On Monday, January 27, HBO premiers Herblock: The Black & The White, a film documenting the tremendous career of editorial cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block. He worked for The Washington Post for 55 years aiming his pen at injustice and inequality.

As a DC native, I’m well familiar with his work. When I was growing up, I would scour the Post looking for anything remotely resembling a cartoon. I read the comics section and any political cartoon I could find. And though I couldn’t understand half of them, Herblock’s work always drew me in. I know absolutely nothing about the man so I’m looking forward to learning about the wit that produced such a deep body of work.

10 years ago, Grace Hong created Dumplingfest to celebrate the lunar New Year. Her story was recently featured in The Washington Post and I sincerely hope this event spreads far and wide enough so that it gets a spot on everyone’s calendar. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate anything than with 600 dumplings.

I don’t usually celebrate the lunar New Year, but I think this might be the year to start. HURRAY DUMPLINGFEST!!!!


If it was a real kung fu movie tribute, the image would be stretched like this!

I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother so I really have no stakes in the game.  But apparently, Monday’s episode was filled with Orientalism guised as a tribute to old kung fu movies.  To learn the “Slap of a Million Exploding Suns,” one of the lead characters goes on a journey to meet the slap masters who are the other stars dressed up all chingy chongy.  Because kung fu!

Offended fans took to twitter using the hashtag #HowIMetYourRacism to express their outrage.  The hashtag got enough attention that the creators of the show actually apologized for the episode.

I’m going to give the entire staff, cast, and crew the benefit of the doubt.  I sincerely doubt they knew that they might offend anyone.  Seems to me that much like syndicated newspaper comic strips, sitcoms go for the lowest common denominator and do their very best not to offend anyone.  We don’t look to these shows to challenge us with new ideas or take on systemic social problems.  We look to them for cheap laughs.  I think this is a case of an idea that was handled terribly.

So how did this happen?

I think this is symptomatic of the echo chamber effect.  When you have people of similar background with similar notions of what’s funny, there’s no one to challenge those ideas.  No one to say, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t dress our characters like Chinese stereotypes from the 30s.”  No one to say, “You know, it’d be funnier if we got Akebono to teach him how to slap sumo style.”  I look at the cast and the creators of the show and I don’t see a whole lot of ethnic diversity.  How is it surprising that they fucked this up?

That’s not to say that a more diverse staff would have handled this well.  But at least there’d be more backgrounds from them to draw upon.  And maybe, someone would have looked around and said, “Uh, guys, we can do better than this shit.”

I’m also not trying to say you have to Asian to do kung fu movie tributes justice.  There are a number of examples of chop socky tributes done by non Asians who have never been accused of yellowface.  Quentine Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Part 1 was an excellent tribute to kung fu cinema.  The RZA’s Man With The Iron Fists was an enjoyable romp (yeah, I said it) through classic Shaw Brothers tropes.  The Matrix was essentially a kung fu flick with trench coats.  If you treat the source material with reverence, you can come up with some magical stuff.  Treat it like a punchline and you better get that shit right.

I’m glad people spoke up and I’m impressed that the show’s creators responded so quickly.  It’s a bummer that this kind of thing still happens, but until we get more diverse casts and crews as a rule rather than an exception, this accidental racist shit will continue to happen.

Zach Weinersmith charts the history of American comics in this really insightful TEDx talk.  And now I kinda want to get paid in Rolls-Royces.

Waaaaat the fuuuuuuuuug?

Waaaaat the fuuuuuuuuug?

Dammit, Google, this is why we can’t nice things!