The Long ‘Crazy’ Journey of Angry Asian Man

Quite literally the O.G. of Asian American storytelling and content, Phil Yu has had much to be angry about over the last 18 years. What started off as an outlet to express his frustration at misrepresentation and lack of Asian Americans in the media and entertainment has turned into a household name – Angry Asian Man.

Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms:

WHAT’S A BLOG?

In 2001, the internet was in its infancy and the term ‘blog’ didn’t exist yet. Angry Asian Man started off as a space on the web to rant and write about what he was seeing — and wasn’t seeing — in terms of Asian representation.

“If Facebook, Twitter, or any of that existed at that time, I would’ve channeled my energy on those by sharing links, commenting, etcetera,” Yu said.

Since those didn’t exist, he had to create his own platform.

The process of starting the 18-year-old blog began when Yu started exploring his Asian American identity in college. As a film major, his identity formed while taking Asian American studies, delving into the history, and studying media and recognizing how he wasn’t being reflected.

“A lot of my friends were pre-med, pre-law and consultants,” he said. “Being in the arts as a writer, creator, artist wasn’t an option for a lot of Asian Americans and that has to do with lack of modelling. Why would I think I’d be able to do this if I haven’t seen anyone that looks like me that has?”

Fast forward to today, we have role models like Jeremy Lin: “Now Asian parents are like ‘Wow, you can be an NBA star and go to Harvard!’ – that image is very powerful.”

Yu meets many college students who seem to have anxiety around what they’re going to do.

“They worry they can’t be overtly Asian American in public settings outside of school or advocacy groups,” he said, adding that he also meets experienced professionals who tell him they were really into his blog back when they were really into being Asian American. To that, he responds, “Did you stop being Asian American?”

Photo: Natasha Jung

COMMUNITY

In all the years that he’s been running Angry Asian Man, the best outcome is the community he’s built and become a part of.

Our shared experiences and being able to reach back into a shared history is what’s going to build us up and create a future for ourselves — that’s what keeps me going,” he said.

The content creator notes that especially in Los Angeles, everyone is working on something and believes that “if you subscribe to the idea that being Asian American means something as a whole, then that person’s success is going to be your success as well.”

STAY ANGRY

Yu has been on countless panels, boards, featured in other publications, and seen as an expert and friend of the community. 18 years later, Angry Asian Man is still coming to terms with his O.G. status.

“I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time and a lot of the time it felt like I was a crazy person shouting into the void, even amongst other Asian Americans that just didn’t seem to care,” he said.

Despite how long it has taken us to get here, Yu is confident that we’re all headed in the same direction, but it might take a bit longer for some people to get on the same page.

“We need to constantly remind ourselves that we need to make room for each other, and be patient with one another,” he said.

It’s been nearly a year since #AsianAugust and some may say there’s plenty to be not-so-angry about. There’s productions such as Warrior produced by Shannon Lee (daughter of Bruce Lee) and the upcoming Netflix film Always Be My Maybe starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, as well as the proliferation of groups such as Subtle Asian Traits.

Examples like these signify that there is room for this type of storytelling and conversation in media and entertainment, but it’s because of pioneers like Yu that we are able to see these projects come to life.

As with all interviews on our Pearls of Wisdom podcast, we asked him about one he’d like to impart on us, quoting the late, great Bruce Lee: “To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.”

Photo: Natasha Jung

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms:

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