Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Beyond Ray Fong

You probably know the story by now. Barry McGee, an accomplished hapa artist whose body of work includes a whole mess of graffiti, recently helped design a limited-edition shoe for sports apparel giant Adidas. That shoe – the Y1 HUF – featured Ray Fong, a cartoon character that is essentially the stylized self-portrait of McGee at a young age:

People were offended by this stereotypical and racist imagery, and the ensuing public outcry was loud and angry, resulting this week in Adidas pulling the remaining shoes from the shelves.

Now I agree with McGee’s defenders that art needs to be understood in context, but I stand with those who decry the dissemination of this kind of negative representation. I don't know if it's worth my trying to elaborate on this any further, since the issue is now fading. But I'll raise another issue that's related, one which I got to thinking about after reading a piece from another blog, where the author writes:

"Asian Americans, politically speaking, need to expend more energy on issues of urgent social justice import rather than getting perpetually hung up on the issue of negative images/stereotypes."

It made me realize that while we're talking about who designed the shoe, maybe we should also consider talking about who MADE the shoe.

What do you think?



Blogger hello tomato said...

i think u speak the truth brotha!

5:21 PM  
Blogger OG said...

For those of you in Chicago interested in thinking more about who got exploited making those fresh kicks on your feet right now, the U of C is sponsoring an upcoming conference that may be of interest:

It looks like they'll be talking about a whole lot more than shoe manufacturing, though. Intriguing.

7:50 AM  
Blogger MosSteph said...

fully unrelated to Ray Fong but an interesting link about the "no!"

10:32 PM  
Blogger MosSteph said...

Related to Ray Fong:

I still think some dorky hakujin is going to see the sneakers and say "wow these are $240 a pair so Ray Fong must be the coolest icon around!" and think it's okay to spread it around. Recently at Yale there was an article published entitled "Me Love You Long Time" in reference to a "humerous" interracial dating article. likewise dorky hakujins read the Yale papers and think the joke's the coolest and spread it around.

but on a lighter note: really check out the link about fresno it makes it seem like an awesome place to be.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous c-a-r-m-i-n-a said...

i think i am actually on the mc gee side on this one. i dont think he's racist. he's a really cool asian american artist and there is more depth to his design than it just being an obvious caricature lampooning asian americans. i think that only fans of his work would shell out that much money for mcgee desiged specialty sneaks. i used to work at GR and a whole lot of his fans are really cool, down, definately not racist asian american peeps.

1:21 AM  
Blogger OG said...

since the shoes were over 200 bucks and they only made like 2500 pairs, i agree that it would be mainly people who know about barry and his work who bought them. i am curious though how he and adidas foresaw (or didn't) the inevitable public reaction.

i also wonder what kind of experiences those shoes that made it into circulation have had. or i guess i should say, what kind of experiences people who have worn them have had. if anyone has any stories, please post!

9:47 AM  
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