nuazn: retro

Page 1

nuazn 27.retro & counterculture

letter from the editor


There are many definitions of the word “retro”, but my personal favorite comes from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past”. Why?

editor in chief: cynthia zhang minho kim sarah han

First of all, notice the vagueness of the term “the past”. Retro art and fashion isn’t representative of one fixed point of time; it can be anything and everything leading up to the present, from the vibrant neon shades of the 80s to the classic conservative cuts of the 50s.

photo editor jonathan dai

Then there’s the word, “reviving”, which I adore because it implies that the past isn’t dead; it’s simply lying dormant until it is reawakened. And hopefully with this issue of NUAZN magazine, we have been able to bring some part of the past back to life. It is also in the past that retro and counterculture intersect, and it is this within that intersection that we found our inspiration to create this issue. As you flip through these pages, you will find a collection of essays and photographs which speak to the Asian and Asian-American identity. As authors and artists, we aren’t simply presenting the past, but rather our past: sharing with readers stories which have been overlooked in history but can now be given voice. We hope you enjoy! Cynthia Zhang

creative director: rita liu

social media editor michelle kim writers annie cao joan gwak michelle kim ryan kim minho kim natalie lin lily meng bernard oh imani sumbi editors sarah han michelle kim minho kim jennifer zhan cynthia zhang tracy zhang designers vanessa chu alisa gao sarah han rita liu anushuya tharpa cynthia zhang tracy zhang

no alg ia st

by michelle kim

I spent a good part of my summer binge-watching Reply 1994, a South Korean TV drama about a group of college students living in Seoul during the mid-90s. The TV series is packed with 90s music and technology, and viewers are transported back to the year 1994 to reminisce about the good old times-though some viewers, like myself, had yet to be born. Reply 1994 is teeming with pop culture references; it’s full of boyband music wound on cassette tapes and pagers prompting a mad dash to the payphone. The show resonated with many middle-aged South Koreans and enjoyed enormous popularity from all generations since its release in 2013. And yes, I’m aware that I was quite late to join the wagon six years after the show’s premiere. However, I found myself nodding along to songs by Seo Taiji and Boys, listening to CDs on my older brother’s walkman, and genuinely missing this distant period before my existence all the same. But this nostalgic feeling for an era long-gone, especially an era before one’s time, is not a special phenomenon unique to this TV show. It’s an emotion shared across cultures and generations. As opposed to the term “vintage,” something that is “retro” could be brand new but made in the likeness of a past style. Currently, Urban Outfitters sells record players in a market saturated with music streaming services. Nike Air Max models from the 90s are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and Nike is pumping out new colorways for today’s generation of consumers. Scrunchies and straight-leg jeans are gracing the streets once again thanks to the revival of 80s, 90s and Y2K (the Year 2000) fashion trends. In 2018, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, which portrays the legendary band Queen’s rise to fame during the 70s and 80s, reached critical acclaim and fans born in the 2000s were singing along to the title track. So the following questions arise: are companies capitalizing on millennials’ longing for simpler times? Are they just recycling past pop sensations after exhausting the list of all that is new and exciting? And why do we feel this strong sense of longing and nostalgia for a time we have never experienced? There is a sense of comfort in something that has withstood


ri en


(1 4) 99

the demanding, short lifespan of a consumer product. A resurgence in popularity is an affirmation of an item’s value beyond any fleeting fad. And while it may be advantageous for a company to reboot popular products and market themas retro items, there is usually an initial demand for such a product, whether it be a loyal following pushing for its revival or a general rediscovery of the product’s artistic qualities—or sometimes both, as in the case of film photography. For consumers who have never experienced the time period in which a retro product was initially popular, the opportunity to use such a foreign product is fresh and exciting, which is a selling point in itself. Despite the convenience of a smartphone that is capable of taking hundreds of images with a touch of a button, there is a certain charm to

having a physical copy of a photo almost instantaneously with a Polaroid camera, or experiencing the otherworldly calm of the darkroom when developing a roll of film. Moreover, retro marketing appeals to a consumer’s happy memories and reminds them of simpler times. One can relive their favorite moments through purchasing a childhood toy or snack, if only for a little while. But, at least for me, the concept of retro items brings into question the role of ownership. Many of the more popular retro comebacks in recent years are rooted in American culture but are experiencing remarkable success in overseas markets, particularly in Asia. Idolization of the West, especially American culture, has been a pervasive issue in Asia since the

beginning of globalization, with some blaming Western influences for the loss of many aspects of traditional Asian culture. There’s a love-hate relationship between Asian consumers and American influences, as well as a generational gap. Elders hate the trendy crop tops, piercings, and similarly liberal mentality of the younger generation who seem to have embraced Western culture as their own. And in an effort to counteract a loss of tradition, some Asian countries have taken more aggressive, protectionist measures than others. For example, China has implemented extensive censorship of foreign media content in order to preserve Chinese culture. But there’s always a way to leak through the cracks. The American TV show Friends is highly popular around the world, but particularly in China.

The sitcom was aired from 1994 to 2004 and features iconic 90s fashion. Due to China’s censorship laws, the show was introduced to Chinese audiences through online streaming sites and pirated DVDs rather than cable TV. The care-free and distinctly American take on life and relationships captured the hearts of many Chinese viewers. There’s even a Friends themed cafe in Beijing, modeled after the Central Perk coffee shop that recurs in the television series, established by a Chinese businessman and Friends superfan. The show is a well-loved staple in English language courses as a supplement to formal lesson plans, as it develops listening skills and gives insight into American culture. Some wonder how Chinese audiences could possibly relate to a bunch of young, white Americans living in the late 90s and

NOSTALGIA can transcend time and space, so why not CULTURE?


(2 0

early 2000s. As some might criticize, does emulating American culture only perpetuate the underlying idea of Western superiority? At the core of the show Friends is a group of young adults forging authentic friendships and navigating the challenges of life, just like the rest of us. Instead of a desire to become American, perhaps it’s a connection to the relationships depicted on screen and a yearning for the same kind of human connection. Above a degree of artistic appreciation, there lies an appreciation for this human experience. Nostalgia can take many forms, and one does not necessarily have to have lived through a certain time

9 y1 l Rep

) 13

period to appreciate the appeal of retro culture, nor does one have to have lived in a certain place. How could a Canadian appreciate a TV drama about South Korean college students in ‘94? Well, Reply 1994 portrays the familiar feeling of joy following hardship and hardship following joy—a continuous cycle— and the importance of friendship when maneuvering through life’s challenges. I longed for a similar experience. The 90s music and references were entertaining and set the tone, but it was ultimately the storyline that made me feel nostalgic and wish I was living in the past, if only momentarily. Nostalgia can transcend time and space, so why not culture?

Being the cinephile that I am, I began to connect this movie with one of the Korean classics: Housemaid (1960), the story of a once happy upper middle class family that falls to pieces after hiring a young housemaid of rural background. This lustful love affair between a poor young girl and her employer makes the audience stay on the edge of their seats and draws them into a metaphorical social commentary. Bong Joon-ho, the director of Parasite, said in various interviews that he was inspired greatly by the director Kim Ki-Young and his movie Housemaid. Parasite is a continuation of the past Korean movies that delved into the issue of inequality in a rapidly developing capitalist economy. One of these early movies of such is Kim Ki-Young’s Housemaid. Class difference is highlighted best through the structures of houses for both movies. The Kims in Parasite live in a semi-basement apartment vulnerable to dangers ranging from urinating drunk neighbors to flash floods wiping out the entire neighborhood. In contrast, the Park family lives in a state-of-the-art house designed by a famous architect. Bong said that

by bernard oh

climbing ladders

In 2019, Korean cinema celebrates its 100th year. In its 100th year, Bong Joon-ho’s film Parasite won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, becoming the first-ever Korean film to be awarded with the renowned international film prize. As a Korean student studying film in the U.S., these latest turn of events are pleasantly shocking for me. I never thought that it was possible to see an American professor recommending a Korean film, much less fellow students talking about a Korean film and its director in detail.


the set production was designed for characters to hide, eavesdrop and spy on each other in this vast house like cockroaches. The Kim’s family are the parasites wanting to climb up the social ladder not through their own honest work, but by leaching heavily on the rich Park family. Like how the Kims were hired by the Parks in Parasite, Myung-sook in Kim Ki-Young’s film Housemaid is first hired as a maid. She peeps through doors and overhears the conversations of her bosses. Her desire to be a part of the Korean elite society grows over time and eventually drives her mad, leading to her downfall, symbolized by the staircase upon which she falls down twice. South Korea in the 1960s was a time of change. Young women from rural areas migrated to big industrial cities like Seoul and Busan in order to provide for their families, supporting their poor, rural family back home and pitching in for their brothers’ education. Housemaid shows this historical context throughout the film as Dong-sik, the father of the family, works as a music teacher for these girls in a factory. At the after-work music school, Dongsik gets connected to Myung-sook and ends up hiring her as a housemaid. Myung-sook takes the job solely because it pays, showing how these young women took on any jobs that would pay well. Her contact with those of higher socioeconomic class triggers her desire to climb up the social ladder.

from them. In this tragedy amidst the pursuit for wealth and a higher standard of living, there are two conflicting sides, but there cannot be a moral judgment: there is no absolute evil or good. The audience is left with discomfort, empathizing with both sides and characters for their dire circumstances engulfing them.

This impulse leads her to seduce Dongsik. Considering that adultery was a felony in South Korea in the 1960s, the film decided to show the dangers of the rapidly expanding urban jungle: Seoul. The insanity manifested in the housemaid’s eyes and her tragic transformation at the end of the film depicts how the hastily industrializing capital city of Seoul was changing innocent, rural girls into materialisticallydriven characters filled with desires for success and upward mobility. This madness accelerates throughout the film and culminates when she demands her place as the rightful wife. These two films both critically discuss social structures in South Korea. The less fortunate sides of both movies fall to ashes while pursuing the wealth barred

I did not expect Parasite’s success, since it contains cultural codes very particular to modern Korean society. The film’s details focus on Korean elements both in the plot and in the arrangement of scenery and stage properties: the mobile messenger KakaoTalk, landscape stones owned by almost all Korean households, Ram-dom Jjappaguri, which is a popular ramen recipe mixing two different kinds of instant noodles.

“Taiwanese Castella” shops that became a huge fad in 2017 and bubbled down soon after and the overly-patriotic song of “Dokdo is Our Land” help Bong to weave in a distinctively Korean sort of black comedy into the plot. Even the “drivers’ restaurant” where the whole meal is “metaphorical” to Ki-Taek, the poor family’s father, who was hired as a driver for the rich family. These subtle yet permeating elements drive the film’s running theme of the division between the rich and poor. Parasite’s main message was relatable all across the world for its succinct portrayal of inequality, despite particularly Korean cultural codes. Through its witty comedy and its thrilling conflicts, Parasite shows the social ladder between the two poles both literally and figuratively. Its runaway sequence in the pouring rain draws this line, as the Kims run down the hills of the rich neighborhood, go through a downward tunnel barefoot and slide down the steep stairs in the flooding rain to reach their semibasement apartment now wiped out by a flood. Although South Korea became an economic powerhouse, the downfall of the Kims in Parasite is not only tragic, but also a lengthy downward journey to their shanty town, portraying the “In this tragedy amidst the pursuit for wealth and higher standard of living, there are two conflicting sides, but there could not be a moral judgment: there is no absolute evil or good. “

Image from Wikimedia Commons immense inequality between the rich and the poor and the growing distance between varying classes. This spatial depiction of class difference—the staircase in Housemaid and two neighborhoods in Parasite—ties together the two movies that are five decades apart. Working as a foundation and inspiration for Korean movies that followed, Housemade shows that a solid Korean movie like Parasite did not appear out of thin air. A genius like Bong JoonHo did not emerge out of nothing but slowly morphed from the rich history of Korean classic cinema.

my city city my

by natalie lin International school students have always had an interesting relationship with Hong Kong. The international schools we grew up in are essentially little colonies of the West. They import cargos of foreign teachers who dipped us in bleach and shaped us into little replicas of themselves. We grew up speaking English, consuming Western media, and learning the politics of the Kardashians more thoroughly than that of Hong Kong’s. On top of going to a school that is international, our families are too. Most of them aren’t from the city and speak a language other than Cantonese or English. They have passports from other countries that we have as well - so when 2047 rolls around, everyone can scram the fuck out. Because of our schooling and family background, we’ve been disconnected from the local community. When we are being loud and obnoxious on the MTR they think we are white-washed 鬼妹 and 鬼仔. When we order 叉燒飯 (BBQ pork rice) and 檸檬茶 (lemon ice tea) you know they are judging us for our shitty Cantonese. Although we did not live the local experience, we lived our own version of the Hong Kong experience. We were born

and raised there too. This is the city that lets you live that 鬼人 (white person) party life, puke on the streets of LKF and still feel safe going home at midnight. This city lets you watch clips of Winnie the Pooh or John Oliver, and all the stupid youtube videos your heart can desire. This city lets you go off to university abroad and pass for being Asian-American, while growing up with all the privileges of not being a minority in your own home. Our international experience, which has subconsciously made us believe we can abandon Hong Kong, is ever more reason for us to preserve it. The degree of autonomy we had growing up is why there are so many voices, cultures and nationalities, why we even arrived in the city to begin with. Our parents followed freedom and opportunity: it led them to Hong Kong. My parents are from Taiwan and Japan, but they were still able to share their culture - so basically their food - with my brother and I. We go out to Taiwanese restaurants my parents approvingly call 道地 (authentic), where they can also

speak to the staff in their mother tongue. At home we have Japanese breakfast with an array of ingredients easily accessed at nearby markets, even those nasty, slimy natto beans I will never eat. And at the end of the day, the international airport meant home was always just one flight away for my parents. The multicultural nature of Hong Kong is evident in the students at Northwestern too. This year I restarted Hong Kong Student Association because I wanted a space for students of our unique background to convene. We are of all races and our parents are from different countries. Many of us have grown up in multiple cities or left to study abroad before coming to college.

Clearly there has been a change in Hong Kong, which is no longer a home open to the world. This summer was the first time I felt unsafe in my own city. Much of the information about the protests came from the media. After dinner my family always watches the TVB news station in the living room, which I, in all honesty, never paid much attention to before. This summer, however, I was obsessed with watching the news, clicking on every news site, constantly viewing people’s stories on the protests. I couldn’t believe the places I frequent, my childhood home, would show up in American media, on platforms I had hardly seen Hong Kong before. On top of the news, there’s always talk between people. You hear of students being beaten because they wore black into the MTR; others are being arrested because they were carrying shopping bags with a mask on; guards will look through your phone when you cross the border and pull you aside if they find anything suspicious. Admittedly, the media is increasingly untrustworthy and talk between people is simply rumour. Regardless, paranoia has engulfed the city. This summer, however, was also the first time I realised how much I love Hong Kong. I’d always thought of Hong Kong as a materialistic city obsessed with grades, money and prestige. When I sat at the airport, I realised how wrong

I had been. Hundreds of people sat on the ground in peaceful protest, sitting in groups as friends or families. Aunties and uncles went through the crowds passing out masks as well as food and drinks. There was a little girl who stood up every few minutes to rally the crowd - even though she will not grow up with the same freedoms I had. People were willing to fight for something they believed in. I don’t want to act like I know everything going on in Hong Kong because I don’t. I’ve had the privilege to be detached and live a separate life abroad. Since coming back to school, I’ve been approached by different publications who want my take on the protests, but I didn’t want to give it to them. I didn’t want it filtered through some dimwit student reporter. Likewise, local students in Hong Kong wouldn’t want their story appropriated by the biggest dimwit: me. The kids out there actually on the streets, fighting for their only home, get to have their say. I can only offer what my experience is as an international student. From my perspective the protest is being skewed toward one about nationality. Those who condemn the protest think we are too full of ourselves and don’t want to associate with China. This sentiment is true. Ever since Hong Kong was ceded to the British there has been a divide in nationality. Given

our international backgrounds, there is even less reason for us to consider ourselves Chinese. Since I was young I didn’t even consider myself as Hong Kongese. Most people I know don’t think they are Chinese, but that is not the root of conflict. What is the real reason we have mobilised? Human rights. In the last decade, there has been intensifying pressure on people’s freedom of thought and speech, from the introduction of national education to the kidnapping of the booksellers. There is an emerging threat to physical freedoms, starting with the extradition bill, and now people being arrested,

beaten, tear gassed on the streets. The violation of human rights is the primary catalyst that has mobilised people to take the streets and turn out in outstanding numbers in the November regional elections. Human rights are inextricably intertwined with access to the world. If Hong Kong is erased from the global stage, it will be effectively isolated and subjugated. We are fighting for Hong Kong’s access to the world. Many of us in the international community feel like we can pick up our bags and leave, that the issue of freedom is for locals to deal with. Some feel like we can condemn what’s been happening because we are unaffected by local struggles. We don’t want to go back home over the break, much less return there to launch our careers or start a family. Ultimately, we seem to have given up on our home. At the very least though, we can’t be silent, or we are accepting where Hong Kong is headed. We are abroad, with the freedom of speech that our peers back home don’t have, so we are going to use it. Just because we lived an international experience doesn’t mean we can’t stand up for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is our city too.

choosing choosing fate fate by imani sumbi For most of my childhood, my grandmother fooled me into believing she was a strictly traditional, conservative woman. Every day, she wakes up at 5 a.m. to recite her morning prayers. By 7 a.m., she’s leading the daily pre-mass rosary at her local church, during which she prays for, among other things, the repose of the deceased, the welfare of the poor and the end of abortion. If she’s not at church or resting at home, she’s most likely at Panera with her church friends. This was the grandmother I knew. A woman whose life was ordered and consistent, restrained even. A woman who lived simply, paid her bills on time and kept her home immaculately clean. It never occurred to me that she had a past, let alone a daring and colorful one radically different from her present. Born in 1940, my grandmother was a child of war in Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the Western Pacific that at the time was occupied by Japan. (Because of this, she was not actually born a U.S. citizen.) As the oldest daughter, she found herself caught up in the binds of filial piety. In her early 20s, after her mother passed away, she took over caring for her ill father until he too ascended to the next life. By that time, she had been seeing the man who would become my grandfather for a number of years. He was ready to get married, and because both my grandmother’s parents were deceased, he did not have to ask for anyone’s permission but hers. So he proposed. And right at that moment, my grandmother made what was perhaps the craziest choice of her life. Before they got married, she told him, she needed to see the world outside of the island. She decided to

living in the Bay Area during the mid-1960s. It was one of the most politically tumultuous decades of American history. Protests against the Vietnam War raged in the streets, the civil rights movement was in full swing, second-wave feminism rose and spread across the country, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union jockeyed for dominance over the Third World. My grandmother had never left Guam before. I can only imagine the utter shock her fiance, her family, and her future in-laws must have had at this spontaneous trip. It wasn’t just a gutsy departure from everything she had ever known. It was a brazen rejection of what was expected from her as a Chamorro woman, a deviation from the behavior that had been modeled to her by her parents and her sister, who was already married with a child. My grandmother remembers surprisingly little about how her family reacted.

“I don’t know, my sister probably said ‘Are you crazy?’” she told me. “But I didn’t care! Sometimes you have to take a risk.” The way she tells it, you would think she had no fear. Maybe it helped that she wasn’t going alone. She was accompanied by two of her cousins, also young women who desperately wanted to see what was on the other side of all that ocean.

So off they went, three young women headed for the mainland. They had all been working at a naval supply center in Guam, so they transferred to Oakland to do the same job. They took two weeks off to look for a place to live, eventually settling for a one-bedroom apartment that had little beyond a stove and a refrigerator when they moved in. They all had to sleep on the floor until they could afford to furnish the place. They only made a little over a dollar a day, my grandmother recalls, but everything was much cheaper back then. During the weekends, the three of them would take the bus to San Francisco and spend the whole day shopping and eating and doing whatever they pleased. They took their time strolling down the avenues. They rode the trolley. They ate ice cream. They saw movies. And they bought clothes. Lots and lots of gorgeous, pastel-colored clothes. Jackets and dresses and pantsuits and shoes and purses and jewelry, none of which they had access to in Guam, where there was only one department store. There were many firsts. First time seeing a freeway. First time navigating a bus system. First time experiencing a cold winter. First time owning an umbrella. First time eating a strawberry. First time tasting fried chicken with biscuits and gravy. First time seeing a hippie. First time meeting a black person. Throughout the year, she and my grandfather wrote letters back and forth to each

“It was a brazen rejection of what was expected from her as a Chamorro woman.�

other, but the distance was hard on their relationship. When my grandmother left, people told my grandfather that she would never come back. But she was a woman

she was a woman of her word. She returned to Guam and got married, happily. I used to think this was where the story ended. But I realize now that my grandmother’s story is much more than that of an elderly conservative woman with a distant, wild past. That spur-of-the-moment trip to California wasn’t some crazy anomaly in an otherwise quiet, unobtrusive life. The adventure didn’t end when she returned to Guam. In fact, the need for courage and resolve kept growing over time. After my grandparents were married, my mother and aunt came along in 1968 and 1969. The family moved to southern California when my grandfather, a navy man, was stationed in Long Beach. Sadly, he passed away from heart disease in 1980, leaving my grandmother to carry on as a single parent. She worked thirty solid years in finance for the County of Los Angeles, managed her money meticulously, put her two daughters through college, and paid off her mortgage. And all the while, she had to wrestle with the lifelong challenge that every immigrant faces -- that of carving out a space for yourself in a culture that doesn’t recognize you as one of its own. Incredibly, that youthful spirit of curiosity and adventure never left my grandmother. After she retired, she began exploring the world once again. She has since made her way to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Greece. All this is to say that my grandmother is a much more dimensional person than I initially understood. The courageous young woman who unapologetically postponed her engagement and fearlessly crossed an ocean still lives in the 79-year-old lady who serves on her church’s finance council and regularly hoses down her city-provided trash bin with soap and water. While she is neither fully traditional nor unabashedly rebellious, the logic behind which rules she follows and which she flouts -- if there is a logic at all -- evades me. What I do know is that she is a woman who has always belonged to herself. And while she cares deeply about family, faith, and tradition, she has never compromised her own agency for anything. Now that I am approaching my twentieth birthday, and I’ve found myself on a path that has taken me thousands of miles from my home (though not across an ocean or a national border), I only hope I’ve inherited her tenacity to face the world undaunted.


loop models: jessica chen, joan gwak, louis oh photographers: skye li, minho kim, miya jia

models: ester wells, adrian wan, sofia bening, jessica lei, ryan kim photographers: jessica chen, tracy zhang, saya federbush, coco huang


a word from the models Grey faded jeans, a beige checkered jacket thrifted in Seoul, and a pair of black heeled boots are the retro interpretation of Joan Gwak, a Medill sophomore from Fullerton, CA. “I tried to choose something that someone would wear to a roller skating rink,” Joan said. As a member Refresh Dance Crew, Joan always has dance rehearsal in mind when putting together her outfit of the day. She wears baggy clothes in which she can easily dance, inspired by Instagram hip-hop dancers who demonstrate their stage presence through oversized hoodies, colorful t-shirts, cargo pants and chunky shoes. Although she often shops at Adidas and Nike, Joan avoids form-fitting “athleisure” items as tight, revealing clothes can make hip-hop dancers look thin and their moves less powerful. “If I want to look bigger while dancing then bigger clothes help emphasize that,” said Joan. “It also hides a lot of imprecision of a big group that needs to all dance at the same angle.”

Jessica Chen, a freshman from Boston, didn’t care much about her style in high school. She used to wear her track sweats to school everyday with the afternoon practices in mind. That started to change once she began to better understand her own preferences and the personality she wanted to communicate through her fashion. Jessica often prefers dressing “loud” when hanging out with her friends in the city: a streetwear combination of joggers, oversized sweatshirts, t-shirts, anything radiates the persona of “a badass.” Athleisure items with simple colors—cropped hoodies with black leggings, for example—define another layer of her aesthetics. When wearing halter tops and turtlenecks, she likes to add a corduroy or leather jacket and accentuate her look with a choker necklace or hoops. hoops .

It is hard to imagine that Lewis Oh, a devoted member of Refresh Dance Crew, Northwestern’s hip-hop and urban dance team, loved preppy outfits going to high school in a Chicago suburb. Influenced by Korean TV shows, Lewis had idealized images of school uniforms, wearing button-down shirts, khaki pants, and styling his hair up with products. A black turtleneck sweater with a long, beige coat, aka the perfect K-Drama star look, used to be his go-to outfit, along with a pair of nonprescription glasses. Now his wardrobe is more diverse, and he’s experimenting with vibrant colors, folded-up jeans and figuring out how to look good in casual clothing. It doesn’t mean he’s moved on completely from the Korean minimalist style; he just now appreciates a wider range of fashion. Lewis’ favorite outfit: an oversized shirt layered beneath his favorite bright-colored sweatshirt. “Now I prefer wearing anything comfortable, although I try not to look like I didn’t clean myself in the morning,” Lewis said.

by minho kim add. reporting: jennifer zhan, cynthia zhang, tracy zhang

Jessica Lei often chooses more subdued colors over bright, flashy items when looking for what to wear on any given day. She enjoys simple sweatshirts and hoodies, accentuating her style with clean, white shoes. She recently got a turtleneck over winter break, and Jessica likes how it makes her look a bit more formal, put-together and mature. Even if her mom always yells at her for being cheap, Jessica loves shopping at affordable stores like H&M, Forever 21, and TJ Maxx, searching for the perfect item among the piles of uninteresting items. Jessica has confessed that she hates making huge commitments to clothing purchases, even though her mom tells her to invest in a good pair of jeans or jacket.

Ester Wells “avoids jeans at all costs” and instead wears joggers everywhere. She often mashes up the comfortable athleisure style with accessories: necklaces, bracelets, anklets and a ton of rings. “Let me tell you, taking off a literal handful of rings after a long day is the best,” she said. White sneakers are essential to her style, making her “feel active and sporty” even when she’s cramming for an exam at Main Library. Half-Korean and half-white, Ester felt pressured to suppress her Korean identity in high school. But as she took more ownership of her heritage, Ester was able to discover a style that she felt truly comfortable in. Now, fashion often serves as a confidence booster for Ester. “Putting together a look in the morning pushes me to go about my day with more vigor and certainty,” Ester said.

Despite wearing a bright yellow hat and oversized sweatshirt with a design of the Mona Lisa to the photoshoot, Adrian doesn’t think he has a distinct style. “Even if I do, it probably changes all the time,” he said. The Medill junior’s biggest fashion challenge during Chicago’s winter months is figuring out how to look stylish without freezing. Especially on cold days, he has to layer up clothing but ends up “looking like a banana.” Coming from Shenzhen, China, Adrian loves wearing denim and floral shirts on warm days, matching them with white shorts and leather sneakers to give a carefree and joyful vibe. During the winter, he compromises and puts on his cashmere overcoat, keeping himself warm while also adding some style.

Raised in Singapore with a Malay-Indonesian heritage, Sofia Bening loves weaving bright colors and interesting prints into her daily outfits. She often shops at Crossroads Trading on Sherman Avenue, the recycled fashion store, and loves browsing through unique items on Depop, a peer-to-peer shopping app where people often sell secondhand items. According to Sofia, her mom — who came from a traditional Chinese family — needed to understand that Sofia would never dress like a “normal person.” Growing up, Sofia had a “very long emo phase,” during which she adorned herself with dark clothing, “stupid chokers” and a dozen wristbands, “trying to be edgy with skulls.” Fashion still takes up a huge part of Sofia’s life, especially during stressful months at Northwestern, allowing her to feel better and bringing some extra joy to her day.

Although Ryan Kim courageously ventured out with an all-denim outfit for the photoshoot, the third-year industrial engineering major often wears sweatpants and streetwear items during school days for convenience. However, Ryan feels uncomfortable wearing drab hoodies and more casual clothing, as he “feels more comfortable when feeling confident” by being dressed up in a way that he likes. “It’s like I’m trying to transition from looking like a teenage boy to a 20-year-old man,” said Ryan. Nowadays Ryan is hooked on Nike cargo bottoms, faded jeans and plaid pattern pants, filling his wardrobe with items that he’s drawn to instead of just what’s popular. He’s recently discovered Round Two Chicago, a clothing store in Wicker Park, and loves their wide selection of second-hand vintage items and high-end streetwear brands. Another brand he loves is Gap, mostly for their essentials. “I think Gap is very underrated,” said Ryan. “I think their quality for their price is really good.”

I was born into institutionalized expectations. But this realization wouldn’t hit me until I was staring at the poster of a brightly-lit Times Square on my dorm wall, reminiscing about having grown up in New York City. As a child, I spent hours traversing through packed aisles at H Mart, sitting at a scratched desk at an academic prep center, or working next to hot fryers by ryan at a Korean chicken restaurant. I never felt excluded on the premise of race; in fact, race was never explicitly discussed back at home. I was an Asian-American surrounded by other Asian-Americans, and that was that.

the new 1960s

To me, Asian identity constituted more than physical and cultural details. Being the best student in class, acing math tests, and dreaming of impressive future salaries were simply a part of life, as was race. This perception of Asian Americans, termed the model minority, is so deeply integrated into the social fabric of America that instead of it being derogatory, it was nothing more than fact. Primlouise Duragos, a Filipina sophomore, grew up in a very different environment. As one of “the handful of Asian kids at school” in Chicago, and one of two Southeast Asian


Americans in her elementary school, Duragos felt the effects of the model minority label to their full extent. “People would always say, ‘Of course you’re smart.’ That’s funny and all, but that actually started to have an effect on me, especially in middle school. If I found myself struggling with something, my immediate thought process made me think that I just wasn’t that smart,” Duragos recalled. “It’s hard to actively stop yourself and remind yourself that you aren’t less of a person, or less Asian, just because you can’t relate to surface level details. I shouldn’t have to question my Asian identity based off these misconceptions of who I am as a person.”


The expectations and stereotypes Duragos felt obligated to live up to have a more extensive history than simple discrimination against Asian Americans. Claire Jean Kim, a political scientist currently teaching at the University of California, Irvine, clarifies this through the term racial triangulation, where “dominant group A (Whites) valorizes subordinate group B (Asian Americans) relative to subordinate group C (Blacks) on cultural and/or racial grounds in order to dominate both groups, but especially the latter.”







Notice that black and white people still exist on the same vertical plane, leaving Asian Americans isolated on the far left. Applied to a societal context, Kim argues that racial triangulation encompasses “processes of ‘civic ostracism,’ whereby dominant group A (Whites) constructs subordinate group B (Asian Americans) as immutable foreign.” In this way, Asian Americans were used as an intermediate prop to

“if a certain mindset is ingrained in you, that’s there forever.”

further polarize black and white people — and were ostracized in the process. Yet, the model minority label had an additional side effect of lumping together Asian Americans, which shadows many historical and cultural differences between East and Southeast Asians. This aggregation has caused students like Duragos to scrutinize their identity. When she reflects specifically on being Filipina, Duragos considers it “hard to move up in class as a Southeast Asian American because of … model minority labels. If a certain mindset is ingrained in you, that’s there forever.” Yet, this mindset of the “American” success of Asian immigrants was never immediate. In the mid 19th Century, the first wave of Asian immigrants arrived in California for the Gold Rush and found jobs in mines or on railroads. This period was characterized by exclusionary acts and heightened discrimination against these foreign “aliens” — until the 1960s. The roots that East Asians planted in America during the Gold Rush catalyzed the notion of the “successful”

Asian American. According to Professor Ji-Yeon Yuh, a founding faculty member of the Asian American Studies program at Northwestern University, “East Asian American immigrants [became] immigrants primarily because of a professional [occupation], which drew in doctors, nurses, engineers, and the like… Southeast Asian Americans, on the other hand, were not immigrants. They were refugees.” The problem starts here: though the model minority label was appended to Asian Americans as a whole, it was initially based on East Asians, who had more time in America to experience suffering before achieving the so-called “American Dream.” Southeast Asians, with drastically different immigrant experiences than East Asians, were simply lumped into the mix. Thus, the pressure was two-fold for Southeast Asian immigrants. First, assimilating into American society was an obstacle without any stable community. Second, being a refugee has traumatic effects, which inhibited Southeast Asians from making a life for themselves like East Asians did. The government only furthered this division. “Southeast Asians came with nothing and were resettled by the U.S. government in neighborhoods with badly-resourced public schools… So, the refugees and

their children ended up with similar life stories to blacks and Latinos who were in the same neighborhoods because they were subject to the same socioeconomic conditions and the same lack of educational opportunities to move out,” Yuh said. Despite blatant discrepancies between Southeast and East Asians, most white Americans saw none. All Asian Americans were held to the academic and socio-economic standards of East Asian Americans. That is my identity, and it took some time to not only realize my privilege but also acknowledge how my story might be different if I were a Southeast Asian American. Though crafted long ago, the model minority label has social residue that remains alive and very apparent today. Mia Tran is a Vietnamese junior who, in middle school, would always be told that she “wasn’t smart enough for an Asian.” However, Tran had a sizeable Southeast Asian American friend group growing up, and she remembered one telling comment. “My Southeast Asian friends would be like, ‘It’s so shameful that I don’t do math as well as you do.’ That just showed me how fixed the model minority myth was for Southeast Asians.”

Institutionalized methods of attaining racial statistics, like the U.S. census or affirmative action, also further aggregates East Asian Americans with Southeast Asian Americans. In the 2020 census, for example, only Filipinos and Vietnamese individuals will get their own boxes; other Southeast Asian Americans will have to specify their ethnicity under “Other Asian.” “I would love some disaggregated data,” Christine Munteanu, the Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, said in regards to the census. “Even here at Northwestern, I feel like the model minority label shows up through the way the Northwestern administrators see the Asian American community as model minorities on campus. When model minority narratives are the only narratives around Asian American communities, they only continue to

perpetuate the erasure of Southeast Asian communities.” I shouldn’t have to say that I was born into institutionalized expectations, but it is even more troubling that writing such a statement comes with a degree of privilege. Southeast Asian Americans were born into silence, and it is imperative to let their voices be heard. We cannot remain passive about the disparities within the Asian-American community and the aggregating effects of the model minority label. And I use “we” purposefully: no one else can and should spur this movement except for Asian Americans ourselves. Every one of us needs our own poster of a brightly-lit Times Square to serve as a reminder to actively challenge ourselves and reflect on how we might be unknowingly perpetuating institutionalized racism.

retro k-pop by joan gwak Photo via Triple H It’s difficult to define K-pop music as a single genre, since its music borrows from many standalone genres, including EDM, R&B and hip-hop. There’s always some sort of eye-catching element, which manifests itself in the title track, dance or costuming of a K-pop group—this can also be defined as the group’s “concept”. More often than not, groups switch up concepts for each of their comebacks to provide a fresh take on the music and widen their fanbase. Such concepts include fantasy, girl/boy-next-door, innocent, bad boy/girl, and more. One of the most popular and successful concepts is “retro,” and retro style K-pop blasts it back to the past and brings its fans with it. Retro, as a style, is alluring to audiences in the sense that it draws inspiration from any decade in the 20th century. With better music and video technology, it’s easy for producers and stylists to recreate older sounds and looks

at a higher quality. Modern-day audiences are given the chance to appreciate art that is reminiscent of times before them without compromising quality (although some may claim that the charm of older entertainment is what comes along with its antiquity, such as blurry visuals and crackly audio). Although retro-style K-pop has been a consistently popular concept, it could be said that the theme was ahead of its time. A recent trend dubbed “newtro” ( swept across Korean pop culture, influencing aesthetics in almost everything, ranging from fashion styles to café interior designs to photography. “Newtro” combines the words “new” and “retro,” taking something with an old-fashioned influence and giving it a modern twist. It’s safe to say that the K-pop industry may follow the trend and release even more retro-style music and looks.

If you’re looking to dip your toes into the retro world of K-pop, here is a curated list of the top retro tracks by a K-pop aficionado (yours truly) that is guaranteed to make you groove along. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the retro style songs aren’t necessarily tacky — in fact, they provide an ideal balance of sounds from old music combined with some edgy flavor to entertain our generation.

Songs to listen to if:

You’re searching for a song that isn’t your typical retro-K-pop song. You’re tired of “Nobody” and “Tell Me,” and you want something stylistically different, perhaps something summery. The Wonder Girls, the same group that sang the aforementioned songs, stepped out of their niche retro genre and tried something new with “Why So Lonely,” released in 2016. The song takes influence from reggae, which originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, expertly creating a groovy beat and bouncy melody that’s easy to memorize. The tone of the song sounds mature as the singers ask themselves why they feel so lonely in a relationship possibly going south. The music video shows the members in scenes with muted bright colors in the background, dressed in clothing with patterns from the hippie era, such as colorful headbands and polka dots. You’re looking for an iconic, authentic retro sound in the artist’s music and you want to feel confident. Triple H, a unit with two singers and a rapper, is known for their signature retro sound, full of Michael Jackson-esque ad-libs, syncopated bass lines and hints of disco qualities. One of their most popular songs embodies the concept of “newtro,” hence the title “Retro Future.” The artists sing of their sexiness and appeal from being a mix of retro and the future, and urge the listeners to dance with them. The music video has an aged filter applied to the entirety of the song, featuring pops of red, blue, turquoise and yellow. The singers and actors give off cool and almost arrogant vibes, making you want to join them and dance.

You’re curious to listen to what K-pop would sound like if it were inspired by soul-pop and jazz, given that more recent K-pop is typically based on hip-hop and EDM. “Lion Heart” by Girls’ Generation is layered with a consistent bassline, snaps and trumpets, giving the song a jazzy vibe. The singers in the music video are donned in elegant and sleek clothing from the 1960s, including laced gloves, flared pants and berets.The aesthetics of the music video also feature segmented storylines with different stylistic effects applied to the clips, inspired by black and white silent films berets. The song itself is a bop, the fun storyline in the music video involving a cheating man who tries to woo all the girls definitely keeps the viewers engaged. You want a romantic retro song that’s slow, soulful and perfect to sway along to. “Look at Me” by George was recommended to me by a friend who has the best playlists for any mood and genre of songs. The track highlights the musical elements of R&B songs in the 1990s with music from organs, bass drums and soft, light vocals contributing to the song’s retro value. This song is perfect to listen to if you want to imagine yourself in a music video. Picture yourself walking outdoors at night in the snow, on a rainy or snowy night, making you feel hopeful and in love.

Photo via JYP Entertainment

by natalie lin

sunday comics