Monday, April 28, 2008

Terminal USA and JJ Chinois: "over-assimilation"?

I too, am a bit confused about the direction JJ Chinois was trying to take with the music video, but I do see that it goes hand in hand with Terminal USA in the shock value that it generates. It was confusing (and still kind of is) until I did some research on JJ Chinois, which unfortunately there isn’t much of, and realized the music video was about transgender roles in the media. Nevertheless, I think that it does spark the necessary curiosity for one to go out there and do the research to ultimately create more awareness about the taboo topic.

Taboo does seem to be the theme of this week’s videos as Terminal USA pretty much brought every ludicrous social “stigma” to the table, Asian American or not. I think it was interesting to shed light on such issues that are expressed as stigmas today. As they are generally discussed, one would say that homosexuality, drug abuse, and sex are not “wrong” per se, but rather quite natural and recurring themes of growing up, and in the case of homosexuality, merely one’s sexual preference. They do however create shame and disgrace in a more closed-minded model community, and I think that the sheer chaos and exaggeration in Terminal USA create a good contrast to the absurd expectations that people have of model citizens, or model minorities in this case. I found it interesting that the father alone, rather than both parents, played the role of the “perfect TV dad” as a NY times review puts it, and it added to the degeneracy of the family as a whole. Even as far as appearances and wardrobes go, the grandfather on his deathbed was the only character who did not have an exaggerated costume. That is to say he looked the most “normal” in everyday conventions.

On one hand, I see in Terminal USA the American Beauty appeal, of a seemingly normal family suburban family riddled with problems underneath it all. On the other hand, I think this film takes on the lens of a first generation Asian American parent, the grandfather in this case, mourning the corruption that the subsequent generations’ “American-ness” has created. Even the title of the film, Terminal USA and Kazumi’s girlfriend, who turns out to be an alien, imply that this family is a true representation of a suburban American family gone wrong. Yet there are many references to the family being Japanese, and it is even apparent in the names of some of the characters like Kazumi. There are a lot of issues to fork through in both the film and the music video, and it’s not as simple as an Asian American family struggling to assimilate anymore. Perhaps now we are dealing with Asian Americans who are “over-assimilated” that must reconcile their ethnic differences with the classically “American” problems they are dealing with.

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