by Tetsuro Shigematsu
Published in 17.1
Angry Asian Man is the most important blog in the world. In fact, whether you read it or not, it’s the most important blog in your life.
If you are reading this magazine, chances are you are either Asian or you want to be. Or maybe you want a particular Asian. You want that particular Asian inside of you, or, more likely, you want to be inside of that particular Asian.
Right now, you are probably holding this magazine wondering, “My God, how do they know so much about me?” And you’re probably just now saying, “But wait a second, Ricepaper Man, how can Angry Asian Man be the most important blog in my life even if I don’t read it?” The answer, dear reader, is that right now, in your daily life, you are doing things that are fucking up your chances of making friends with and influencing Asians.
In fact, even at this very moment you are offending Asians, left and right, and you don’t even know it. Poor you, you don’t even have a clue. Maybe Angry Asian Man is writing a furious post about your racist shenanigans right now! Only you don’t know about it, because you don’t know about Angry Asian Man! Not yet. So sit back, set your iPhone to airplane mode, and prepare to be schooled.
The first time I met Angry Asian Man was at the Banana 2 Conference held at the back lot of CBC Studios in Burbank, Television City, California. B2 is a gathering of all of the most influential Asian American bloggers. Because the crowd is so influential, one of the guests was an executive for Warner Brothers who was excitedly extolling the Asian American inclusivity of their upcoming blockbuster, The Hangover Part II. Of course, this was well before we saw Ken Leong pull another Gedde Watanabe–type bonehead move, and set Asian representations back 20 years over yet another sophomoric penis gag. No one had seen the second Hangover movie yet, so why not try to sell it to our community as something worth promoting?
That’s when Angry Asian Man—Phil Yu—stood up in the crowd. People were excited. “That’s Phil Yu! Oh my God, he’s here!” Phil Yu pointed out that as rumour had it, this sequel was set in Bangkok. That alone didn’t bode well. He also proclaimed: “If this movie ends up lapsing into the same old, tired, racist stereotypes, then don’t expect us to shill it for you.” Fist pumps all around. Angry Asian Man has SPOKEN!
When I retold this story to Phil Yu, a.k.a. Angry Asian Man, this was his reaction: “You caught me in that one place, the only location on Earth where I probably would’ve been treated like somewhat of a rock star. I mean, at an Asian American bloggers conference? I think you might have gotten a different impression of what my persona actually is.”
People were pretty excited when you put the “suit” from Warner Brothers in his place. Did you feel an expectation to speak because you are Angry Asian Man?
Well, honestly, I really mean this when I say that I’m kind of low-key; I don’t really want to draw too much attention to myself. So I realize the blog has given me a certain licence to speak out on things, but really, when it comes down to it, I am less inclined to be that guy standing at the front lines of the march against something. People are always calling for some kind of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson figure for Asian America, and I’m always like, “Yeah, that would be great if we had one,” and then people are like, “Well, what about you?” I just don’t think that’s my gift, you know what I mean?
You have to be the most consistently humble person I’ve ever interviewed, but I know for a fact that being Angry Asian Man has taken you places that the average person cannot go. Do you know what I’m getting at?
You are probably talking about my recent trip to the White House?
Yes! What was that like?
It was surreal. I had been in contact with the White House office in charge of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, helping to get the word out on certain initiatives, and I think they were really grateful for that. So, they sent an email saying we want to invite you to the White House holiday party; please send us your mailing address and fill out this security vetting form, where I had to give them my date of birth and my Social Security number to get cleared; then I got the paper invitation in the mail, which was very nice. The envelope was addressed in handwritten calligraphy, and it was for one of the White House holiday parties. Now, this was just one of a dozen holiday parties. I just want to be sure to make it clear that I was one of many people who went to the White House in December, but yeah, I will fully acknowledge that it was very special. It was cool, very cool, to go.
You’re legendary for your productivity, doing upwards of 10 posts each day. Are you blogging full-time or do you have a day job?
I have a day job. I am a content producer for websites.
What is a typical day for you, what do you do in addition to having this great job as a content producer?
I work regular nine-to-five-type hours in a 40-hour workweek. I’ll come home and I’ll write as much as I can, and when I wake up in the morning, I’ll write a little bit more before going to work. That’s pretty much it.
Do you have any thoughts on this new generation of Asian American YouTube stars like Nigahiga, Wong Fu Productions, and KevJumba?
I love the fact that they are part of this do-it-yourself generation of video makers. Generationally speaking, I don’t really get a lot of this, but I’m glad that young people are really gravitating towards it and have someone to admire and enjoy. It’s really powerful to see yourself reflected on screen, whether it’s a YouTube screen or a movie screen, but it is especially powerful to see someone who represents your experience. I’m thinking mostly in terms of young people, teens and younger, who are seeing this stuff and being like, “Oh, this is cool!” I like that it’s cool to be Asian.
As Angry Asian Man, you embody that representative spirit yourself. I suppose in a parallel life you could’ve been anonymously blogging for the Huffington Post. Do you think Asians should devote their energies to the DIY thing, like having YouTube channels, blogs, and a social media presence, and maybe spend less time trying to break into Hollywood?
I think both are important. As much as the DIY spirit has become really popular and very powerful, you still have this really established Hollywood machine that’s making a lot of decisions and dictating a lot of what we see. I think for real change to happen—I’m talking a change in terms of better representation of Asian Americans in the media—it’s going to take more than just kids on YouTube screens; it’s going to be a sort of a multi-platform approach. So I definitely don’t want to give up on the dream of the Asian American Hollywood matinee idol. I want to see that guy or girl headlining a TV show as well. I also want to see us being dominant on YouTube because that’s awesome; there’s room for all of those approaches.
What is the best and worst thing about being Angry Asian Man?
Here’s the thing. I feel really blessed to have this thing that I created. I feel very proud of this resource that a lot of people read and enjoy, and they tell me, so that’s awesome. And, to have done it for this long, I’m really proud of that. On top of that, though, it is like the Frankenstein monster that I’ve created, and there are times when I feel like I’m not running this blog, this blog is running me. The momentum is there and it’s kind of a runaway train that I can’t stop, and I’m kind of chained—chained in a good way but chained to the gears. It is this thing that’s bigger than me. I am one guy with 24 hours in a day, and so there are times when I feel like, “Oh man, I am tired, I am tired!” But then again, I think that may be true of any job that you love.