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15 Years of Anger: Phil Yu Discusses the Origins and Impact of Angry Asian Man

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This past Sunday marked 15 years since the establishment of the blog, Angry Asian Man. From calling out acts of racism to promoting Kickstarter campaigns by up-and-coming creators, in the words of founder Phil Yu, “Angry Asian Man is a website covering news, current events, politics, pop culture, and other subjects from Asian America.”

The blog originally started back in 2001, as a way for Yu, then a recent graduate from Northwestern University, to vent and jot down his thoughts about anything that caught his attention in the Asian American community, whether good or bad. It was very self-serving, especially because at the time he didn’t think anyone else would read it.

“In 2001, if something like Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr existed, that’s probably where I would have directed those energies,” he speculates. “At least those first couple years, the way I was writing and sharing, I mean… That’s pretty much what you do on Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook now. If social media had existed in those days, there might not be an Angry Asian Man, or not as we know it.”

It’s because there was no social media then that Yu was drawn to other content creators at the time, who created on their own terms. He found this creative freedom really inspiring; something that today may be taken for granted.

Abercrombie & Fitch's ill conceived T-Shirts from 2002 - photo via fortune.com

Abercrombie & Fitch’s ill conceived T-Shirts from 2002 – photo via fortune.com

Though Angry Asian Man was steadily building a following, it wasn’t until a year after Yu started the blog that he realized it was becoming something bigger than he had expected. In 2002, Abercrombie and Fitch came under fire when they released a number of T-shirts with racist depictions of Asian caricatures printed on them. Yu and a network of other online writers covered it, and their links were shared prolifically, garnering the attention of the mainstream media outlets in a just a week’s time. There was enough of an uproar to discontinue the T-shirts altogether.

In the years since, Angry Asian Man has become a popular site for all the latest in Asian America; and with all the traffic pouring on a daily basis, it’s even garnered attention from mainstream media outlets as well. Not only has it become a beacon for the latest news, but readers also have reverence for Yu, for having no filter in expressing exactly how he feels on each subject he addresses.

When asked about his thoughts on all the attention, he said he still finds it weird to this day. As much as he is proud of the work he’s done to get the blog to where it is now, he feels that there should be more voices out there.

“I should not be the first and/or only person people think of when it comes to Asian American news or reporting and have a voice,” he said.

Phil Yu at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival – photo by Steven Lam

Angry Asian Man has gotten such a vast readership, that Yu has even started expanding the content within the last several years.

Angry Reader of the Week is a weekly feature that highlights people who Yu has met over the years from connecting with his readers. For him, it’s a way of shedding light on the unique individuals in the community and, as a result, has made it a more inclusive experience for his audience. The one rule he has for it: You cannot ask to be Angry Reader of the Week.

Beyond the blog, Yu has extended out to the podcast world with Sound and Fury: The Angry Asian Podcast. His interview-style episodes allow for him to have conversations with people he’s met over the years. The podcast project is ultimately a labor of love that Yu tends to, despite the demand of the blog.

“It’s a project of wanting to say what I want to say,” he commented. “This is on my time, this is creating something extra, and it’s very much dictated by what I want to do, under this Angry Asian Man banner.”

Two years ago, Yu extended the Angry Asian Man brand to YouTube when he collaborated with the staff of ISAtv to create the web series, “Angry Asian America.” With his co-host comedian Jenny Yang, and two featured guests, they would create a conversation about current events and pop culture in Asian America.

In regards to the 15th anniversary of Angry Asian Man, Yu is wowed by it, sometimes thinking he’s done the math wrong. He’s impressed that the readership has been around for as long as it has and happy to be around for so many people’s Asian American journeys.

“It’s crazy!” he said. “[Time] has gone by so fast! 15 is a staggering number to do any one thing for that long, especially running a website.”

As Yu looks to the future, he plans to keep doing what he’s been doing by connecting with interesting people, creating engaging content, and keeping the podcast and web series going strong.

Asked what he thinks the state of Angry Asian Man will be in another 15 years, he predicts it will be at a time when we’ve already celebrated the first Asian American actors and actresses to have been nominated and win Academy Awards and that the #1 hit TV show is an Asian American sitcom.

“Hopefully people will be plugging into [Angry Asian Man] from their brain computers and holograph projections and things like that,” he joked. “Hopefully there will be [fewer] things to be angry about in terms of racism and inequality in this country.”

But even Yu knows that there will always be some things worth getting angry over, and that we can all keep counting on him to call it out, for as his motto goes, “Stay angry.”

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Cover Image via Angry Asian Man

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Written on February 15, 2016 by
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