Last night, Bwog reporter Karen Leung went to the Chinese Student Club’s annual culture show, and returned both entertained and bemused. Her dispatch follows.
Give people an excuse to talk about mass, and it’s only a matter of time before the fat jokes come. At last night’s Lunar Gala, the Chinese Students Club’s annual culture show, the theme was Momentum, in honor of the Year of the Boar and that noble animal’s “persistence to motivate himself as well as those around him.” The theme invited physics jokes – for the uninformed, emcee Kenny Liu declared that momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. His partner, Monnica Chan, asked whether she looked nice in her dress. The collision of physics and the female body prompted a fat joke. It was the beginning of a beautiful evening.
It was hard for most of the acts to fail. People are fascinated by men balancing wooden bobbles on a piece of string, and they laugh when people in lion suits throw lettuce (and rightly so). The hip hop group was cool, of course; Radiance, the classical Chinese dance troupe, was beautiful, of course; the vocal performances were uneven but ultimately successful, of course. The only exception was an interminable performance by Hsu-nami, an Asian rock fusion group which the program told me has the sensibility of “the osmosis of oriental pastime + the tenacity of modern rock.”
But the best part of a night of live performance was no performance at all: the board skit, a video featuring members of the CSC executive. Part after-school special, part Asian soap opera, the skit trafficked in stereotypes that were almost intolerable. It was also the funniest and most touching part of the show. President Stephen Choy played a single father presiding over three dysfunctional daughters. The oldest works at a fashion magazine with a Wintour-esque boss, the second is a miserably competent hospital intern assigned to doctor movie star Allan Lau, and the youngest is very angry. We know this because she drinks coffee instead of tea. In a hilarious scene, she kicks at her prone, squirming boyfriend when she finds him kissing someone else in that den of iniquity, John Jay.
It was awkward, sometimes, to see CSC present the trope images of Asian Americans in the media – the uptight doctor, the traditional father – and then let them lie. I think of the organization as AAA’s somewhat conspicuously apolitical little brother. But in this case, the tropes couldn’t quite shed their political context. The discomfort that comes from seeing Asian Americans depicting themselves in the same way that mainstream culture would depict them was disturbing during an otherwise wonderful show. But Lunar Gala is not, after all, a show by the Chinese American Students Club, but the Chinese Students Club. It’s striking that the video ends with a kind of reconciliation, when the three daughters return to eat Chinese food with their father, lending the skit a sense of preoccupation with a return to the traditions of the homeland—much like Lunar Gala itself.
– Photos by Dan Fainstein