Producers and advertisers who feel there’s no significant Asian American movie market are ignorant. It implies the belief that our numbers are inconsequential, or that we’re not consumers. Given that aggregated data show that Asian Americans have the highest median income ($68,780 versus the national average of $51,914, according to 2010 US Census), what suppoedly do we do with our disposable income?
What advertisers really have a problem with is defining the Asian American market. Given that (some) Asian Americans have money to spend, wouldn’t it be prudent to expend energy on more sophisticated marketing instead of devising a singular strategy?
The onset of YouTube and blogging has fueled entrepreneurism and rewarded self-starters with unparalleled success. Some of the most prominent are APAs who’ve turned low-overhead ventures into six-figure incomes, as well as cross-over success.
Uploaded: The Asian American Movement reviews the recent success of those who turned their webcam into wealth and fame. The first part of the documentary illuminates the lack of positive and diverse APA images in the mainstream media landscape. With an impressive list of interviewees, the filmmakers highlight the challenges faced by APA entertainers and the effects of negative Hollywood stereotypes on the consumer.
But quick as a mouse click, APAs have indeed made an impact on the entertainment industry, and changed the tenor of how APAs are perceived. Instead of the standard emasculated Asian male stereotype, personalities such as Ryan Higa and Kevin Wu aka KevJumba are regarded as both comedic and admirable. And because of their charitable work (a Kenyan school will be named after Wu for his fund, and Higa has raised monies for Tsunami relief), they are known as philanthropists as well. These new images are motivating consumers as well as fans.
Hollywood has not ignored the ascension of APAs. CBS featured Wu on its Amazing Race, and Electus recently acquired the K-Town reality show for its YouTube channel, LOUD. Sponsors like JC Penney and Mountain Dew work with superstars such as Wong Fu Productions to create special videos. Advertisers are also product placement hungry, especially since Wong Fu has created a veritable empire with its production and graphic design enterprises. The impact of these individuals certainly branches out to more than just the internet, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue.
Because Uploaded takes a retrospective angle, there is some immediacy that’s lost, and it would have been interesting to see the evolution of a YouTube star’s process: from idea to production to sponsor attachment to upload — and subsequent consumption. Commentary could also have been pared down to focus on one or two topics; instead some subjects are left rambling — with some remarks that contradict the primary message of the film.
As the film demonstrates, these YouTube sensations didn’t create an Asian American market–contrary to a late-arriving sound-byte in the film. It was always there. These entrepreneurs took what they wanted to see and found that others were already on board.
Full disclosure: Hyphen is a media sponsor of Uploaded. Ken Choy also knows the film’s executive producer and is associated with many of the film’s subjects.