April 29, 2005

Asian Persuasion

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For those times when you’re feeling especially pretentious, there’s no better solution than cable television. The specificity of channels is extremely ridiculous when you realize that the Biography Channel is actually a spin-off of A&E. And that’s not even considering the slew of MTV clones that all tend to minimize musical content and aim for the golden land of crappy reality TV drama.

One of the newest additions to cable television’s pantheon of foreign channels happens to be the not-so-aptly-named AZN Television, formally known as International Channel. One guess as to which nationalities this channel is appealing to. Despite fitting to a T the exact demographic that AZN Television tries to target (young Asian-Americans), I was still hesitant to actually watch what the three-letter network had to offer. The issue wasn’t as simple as the problematic tailoring of uniquely Asian programming to fit American standards since the targeted American audience was still Asian. Additionally, all shows are subtitled with their original audio preserved.

In reality, things were not as bad as I thought.

Sure there existed the notorious mandarin dramas like “Legends of Ji Gong,” where vampires, demon spirits, martial arts showdowns and bad wigs could all appear in under an hour. You’ll laugh along as bad translations somehow equate the Chinese name for a martial arts master with “reverend.” Aside from that, the script that reads as delightfully melodramatic in Chinese somehow comes across as awkward and obtuse in English. Observe the following translated exchange:

A: What should we do?

B: I will ask my reverend (martial arts master).

A: But I thought he burned in a fire long ago.

You cannot doubt the pure genius of this show. Besides, when will you ever hear the line, “Remember the last time I tried to commit suicide?” as an opener for making the moves on a guy.

If you’re into Asian music, you can try “Revolution,” a music video show hosted by VJ Sophia Chong, who manages to combine a blatant lack of charisma with an alarming lack of public speaking skills. The storytelling montages that qualify as most Korean music videos prove a startling contrast to the mood-influenced, nonlinear events of American music videos. The songs presented unfortunately aren’t subtitled and the selection tends to heavily favor pop music over all other genres. Still, the show’s weekly presentation of “oldie” videos from the past will induce in you an unresolved anxiety when you realize that FinKL is now qualified to exist in this category.

More promising content lies in the form of movies. Known classics like “Eat Drink Man Woman” make obligatory appearances while the “Kung Fu Theater” collection usually offers something in the way of mindless action fare with titles resulting from further misconceived translations such as “Amsterdam Cop” or “Kickboxer’s Tears.” However, special monthly film series offers critically acclaimed treasures such as “Blue Kite” or popularized blockbusters like “Jubaku.” The inclusion of anime movies and South Asian cinema also completes the channel’s representation of films produced by Asia.

Although AZN Television (I still cringe at the name) also offers original programming that comes off as rough, the channel is still new (barely over a month old, in fact). The different sectors covered show topics such as Asian-America independent films, Asian-American comedy, the search for heritage among American-born Asians and yes, even a travel reality show based in Asia and offer bountiful material that could only improve these shows with time. Unlike a typical channel with foreign content, AZN Television works in the added qualification of being aimed at essentially Americans. With films like “American Desi,” which specifically address the conflicted identity issues possessed by second generation children of immigrants, AZN Television attempts to offer a chance at reconciling the anxieties of people who might feel connections with multiple backgrounds.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor