Loves Derby - Simple, Starving to Be Safe 29 - 1:30:00 - Phum Viphurit - Lover Boy 30 - 1:33:55 - keshi - talk 31 - 1:36:49 - Dabin - Endlessly 32 - 1:41:10 - Dabin - Part-Time Lover

Summer Tunage: Japanese Breakfast - Be Sweet feat. So!YoON!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

 


This is the Korean version on the single--but still summer worthy.

"Be Sweet" feat. So!YoON! (Korean Version) by Japanese Breakfast, out now on Dead Oceans. Stream/Buy: https://japanesebreakfast.ffm.to/be-s... http://japanesebreakfast.rocks/ https://www.instagram.com/jbrekkie/ https://twitter.com/jbrekkie/ #JapaneseBreakfast #BeSweet #KoreanVersion


Summer Tunage: Conan Gray - Disaster

Saturday, August 20, 2022

 


The official music video for Conan Gray's "Disaster" taken from the new album Superache 🌹 https://conangray.lnk.to/superache Connect with Conan: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/conangray Twitter: https://twitter.com/conangray Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/conangrayoff... TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@conangray Official Site: http://www.conangray.com Lyrics: Let me just set the scene I’d just left the party at Blake’s And it’s Halloween Had the keys to my car in my hand But I didn’t leave Cuz the potential of us It was keeping me up All night long I left a text you won’t read All night long This could be a disaster There’s so many factors Like what if you freak out And then we’re losing it all At the critical chapter Where I say “I love you” And you don’t say it after? This could be a disaster I’m pedaling backwards By saying that “I’m drunk, I really shouldn't have called” I’m a little bit plastered... You call me a liar, Now I’m falling in faster. This could be a disaster. Let me just, lose my mind Is it purely platonic To call me like every night? You know, Ashley believes That there’s something between you and I But if I’m reading it wrong then it’d be better off if I died And if you’re reading the text all night long... This could be a disaster There’s so many factors Like what if you freak out And then we’re losing it all At the critical chapter Where I say “I love you” And you don’t say it after? This could be a disaster I’m pedaling backwards By saying that “I’m drunk I really shouldn't have called. I’m a little bit plastered..” You call me a liar, Now I’m falling in faster. This could be a disaster. Maybe I’m mistaken... You’re not mine for taking Maybe I’m mistaken... Maybe I just made it up, Messed it up. #ConanGray #Disaster Music video by Conan Gray performing Disaster. © 2022 Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

Summer Tunage: Songs from Scratch | Deb Never x Audrey Nuna ‘Chump Change’

Saturday, August 20, 2022

 


Created by Yours Truly Creative in partnership with Adidas Originals Directed by Alexandra Thurmond Producers - Stacey Thiel & Anastasia Solovieva Executive Producers - Will Abramson & Babak Khoshnoud Director of Photography - Tehillah De Castro Editor - Alex Warren Photographer - Babak Khoshnoud Deb Management - Michael Washington Audrey Management - Anwar Sawyer 1st AC - Anthony J Hart 2nd AC - Lauren Arthur Gaffer - Stephanie Hauser Key Grip - Nick Perry Swing - Joe Schmitz Production Designer - Wesley Goodrich Art Director - Leo Johnson Art Assistant - Ryan Brennan Art Assistant - B Armstrong Photo Assistant - Gal Harpaz Stylist - Avigail Collins Stylist Assistant - Niki Friedman Makeup Artist - Kris Jung Hair - Karen Arechiga Sound Engineer - Jake Viator PA - Steven Flores PA - Colin Russel Assistant Editor - Evan Colten Color / Ethos Studio Colorist - Danté Pasquinelli Color Producer - Sam Cesan Sound Mix - Jake Viator IG Handles Created by @yourstrulycreative in partnership with @adidasoriginals Director @alex_thurmond Producers @staceylynn918 @nastiasolovieva Executive Producers - Will Abramson & Babak Khoshnoud Director of Photography @TehillahDeCastro Editor @alex_warren_4 Photographer @baw_bak_ Deb Management @michaelwashh Audrey Management @anwarsawyer 1st AC @anthony.j.hart 2nd AC - Lauren Arthur Gaffer - @shhauser Key Grip - Nick Perry Swing - Joe Schmitz Production Designer @paidfollower001 Art Director @leos_playground Art Assistant @ry.bread33 Art Assistant @could____b Stylist @avigail.collins Stylist Assistant - Niki Friedman Makeup Artist @s0ftglam Hair @earth.to.karen Sound Engineer @jakeviator.wav PA - Steven Flores PA - Colin Russel Assistant Editor @evcolten Color @ethos_studio Colorist @dantegiani Color Producer @smcesan Sound Mix @jakeviator.wav

Representative Judy Chu On Monkeypox

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Summer Tunage: Jaeyoung - Obnoxioius

Saturday, August 20, 2022

 





#JAEYOUNG #obnoxious #yearoftheox Stream Obnoxious by JAEYOUNG here: https://linktr.ee/yox_jaeyoung Produced by JAEYOUNG @yox_jaeyoung Directed by Richard Song aka Rich Shot It @ricchshotit Mixed and Mastered by PETER MSTR ROCKS HONG @misterxrocks Special Thanks to Kri Baldwin @thetailorlofts FOLLOW JAEYOUNG: @yox_jaeyoung @officialyox www.officialyox.com


Sure. It's Our Month (It's Been Our Month) But I'm Feeling Salty (So I'm Going To Stay Clothed)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Typically I'd say something like "It's our month. Get naked and do anything you want to do." And sure, technically you still can, but this year I was feeling a little salty and I didn't feel like getting naked and running around the block.

It's like as much as we're making all this progress, we're still in some ways relegated to specific lanes. We're still seen as Asian Only. While it's now become "ok" to have some things of our own, there's still a lot of places we're not as welcome as we should be. There are still images that are too taboo.

At the same time, a thought keeps getting stronger and manifests itself is that we don't need anyone else either. That we can rally around our general communities (Asian, Native Hawaiin, and Pacific Islander). And that's good - I like that at least. 

But when you put the two together, while they make progress, in some ways they breed false positives. I love Asian on Asian, and CRA and the upcoming spinoff help, but when will we truly see an Asian American Male Romantic Lead Across The Board? With the same parity and equity as other groups? And yes - we have The Rock and Aquaman, but they're action.

I know - small steps. Nothing happens overnight. We're making progress. The outlook is bright. We're taking what's ours versus just waiting for it to happen.

Agreed. 

But why does it feel like we're still stuck in the mud sometimes? Why do we still not acknowledge that there are differences in a Vice President who is both Jamaican and South Asian, and someone who's Chinese or Vietnamese? That there is hierarchy in the perception of who we are in the eyes of others--the others who help make those decisions that will decide futures and wealth and accessibility. I think in order to understand the ceilings that exist and the walls that are still there for so many of us you have to acknowledge that, just like you have to acknowledge Colorism.

Why is it that we are barely still brought into conversations that concern us, and then when we are, we're gone in a blip afterwards, almost never to be heard from again (and huge kudos to Joy Reid on MSNBC who I think dares to pull us in more so than any other prime time news show does either via guests, or her own commentary)? Just the stories from newsrooms during the Atlanta Shooting Hate Crimes and how there was a fight to get Asian American viewpoints--to get the story straight--it just tells you all you need to know--because it was a killing spree of Asian Americans and we still had to fight for representation in the media. 

Have we really come that far when we look at all the data en masse? 

Or are we just tipping a little?

I don't know, and who knows, maybe it depends on the month. 

For now though I think I'm going with 1/2 glass empty in the hopes that maybe by thinking about what we don't have, helps get the glass more full, and sooner rather than later.

Happy MF AANHPI month to you.

MIN 50/50: Ối giời ơi–đây là nóng lắm

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Ối giời ơi–đây là nóng lắm và mình nghĩ tớ trong yêu lại bởi vì mình chỉ không giúp nó–âm nhạc của 50/50 của MIN bắt lửa. Thế có âm thanh kun này và nhắc tớ của 80’s và 90’s “synth” mà vẫn MIN đặc dị. Tất cả các nhạc của 50/50 là lửa nhưng bây giờ bài hát “Anh Qua Đây Đi” mình nghe hoài. Có lẽ mình sẽ làm TikTok với mình nhảy lol.

50/50 không có “Trên Tình Bạn Dưới Tình Yêu” - nó là “single”.



Don't Worry I'll "RISE" To The Challenge (AKA I'm Coming For You)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

I have a lot to say on a lot of things these days, but as the title of this post implies, I'll have to tackle one thing head on from a blogger and history side first.


And yeah - I know - who cares anyway right?

It's just little old me.

I'll see you soon motherfuckers.


On Justin Chon, Blue Bayou, Adoptee Representation, Marginalization, The Call For Boycotts, Primal Wounds, Empathy, And Where Do We Go From Here?

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

I'll just be honest--in many ways I haven't been looking forward to writing this post and it's been melting in my brain since I've seen the film in various stages. There's just so much to unpack, so much nuance, so many community's feelings and histories to think about, and at the same time it's personal to me--and stepping outside of myself, trying to be objective, but still knowing I have my own opinions and feelings on the film and the discourse surrounding it--I wasn't even sure I was going to write anything.

But here I am writing this post because at the base, as part of that blogger and journalist community--we put things out there to shine light on subjects, topics, voices, and points of view that may not be out there in either mainstream media, or in our communities--or just to consolidate that information--and because I don't feel a POV and voice that reflects what I'm thinking about in total is out there--I do think it's important to express that voice, if only just to throw it out in the ether--because we are not monoliths (Adoptees, Transracial Adoptees, Intercountry Adoptees, Asian Americans, Orphans). 

A Few Housecleaning Items

Before I get into the thick of it though--a few things that I do think are important to know and set up.

A Piece Of The Adoptee/Orphan Lens I'm Writing From

I'm a Vietnamese American Adoptee, War Orphan, and Immigrant from the Vietnam War. I've sat on the Resource Committee For Adopted Adults (eventually left), the board for VAN--the Vietnamese Adoptee Network (and briefly served as its president), the board for Adopsource (a pan-adoptee organization) in its early days, and helped start out the Minnesota Transracial Film Festival. Along with two other Vietnamese Adoptees, a couple of years ago, helped co-found the Vietnamese Resource Center (for Adopted and Transracial individuals of Vietnamese descent) where we've been focusing in on language/culture/heritage and just got down piloting out a new language class. I also run a small micro-digital press which has published over 50+ adoptee authors in partnership with some amazing people and adoptees.  

In that sense, I try to give back by putting my time, energy, and funds into the adoptee community in ways that I believe can help elevate voices, and strengthen on a community and personal level, because so much has been given to me on those levels. I wouldn't be where I am in my journey without those individuals who helped pave the way and continue to do so.

At the same time, I do not actively work in the arena of Adoptee Citizenship, but I do try and support where I can and shed light when I can. And admittedly could do more.

I mention all the above so you know my POV--and that I'm also not new to the block either.

My Proximity To The Korean American Adoptee Community

Living in MN--Minneapolis/Saint Paul--land of the Korean Adoptees--I don't know if this number is exactly correct (I may need to check the Farmer's Almanac) but I think it's something like if you walk three blocks without seeing a Korean Adoptee you're legally considered blind, and I think you even get your own guide dog (but don't quote me on that one because I think it's county by county...).

I have KAD friends, worked on multiple projects with different AKs, sat on KAAN panels, support KAD work, projects, and research--and being in MN--I also married an AK who specializes in adoptee trauma/therapy and de-colonization as a profession. 

It doesn't give me any rights to anything--as it should not--but it gives me a glimpse into some things--and sometimes--I really do have to think about our similarities, and differences (speaking from a Viet Adoptee/War Orphan POV).

Being An APIA Blogger/Writer/Newshound/Journalist

Here it's close to 7,000 posts over a 15 year period getting to know different organizations and people from the APIA community--either directly or just knowing their stories--and in that way I have so much love for my Asian American gia đình just as I do for my Adoptee and APIA Adoptee gia đình and have just tried to add to the community in my own way and represent for our community as much as I can. I've had the pleasure of blogging down at Hyphen Magazine and Justin Lin's YOMYOMF, in addition to having posts at other sites (you can hit up the "About" section if you are interested for more).

And as you may have been able to tell--I'm not doing a lot of blogging here these days as I've been focused on some other projects/outlets, raising kids, and then also doing more straight journalistic/news writing and photography down at AsAmNews.com (a link to my stories).

The reason I'm putting this out there is that this is also part of my POV--and in that way I do try and be fair, especially concerning subject matter like this (versus me just talking ad hoc).

I Don't Speak For Anyone Or Any Group So Let's Keep The Collateral Damage To Me Only Please

It feels like the above should be fairly straight-forward so I won't say much more except that I have some great people in my life who may not always agree with how I do things, or what I say--but they still support me--and while sometimes agreement and support are mutually exclusive--many times they do not have to be.

Is It Valid For Me To Comment Even Though I'm Not A Korean Adoptee?

I'm playing a little early defense here, and there's more to this discussion--and I get it--but what I'll say is that many adoptee communities, including the KAD community, has had their share of comments on the Vietnamese Adoptee community (in general), and films like Daughter From Danang or Operation Babylift. 

Blue Bayou is different as it's dramatic fiction--but the overall point still stands. 

In that way, while some things are not in my realm--a lot of it is fair to discuss just like other things adoptee related.

Please Read The Whole Post First? And A Note On Sources

My ask, if you find yourself reading this, is to not quote me without reading the whole post first and also providing context. Otherwise this post is fair game just like anything else.

From a source and informational standpoint--I chose to go with information that is publicly accessible either on the Web or from social media that have posts tagged as public for everyone to read. While I could have gone to interview people--this post isn't a straight news piece, and I've still been processing it all myself. I may do a series up somewhere else, but for this post--that's where I got the information--and changing information at times, or more information. I don't know anyone who's name I write in this post, in a truly personal way--maybe a FB post here and there (and I did post asking where I could get the Adoptee Advocacy statement)--but I haven't been hanging out with anyone having some drinks, talking on the phone, and already had an opinion, based in part on loyalty. 

===========

So now that those are taken care of--let's get into it. 

General Facts And Information About the Film And Community Responses

Who Were The Adoptee Consultants On The Film And Who's Stories Looked To Influence The Main Character?

Justin Chon has stated in multiple articles that he had 5 different adoptee consultants. The ones I could verify mentioned by name specifically as consultants were:

  • Julie Young - Korean Adoptee
  • Kris Larsen - Vietnamese Adoptee 

From a research and adoptee profile standpoint the adoptees that Justin Chon mentions by name who looked to influence the character, specifically citing news articles are:

  • Adam Crasper - Korean Adoptee
  • Philip Clay - Korean Adoptee
  • Monte Haines - Korean Adoptee

At the same time Chon also spoke to Anissa Druesedow, a Panamanian Adoptee who was deported. I don't know if he considered her one of his main consultants.

References: 

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2021-09-17/justin-chon-blue-bayou-adopted-immigrants

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/director-justin-chon-tried-capture-authentic-adoptee-experience-rcna1921

https://ageofthegeek.org/2021/09/16/justin-chon-on-adoption-blues/

http://reappropriate.co/2021/09/bringing-a-transnational-korean-american-adoptee-story-to-film-in-conversation-with-blue-bayou-filmmaker-justin-chon/

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/blue-bayou-justin-chon-hollywood-remixed-podcast-1235015493/ 

https://www.facebook.com/anissa.druesedowdethelwell

Adam Crasper's Statement

Partially at the center of the controversy of the film is that the main character is based on Adam Crasper/uses his likeness, and used without his consent. Below is his statement that has been circulated widely (and is public on his FB page, versus only shown to his circle) and the Adoptees For Justice Statement condemning the movie for being exploitative and not having a call to action.


 

References:

https://adopteesforjustice.org/justin-chons-new-film-blue-bayou-exploits-impacted-members-of-our-community/

https://www.facebook.com/AdamCrapser2017/posts/4467915886608200

https://www.change.org/p/entertainment-one-boycott-blue-bayou?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=e10e0660-b026-11ea-81d2-872ff4d3becc 

Statement from the Deported and Impacted Adoptee Community in Support of Blue Bayou

During the writing of this post, a new statement has come out in support of Blue Bayou from a group of Deported and impacted Adoptees, who had the opportunity to read and provide feedback on the script which sheds more light on the adoptees who contributed to the film. Here is a list of the adoptees as stated in the release:

  • Annisa Druesedow - Panama
  • Crystal Moran - El Salvador
  • Ernesto - Panama
  • Frank - St. Kitts
  • Kris Larsen - Vietnam
  • Mauricio Cappelli - Costa Rica
  • Mike Davies - Ethiopia
  • Monte Haines - South Korea
  • Reny Javier - Spain


Points Of Debate On The Film

I've been thinking a lot about the meat of the arguments and discussions and some of the things I'm asking myself questions about. To make it a littler easier--I'm just going to list them out with my thoughts and I think in order of where I am from a conclusion standpoint.

1. Were Deported Adoptees Consulted On The Film?

I think there's been some confusion on whether or not Adoptees who had been deported were consulted on the film (at least in the beginning of this all). At this point with all the information out there I think we can safely say there were. 

At the same time, the way I look at this is that the film is ultimately about an Asian American Korean Adoptee who faces deportation. It's not a film about an adoptee living in their land of origin. To me those are two different type of stories--absolutely connected, but also different from a sheer story standpoint. In that sense while I think it's great that they did reach out to deported adoptees, you might be able to argue that talking with adoptees who could be deported could be more central to the story itself from a research perspective.

2. A Korean American Adoptee Should Have Played The Lead In The Film 

If one of the main impetuses for the film was to help shine light on the unfair and barbaric treatment of adoptees through deportations--while I would have loved to see an adoptee in the lead--it doesn't necessarily have to be--and I do feel that we have to give artists the room to work, and that means taking on characters that are not their own (and obviously within reason).

Just as much as Justin Chon has to bear responsibility for his film and learning about the adoptee community and having compassion for our community, I think the same has to be said from an adoptee community side on the APIA filmmaking community. In that way, you also have to take into consideration the landscape of APIA filmmakers--adopted and non-adopted--and how hard it is to get a film made and how as an APIA community we're still fighting for representation overall as Asian Americans (although that does not infer that other representation shouldn't happen). Having a name like Justin Chon attached to the movie as a writer/director/actor helps bring that movie, and distribution, to fruition. 

I think while the call for representation is valid--and I'm not trying to invalidate where that comes from--I do think it also needs to be weighed with logistics, schedules, and that maybe some people weren't right for the role regardless of if others thought they were. 

3. Should Justin Chon Have Had An Acknowledgement To The Adoptee Community, The Consultants On The Film, And Those Stories That Inspired The Film?

I waited until the absolute end because I was curious to see who worked on the film and what the acknowledgements would be and I guess I just expected it to be there. When there wasn't I definitely put a pin in that thought--and feeling--to come back to later. 

While filmmakers and artists have rights to what they are doing from a creative standpoint, in this sense and for this type of subject material where you are going to the community on such a delicate matter--and taking into account the marginalization and exploitation of our Adoptee Voices--I wanted something more.

It should be noted though too--I don't know what all the consultants or people who looked at the script--what their wishes were and if they wanted to be mentioned by name in acknowledgements or if they said they did not need to be or did not want be. According to the release by Adoptee Advocacy, this was indeed the case at least for one person in regard to having their picture shown at the end--which I can understand as well maybe everyone thought this was that type of acknowledgment. 

For me, regardless though, I wanted a filmmaker acknowledgement to us as an Adoptee Community in general--something like "Thank you to the Adoptee Community for sharing your voices...". 

And I'm disappointed it wasn't--and I hope that one is added to future releases.

4. Should This Film Have Even Been Made Considering The Subject Matter, Adoptee Community, And The History Of Exploitation And Marginalization Of Our Adoptive Communities By Those Who Are Not Adoptees?

Ken Burns may have a right to make documentaries about the Vietnam War--but it doesn't mean that I think he should have made those because I feel like it's the same POV we see all the time, and I get tired of it. 

When we hear about White writers that craft fiction based on communities of color, who are not represented as much as White voices are, who's stories have been exploited for profit, we get to rightly ask about agency, White Washing, and the overall lack of adding in a true and authentic voice. 

While I do not think about this in the same way as White Adoptive Parents, or White Saviors, or White Social Workers, or White Adoption Agencies--absconding away with our voices for profit and fame (because there is "fame" even on that "community" level right?)--it is a valid question to ask. 

If the movie's not made, the work still goes on. The work that has been done prior to this, doesn't go away.

At the same time--there are people who like the film, who see a piece of themselves in the film as an Asian American Adoptee or Korean American Adoptee, even though the main character was not played by a Korean American Adoptee or Asian American Adoptee, and who feel represented regardless of if deportation looms over them or not.

I'm still on the fence about whether or not this should have been made specific to voice and history--versus the main reason this movie was made.

5. Is This Adam Crasper's Story?

The easiest way for me to parse and process this is with bullet points on specific items.

  • Did The Main Character Have Facts About Adam Crasper's Life In It? I think you can answer yes to this question, because we're not talking about the general themes--there are very specific details that correlate strongly to specific information about Adam Crasper's life which has been detailed in the Adoptees For Justice Release specifically, and also which has not been specifically denied to not be Adam Crasper's:
    • The age at which he was adopted. 
    • His partner being pregnant at the time of ICE intervention. 
    • His partner having an older daughter from a previous relationship that the main character treats as his own child.
    • The adoptive father being abusive.

        At the same time, Justin Chon specifically said in the Gold House interview that you cannot talk about Adoptee deportations without talking about Adam Crasper because of  the publicity that it generated.

  • Was This Adam Crasper's Story In Total? I think you have to say it is not Adam Crasper's life in total. There are differences in the main character's story and Adam Crasper's (at least that I'm aware, these are not pieces of Adam Crasper's life):
    • His Korean mother trying to drown him.
    • Who he was married to.
    • What he did as a profession.
    • The storyline of the ex-husband's buddy cop.
    • The character's "legal" reason for getting deported in missing the hearing.
    • His location/where he lived.
    • The Vietnamese American character who befriends him and who has cancer.
    • Driving himself into a lake to commit suicide.

I think it's fair that if we have a bullet point list of the details and facts of Adam Crasper's life that are the same as the main character's, we have to do the same for those differences as well. At the same time also keeping in mind that the weight you assign each similarity or difference, or them as whole, can be a deciding factor on whether or not you look at it from one perspective versus another.

Was The Main Character's Story And The Film Influenced By More Than One Adoptee's Story?

I think you have to say yes because of all the adoptees involved in the film and reading of the script, or the stories of adoptees in the research of the film.  

Do I Believe Justin Chon Stole Adoptee Stories And Exploited Them For Profit And Fame?

Actors and writers can draw inspiration from real people and stories. They can do their research for roles and take tidbits from here and there to put into their character's likeness. You hear things like "I based this tick on my Uncle..." or "There was this kid I used to know back in the town where I grew up who..." from interviews with writers/directors/actors.

It's creative license. 

At the same time, it's creative license and gray areas that have been used to steal and exploit adoptee stories--as well as others--and it's something we get to bring up and ask.

I do believe that Justin Chon though tried to tell the adoptee story and used multiple adoptee stories and influence to create not just the film, but also the character, which he did state is an amalgamation of multiple adoptee stories--and in that same vein, the film isn't a biography of one person.

But I do think he used Adam Crasper as inspiration, in some of the likeness of the character, and including some key touchpoints from his life (from the information that is out there)--albeit all things point to him getting those from publicly available information (or maybe from others as well, I don't know). 

Both Justin Chon and Adam Crasper say there wasn't dialogue between them, other than what we know--which doesn't seem to be much--so it doesn't seem like there was anything private used from Adam Crasper's life by Justin Chon in the film.

In that way, when I ask myself if adoptee stories were stolen in the context of not reaching out to the community (regardless of if people think it was the right members, or the right number), or looking at us from a colonized White Savior lens not understanding our Brown and Black and Immigrant communities--or from a solely AP voice--and because the information on Adam Crasper is out there publicly--I can't call it theft. 

For me, theft--at least in some ways--has intent attached to it as well, and while intent can be used for the wrong things, I do believe as a filmmaker Justin Chon wanted to help bring an Asian American, Korean American, and Adoptee story to the foreground--because he saw the injustice in them, because he wanted to shed light on them, and I think also yes--from an actor/writer/director standpoint, it made sense. 

I can't come at this project the same way I do as someone who's White, or a White AP, because Justin Chon isn't one. It doesn't mean he's free from criticism, or that someone from our own ethnic or racial group can't exploit us (because that can be a piece of adoption)--but from a community level, I at least, have to give some room for openness and interpretation.

And I have to respect those Adoptee Voices who were involved in the film. 

I have to recognize their contributions to the project and to our community.

I can't throw those voices away. 

I can't say that they are not relevant and erase them from this conversation.

Thoughts On The Film Itself

I went into the film being "cautiously optimistic" but "realistically pessimistic". I was a Kickstarter supporter of Chon's Gook and I thought he handled the material well, but even from the trailers, I wasn't quite sure about this film. Would it be Adoptee Porn? Would it be one of the binary stories that too often we see where it's all or nothing from a fictional and non-fiction standpoint? As much as I like and support APIA filmmakers--I just wasn't sure on this one. Communities outside of the Adoptee Community don't exactly have a great track record of showing our stories versus showing only what they want. 

After seeing an advance screening a little while ago, and having some more time to process it--here are my thoughts, questions, and general musings.

1. Why Did Antonio's Korean Mom Have To Try And Drown Him As A Baby? I get that there are so many different stories and that there's a reality to why some adoptions happen, and I understand the metaphor of water and Antonio trying to commit suicide and how that's the circle--but I feel like this still plays into the realm of See? We have to save you from those barbaric Asian people in regard to representation on screen, and in real life. I mean why not have her just try and eat the baby? Put some salt and pepper on that thing, get the fire going, and maybe even catch a fish because who doesn't like Surf 'N Turf?

Exactly.

2. Did Anyone Really Like The Cop/Ex-Husband Storyline? The "Redemption" Part? I know redemption is good for a story, but coming from Minneapolis/Saint Paul, I just don't buy it. Maybe it's just a location thing, but I don't buy the cop handcuffing his partner because he helped get Antonio deported by kicking his ass and missing the hearing (but I could totally believe that). It just plays into the White Savior myth. The ex-husband didn't care about Brown Immigrant Antonio--he cared about his White daughter and White wife. This wasn't "I'm going to do the right thing because it's the right thing"--this was survival on his part. And it's a part of what helps drive the commodification of children--in particular Asian children to White families--and the laws that surround them--like not getting automatic citizenship.

For me--this definitely took away some points from the film. I don't blame any of the adoptees for this one--because it sounds like they had their hands full and I get it from a dramatic standpoint--the idea of redemption--I just don't think this was the right use of it.

3. Why Did All The Asian Women Have To Die? I did not point this out to myself right away. This was pointed out to me after the movie by an Asian American woman and Adoptee (because I have my blind spots). And it's a valid question. It's a Jeopardy question--I'll take How Hard Is It To Keep An Asian Woman Alive For $1000 please. 

Korean mamma is dead. Vietnamese mamma is dead. Parker--Vietnamese mamma's daughter--she's dead. 

I mean couldn't we at least have kept one? Just one?

4. I Loved The Story Between Parker And Antonio And The Vietnamese American Representation: I was surprised with the Vietnamese American presence--I don't know why exactly I was so surprised--but for me it was one of the highlights of the film not only because of just having a Vietnamese American character in there, but I thought the relationship and the story between them--what they shared--it moved me in that way and I thought Linh Dan Pham was amazing--and if you do have to go--that's they way to go out.

5. I Did Cry At This Movie: For sure--I can cry watching a romantic flash mob on YouTube--but that's at home. I don't want to sob in the movie theater--at home is okay--but at the movie theater with a lot of other theater goers--I'll save my sobbing for private. And I didn't sob--but I had to hold it back--I still cried during the ending (and there was another scene that got to me too). I mean--in that way, even with the aspects of the story I didn't like, the story was well paced, the acting was great, it was filmed well, and I liked the editing and direction and the diversity of the cast.

In that sense there was still a lot to like about the film. I did feel a connection to the main character. To that feeling of displacement. That feeling of what happens next. The human connection. The fight for love. And I thought the story was complex when it came to the idea of fathers and stepfathers and blended families and how that intertwined with adoption and those very mutable ideas of family.

Parting Thoughts

1. While Justin Chon has to take responsibility for his film, as Adoptees we also have to take responsibility for how we treat people and what we say in, and outside of the Adoptee community concerning this film. That rests squarely on us. He alone is not the cause of what is happening in some Adoptee Communities and circles.

2. In the end, I believe the pros outweigh the cons and that at the very least people should see it to make up their own mind. I do believe it can help shine a light on unfair deportation practices for intercountry adoptees here in the U.S. and that there is power in film in that way. 

How far will it push along more conversations that can lead to more action? 

That we don't know, but we do know that art has always played a part in social movements and I think to shut it down would be shutting down one more avenue in helping to shine light on unfair practices of adoptee deportations as well as muffling the other Adoptees who contributed and helped to shape the film.

3. I'm not seeing a lot from the non-adopted APIA community on this and I wish I would see more follow ups from the same places that interviewed Justin Chon on the release of the film, and follow up for this specific topic of representation. I also think in the future from a representation standpoint, in reviewing a film, inspired by true events of APIA adoptees, they could bring in APIA adoptees to those conversations. Hats off to those who have. 

And just as note--while I understand not being from the Adoptee community and not wanting to get involved and comment--everyone talks and comments on other things Asian American--and this is still within the realm (because you can still do it ethically and morally). 

4. I feel like there's this undertone that if you haven't been working in this specific space as an Adoptee, you don't have a right to comment on this film or on the subject matter and I don't believe that--no matter what side you fall on. Not everyone is called to that specific work in the adoption and Adoptee community and can do politically minded work. 

It doesn't mean they don't support it, or don't try to support on a personal level, or that they can't comment. 

And it also doesn't mean that they don't work in their respective communities doing good work either. We're all called to different projects and where we think we can be the most effective, and what might speak to us on a personal level.

5. I asked myself if this was a movie with a Vietnamese American Adoptee as the main character, played by a Vietnamese American actor who wasn't adopted, and it was the same circumstances, how would I feel? Who would I think might have the right to comment on it? It's something I've thought about and wanted to be realistic about--because it goes to the core of what these discussions are about in some ways--and I do think there would be a part of me that would be like "This is a Viet Adoptee thing, you all don't get it and you don't need to"--for sure--that's a reality. But I would also like to think--if it was the same circumstances--that I would come to the same conclusions as I am now.

That I would be open enough and understanding that other people felt it was also their story--that there was a larger view.  

6. If you have an issue with Kris Larsen because of his past record, and use that against him, especially in this context, it's myopic. He paid his dues and he's been putting in his time for getting Adoptees Citizenship--and one of the things at the heart of that dialogue is that no matter what your record, no matter what your past--you have a right to stay in this country. You get a right to change and have more chances. I just find it ironic that this is being used against him in these discussions.

7. I think this--like other things--has fueled the fluffy vs critical adoptee binary narrative once again--and we do it to ourselves sometimes--and I wish we'd stop. You can like or not like something and not have to deconstruct it. It's okay to just feel it. 

8. On a call to action at the end of the film--I do think they should have added that--for sure--but I also think of the film in some ways as a call to action itself because people can certainly search for more information.

9. We all get the room to grow and expand our narratives and thoughts and that includes me as well from all my perspectives and identities that I hold.

==========

Adoptee Citizenship Act Links

Adoptee Citizenship Act: https://www.adopteecitizenshipact.org/

Senate Bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/967?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+967%22%5D%7D&s=1&r=1

House Bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1593

Bill Summary PDF: https://f5f97d00-5d8c-4182-80ca-c01d1e4adabf.filesusr.com/ugd/c85eab_9b28db680eba4a96acce221ca750c28b.pdf

Bill Summary Image Below





Other Resources And Links From This Post

https://www.reddit.com/r/aznidentity/comments/psa0pz/adam_crasper_on_justin_chons_blue_bayou/

https://www.reddit.com/r/asiantwoX/comments/prifbo/do_not_see_blue_bayou/

https://i.imgur.com/iXOequz.png 

https://adopteesforjustice.org/our-work/story-collection/anissa/

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2020/12/16/international-adoption-does-not-guarantee-adoptees-us-citizenship/6310358002/

https://stephaniedrenka.com/boycottbluebayou/

https://www.katturner.com/blog/blue-bayou-justin-chons-film-shines-light-on-dark-side-of-international-adoption

https://www.digitalspy.com/movies/a37689752/twilight-justin-chon-blue-bayou-criticism-adoptee-representation/

https://twitter.com/stephaniedrenka/status/1440315124728745995?s=20

https://asamnews.com/2021/09/16/deportation-of-koreans-adopted-by-american-family-inspires-blue-bayou/