Asian American Pop Culture Term Paper

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Asian Youth

Although most adults and even many young adults and youth have not heard of the magazine Giant Robot, since first being published in 1994, it has become as well-known to select audiences as People Magazine or Rolling Stone. It has truly become an icon that epitomizes much of the American and Asian culture today.

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The magazine is the creative product of Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong, a pair of Asian-American youths (who call themselves "punks") who grew up in Los Angeles with kung fu, anime, punk rock and comic books. Anyone who says that Giant Robot is only about the Asian culture would be wrong. It also epitomizes Nakamura and Wong's generation that grew up on these cartoons and animation and the meeting of East and West that has been growing over the past decade in the arts. It also is a story of how two young entrepreneurs can expand an idea into commercialism and products -- what Disney has been doing so well for decades. This is one of the major ways that Giant Robot differs from other Asian publications -- it has become much more than a book. it's become a worldwide cultural element. Says Nakamura, "I think Giant Robot, the magazine, is sort of like a Japanese robot. it's a lot larger than us, but we control the contents and guide its direction" (Lam) new San Francisco store resonated throughout the magazine's local readership. Hope has now come into fruition. The GR store on Shrader Street is only a stone's throw from the Haight thoroughfare. Step inside the doors of Giant Robot and you'll soon discover how Asian culture has permeated every microcosm of global pop culture.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Asian American Pop Culture Assignment

In the San Francisco store, for instance, the display tables meticulously display t-shirts, books and periodicals, stationary and stickers, toys and knickknacks, plush dolls, CDs and DVDs, and urban vinyl action figures. Like the magazine, the stores cannot be pegged for just one type of buyer. It is of interest to a wide variety of shoppers. Nakamura scouts various toy conventions and craft fairs throughout the United States and Asia to find the items. He is truly the connoisseur who handpicks innovative designer products that will not be found at other local stores.

Nakamura, who has his undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from UCLA, as does Wong, says that the idea came from his interest in giant robots and collection of toy robot toys. "I collect robot toys and feel that it's a large part of Japanese culture" (Lam). At first, not even Nakamura and Wong believed that the magazine would last for long. The magazine's first issue, with a picture of a sleeping sumo wrestler on the cover and a drawing of a rib roast on the back, was photocopied and stapled together atop the family dining room in Nakamura's house.

However, it has not only lasted for over a decade, but evolved into a slick glossy quarterly, an art gallery and three merchandise stores. This is in addition to a popular website, complete with chat groups of fans anywhere from Idaho, to Singapore, to South Africa. The general philosophy of the Giant Robot concept is "crossover," the men agree. It is like good music, food or art. Everyone, from all nationalities likes it.

Other Asian-American publications are primarily for Asian-American readers, but they pride themselves on it being for everyone. They point out that at least 50% of their readership is not Asian, and that is the way they want it. More importantly, people are not buying and reading the magazine and products because it is an Asian thing, but because they want to buy something that will provide education, interest and inspiration.

Music should not only be made for Asian-Americans, nor should magazines just be for select readers. Nakamura makes sure that the articles are written well and the topics will be of interest to a broad group of readers. "That's why half of our audience are non-Asian. I think that's a reflection of the balance in our writing, that we are able to appeal to a broad audience..." In other words, although they are a specialized magazine, they are not so channeled that the readership profile is extremely narrow.

Another difference between Giant Robot and other such publications is that it covers a wide range of information and become well-known for its knowledgeable insights into the global cultures. In this respect, it is similar to Rolling Stone, which is much more than about music. Stories have included introducing martial arts star Jet Li way before he was known in the U.S., describing tofu-head dolls from Japan, exploring the rather ingenuous yet creative drawings on Cambodian medicine bottles, looking seriously at Chinese propaganda art during the cultural revolution, and reviewing the latest animes that are in American theaters. The articles go from the serious on prejudice to the most inane about rahmen noodles (MySpace website article).

Wong explains that features differ in each magazine, including gneral themes such as history (ancient and modern), film, arts, or music. "We don't just write about the one thing we know, we're always learning about other things," he stresses (Kang). The two, as well as their other staff members are always learning something new, and hope that it will continue this way for them and the readers. The world is becoming increasingly global, and that is what is indicative of Giant Robot. It is not only for Asian-Americans, or Caucasian-Americans, Europeans and Asians. "Culture is alive and it is not just going into a pyramid and dusting off some crevice to find a scratch. it's newand it's going on still" says Wong (Kang).

That is why these two publishers and editors are always pleased of having new ways to not only promote their book but also what it stands for. Just last month, for example, the Japanese-American National Museum annouced it will begin a new series of collaborative exhibits called "Salon Pop" with the presentation of Giant Robot Biennale -- in honor of the publication's 50th issue. The magazine is being recognized for transforming the landscape of the boundaries of art, by teaming with hot-new artists. A number of them have since gon on to present their works worldwide, and some continue to struggle as most artists do. The museum appreciates having the opportunity to encourage more youth to be involved with its exhibits and to congratulate Nakamura and Wong on how much they have achieved since their first issue.

Over the years, as Giant Robot has become increasingly popular, there have been a lot of failed copycats. Most likely because they are doing it for the wrong reason -- not because they enjoy their work and proud of their heritage, but just to make a buck. Wong and Nakamura hope that they never fall into this category. Now that they are in their mid-30s, they still are a combined kid and adult -- which is good for them and the readers.

When they were once asked what advice they could give to people interested in creating a similar publication, Wong quickly answered: "Don't be lazy. Don't waste your time," and Nakamura added, "... If you are not really into it, don't do it. Go find something else, because you are not just going to be hanging out with famous people, making lots of money, and buying property all over the place. It is long hours in small rooms, but it is really rewarding when you see something come back from the printer." (Lam). This is what truly makes these guys different. They keep on pushing, despite the fact that their magazine is not making millions of dollars (a couple of years ago it had a circulation of about 50,000) and that they are not driving around in fancy cars with fancy ladies. They're doing it because they enjoy doing it. That's says a great deal.

References

Giant Robot MySpace 8 December 2007. http://groups.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=groups.groupProfile&groupID

Japanese-American Art Museum. Giant Robot Biennale Art Exhibition Kicks Off New Japanese-American Museum Series November 3. 2007. 8 December 2007. http://www.janm.org/press/110

Kang, Angela. Building Giant Robot -- the Creators, Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong.

December 2007. April 3, 2003 http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=5928

Lam, Andrew. Giant Robot Magazine Celebrates 10-year Anniversary. November 13, 2004. 8 December 2007 http://news.pacificnews.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=b457aa0e5dc265d1091b36bbcf2e671f

Dumb nonsense I hate/the truth some contemplate/Ain't tryin to wait I possess the power/to speak it louder" (Mountain Brothers)

Subculture is defined by Hartley as being "a group of individuals who share particular interests, ideologies and practices," frequently contrary to mainstream discourses at the time (220). Such subcultures have always been a part of the youth scene throughout history. Today, more than ever, youths who are on the fringes of society are searching for answers and ways to fit into a world that cuts them off by being different and alone. According to Deborah Wong and Gayatri Goopinath, many of these youth, notably those of Asian background, find their answers by sharing similarities of music and art with others… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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