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William Hung is a Star?!
OVER THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS, American Idol, the popular Fox Network reality show, has beaten Mr. William Hung into the American consciousness. His sweet disposition and honest attempt at AI fame truly illustrates the beauty that lies within Asian and Asian American culture. We are raised to be deferential, respectful of our elders, kind and self-deprecating. Add to that the modern American dream of fame and fortune and you get a volatile combination: the Asian American Entertainer. Whether screen beauties such as Lucy Liu or Kelly Hu, music stars like Jin tha MC, or athletes like Apollo Anton Ohno, Asian Americans are making an impact in the entertainment world. We are here to stay—with others on their way.
IS WILLIAM HUNG ANOTHER STORY? Am I a “playa hater” for thinking that this is all a big joke? Is it my personal insecurity and struggle with identity/ethnicity that is making me feel like there is still a big private club where people are saying, “Let’s keep the chink on the pedestal and make him feel good as we laugh at him”? Or is it true that as much as America is letting Asian Americans into the mainstream, it is only on limited terms? Connie Chung, Julie Chen, and Liz Cho are all respected and strong newscasters who deserve to be seen and heard. Ti Hua Cheng is the only male Asian newscaster in NYC, a strong reporter and straight shooter. Is he a token Asian representative on the NYC news scene? West Coast news is far more progressive in its acceptance of the Asian television personality, and deserves kudos for that.
BUT THIS IS ABOUT WILLIAM HUNG and America’s willingness to embrace him. “Loveable Loser”, “Untalented” and “Unspoiled geeky charm” are not terms of true endearment. These are not words we associate with stars or celebrities. When we find comic genius in our clowns’ ala Jerry Lewis or the Three Stooges, we call them precisely that “comedic genius”. The general public is not embracing Hung for his musical talent, they are embracing him for being a loser.
THE SIMPLE FACT is that people are laughing at Hung and candy coating it. He’s not an inspiration or a role model. He is a victim of a reality show, which tried to get a cheap laugh at his expense. The stunt backfired and allowed the general public an opportunity to make fun of Asian Americans in general and William Hung in particular. It’s just a slicker form of bigotry. Ask yourself these simple questions. If William Hung had hunky good looks and the same talent would you feel the same way? Or, if William Hung looked and moved the way he did, but had Ruben Studdard’s singing talent would you still feel the same?
IS A WHOLE LEGION
of talented Asian American musicians, actors, and entertainers. There
are plenty of roadblocks they have to navigate. Walls they have to tear
down. William Hung is a victim who unwittingly reinforces one of the
hardest walls to break down. It may not be his fault. They may have
taken advantage of his enthusiasm and willingness to put himself out
there. When will this stop? It won’t, until each of us stops legitimizing
the bigotry and embraces true talent.