It’s been well over a week since Alison Gold’s “Chinese Food,” the latest from Ark Music Factory—the one-man brain trust behind such staples as “Friday” and “It’s Thanksgiving“—dropped on YouTube, and the odds are not low that you’ve seen it by now. Over the course of its brief existence, the video has amassed 10 million views and a whopping 4:1 dislike-to-like ratio. Media response has been swift: Bon Appetit spoke with a grammatically challenged Gold via instant-message for its website last week, and Yahoo OMG! Insider followed with this cringe-inducing interview segment tackling the “alleged” racism in the video.
Of course, saying the racism in “Chinese Food” is “alleged” is kind of like saying OJ Simpson is “allegedly” a bad dude. From fairly harmless Chinese imagery (a dancing Panda bear, pervasive and improper use of chopsticks) to more troubling conflations of pan-Asian life (dancers in kimonos, a Monopoly piece landing on Oriental Avenue), “Chinese Food” deals primarily in stereotypes. But before you head over to YouTube to jump into the spirited viewer debate (and believe me, an analysis of the comment section would make for a riveting post of its own), ask yourself: “Am I not doing exactly what they—being Ark—want me to?”
And the answer is, of course you are. Ark videos are much like Westboro Baptist Church pickets—by responding with outrage or disbelief, you’re merely fanning the flames. These people live for negative feedback. (Which then begs the perennial question, who the hell are the parents that continue to send their kids to Ark’s Patrice Wilson? Obviously, they are has-beens or never-weres living in the greater Los Angeles area, where dreams are eviscerated and hearts ripped from souls… but even for that demographic, isn’t this a little much?) In any case: just don’t bother reacting, and you’ll save your precious time and energy.
And I believe in that stance. Truly, I do. The best way to watch an Ark video is to not watch it at all. But, the next best way to watch an Ark video is to laugh, indulge in the low-hanging fruit that it offers, and pick it apart for every single one of its moronic frames. Which I have done, after the jump:
I had my blog colleague Tomas (a Chinese 0500 star) translate the cook’s riveting prologue, and he said that the gist of it was the guy telling you about what he was cooking. Which is a bummer, because what I hoped he was saying was “I have been paid an inordinate amount of money to demean my ancestors’ culture, and I feel bad about it—but did I mention the money?”
The horrendously translated and completely non-sequitur Spanish subtitles are only the cherry on top of one of the very best frames in the video. Alison is grumpy—after going clubbing, apparently?—so, BOOM. The poor trash can never had a chance. A 12-year-old hitting the town and later defacing public property? We’re almost ready to call Child Protective Services…
…thankfully, this demon-child is temporarily preoccupied by the famous Chinese restaurant, “Chinese Food.” (The astute viewer might be confused, having heard that Alison sees “Chow, on [her] right,” to see the restaurant is not called Chow’s; this appears to be a mystery that will go unsolved for millenia.) The plot now thickens.
Clearly, the proprietors of the Chinese Food establishment are in violation of a number of child labor laws. At least this too-young girl looks like she’s having the time of her life…
…which is surprising, because have you ever seen a cash register that required so much typing to place a single order? The poor girl must press at least two hundred keys over the span of her 15-second appearance. Beware of Carpal Tunnel there, friend.
Here Gold demonstrates the world-famous dance move for “Chow M-m-m-m-m-ein.” Bust this one out on the dancefloor and watch ‘em all flock.
Here we see the traditional Chinese meal in all its glory: broccoli, egg rolls, won-ton soup, and even chicken wings (make it spicy!). But while it all seems so perfect, this is nothing short of a libelous moment: Gold exclusively revealed to Bon Appetit that she—gasp!—does not like won-ton soup “because there are small little brown things in the soup!!! i am 11 so i like simple foods.” To which the Bon Appetit interviewer responded, “That’s ok! Simple foods are sometimes best.” I do not know what words to write after typing those two quotes out, so I will move on.
We’ve reached the point where “Chinese Food” truly devolves… and yes, I realize it’s dangerous to use the word “devolve” to suggest that the first half maintained some kind of standard of quality that now begins to erode. Still, the moment Patrice Wilson makes it into any of his videos, they spiral straight downward—if not for the overt pedophilic overtones, then for the sheer embarrassment of watching a sane adult humiliate himself to a degree previously unseen among the human race. I have nothing more to say about his appearance here.
I mean, just… what the fuck. The sickest corners of my imagination couldn’t dream up this screen grab.
Whoever took this screen shot got it right. You have the panda in the background, the starlet in the foreground, the “who the fuck are they?” kids in the middle-ground… and then, of course, the kimono-wearing sidekicks flanking the starlet. I don’t want to say any more because I don’t want my opinions to color your own personal interpretation of this richly open-ended image.
Like any significant entry into the zeitgeist, “Chinese Food” promotes a subtly crafted but deeply resonant message. “Fortune cookies are never wrong”—so simple, yet so true. These are words, it can be safely said, that are sure to echo in the minds of our youth for generations to come.