[Stitch Talks Ish] Episode 1: Stitch Talks About The Tablo Podcast’s Episode on Racism

Episode notes:

  • First of all, Ming Na Wen plays Melinda May, not May Parker. (May Parker, by the way, is Peter Parker’s alternate universe daughter…) I got my Marvel wires crossed because I was multi-tasking on something while I recorded this! My bad.
  • The title is a bit of a misrepresentation. I actually talk about a single moment in the podcast that kind of disrupted my ability to enjoy what I was listening to 100% (It dropped down to like… 89.78%, not gonna lie.) and then I talked about the casual antiblackness I’ve been noticing from popular Korean and Korean American bloggers in the past year as I’ve worked on my project and how often it comes up with media criticism.
  • At the end of the day, it’s not like I was expecting a single person on this podcast to talk about East Asian antiblackness or antiblackness in general. So I’m not actually trying to place my own burden of responsibility on them. But I feel like it was a bruise on an otherwise genuinely awesome episode because there was no need to zero in on Black Panther in the way they did, I feel like… it wasn’t a great moment and it was unnecessary on top of that.
  • Honestly, the episode is across the board good, but it’s like… that moment threw me off my groove so solidly that well… Yes, I made a 36 minute long podcast episode about a moment in someone else’s podcast.
  • Here’s the link to the episode of The Tablo Podcast I’m talking about!
  • Here’s an archive link to the TK Park piece “K-pop in the Age of Cultural Appropriation”  I reference (and the screenshot of his Busan and Black Panther reference)
  • Have you missed the work I’ve done over the past seven months on antiblackness in the Kpop fandom and in the industry? Here’s my masterpost.

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From GoTranscript! [Editing is still in progress, but I wanted to post it.]

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Stitch Talks Ish.

This is a mini-podcast that I’ll be doing on my website public content that is available to everyone who subscribes or just shows up on my website and listens to my content. This first episode of Stitch Talks Ish is subtitled “Stitch talks about The Tablo Podcast episode on racism”. Really, it’s that I’m going to talk about a moment in the podcast, not the whole thing. I’m an infrequent listener of other podcasts because I do listen to them, I work in marketing, so there are times where it is literally just reasonable to pop my headphones in and put on a good podcast and just enjoy other people going about their lives.

Tablo of Epik High is a really good podcast. It’s really entertaining, really solid guests, really good introspection. It’s a good podcast listen to while you’re at work and I’ve been in and out, so a couple of episodes behind, but the 15th episode came out today, it looks like. Eddie, Nam and Eric Nam who is on his own podcast with Spotify for K-pop was on and they were talking about racism and it was just honestly really funny because it was like, “Well, we don’t want to talk about K-pop. We’re going to talk about something light and fun. We’re going to talk about racism.” It was an hour-long almost. It was about 54 minutes long according to Spotify on my end. Eric was like, “Are you serious?”

Honestly, I really love that they brought hilarious notes to this topic because obviously somebody who writes and talks about racism in fandom and in media, my experiences with dealing with racism as a queer black person in America, I find it really fascinating and really helpful when other people talk about racism and bring up how it shapes our lives and just put a little light into it, in the situation’s we go through and the kind of poke fun at experiencing racism honestly, so it is a good episode.

If you stop here, that’s all you need to know. If you keep going, honestly, there was- one and a half moments across the podcast that pinged me.

Part of it is that I’m seven months into my project on anti-blackness and blackness in the K-pop industry and in the fandom spaces, which are again primarily international because I don’t speak Korean and I don’t really enjoy asking my Korean friends to legwork for me when it comes to something that is probably really upsetting. In the distant future when my smallest niece figures out Korean because she’s actually studying and practicing, I will put her to work on analyzing everything and doing some research, I’ll revisit more parts.

I’m listening to the podcast, it’s really solid. They start talking about Shang-Chi and the upcoming Marvel movie that will be the first main film in the MCU to focus on an East Asian superhero. We’ve had East Asian superheroes and kind of heroic figures before in terms of Agents of Shield. Ming-Na Wen is May Parker on the show and she’s really freaking heroic and I keep forgetting the actress’s name, which is really terrible because she’s one of my small niece’s favorite people, but you have Daisy, is her name Chloe? I feel like the actress’s name is Chloe, but her character is Daisy, that I remember. So, you do have small pockets of East Asian representation in Marvel, but they’re not carrying a franchise or expected to.

For the most part, when you see East Asian characters in Marvel movies, they are villains or stereotypical magical Asian characters, or in the case of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, they whitewashed entirely. I understand the conversations about representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I support them 100%, which is why it was actually really difficult for me to kind of put these thoughts together and even go- I’m going to talk about this because about the halfway point of the episode is when they start talking about representation in the MCU.

Tablo‘s podcast does not have a transcript that I can find, that means that because I have trouble telling voices apart sometimes especially because I’m at work, I’m literally working while I listen to this, I lose track of who’s talking but I think it was Eric Nam, but I am not sure. He’s talking about Shang-Chi and how he wants Marvel to get it right. He wants Shang-Chi to be for East Asian people what Black Panther was. He says that, and there’s kind of like, “Mm.” But and the ‘but’ is this dissatisfaction in Black Panther that is really present.

There’s a whole moment where it’s like, “Here’s what Black Panther got wrong, here’s why it wasn’t actually perfect,” and that’s fine. I do not expect anyone to love Black Panther 100%. Even I actually have problems with it and I’ve seen it like 20 times since it came out, but there’s this whole thing like if you were keeping up with me following the course of this project across the past seven months, you may have noticed that I keep referring to T. K. Park of Ask a Korean Fame and his comments about black American privilege and hypervisibility in relation to Black Panther, like:

“Black people in America will always have more privilege and you can tell because-” and he’s like rap music and Black Panther because T. K. Park literally wrote and I had to copy down because I wanted to make sure, he wrote that as proof of our privilege as black Americans that “the movie Black Panther depicts the fictional city of Wakanda much more vividly than the actually existing city of Busan”.

I’ve roasted him for this two times already because it’s just so wild to me that expectation of “I went to see Black Panther, a movie about black people from an afro-futuristic country and I came out of it pissed because of the seven or ten minutes they spend in South Korea were too brief and we didn’t get to see all of the great things about Busan” –

like there’s not a whole South Korean film industry where Korean people are portrayed positively, they are positively represented in their country’s media as opposed to black Americans who are not positively representatives in our media, even when we created ourselves.

There are significant pockets of like, “Wow, you sure a black person made this? Because it’s really anti-black.” For me personally, by the way, it’s Tyler Perry’s whole body of work, I don’t find that nearly as empowering as a lot of people like to claim because I feel like it’s really problematic in its portrayal of black people, especially black women, but because I had this understanding that there were some people out there who watched Black Panther and liked T. K. Park immediately went like, “What about us? This could have been better,” but like in a really hypercritical way.

I was honestly prepared for casual, what I call it, I call it casually anti-black fuckery because it is casually anti-black in that black people– If I’m watching a Korean drama, which I do actually watch many with the small one and a moment of anti-blackness happens, and so far this actually has not happened because I haven’t watched all dramas, so I don’t have this encompassing experience.

But if I’m watching a drama, God forbid, something like they go to Miami, or Liberty City in Miami, they, for some reason, have a scene in Liberty City in Miami. They just zoom through and it’s like a two-second scene of a drama, yes, I’ll be checking to see how are black people portrayed if they go to any place where the population is primarily black Americans or poor because I’m from the US Virgin Islands, black Caribbean people are living, I’ll ping. I’ll be like, “Hmm, how’s this being handled?”

I get that, but to complain that Black Panther, which is literally as a franchise known for its focus on Wakanda, the afro-futuristic nation that was never enslaved, to complain that that’s portrayed more vividly than Busan, which is in maybe 10% of the movie max, I feel like that’s really a pointless- not pointless, that’s rude, I feel like it is an unnecessary and unfair criticism, as is the criticism present in the Tablo Podcast.

The conversation about representation in the MCU and Black Panther was superficially similar to T. K. Park’s whole thing because it seems a strange thing to zero in on as a huge failure because they bring up Alexis Rhee’s character, who is- if you remember Black Panther when they go to Seoul– Not Seoul. Why did I say Seoul? I literally said Busan a ton of times.

When they go to Busan, Lupita Nyong’o’s character Nakia has been there before, it’s like an underground connection between the current criminals, the government. There is an older Korean lady who is the gatekeeper. That’s Alexis Rhee’s character.

They’re complaining that you have two characters, and I did not look at the other Korean character who is with Alexis Rhee’s character, who’s like her muscle. One of the complaints was literally that Lupita Nyong’o’s Korean was better than Alexis Rhee’s character’s Korean. It was just such a strange complaint to bring up. Like, “Oh, they couldn’t get that right.”

Obviously, we’ve literally just covered this. I don’t speak Korean. I don’t.

Perhaps Alexis Rhee’s pronunciation is awful, but whose fault is that actually? Whose fault is it that her pronunciation or sentence construction in the thing, whose fault is it if it’s bad? I have questions about that.

The conversation was like, “This gaping flaw in Black Panther with its representation of Korean people makes it imperfect. I hope that Shang-Chi does better.” I find it really annoying to listen to the folks on this on this episode, number one, lay this weight of representation for East Asian people on Black Panther and black creatives in particular.

They went from rightfully hoping that Shang-Chi would do right by/for East Asian people in the context of representation to going, “Black Panther is proof that the MCU is failing us.”

Paraphrase, of course, is what I’m doing. I’m paraphrasing, but a whole ass Dr. Strange movie exists where they whitewashed the ancient one and then you have a long comedic relief not taken seriously. The very East Asian religious-y magic-y concepts being used for aesthetic and not really explored.

You’re going to zoom on past one of the worst films in the MCU for East Asian rep and be like, “The one with the black people is where they fucked up.”

I don’t expect anyone to love this movie again. I feel you’re wrong but you don’t have to. One of my older brothers hates this movie. He cannot stand it. I’ve obviously not disowned him yet. It seems really weird to zero in on Black Panther during this podcast.

They went from like, “Oh man, I hope this will be our Black Panther,” to- but not really because Black Panther was fundamentally flawed in a way that negated its representational qualities, but not knowing that it actually does, which is in the CIA porn shit.

Black Panther‘s biggest failings are in its message when you squint is actually toothless. It spends too much time making the CIA and white superheroes to an extent very important to Wakanda. I don’t like that.

It’s very valid to have a problem with that. To look at a very short snippet of the film that I do not think is problematic and say, “This is so problematic that I hope this other movie does it better,” is very concerning to me especially because if Shang-Chi is anti-black, these people on this podcast will not say anything because that is how the world works with anti-blackness.

One thing I want to do is actually play the clip from the podcast because I don’t want to risk misremembering what happened because there is a moment in the podcast that actually frustrated me to the point where I stopped it and had to rewind it. I had to rewind the podcast so that I could shout about it quietly at my desk and take notes. I have two pages of notes because of several minutes of a fucking podcast.

Here’s the clip from The Tablo Podcast episode number 15 on racism.

[Keeping in mind my issue with distinguishing voices and the fact that I used a transcription service for this, this section of the transcript will be updated with names once The Tablo Podcast releases a transcript of the episode or one of my moots with better ears and less wonky auditory processing abilities updates me!]

Male Speaker 1: Asian role. It’s very small, it’s an extra basically. I’m pretty sure everyone on set, there was somebody that had an agent or a manager there that was Korean because I see a lot of Korean people in those roles. I’m surprised that no one-

Male Speaker 2: Spoke up.

Male Speaker 1: Or there was no one to ask if those lines made sense.

Male Speaker 3: Out of the entire Marvel Universe.

Male Speaker 1: You couldn’t get one person to check if a sentence is pronounced properly? That’s incredible.

Male Speaker 2: Can you give us an example of exactly what scene-

Male Speaker 1: Right before they go into the casino.

Male Speaker 2: This is shot in Korea?

Male Speaker 1: Yes, in Busan.

Male Speaker 3: Shot in Korea, right before they go into the casino. Lupita has a line in Korean–

Male Speaker 1: Lupita’s Korean was much better.

Male Speaker 3: Than the “Korean lady”.

Male Speaker 1: Yes, Lupita killed it. She did great with the Korean. I loved Black Panther and I love what Marvel was doing. I took a step back and I was like, “Wait, how can they take so much care? They took so much time to get everything right, but they don’t care to get us right.”

In the grand scheme of things, this snippet that you guys just listened to, it’s under two minutes long. I think it’s a minute and a half. It is not a large part of this episode. It is not. But one of the things about being black and consuming media that is not necessarily for us or made with us in mind is the fact that this happens. A throwaway line in a podcast can make you feel some weight. What makes me feel some weight is that “they took so much time to get everything but they don’t care to get us right”, then that agreement, that, “right”, in the background.

I don’t know any person associated with this podcast, with Tablo or Eric or Eddie Nam, or the people in the background. I don’t know them. I don’t know their point of view. I don’t know if they were actually talking about the white people behind most Marvel movie-making decisions. I don’t know if they were actually talking about Ryan Coogler and black people, but I do know that across 2019, I’ve seen an incredible amount of just really wild, casual anti-blackness, specifically from Korean-Americans. It’s not that it is every Korean-American because I am friends with Korean-Americans who do not do this. I have seen Korean Americans not do this.

There’s something about a platform that keeps coming up that people with platforms tend to misuse them. I’m literally saying that as someone who has had to be like, “Mm, perhaps I am not using my platform to its full extent. Perhaps I may even be making other people’s internet experience unhappy because of how I’ve used my platform.”

I’ve got 3000 followers. That’s pretty much it.

I do not have that much of a reach and these people do. All of the people that I’ve seen make these kinds of comments, T. K. Park with his articles and tweets that are just really not even veiled anti-blackness but explicit, uncaring anti-blackness, the dude I just blocked, I screenshot a tweet and talked about it. His tweet was diminishing anti-blackness, to be like, “There’s real racism afoot.”

I’ve had a really hard 2019 studying the perceptions of blackness from Korean and Korean-American media. It has been really painful.

Of course, I’m not going to say that every Korean person or Korean-American person out there has these opinions, but it is very frustrating.

You’re listening to this podcast on racism and you’re expecting them to talk about racism, and they do. They talked about racism against Koreans, against East Asian people. They understand that representation matters.

Then they hone in on Black Panther like I’m doing here on a moment. They make it something that’s not great.

Again, the difference between us is that maybe 20 people listen to my podcast. How many people are listening to Tablo’s podcast?

More people who listen to my podcast are willing to tell me, “Hey, you’re full of shit,” than are willing to tell them that.

Part of the thing that I see a lot when going over my projects when researching and analyzing and tracking responses to black people, is this point of view that we are so sensitive about anti-blackness.

The guy I blocked this morning, and if you go on my Twitter, you can find the tweet because it’s not hidden, obviously, that I talked about this guy’s comments about blackface. The guy who made that tweet- just that was so dismissive. There’s real racism out there and “woke Twitter”, which is using African-American vernacular English to dunk on black people which is just very, very messed up.

Experiencing this constantly.

Part of it is that, like, yes, I am making a choice to research this stuff because a lot of the people who do talk about K-Pop, do not talk about blackness or anti-blackness in K-Pop. A lot of people who talk about fandom don’t talk about blackness or anti-blackness. A lot of people who talk about blackness in media do not talk about K-Pop or fandom.

I’m making a choice to make this my zone of focus. That doesn’t mean that it’s not frustrating that constantly I come across in this context because I am literally analyzing social media responses from people in fandom spaces related to Korean popular culture.

I’m coming across Korean-Americans who really don’t seem to care about black people. Really?

The conversation of this Korean woman is not accurately Korean, which again, I talked about this before the clip, I don’t speak Korean. Maybe she was dead-ass wrong, but why is it that the burden of representation is being placed on black people?

It’s being placed on the one film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to focus primarily on black people. In the clip when they talk about Lupita’s Korean, they laugh at the idea of her Korean being better than the “real Korean woman”. That’s fucked up. That isn’t a good thing that they keke-ed about that, like, “Wow, her Korean was better.”

Uncomfy much?

Because I’m subject to all of this stuff. It’s really not even that I’m actually sensitive to that. I am more aware of how anti-blackness works and how people do not even need to be actively thinking, “I don’t really care for black visibility and hypervisibility” to convey that point of view, I’m going to be real here.

That’s what comes across this aura of resentment and frustration that this happened and that this film about black people didn’t get 100% with Korean representation. I thought this about the 1619 Project from the New York Times, because a lot of the response from non-black people, especially non-black people of color was, “Why isn’t there something this for us? Why did you focus on black people? Why did you this? Why not us?”

What-about-ism, I’ve had two weeks straight of what-about-ism, literally about Korean anti-blackness in media.

We are not represented well when we are represented in Korean media. We are not represented well in the majority of American media.

There’s so much going on. I just feel this moment, it didn’t ruin the podcast for me, but it frustrated me in the context of, “Really? This is what we’re going to do. This is what we’re going to do, you’re going to derail your own conversation to do this? This is what we’re doing?”

Because, at the end of the day, Marvel should not have waited until 2018 to release its first film with an all-black cast.

It shouldn’t be waiting until 2020, whatever, to put out its first film with a primarily East Asian cast.

It should not take a decade for representation to make it out of the pages of comic books on to the silver or big screen. At the end of the day, zeroing in on black people and putting that weight on us. Maybe Eric Nam and Tablo talked about anti-blackness in their media spaces, but I doubt it. I’m going to be real, I highly doubt it.

It’s not that I’m putting this burden on them either, but when placing burdens of representation on people, I feel it’s necessary to maybe think about what you’re doing, what you’re saying and who this weight is being placed on.

At the end of the day, Marvel is primarily the product of white people. Representation has to pass through their filter, not ours. They green-light what gets made, they green-light who gets to be the hero.

It shouldn’t be that way. Especially because we’re looking at the comics and we’re seeing ourselves, and then it doesn’t make it to the movies or by the time it makes it to the movies, we’re too old for superhero movies.

Iron Man came out in 2008, I worked at a movie theater. I did the reel. In my theater where I worked, I put the reel on the theater for Iron Man, actually. That’s how long ago it was. In 2008, my baby [niece] was two.

This is not good that Marvel took so long for representation. What’s also not good is in your quest to talk about representational needs as East Asian people, as Korean people, that the one movie that we have [Black Panther] is a representational problem. Why? Why do that?

At the end of the day, that was a minute and a half in a podcast that most people listen to it. They’re not really going to think about it, they’re going to move on, it is over.

It is very frustrating that I can’t bring this up to Tablo, to Eric Nam, to any of them. I can’t be like, “Hey, I feel this way about your podcast, about this minute and a half,” because, unfortunately, because of this expectation that black people are so fucking sensitive, we aren’t taken seriously when we talk about things that actually do impact how we engage with media, how we engage in fandom.

It’s very, very alienating.

I’m halfway through a podcast that’s supposed to be talking about racism, that is doing a pretty solid job at expressing issues of representation and sharing a point of view that does not get represented that often, and in comes a moment that is casually anti-black, it goes what-about-ism. It pulls a Gina Rodriguez on our asses and then calls the movie problematic on top of it. It drops you out of the enjoyment factor.

No matter how many times they say, “We love Black Panther, I love Black Panther, Black Panther was great,” there’s a part of me that now goes, “Did you really? You sure spent–“

I used a minute and a half long clip. The conversation they had about Black Panther was maybe four to five minutes long, which is still like 10% of the overall episode, but this is really frustrating that this happens, that we can’t talk about it.

Maybe this happens with other media, that people will be like, “Oh, yes. Not that I ever talked about anti-blackness in my source media from my home country, my home peoples, but briefly in the back of this thing, there was this thing that black people are in. There was a possibly not great reference to something related to my culture,” and maybe they do that.

Maybe, but it is frustrating.

I think that if, God forbid, Tablo, Eric Nam, Eddie Nam, people listening in the background of their podcasts, were to listen to this, I would just want you to think about the fact that unintentional issues come up like with J-Hope and the hair and Chicken Noodle Soup.

I don’t generally assume active malevolence from anyone but T. K. Park. Never, just him because he’s really consistent about showing that he really doesn’t like black people, really, really consistent about it. I don’t think that they intended to offend, to bother people.

They weren’t going, “Man, I really hate Zina so I need her to feel really frustrated with us.”

Of course not, but the fact that you can have these conversations about representation and casually drop something where you set up this “us versus them” binary between Black people who’ve gotten their representation, and Korean people who have not, and then frame it like Black people are a problem in that you’re not getting good representation.

Again, I don’t know anyone who can- I don’t, but that’s okay, I don’t know anyone who’s complained about Black Panther as a Korean person prior to doing this research on my project. Then it seems like a bunch of people are popping out of the woodwork to complain.

I don’t expect anyone to love this movie as much as I do, but I also do expect people to think about when they’re being disingenuous, or shady as shit over this film.

There are other Marvel movies that are downright horrific. I mean, really, like Daredevil and its treatment of East Asian people is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Why would you zero in on that?

Why couldn’t it be just flat out, “The MCU needs to do better with East Asian people,” as opposed to zeroing in on the one movie with black people to be like, “And this movie was shit. Shit because a Korean actress, Alexis Rhee, her sentence construction and her dialogue wasn’t great.” How does that work?

I said this was going to be a mini-podcast.

Obviously, I lied.

It’s 40-50 minutes long. It is as long as the episode of the Tablo Podcast that I listened to today at work. Think about that. I’m going to spring for a transcript now because it’s very long.

[It is not actually that long…]

I think that this is going to be really cool. I’ll be updating this podcast every two weeks, so twice a month, with conversations about representation in fandom, anti-blackness in media, and just general things that make it to my blog or to Twitter but could use a bit more unpacking on this wider stage of discourse.

Thank you so much for listening to Stitch Talks Ish Episode One: “Stitch Talks About The Tablo Podcast, Episode 15″.

Thank you for listening. Have a great, great day. I’ll see you all next episode.


3 thoughts on “[Stitch Talks Ish] Episode 1: Stitch Talks About The Tablo Podcast’s Episode on Racism

  1. Black Panther‘s biggest failings are in its message when you squint is actually toothless. It spends too much time making the CIA and white superheroes to an extent very important to Wakanda. I don’t like that.

    That’s just one of my problems with “Black Panther”. I love most of the film, but I don’t like the ending, which is my other problem. I never understood why King T’Challa didn’t follow Nakia’s advice and use Wakanda’s wealth and technology to help the African diaspora in other parts of the world. Why have T’Challa make the decision to share Wakanda technology with ALL countries . . . including those countries that do not really require Wakanda’s help (i.e., United States, China, Russia, Great Britain) and have existing diaspora within their borders?

    There are other Marvel movies that are downright horrific. I mean, really, like Daredevil and its treatment of East Asian people is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Why would you zero in on that?

    I started liking “Daredevil”, but in the end, I’ve developed a dislike of the series.


  2. I totally complained about Black Panther for using Korea as a backdrop because I’m still upset that East Asians aren’t in starring roles in Hollywood.

    What I’m humbled about is what you’re talking about – That targeting one of the only black films for my frustration at East Asian erasure is racist and anti-black. And ultimately, I can turn to K-pop as a safe haven if I don’t like how I show up in U.S. media.

    Black people in my situation, who also don’t like how they show up in U.S. media, do not have a huge music industry filled with boy bands and girl bands who look just like them. And then worse, black K-pop fans are ridiculed and questioned and ignored when all they want is some comfort and self-esteem like I do.

    Thank you for writing this article and thank you for showing me what I’m doing wrong.


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