Posts tagged ‘san francisco politics’

Corporate Death Burger: Aasif Mandvi & The Daily Show Fail

Aasif Mandvi shills for McDonald's

I’m a little irked at last week’s Daily Show segment that punk’d San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar for sponsoring legislation to ban McDonald’s Happy Meals in San Francisco. Aasif Mandvi mugs and pops his eyes at the suggestion that the government should have any role in preventing corporations like McDonalds from marketing toxic, cancer- and obesity-causing poison as food. Mandvi even uses the term “nanny state” to describe regulation, which is a straight-up Fox News talking point. He also suggests that the Board of Supes banning Happy Meals would be like forcing Netflix to send all SF residents free copies of Supersize Me. Sure, it’s a funny gotcha moment, but it’s really a stupid false equivalency–one prevents an action, the other mandates one. I’m no lawyer but even I could see the faulty reasoning behind that one.

Mechanically separated chicken, pre-Nuggets--yum!

I can’t believe I have to even say this but fast food has been repeatedly documented to be total crap, so what’s the point of siding with McDonald’s and its fucked up, evil and bottom-line driven agenda of stuffing people with garbage that kills them? It can’t be that hard to understand that marketing edible poison to little kids with the lure of a cheap and shiny plastic toy is inherently messed up and venal.

And invoking the “nanny state” is straight out of the conservative anti-regulation playbook. Sure, give multinational corporations like McDonald’s free rein to regulate themselves and of course they’ll do what’s socially, morally and ethically responsible. How’s that working out for you, Enron, WaMu, and Halliburton?

Mandvi and the producers at The Daily Show really failed with this one. I guess I’ve been lulled into thinking that The Daily Show has some kind of oppositional cred since in the past Jon Stewart & Co. have successfully satirized other corporate and governmental malfeasance. But the show itself is on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, one of the biggest communications corporations in the world. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find that The Daily Show is reluctant to bite the pecuniary hand that feeds it.

UPDATE: Just in case you need more evidence, Taco Bell is being sued for false advertising because the “meat” in their tacos is only 36% beef.

UPDATE 2: Public health attorney Michele Simon busts out the legal argument on alternet.org: Why “Happy Meals” Are A Crime. She succinctly notes,  “Ample science, along with statements by various professional organizations tells us that marketing to young children is both deceptive and unfair. Why? Because young children simply do not have the cognitive capacity to understand that they are being marketed to; they cannot comprehend “persuasive intent,” the linchpin of advertising.”

This one’s for you, Aasif. MDC live, Corporate Death Burger

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January 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm 3 comments

Where is the love? The Asian guy in Milk

Kelvin Yu as Michael Wong is not in this picture, Milk, 2008

Kelvin Yu as Michael Wong is not in this picture, Milk, 2008

Don’t get me wrong—I really liked Milk, the new Sean Penn biopic about San Francisco’s own gay martyr and political icon. As someone who was (just barely) old enough to remember the actual events portrayed as they happened (or do I just remember watching The Times of Harvey Milk?), I thought the movie did a great job depicting the sexy, exhilarating place that was the 1970s Castro district as well as the political intrigue of San Francisco’s City Hall. Gus Van Sant’s not afraid of lots of gratuitous boy-kissing and as far as I’m concerned there can never be enough shots of James Franco’s bare ass. As a Bay Area native, the real-life San Francisco locations resonated for me and the final scene of the candlelight procession brought this heartless beyotch to tears.

But a little fly in the ointment, as usual, was the depiction of the film’s Asian American character, Michael Wong, who was one of Harvey’s inner circle. Apparently the real-life Wong’s extensive diaries from the time were an invaluable resource for the filmmakers, but those expecting a breakthrough Asian American male role in this film will be disappointed. Kelvin Yu as Wong is little more than a flower vase, pretty much relegated to window dressing despite the fact that he’s supposed to be one of Harvey Milk’s closest advisors. Throughout the film Milk affectionately calls Wong “Lotus Blossom,” which is cute but a little too close to the usual emasculated Asian male epithets for my liking. Kelvin Yu claims that the character is “biting, caustic, acidically comedic and intelligent,” but too few of those characteristics come through in the final cut. Instead we see Wong on the sidelines supporting Milk, with precious few actual interactions between the two. There are also makeout scenes galore for most of the characters major and minor, but Wong doesn’t seem to rate a kiss from anyone, male or female.

Some of this may stem from lingering issues resulting from the infamous casting call for the character, which described Wong as “asexual” and “the ultimate dork. Very, very nerdy.” Kelvin Yu states that Gus Van Sant eventually decided against portraying Wong as sexless and dorky, and apparently the real-life Wong has given the depiction his stamp of approval, but in the finished product Wong is still bland and mostly invisible.

Dork or not? Kelvin Yu

Dork or not? Kelvin Yu

It doesn’t help that the good-looking Yu was made homely, with Ugly Betty glasses and an unflattering haircut (although this is apparently is true to the real Wong’s actual appearance at the time).

I’m trying to overcome the tendency to nit-pick any Asian American portrayals I see in Hollywood movies but it’s a hard habit to break, especially when those images are still few and far between. Here’s hoping John Cho fares better in Star Trek—

UPDATE: For a longer take on the film in general, see Sunny Vergara’ s nice little dissection.

January 14, 2009 at 1:18 am 7 comments


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