Birth Tourism: Media interest following my Policy Options piece (updated)

While I had expected considerable media interest, given the substance and the politics of the issue, yesterday had me doing TV interviews on all major networks and a radio interview with Rob Breakenridge of Global news in Calgary.

The most in-depth TV interview was on Power and Politics at the 1:13 mark: Power and Politics 23 Nov 2018.

Global TV:  New numbers show more ‘birth tourism’ in Canada than thought

CTV: New data shows birth tourism on the rise on Canada

Later interviews

On Radio Canada Vancouver (in French):

Boulevard du Pacifique: La Colombie-Britannique, chef de file du tourisme des naissances

CTV’s Your Morning:

Shocking new study reveals “birth tourism” in Canada is steadily increasing

The Sunday Edition, with Michael Enright, featuring mmigration lawyer Jamie Liew and Jas Johal, MLA for Richmond-Queensboroug: Birth tourism may be a hot button issue in the next federal election


How to do an on-screen accent—and why it can be okay

Good interview with the lead actor of Kim’s Convenience, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (we have seen the play but not yet the TV series):

As TV shows and films begin to reflect a wider, more diverse audience, it’s also opened the door for a tricky topic: an actor’s use of an accent. It can be off-putting to audiences unfamiliar with the accent—and it can be downright racist-feeling to the communities themselves, especially when the creator doesn’t have roots in the community, and the accent feels like a comical costume. (In the Chuck Lorre show Two Broke Girls, for example, the joke around restaurant owner Han Lee tends to be laughing at, not with, the thickly accented character.)

For Asians, the accent is a particularly prickly subject. For people of colour who want to assimilate, it can be inherently embarrassing to hear something they’re trying to escape; for people of colour fiercely proud and protective of their culture, an inauthentic accent can enrage, as it did for some viewers of Fresh Off the Boat; for actors of colour, it can be limiting, as explored on Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show Master of Noneand it can be difficult to be caught in between the first two groups. In general, it can leave people on tenterhooks that any accented Asian character could be another Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, whose stilted tongue and social buffoonery represented an incredible setback for Asian representation.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, 44, plays the storeowner family patriarch Appa in the pioneering new CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience, and he’s been personally grappling with the politics and the practicalities of doing an accent his entire career. Here, Lee explains why Appa leans into his accent, where it comes from—and why, done right, it’s okay.

“It’s who Appa is—not the accent, but that’s his makeup. He’s an immigrant, English is his second language, and he had to learn English at a very late stage of his life, so he’s going to have vestiges of his original voice, his mother tongue. That also informs who he is. His frustration is not being able to articulate how he feels, or any points he tries to make in an argument. It’s a singularly frustrating thing.

“I remember in Winnipeg, someone very helpfully in a talkback said, ‘You know, if you just spoke more slowly and clearly, everybody could understand you. Because I missed every third word that came out of your mouth.’ A lot of people in the audience rolled their eyes and went, ‘Oh my God,’ but I responded. I said: I’m sorry you felt that way, but can you imagine what it’s like for this man, a trained teacher in his home country, a very well-respected position—he’s an intelligent man, he doesn’t sound intelligent maybe to you because English is his second language, but his brain is still there. Can you imagine his struggles, day in, day out, that people aren’t able to understand him? As frustrated as you were because you couldn’t understand him, he’s even more frustrated because you can’t understand him.

“For me, I can get touchy about the accent. For the longest time, I couldn’t do a Korean accent. It was just the way I was raised—I didn’t want to be Korean. I wanted to be Canadian. I didn’t want kimbap at school, all I wanted was sandwiches, or soups, but none of this Korean stuff. When you’re a kid and you’re really trying to fit in, you push away everything that reminds you of your family because your family is different. That kind of extended itself as I got older; then, as an Asian actor, I was asked to utilize these accents. That’s fine: I can do Cantonese, and Mandarin, I can do passable Japanese, I can do some Filipino, Vietnamese—but not Korean. Korean for me was a roadblock. I remember I was doing this one episode of Mayday, and I was playing the role of Captain Park, the Korean Airlines pilot who crashes his plane into the side of this mountain. When I auditioned for the role, no accent was required. So I can do all the pilot lingo, I love it—I book the role. Then, on set, the director says, ‘We want the Korean accent, to give it some flavour.’ I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’ ‘But you’re Korean.’ So I tried it and I was so bad that they ended up giving all my lines to the copilot. That was embarrassing—so embarrassing. It was terrible.

“When I read for Kim’s Convenience for the first time ever the words struck me so much and the writing was so incredibly articulate. And he has the rhythms. As soon as I started reading it—and I’ve told this story a million times, everyone’s sick of it—it was like a key being turned in my head, a door being opened, and my dad’s voice just started coming out. So I use my dad’s accent—that’s my dad’s voice that I use on stage. But a lot of the time it’s a modified accent, because if I went full Korean accent people wouldn’t be able to understand a lot of what I’m saying. So there are times where I’ll cheat, I’ll pull back, and it’s not 100 per cent consistent, and I realize that. That’s one of these horrible decisions you have to make as an actor. Is it really going to affect who this character is if you’re not letter-perfect on the accent, or is it more important to get the story points across? Over the years it’s morphed into this whole Appa speak I have. But sometimes the accent isn’t 100 per cent there.

“I get feedback, and I’m sensitive to it—I hear people go, ‘That doesn’t sound Korean, who is this guy! He’s not Korean, he should be ashamed, he sounds terrible, how come they can’t get accents right?’ That bothers me. I care about the character so much. I am Korean. And you know what, and pardon my French, but f–k you, that’s my dad’s voice. So if you don’t like it, go f–k yourself, because that’s how my dad sounds. But on the other side, I hear a lot of people saying that it sounds like their dad. I’ve had Korean families whose fathers have passed away, they’re in tears, and they say, ‘You sound just like our Appa did.’ They hadn’t heard his voice in years. And it’s incredibly moving.

“The accent—the accent isn’t the joke. It’s part of who he is, but it isn’t the joke. Yes, we’re in the entertainment field, and we will mine some of that because it is situational humour. You will get a point where we’ll say, ‘Here’s where some fun can be made, playing with the accent, and his inability and people mishearing what he says.’ But at the same time, that’s not all it is. So for people to summarily dismiss it as, ‘Well, it’s just a voice, he should be ashamed,’ well, they’re not really looking. They’re taking so many things out of context, and it’s a lazy way of criticizing somebody because it’s the most obvious and easiest thing to pick on. That’s why when you’re looking for directors and people to work on Kim’s Convenience, we wanted to make sure they knew where the source of the true humour was. Appa is not just a voice. He’s not a stereotype. A stereotype is the end of a character. Appa is an archetype—they take his mould, they use that as a basis, and they build that up into a three-dimensional character. You have his hopes, his fears, his foibles and his strengths, and that’s what I love about him. He’s a character.

“But it’s funny, though—the majority of people who are screaming racism about the accent online are white. And it’s like: what’s racist about it? They won’t say—but is it because you’re seeing Asians on the screen? Oh, no? Well, then it must be because he sounds different. Well, guess what: Asian people have accents. The accent isn’t about a joke, it’s part of who that character is, but it doesn’t make it intrinsically racist. If you’re uncomfortable with that baggage, then you need to examine it yourself and see where it comes from.”

Source: How to do an on-screen accent—and why it can be okay –

Emmy 2016 Awards: The Most Diverse Emmys Ever. Finally. – The Daily Beast

Noteworthy contrast with the Oscars, reflecting the range of TV programming:
Sunday’s Emmys were a celebration of diversity, an indictment of sexism, a championing of LGBT acceptance—and a plea for all these things to stop being Hollywood news.
“The only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity.” And so Jimmy Kimmel opened the Emmy Awards, offering a tongue-in-cheek critique on how self-congratulatory the television industry has become for its well-timed rewarding of a diverse slate of performers and creators.

Airing a little more than half a year after the Oscars, which famously embarrassed Hollywood while exposing our culture’s institutionalized racial biases, failed to nominate a single actor of color for the second year in a row, the Emmy Awards arrived Sunday night with a record number of diverse nominees.

Eighteen of the nominees for acting awards this year were people of color, and for the first time in the show’s 68-year history, performers of color were nominated in every leading acting category.

“The Emmys are so diverse this year, the Oscars are now telling people we are one of their closest friends,” Kimmel continued to joke, taking the piss out of the otherwise very serious conversation that’s lit up the zeitgeist over the deplorable state of diversity in media over the last few years.

Whatever the word you prefer—diversity, normalization (Shonda’s favorite), inclusivity (Ava DuVernay’s preference), or representation (my pick)—the fact that we’re even at a stage where a white guy in a suit is poking fun at the debate insinuates how important the discussion is.

Should we be past the point where we chart progress in awards milestones? That is, the firsts, the records, the groundbreaking achievements? Yes. But in acknowledging them and celebrating them, hopefuly we make room for progress. And Sunday night at the Emmys? Progress was made.

Sure, it was funny when Kimmel, during his opening monologue, had nominees of color reach out to a white nominee to thank them for their bravery. (It’s hard to nail this tone of joke, and we must give Kimmel credit for getting it right on the head.)

But it was funny and important when Alan Yang, from Tawainese parents, alongside Aziz Ansari, whose parents are from India, accepted their award for Best Writing in a Comedy Series.

“There’s 17 million Asian Americans in this country and there’s 17 million Italian Americans. They have The GodfatherGoodfellas, RockyThe Sopranos. We got Long Duck Dong,” Yang said, shaming all of our opportunity blindspots and institutionalized cultural (even if unintended) reductivism and, yes, racism in only five seconds.

 “We’ve got a long way to go,” Yang said, with one final plea: “Asian parents out there, do me a favor, just a couple of you. Give your kids cameras instead of violins.”

Is Diversity on TV Really Getting Better? – The Daily Beast

More on diversity and minority representation in the entertainment industry:

And there is the hope—at the very least, a passionate desire—that the experience of a minority American has been universalized. The success of black-ish hints at that, as does the anecdotal experience of its cast. “I really love that we’ve brought family television back,” Ross said. “It’s a multigenerational comedy that makes people laugh and think all at the same time.”

Still, too, we may be far from fully realizing the idea of normalization—at least, to lend credence to Barris and Ross’s points, to the degree that “diversity” ceases to be a defining word in a conversation about one of TV’s best and most popular sitcoms.

A highlight, and perhaps the most incisive presence of the diversity panel, was actress Tichina Arnold, who, as she said, began acting at age 11 “during a time where there were glass ceilings everywhere.”

Mahoney, sitting next to her, laughed at the undersell: “Glass walls, glass floors, glass doors…”

But, now a star on Survivor’s Remorse, she’s been able to witness the progress and experience the immediacy of the change as it’s happening. And she has an interesting idea for what’s been behind the evolution.

“I thank God for social media,” she said. “I do. It could be a gift and a curse if not used correctly, but I think social media is one of the reasons why we’re all here on this stage, because social media has opened us up. It’s forced show business to listen, to pay attention to so many types of people and individuals out there.”

Mahoney is ready for the attention. And she’s ready to work for it.

“So there’s a line in the sand, and what my job is now is that I have to move that line in the sand,” she said. “And I have to walk in, and I have to confront people who are very comfortable in old, old ways of thinking.”

She paused.

“It’s exhausting,” she concluded. “It’s boring. But, as I often say, we’re built for it.”

Source: Is Diversity on TV Really Getting Better? – The Daily Beast

Q&A: Master of None’s Aziz Ansari on ‘ethnic’ casting, Netflix & making revolutionary TV

On my ‘to watch’ list:

Launched on Netflix two weeks ago, Master of None has already been become one of the most talked-about shows of the year. It’s been hailed as the show that aging Millennials have been waiting for, the show that put an end to the last acceptable ethnic cliché, a show that subverts masculinity, and a food-stuffed triumph; it’s the new Louie, the new Sex and the City. Aziz Ansari, the co-creator, co-writer and co-director of this mult-headed Hydra of amazingness,spoke to Sarmishta Subramanian about how he and his co-creator, Alan Yang, did it.

Reviews of your show have been ecstatic. People have really responded to it. Why do you think that is?

It’s making a narrative of our comedic viewpoint. Master of None is really me and Alan’s perspective, and I guess it resonated with a lot of people.

For me, as an Indian, it was like watching Indians on television for the first time. It was a revelation. Have you heard that from other people? 

That was a point of the show. Me being Indian and him being Taiwanese, we could finally do an episode like “Parents” [which tells the backstory of the parents of Ansari’s character, and stars the actor’s parents] or “Indians on TV.” We were in a place that was so creatively friendly like Netflix; we also had the experience to tell a story like that, to get it right. What other show would have the impetus to do an “Indians on TV” episode? None, really.

It’s partly the specificity of it that’s ground-breaking. You never really see a Bengali or a Malayali or someone from Tamilnadu; it’s just “Indians.”

Yeah, that’s what I love. There are little things I’ve seen so many people respond to, such as my dad saying poda or ayyo or talking about pappadums, these little cultural things you haven’t really seen. Usually, it’s not an Indian person running the show, so there’s no one with that background to draw from.

Were you frustrated as a viewer by the generic way Indians are usually represented?

Yeah, that montage at the beginning of “Indians on TV” sums it up. But it’s not just Indian people—it’s everybody. The point with Master of None is: Everyone is an interesting, compelling person who goes beyond their ethnic background, their accent. We’re all three-dimensional characters.

A lot of times, characters of certain ethnicities are reduced to these two-dimensional, cardboard, stereotype roles, where their traits are very generic, and specifics of their ethnicities are painted with very broad strokes. It’s very insulting, and people don’t really get it right often. It’s pretty incredible that Ashton Kutcher did that brownface thing and didn’t get more flak for it. It’s pretty insane.

A big thematic point of Master of None is that there aren’t easy answers to these things and there don’t need to be. It’s more about having a conversation about it. A lot of the episodes were written with us in the writers’ room having long discussions about race or sexism or old people.

It’s not just a mix of races. In very subtle ways, the show also crosses age and class and sexual-orientation boundaries, but never in an over-the-top way. 

That’s one of the advantages of structuring the show the way we did, as opposed to a four-piece ensemble every week. The show is really about: What’s [Ansari’s character] Dev going to find himself doing this week? And which characters can we bring in to help that story? Sometimes it’s that this episode is called “Old People,” and let’s just have him hanging out with Rachel’s grandma the whole episode and you don’t see the other friends. You probably couldn’t do that on a normal show, because they’d say you’ve got to have all the friends still there. It gets annoying, because, in real life—and people have responded to this—you don’t have lunch with the same four people every day; you don’t see the same four people every weekend. People weave in and out of your life.

The casting for the show is almost—almost—over-the-top diverse. Two Indians is too many? How about an Indian guy, a Taiwanese guy, a black lesbian—

[Laughs] It wasn’t done in this way of a United Colors of Benetton ad. It was done in a very genuine way. The Brian character is based on Alan, the co-creator of the show, so he’s a proxy for him. Denise—we had an open call for that character. We told our casting person, Alison Jones, “Let’s meet with interesting people.” I read with so many women, and Lena [Waithe] was the funniest, and it just so happened she was an African-American lesbian woman, so we totally adapted the character to her. And Wareheim—Eric Wareheim—who plays Arnold, he is a good friend of mine in real life and he’s really funny.

Source: Q&A: Aziz Ansari on ‘ethnic’ casting, Netflix & making revolutionary TV

Emma Teitel on diversity in kids’ TV

On greater depth of diversity, rather than simply colour:

What makes these shows revolutionary [Make it Pop, Game Shakers, Project Mc2], in a sense, is not their basic attempts at racial and gender diversity, but their willingness to upend the conventional way in which diversity is portrayed. TV shows and movies are rife with well-intentioned tokenism: for example, the perfectly diverse friend group comprised of 1.5 Asian people and/or someone in a wheelchair, the cheerleading squad with approximately 2.5 black members, the law firm with 1.5 gays and the police force with one scrappy-as-hell woman. We’ve seen these tropes before and welcome as they may be in a homogenous entertainment landscape, it is endlessly refreshing to watch shows—kids shows in particular—that don’t cleave to the “one is enough” standard. There is power in representation. But there may be greater power in numbers.

Source: Emma Teitel on diversity in kids’ TV –