Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I wanna be like William Hung

(actually I don't, but I'll continue...)

Veronica brought up Emil Guillermo's column discussing the fame (and soon to be fall) of the William Hung phenomena.

Hung who became famous for being so bad on American Idol is riding out his 15 minutes for as long as it can go. I heard he got several thousand dollars to do the CD(s). He went from nobody Asian male engineering student to Good Morning America to having a fan site. Maybe 8 years ago when I was a student at Cal and these "opportunities" appeared, I might have done the same thing.

But I also agree with Emil, that there are serious issues regarding what America perceives as the "Asian Man" that allow for William's "fame." If white guys don't have soul, then Asian guys don't have soul, can't sing, and have a funny accent. Is William aware of what he's stepping into in the complex world of racial dynamics and perception in this country? Maybe, maybe not?

William's professor talks about how William just goes with it, doesn't seem to see the negativity in anything about his experience. And that, is an amazing skill. He doesn't seem to mind that people are laughing, he's just glad to be entertaining. Does he understand the historical context on why they might be so entertained? Don't know. Maybe we should ask Ling-Chi Wang (UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies) to see if William has taken any Asian American studies classes. I mean, I wish I could be so thick skinned as to be able to ignore the underlying current of it all.

I actually saw William Hung on campus while I was walking to work. I wanted to stop him, ask him about his experience. But I stopped and thought better. I simply let him be on his way like all the other students on campus.

I am in a generation that is obsessed with fame and recognition. We are the generation of the Real World and reality tv, where your business is everybody's business with the possibility of garnering instant fame and recognition. Reality TV is full of the "perfect" people, the pretty people who get the guy/gal and win the million dollars. William's claim to fame is by being horribly bad and people like to see horribly untalented as much as they want to watch pretty and perfect. We like to watch train wrecks over and over again. Maybe even in slow motion. That's possibly why his CD isn't selling. We don't want to hear him, we want to watch. We want to watch him go out there and be the American Idol train wreck who in the face of Simon Cowell seems oblivious to the obvious, that he doesn't fit any kind of standard that show has.

I'm not sure if William Hung is really innocent or he simply plays off the innocence. Yet, William is not the first on the show to do this, even the folks who have some talent leave the show saying, "I don't care what they say, I'm going to make my dreams come true." For all the reality tv, we're not much of a generation for reality checks. We like our semi-ficticious reality tv.

I watched him walk past me, to see if anyone stopped him to acknowledge his fame. No one did. I hope for William that he enjoys the ride he's on, but to not believe all the hype. I'm sure he's having the time of his life. But when it's over, and people don't care anymore I hope he can let go. It's one big high afterall, the attention, the fame. A big drug.

People's attention spans are so short. And when the next innocently untalented guy who goes for it all, comes along, people will forget who William Hung is. Just ask the Star Wars Kid. But I hope William Hung remembers who he is.

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