Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ozzie's "kids" bring a title to Chicago


Liz and I watched the White Sox bring home the city's first World Series championship in 88 year tonight. We were down at Connie's on Archer with a ton of CPD folks and a few really crazy college kids. We ran outside with the college kids into the downpour when the last out was recorded. I puddle jumped with one of the kids and they ran off in a random direction.

We saw them later as we took Halsted all the way up. At every corner in populated areas, there were clouds of people wandering into traffic and waving flags. I was on horn and raised the black fist while my Liz chanted out the passenger side.

My grandfather became a White Sox fan when he snuck into the country in the 30s. When the war ended, he went back and brought over my grandmother, who was eight and a half months pregnant with my mother. They bought an apartment building near Wrigley for $19,000 with their savings from their restaurant jobs. My mom played baseball all summer, every summer while being one of the only Sox fans in the neighborhood.

My grandfather is back in China for a few months, and he's not real computer savvy, so he probably won't hear the result for a few hours yet. My grandmother was born in 1917 and died in 2001, so she never had a chance to see them win.

As we celebrate tonight, I think about them, my mom who's having a rough year downstate, the folks I met when I did my internship at Robert Taylor, and of course all of the wonderful fans on BTF. Vince and Cheat and everyone else, you do a great job of providing words to these amazing events.

I'm sorry to go on and on about my family and our experiences, but I'm so wired right now, I just need to write it down. I imagine there are people with more interesting stories to tell and share all over this broad shouldered city. I looked around Connie's when we won and we was surrounded by the boys in blue, a table of special needs folks, the mixed table of college kids, a Desi American family, an African American family, an Asian American family, several Latino American families and some random South Side White Families with kids running around, and thought, we really are lucky to be here.

There are people running through Wrigleyville outside my window shouting now. It's been 88 years--I wonder if this will gone on for half the winter.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Grey's Anatomy

I'm been meaning to do a write-up of Grey's Anatomy for sometime now. It's not only my "new favorite TV show" but in many ways, it's my "first favorite TV show", at least in many years. Before this year, I very rarely watched TV with any consistency. This was for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of qualitity writing that encompasses diverse perspectives. When you have the people of Asian descent on a show, usually it's for the obligatory Chinatown show, or Chinese food moment or white people save the day for culturally backward immigrants show. In less ridiculous cases, the few network minority main characters are written "just as normal people", but usually cast in opposition to stereotypical minorities of the same group. This not only goes for people of Asian descent, but pretty much any other minority power group including any ethnic minority, LBGT, religious minorities, and even in many cases, women.

Shonda Rimes' writing for "Grey's" is the first time in a long time I've seen something different. It'd be nice if she had a recurring Asian American male character, but all of her characters seem like real-to-life people and she's good at balancing the strengths and weaknesses of her characters while making them empathetic along the way.

That being said, given the dearth of Asian American male characters on the show, I was nervous when she introduced the Hmong plotline on this week's show. I almost wished she hadn't, but that's a destructive impulse, right? I mean in the wake of the Vang battle in which he killed six of the white hunters who were allegedly threatening him, now is the time that there needs to be empathetic education about the Hmong.

What the show portrayed: (there may be a few minor inaccuracies as I was a little distracted with the Sox winning their second game of the World Series!!!!!)

1. Initially you see the girl checking herself into the hospital and being diagnosed with a bad tumor that could paralyze her. The father shows up and demands that she is allowed to leave without the operation which must be done immediately according to the pompous white doctor (Derek). But the father won't agree because they are Hmong. The daughter initally agrees with the doctors (Derek and Meredith) but sides with her father because she has to follow her elder's wishes. *groan* Response: this looks terrible, the white doctors "care" about the girl, the father cares more about the weird ritual, the daughter is submissive to her father's weirdo wishes.

2. The next scene is the white doctors (again Derek and Meredith) talking on the street, they are like, "What the fuck is 'Hmong' we need to figure this out!" They conclude that they need to get a social worker (I can't remember the exact title) to talk some sense into these heathens. Response: Still looks bad, but more promising. In retrospect, the writer is trying to anticipate the audiences level of knowledge while also showing the ignorance of the white doctors. The sad fact is that this is a realistic portrayal--many doctors are not equipped to handle patients from ethnic other backgrounds.

3. Meredith is trying to convince the daughter to stay in the hospital. She continues to medicate the woman, which the daughter becomes suspicious of and calls her on. The doctor says something like, "We just need you to stay here long enough to talk to a social worker" in a condescending tone. The daughter gets pissed and says something like (and I'm not exaggerating tone here), "Look Ms. benevolent white woman, I don't think you get what's going on..." and explains that she is not some backwards poor-little-victim being controlled by her father. The doctor asks again why she is leaving the hospital and she says that she believes in her cultural beliefs. Response: Really sensitive writing of a tough situation. It doesn't come across as "rebellious second generation trying to throw off her oppressive father and weirdo roots". Instead, it comes across as a strong woman of color trying to navigate a severe medical problem, her own cultural beliefs and insensitive white doctors. She doesn't try to win points by distancing herself from her parents by mocking them in the way many second-gen characters on TV do (and many real ones do outside of media).

4. Brief scene of Derek and Meredith meeting and Meredith explaining that Derek should try to talk to the father because there's a gender issue here. Response: Minor scene, but there's a tiny, "backwards and sexist" innuendo going on. On the flipside, it's pretty neutral and there's no mock outrage.

5. The male doctor meets the father on the street outside of the hospital. He treats him with respect and tries to troubleshoot the problem. He basically does what a good doctor should do: instead of trying to twist the patient into his belief system, he tries to treat the patient within their belief system. The father sneers a little at the doctor--with good reason, the man is obviously ignorant about Hmong culture--but is touched when the doctor is not condescending and proposes a solution which allows for the daughter to receive both the Hmong treatment and the surgery. Response: Excellent. The Father comes across as caring about his daughter first and trying his best to balance the cultural beliefs of the family, the benevolent agenda of the doctors and the cultural beliefs of the daughter (which are close to the family's but not identical). The doctor is rebuked when he is identified as "typical dumbass white doctor" but rewarded when he shows ability to be empathetic.

6. The Hmong shaman is flown by helicopter in to the hospital and performs the treatment. The doctors watched, half-enthralled, half-skeptical. Derek performs the surgery and go back to focusing on the love triangle between Meredith, Derek and his ex-wife. There's no follow-up, but I think you are supposed to get the impression that the daughter pulls through. I doubt they revisit it next episode. Response: In the end, the doctors do their job and show respect without being condescending. As a result they are able to save the patient. There's no "if only these people could not be so weird" or masturbatory backslapping for being special little white boys and girls. All in all a very empathetic portrayal.

Of course, just because it was well done, doesn't mean that it will come across well to mainstream (probably white) folks. Let's face it--you can have the best portrayal of a minority character in the history of media and some aversive racists will sneer until their face freezes that way. But is that really a failure of writing?

Here's a detailed summary of the episode.

I really enjoyed this plotline, but am still hopeful to see a strong, mainstream Asian American male character at some point in the story.
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