It’s said that the inventor of the web’s original vision was for it to be “a collaborative medium, a place where we can all meet and read and write”—a single central vision. In 2000 the web was transitioning from sites originally built with static HTML pages, simple embedded styles, to interactive website features and the birth of the comment section, which marked a major point of evolution in the world of web development.
Enter Phil Yu. Like many people of color coming up in the 1980s and ‘90s, he had grown accustomed to not seeing himself in mass media. But unlike many, Yu also got angry, and then he found a way to channel it. Angry Asian Man was a blog built on html. The name is an ironic play on the model minority trope and asks: Why aren’t Asians allowed or expected to be angry? The greeting page features an action figure of Quick Kick, the bare-chested character in from G.I. Joe, who is angry as well.
The blog began as a way for Yu to express himself and work through how he felt about not seeing his community reflected in media, but found further purpose after successfully helping to mobilize against a clothing company that had released T-shirts featuring racist caricatures of Asian people. This changed the blog’s course and direction from criticism to also include calls to action, providing a look, via an Asian American lens, at everything from pop culture to politics to music to academia. As it became a destination for others seeking community, the blog again transformed into a type of short form conversation.
The speed in which today’s audience can call out media for stereotypical representations and/or erasure was built off of the work that Yu has been doing for the last 20 years. It doesn’t matter that the format was a blog—it’s about the content of that blog. Before social media was widespread, he helped to create the playbook for being in digital spaces. His blog has connected Asian Americans across the internet, so the stories themselves became interactive as readers formed communities, engaged, and took action.
He spoke up when others did not. He built community and allowed space for that community to be creative and innovative, to see themselves as creators and valued/respected audience members. He amplified the work of organizations covering Asian American issues so that they could find broader coalitions. With the message as important as the delivery and consumption medium, Phil continues to shine a light on Asian American issues beyond his blog and into podcasts and publishing. Mainstream media is listening now.
For upholding the original vision of what the web could be, encouraging and inspiring the next generation of creators and community, for being unapologetic about centering the Asian American experience and for staying angry, Phil Yu is awarded a Peabody.