William Hung represents the most base aspect of the ultra-conservative entertainment industry (you know, the industry which gave its first Best Actor Oscar to a black man just a few years ago). I admit I was entertained for a week or so by Hung's painfully earnest rendition of Ricky Martin's song, just like how I was entertained by Keith's disturbing Madonna cover. But the troubling thing is that Hung has been signed to a record deal, and is becoming somewhat of a staple on the American entertainment industry. Why is this all so insidious, one may ask? That is because what this tells America is that minorities are only welcomed in popular media as imbecilic sideshows. There are thousands of talented Asian singers out there who would die for a chance at a record deal, yet its the stereotypical "Chinaman" William Hung who is raking in millions (even more stereotypically, Hung was, or is, a Berekeley engineering student). Why? Because perhaps people find him funny. No they don't love him for his wit or his comedic timing. They are laughing at the racial identity he exudes, an identity which ranks right up there with the worst of them. Of course, the identity I'm talking about is the ineffectual, ugly, and all-around socially undesirable Asian male. It wouldn't be so bad if there was at least one major Asian male star in the media to at least give a contrast to Hung. But there isn't. For every stereotypically black rapper, there's at least Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, etc. Men of dignity and strength. But the only counterparts to Hung are probably, to the average person, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, who in themselves are living embodiments of old Asian stereotypes (martial arts masters). There are no Asian politicians, newscasters, game show hosts, etc., or any job of high visibility to offer any contrast. Now I'm not saying people are stupid and racist enough to see one glimpse of William Hung and assume all Asian males are like that, although there are some who will probably be content to believe it. But is the industry telling the country that the only way to succeed is to fill that niche that's simply too undesirable for the ruling class to fill? According to David Ng's anti-Hung article, many of Hung's fans are Asians. But does that in any way justify exploiting tired stereotypes? Aren't Asian fans like any other group of fans? Don't they deserve a gifted and charismatic talent to call their own, as opposed to a racial caricature? In fact, many are probably only fans because William Hung is the only Chinese pop star in the Western world right now. Generally, when most people talk about racism, Asians don't really figure into it. For the most part, Asians have done well in North America (at least since many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants were already middle-class professionals in their home countries before immigrating; the refugee Asians have naturally fared much worse), and despite some historical grievances, there has not been a racial divide like slavery and lynching to seriously harm relations and trust. The flip side to this, of course, is that making fun of the Asian race is the most acceptable form of race-based humour (although making fun of Hispanics is sadly quite common too). Mocking blacks and Jews is tantamount to social ostracization (at least in enlightened circles). You know, every ethnic group has its peccadilloes, and it's okay to laugh at them sometimes. But it shouldn't be so one-sided. For a William Hung, there's no Asian Mel Gibson, or Russell Crowe, or whatever. There's just Wiliam Hung, and Bruce Lee, and those A&F t-shirts... Maybe I'm just too distrusting and cynical, and people would have been digging William Hung is he was of any race. But the fact remains that he is a Chinese guy, and a very negatively stereotypical one at that. As long as caricatures like him are propped up in American media as the lone image of the Asian male, there is plenty of ground to make grievances. It may be silly to dwell so much on a lame "talent" from a now utterly pathetic and uninteresting game show, but as an Asian guy growing up in Canada, I'm increasingly learning the subtle limits of race. My parents are ever so slightly pushing me to socialize with kids whose parents they can identify with (aka Korean kids). When I start dating, I can only imagine the furor over girls of another race. And at my school, I see the racial blocs of white kids, black kids, Chinese kids, Filipino kids, Vietnamese kids, and it utterly sickens me. People talk high and mighty about equality, but when it hits home, they're as narrow-minded and conservative as the worst of them.