Using the Simpsons to explain how Asian Americans are overlooked

Hollywood has offered up few Asian American stars. But one of its most well-known is a cartoon: Apu from The Simpsons.

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian American character who operates the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in the fictional town of Springfield and is known for the catch phrase “thank you, come again,” has served as the animated series’ running immigrant punchline for almost 30 years.

“What bothered me about Apu is how he stood in for my parents, replacing their real stories and real struggles and their really complicated lives with an accent,” said comedian Hari Kondabolu in his documentary “The Problem with Apu,” which airs Sunday on truTV.

Since there were so few Indian Americans represented in the media, it was an impression that stuck.

“If that’s the way (people) know or understand your community, that’s what they are going to look for,” said Shilpa Dave, assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia and author of Indian Accents: Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film.

Even though Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S. — and one of the wealthiest — they are often overlooked by marketers, advertisers and the media.

A recently released study by researchers from several California universities found that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) were the most underrepresented racial group on television during the 2015-2016 season.

Of the 242 shows the researchers reviewed, 155 (or 64 percent) had no Asian American or Pacific Islander regulars.

“Regardless of the viewing platform, audiences may never see an AAPI regular on-screen, effectively erasing the AAPI population from a large portion of the television landscape,” the study found.

Even when there was an Asian American or Pacific Islander regular on a show, the researchers found they often got less screen time than their white counterparts and their roles often fit into a series of racial stereotypes.

Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, said Asians are often typecast as either high achieving model minorities or as service workers.

“Of course, there are Asian American cab drivers, Asian American deli owners, and there are Asian American scientists,” she said. “But there are also Asian American journalists, there are Asian American professors … we’re just more multifaceted, especially with the second generation.”

Some Asian American actors are helping to break new ground and get more air time. Writer, comedian and actress Mindy Kaling, for example, created and stars in “The Mindy Project,” where she plays a successful obstetrician/gynecologist. Aziz Ansari’s show “Master of None” recently won an Emmy. And the critically acclaimed series “Fresh Off the Boat” is the first sitcom to feature an all Asian-American family on prime time television since the 1990s.

A virtually untapped market

With a population of 20.5 million in the United States, Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation — and they wield a lot of financial power.

Currently, representing 6 percent of America’s population, Asian Americans are on track to surpass Hispanics as the largest immigrant group in the U.S. by 2055, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Collectively, Asian Americans represent $825 billion in purchasing power — which is “slightly larger than the economies of all but 17 countries worldwide, and slightly larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Turkey,” according to a 2016 Nielsen report on the expanding footprint of Asian Americans in the U.S.

And across the broad spectrum of ethnicities that comprise the Asian American population in the U.S., the median household income is $77,000. That’s more than the median household income of whites at $61,000 and nearly twice that of blacks at $36,000 and Hispanics at $44,800, according to Pew Research Center.

“Asian Americans have enormous purchasing power,” said Lee. “Asian Americans are also accumulating wealth. They are also creating businesses.”

Yet, Asian Americans are virtually forgotten by marketers, advertisers and the media.

The challenge is convincing companies to see Asian Americans as consumers to go after — ones that will bring them plenty of profits.

“When you speak to (executives) about the numbers in a language they can understand, they’re like ‘wow,'” said Bill Imada, chairman and chief connectivity officer of the IW Group, an advertising and PR agency that specializes in helping companies and brands reach communities.

It’s something that Kondabolu knows all too well.

“We have to prove that we are capable of making people money. And once you prove that, then they are interested. But they won’t take the risk. All these things involve some degree of risk,” Kondabolu said. “Increasing diversity isn’t out of a sense of justice or righteousness. It has to do with at the end of the day – this is going to make us money. I think there’s still a degree of ‘How can I prove this is a sound investment?'”

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John Hillerman, ‘Magnum, P.I.’ actor, dead at 84

Actor John Hillerman died of natural causes Thursday at his home in Houston, Texas, his publicist, Lori De Waal, said. He was 84 years old. Hillerman was best known for his Emmy Award-winning work in the long-running detective series “Magnum, P.I.”

The stage-trained actor first made an impression as arrogant radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the NBC revival of “Ellery Queen” in 1975. Hillerman then took on notable roles as the boss of Bonnie Franklin on the long-running CBS sitcom “One Day at a Time,” and trading sarcastic quips with Betty White in the short-lived sitcom “The Betty White Show” in 1977.

Hillerman’s most acclaimed work was in the role of Jonathan Higgins in the popular 1980s detective comedy-drama “Magnum, P.I.” Playing the repressed and paternalistic foil to Tom Selleck’s titular character earned Hillerman an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1987 and a Golden Globe Award that same year.

Hillerman made his film debut in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show” in 1971, before scoring roles in movies such as Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon,” Clint Eastwood’s “High Plains Drifter,” Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” and Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.”

Hillerman majored in journalism at the University of Texas and achieved the rank of sergeant during a stint in the Air Force, before moving from Texas to New York City to pursue a career in acting.

Hillerman went on to make one hundred appearances on the small screen, De Waal said. The actor’s final appearance was in the 1996 film “A Very Brady Sequel.”

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21st Century Fox shares soar after report of sale talks with Disney

21st Century Fox shares jumped by as much as 8.5% on Monday afternoon after a report that the company had recently been in talks to sell most of its assets to Disney.

The deal that was under discussion, as reported by CNBC, would have seen Fox selling its movie studio, television production unit and entertainment networks to Disney. Fox would have kept its news and sports holdings and would restructure around those assets. It would also have kept its broadcast network and the local broadcast stations it owns.

Several reports said the talks were no longer active. CNBC said that while the “two sides are not currently talking at this very moment,” the talks “could be revisited.”

21st Century Fox declined to comment. A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By selling its entertainment assets to Disney, Fox would free itself from having to compete with larger-scale media conglomerates like Disney and Comcast. Instead, it could refocus its business around a core group of news and sports assets like Fox News and Fox Sports 1.

Meanwhile, Disney would get control of major entertainment brands — 20th Century Fox Studios, Fox Television, FX and National Geographic, as well as international brands like Star and Sky — as it gears up to launch a Netflix-style streaming service next year.

Disney announced earlier this year that it would launch its own direct-to-consumer streaming services next year, putting the company head-to-head with Netflix. In that regard, Fox’s entertainment assets could be a major boon to Disney, not just because of what control of those assets would give Disney, but because of what it could take away from Netflix.

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List of powerful men accused of sexual harassment after Weinstein

It’s been 21 days since the sexual assault allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein exploded into public view. Since then there have been new allegations made against other powerful men in various industries seemingly almost every day.

From companies taking a second look at their sexual harassment policies to the tide of #MeToo stories flooding social media, the controversy has sparked the biggest national conversation on sexual harassment since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas battle in the early ’90s.

This look at nine men who’ve been accused of sexual harassment focuses just on allegations that CNN has reported on. There are accusations against other powerful men out there. As the days and weeks go on, this list could grow. This list also doesn’t include powerful men like Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes or Donald Trump; allegations against them came before Weinstein.


Harvey Weinstein

Number of accusers: More than 40

Weinstein’s world began to crumble a little over a month ago, after The New York Times published a story detailing numerous accusations of sexual harassment against the powerful movie producer, whose films have won a number of Academy Awards. The Times story detailed three decades’ worth of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact accusations made against Weinstein by a number of women, including actress Ashley Judd. The piece also mentioned at least eight settlements Weinstein had reached with his accusers through the years.

It started a flood of new accusations from dozens of other women, including some who said Weinstein had raped them. Weinstein has denied any claims of nonconsensual sex. He was later fired from his own film company and his wife left him.

Rumors and stories about Weinstein had been circulating through Hollywood’s grapevine for years, leading many to ask how such alleged behavior could go on for so long.

James Toback

Number of accusers: More than 200

The Hollywood screenwriter and director behind films like “The Pick-up Artist,” “The Gambler” and “Bugsy” was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment throughout the years in a piece from the Los Angeles Times. The women said Toback would lure them to hotel rooms, movie trailers and other places for what was billed as interviews or auditions. But the women say these meetings would quickly turn sexual in nature.

Toback told the newspaper he had never met any of the women — or if he did meet them, it “was for five minutes and (he had) no recollection.”

The Los Angeles Times said after it ran its initial story, more than 200 other women contacted it to describe similar encounters.

Ben Affleck

Number of accusers: 1

The Oscar-winning actor and director was one of the first to come out and denounce Weinstein’s alleged behavior. But then he found himself the target of a sex harassment accusation after old videos began to surface of Affleck on “MTV’s Total Request Live” with actress Hilarie Burton. She said Affleck groped her during an appearance on the show, which she co-hosted at the time.

“I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize,” Affleck later wrote on Twitter.


George H.W. Bush

Number of accusers: 1

The 41st president of the United States apologized to an actress after she wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that Bush sexually assaulted her while she posed for a picture with him. Heather Lind said Bush touched her inappropriately from behind twice and told her “a dirty joke.”

“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind,” the former President’s spokesman said.


Chris Savino

Number of accusers: At least 12

Nickelodeon fired the creator of “The Loud House” animated show after a dozen women accused him, in a story from the Hollywood Reporter, of “sexual harassment, unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior.”

The accusers also said Savino would threaten to blacklist women he was no longer involved with.

“I am deeply sorry and I am ashamed,” Savino wrote in a letter posted on his Facebook account. “Although it was never my intention, I now understand that the impact of my actions and my communications created an uncomfortable environment.”

Roy Price

Number of accusers: 1

Price, the head of Amazon Studios, quit five days after being put on leave after a producer accused him of sexual harassment.

Price was suspended after a story from The Hollywood Reporter detailing harassment allegations against him made by Isa Hackett, a producer of the Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.”

The harassment accusations stemmed from an incident in 2015 at Comic-Con. Hackett alleged that Price repeatedly made lewd comments to her, despite her rebuffs.

Hackett told The Hollywood Reporter that she reported the improper behavior to Amazon at the time.


Lockhart Steele

Number of accusers: 1

Lockhart Steele, the editorial director for Vox Media, was fired, the company said, after he admitted to “engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with our core values.” Vox is also investigating claims made in a blog post by former employee Eden Rohatensky in which she accuses multiple co-workers of sexual misconduct, and detailed one particular incident involving “one of the company’s VPs” while riding in the backseat of a cab with other co-workers. Rohatensky did not mention Vox or any co-workers by name in the post.

After getting fired a month later “due to lack of productivity,” Rohatensky reported what happened with the unnamed VP, but later learned that “his punishment was being told he could not drink at corporate events any longer.”

Vox has hired a law firm to look into the accusations, and Rohatensky told CNN she has met with the investigators.


John Besh

Number of accusers: At least 25

The celebrity chef stepped down from the company he founded after about two dozen current and former female employees accused him and other male workers of sexual harassment.

They described a hostile corporate culture where sexual harassment flourished. The accounts included inappropriate touching and comments from male employees and managers, some of whom tried to leverage their power for sex. Those who complained were berated, ostracized or ignored.

One former employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that Besh “attempted to coerce” her during a “monthslong sexual relationship.”

Besh, who has not responded directly to the allegations, enjoyed celebrity status in a city whose identity is tied to its food. His restaurant group employs more than 1,000 people in New Orleans, San Antonio and Baltimore in top-rated restaurants such as August, Lüke, Domenica and Shaya. Harrah’s New Orleans Casino said it is terminating its relationship with the restaurant group.


Mark Halperin

Number of accusers: 5

Journalist Mark Halperin was accused of sexually harassing five women when he worked as political director at ABC News. The women accused Halperin of propositioning employees for sex, kissing and grabbing one woman’s breasts against her will and other forms of inappropriate touching.

Halperin apologized in a statement, saying he “did pursue relationships with women” that he worked with but that he now understands “that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain.” He did, however, deny grabbing a woman’s breasts and pressing his genitals against the bodies of three other women.

Widely considered to be one of the preeminent political journalists, Halperin, 52, also co-authored the bestselling book “Game Change,” which was made into an HBO movie starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin; and anchored a television show on Bloomberg TV. He currently serves as an analyst for NBC News, making frequent appearances on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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Robert Guillaume, ‘Benson’ star, dies at 89

Actor Robert Guillaume, best known for his title role in the TV series “Benson,” died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

His wife Donna Guillaume told CNN he had battled prostate cancer in recent years.

“He kinda went the way everyone wishes they could, surrounded by love and in his sleep,” Guillaume said.

She added that her husband really loved making music, entertaining and making people laugh. He treasured his role as Rafiki in Disney’s 1994 animated film “The Lion King,” she said.

Guillaume starred as the level-headed butler Benson DuBois on the sitcom “Benson” from 1979 – 1986. He won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy for his performance in the role in 1985. Dozens of TV roles followed, including turns on “A Different World” and “Sports Night.”

Guillaume is survived by four children, all of whom had spent time visiting with their father in his final weeks, Donna Guillaume said.

“He was a good father and a good husband. He was a great, great person,” she said.

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