Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

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Title: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

Creator: Hasan Minhaj

Genre: Comedy

Rating: ★★★★★

Knowing absolutely nothing about Hasan Minhaj, I was so hesitant to watch this. A brown male comedian. I was either going to be bombarded with racist jokes or misogynist jokes or both terribly combined to ruin my day. But Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King was an experience. It was something written by someone like me for people like me. And it matters that he’s a second generation migrant living his dream in a career that no migrant parent would want us to have. It matters that Minhaj talks about his personal experiences with racism. It matters that this is shown on a platform like Netflix. And it matters that the woman that Minhaj calls the love of his life is a Hindu Indian-American.

I haven’t watched many comedy sets and the closest comparison I can find to Minhaj is a stage actor. He had a fantastic stage presence that held the audience captive for the entire set. He uses the entire stage to his advantage and the longer the set goes on the more it feels like a story unfolding in front of our eyes. One that is told by a very capable storyteller who knows exactly when to make us laugh and when to tug on our heartstrings. It is definitely a story with a message, but a message that doesn’t feel as though Minhaj is preaching to us, rather a message that we can definitely relate to as second generation migrants that have gone through similar experiences.

Minhaj tackles his experiences of racism growing up and the defining moment after 9/11 when many South Asian and Middle Eastern people were affected by racism. His story is painful and heartbreaking and a reminder of how little has changed in Western nations in the years that have followed. He also tackles the complexities of racism. It is not just overt racism that leaves scars, but the smaller words and actions that can have an impact that’s just as serious. It’s also very important that Minhaj acknowledges the much greater and systematic racism faced by black Americans. In the South Asian community where anti-blackness is rampant it is important to acknowledge that the racism we face is nowhere as globally prevalent or systematic as the racism experienced by black people the world over.

I loved that Hasan Minhaj mixed in parts that were in Hindi as he was telling his stories. It served to make the experience more authentic and made me feel like this was something that was made for me and people like me. Although, he did provide translations for most of the Hindi that he used, appealing to a wider audience. Providing translations of language in performances and in writing is a complex issue. Junot Diaz doesn’t provide translations in many of his works, forcing readers to work out for themselves the meaning of those words. However, Minhaj’s work made me think of my third generation cousins who can’t understand Hindi. In many ways this is something that relates to their experiences as well. Had Minhaj not translated how much of this experience would they be missing out on because they cannot understand the language of their ancestors? There are no simple answers to this question and of course as the migrant experience changes – becoming third or even fourth generation migrants – so will the media that is written by us and for us.

I came out of this feeling incredible and affirmed just knowing that the trials of growing up Indian-Australian were echoed halfway across the world. It also left me thinking if white people always experience this feeling when they watch media made for them (which really is almost all of it)? Anyway, I’m off to convince every second generation Indian migrant I know to watch this.

 

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Two Fathers 《两个爸爸》

Two Fathers 《两个爸爸》Title: 《两个爸爸》 Two Fathers
Actors: Lele, Yang Yizhan, Lin Youwei, Lai Yayan (Megan Lai), Liang Jing
Genre: Comedy, Family, Contemporary
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 of 5.0

[spoilers, but they’re pretty much forgone conclusions]

So like, not to be a hipster, but I was into this drama back when it was popular (in 2013). But then I completely forgot how much I loved it, or that it even existed, until I saw one of my friends posting on Snapchat about it, and she told me that it was on Netflix. And I can’t read and do my homework at the same time, right, but I can watch Netflix and do my homework. Which is exactly what I did.

Two Fathers follows the story of aspiring lawyer Tang Xiangxi (Yang Yizhan) and student horticulturalist Wen Zhenhua (Lin Youwei)––college friends who find out that a girl they both slept with, Su Wenwen, has had a baby––one of theirs, but she doesn’t know whose–and then promptly skipped town because she was unable to give up her dreams, leaving the child in their care. Fast forward eight years, and Xiangxi has his own firm, Zhenhua has a flower shop, and they’ve made their own unique family with their daughter, Tang Wendi. The series takes place between the winter break and through the summer vacation of Wendi’s first grade, when the two fathers meet her new teacher, Fang Jingzhu (Lai Yayan), which sets in motion a series of events that allows three families––the Tang/Wens, the Fangs, and the Wus––to find their own happiness.

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The Pirates (2014)

The Priates (2014)Title: The Pirates
Starring: Son Ye-jin, Kim Nam-gil
Genre: Historical, Comedy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5

Give me a historical slapstick swashbuckler about pirates and bandits fighting in a time of dynastic transition against the corrupt court and add to that a whale and imperialism and you have a recipe to make me the happiest girl on the world.

Yeo-wol is a pirate who’s successfully mutinied against a faithless captain, and she’s just been offered a contract by disgraced army captain Park Mo (AKA Ahab): bring back the imperial seal bestowed upon the newly-established Joseon by Ming, which was swallowed by a whale (hi, Moby Dick), and be rewarded with riches beyond imagination. Unfortunately for Yeo-wol, however, former lieutenant-turned-bandit Jang Sa-jung, who had opposed the rebellion that put Yi Seong-gye in power, has also heard about the prize, and he is willing to go to sea to save his failing bandit outpost. Sa-jung and Yeo-wol clash multiple times, but when both their demons come knocking, they’re forced to work together to build a future they want to live in.

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Mermaid (2016)

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Starring: 林允,邓超,罗志贤,张雨绮
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Contemporary, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ || 3.5

CW: body horror, violence, blood

Every Sino of a certain age and background has fond memories of growing up with at least one Stephen Chow film. For me, it was Shaolin Soccer because I was (and remain) obsessed with Zhao Wei. For others, it’s Kung-Fu Hustle. Or God of Cookery. Whatever that film was, I feel like we can all agree that as a director, actor, and comedian, he is highly underrated outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, even when screencaps and gifs of his films are taken out of context for comedic effect, erasing his presence and his work from the laughter he produces.

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Grace & Frankie

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Title: Grace & Frankie
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Comedy
Rating: ★★★★☆ || 3.5

In lieu of doing my final essays (10 page paper, here I come!) I’ve opted for marathoning the second season of Grace and Frankie, and imo? #Worthit. I’d watched the first season last year and had considered reviewing it for this blog, but kept putting it off because it felt hard to justify––a story that centres itself around two upper class white ladies? So #diverse. But you know what, fuck it. We’re doing this.

Grace and Frankie follows two women, Grace Hanson and Frankie Bergstein, who have their lives blown to pieces by the news that their husbands are divorcing them to marry each other. Unceremoniously kicked out of their lives and told that their marriages were a lie these past 20 years while watching all of their friends congratulate their husbands (Robert and Sol, respectively), Grace and Frankie, who have never gotten along, find themselves moving into their shared beach house, and learning how to deal with heartbreak––and each other.

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