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Always Be My Maybe’s depiction of Asian Americans is groundbreaking

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Hollywood has a long history of casting Asians as sidekicks, punchlines, or villains, if we are cast at all. Last summer’s Crazy Rich Asians, about a young woman discovering that her boyfriend is one of Asia’s wealthiest bachelors, was a watershed victory for media representation in our community, and became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

Always Be My Maybe, another rom-com with an all-Asian-lead cast that was released on Netflix last week, carries the torch forward. While Crazy Rich Asians was about the spectacle of obscene family wealth in Asia — an entertaining drama set in a far-off land — Always Be My Maybe’s story of a friendship turned romance is far more relatable for most audiences. It also includes Asian American characters who aren’t the traditionally successful doctor or lawyer we are used to seeing on screen.

Always Be My Maybe shows a groundbreaking character: an Asian American underachiever

The film follows Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park), neighbors and childhood friends who grew up together in San Francisco. As teenagers, Sasha and Marcus have awkward sex in the back of his old Corolla, but end up heading their separate ways after graduation.

Fifteen years later, Sasha is a celebrity chef in Los Angeles who returns to San Francisco to open a new restaurant. She and Marcus have an uncomfortable reunion when he shows up as a repairmen to fix Sasha’s broken AC unit. She’s disappointed that he’s still living at home without much in the way of a career. But after Sasha falls out with her successful but emotionally distant fiancé, she finds herself drawn to Marcus’s unassuming nature. He says what he thinks, noting how she uses her “phone voice” to code-switch on calls, and freely admitting he’s still hungry after an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant.

It might sound strange, but an Asian-American lead character playing a low achiever might just be what our community needs right now. The story of Asians in America is happy one at first glance — as the nation’s fastest growing racial group, we’re seen as educated “model minority” citizens who have earned society’s respect. But Asian American achievement often faces backlash.

Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske has found that people evaluate groups along two primary dimensions: warmth (friendly, trustworthy) and competence (capable, effective). Numerous surveys have found that white Americans generally receive high marks for both warmth and competence, while black and Latinx Americans are seen as less competent and get mixed results on warmth, both depending on factors like income and profession. Meanwhile, Asians and Jewish people are seen in these surveys as highly competent but colder, less friendly and maybe untrustworthy. These stereotypes can lead to feelings of envy, an ambivalent emotion that Fiske says is a mix of both admiration and resentment.

Crazy Rich Asians brought me to tears of joy, but every character in the film was highly educated, fantastically wealthy, or both. Yes, Asian Americans have on average higher rates of college education and higher earnings, but we also have the largest income inequality of any racial group and our undocumented population has tripled since 2000. The higher average earnings of Indians, Filipinos, and Chinese can obscure the lower earnings of Cambodians, Hmong, and Thai when we’re considered as a single group.

To be fair, Always Be My Maybe depicts Asian American success in the character of Sasha. But rather than working in finance or a STEM field, she has made it in the creative world of culinary arts. Marcus strays even further from the model minority stereotype as a stoner who never made it past high school. But rather than being a joke or embarrassment, we see why Marcus stayed: he became his father’s caregiver, learned Cantonese to chat with the servers at his local dim sum joint, and built a cult following for his hip-hop band.

Why the “envied outside group” is a dangerous stereotype

Fully developed depictions of Asian Americans are rare and increasingly important — as an envied outside group, Asian Americans are in “a dangerous place,” Fiske told me. While people might generally cooperate with us because we’re useful, in times of perceived competition for scarce resources, we can face “attack and sabotage.”

I’ve found that these attacks, while sometimes blatant, are more often subtle and difficult to pin down. Five years after I graduated from Stanford, I was selected by the White House for a prestigious technology fellowship. Early into the program, I was introduced to a dozen senior government officials (all of whom were white). For inexplicable reasons, one remarked loudly that I didn’t appear old enough to have graduated from college. She used a common stereotype of Asian Americans to undercut me in front of this influential group. Perhaps she felt I didn’t deserve all the fanfare and wanted to bring me down a notch. I’ll never know.

In the Students for Fair Admissions vs Harvard University lawsuit, statisticians found that Asian American students were “‘consistently rated’ as having less ‘positive personality,’ likability, courage, and kindness.” These stereotypes around our personality were so detrimental that Asian Americans were less likely to be accepted into Harvard than whites, despite having higher standardized testing, academic, and extracurricular ratings.

These biases follow us into the workplace. A 2016 study looking at 106,000 Silicon Valley tech workers found that among professionals, Asian Americans make up the largest racial cohort. But once employed, we were the least likely among all races to get promoted to be managers or executives.

My research on Asian American men has found that we’re more likely to be recognized for working hard or our technical skills than for being creative or our leadership ability. We’re hired for our competence, but can’t seem to ascend.

Perhaps Asian Americans should simply be grateful for our general success and not complain about seemingly minor obstacles. But this kind of envious prejudice can quickly take a dark turn. Fiske pointed out that historically speaking, “The targets of genocide are often successful outsiders.” Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, best known for his platform of universal basic income, fears that we are “one generation away” from Asians being targets of violence in the same way Jewish synagogues have been.

Through its main characters, Always Be My Maybe expands what it means to be Asian American. Marcus may not have a great career, but that’s never treated as a fundamental character flaw. He ultimately reunites with Sasha not because he suddenly landed a record deal or a high-paying job, but because he overcame his fear of change and grew as a person. And that’s something we can all relate to.

So as much as I might aspire to the wealth and good looks of billionaire Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, I’m grateful we also have the stumbling but lovable Marcus Kim in Always Be My Maybe, reminding us that Asian Americans come from all walks of life.

Jason Shen is the cofounder of a gaming tech startup and the creator of the Asian American Man Study. His work has appeared in the Atlantic, NBC News, and Quartz. He can be found on Twitter at @jasonshen and on his personal blog.


First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com.

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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s CEO ranking plummeted this year

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Facebook employees have long been known for their fierce loyalty to the company and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. In the aftermath of numerous privacy debacles, including ones in which Facebook has exposed users’ personal information and facilitated attempts to undermine American democracy, that enthusiasm seems to have flagged.

The Facebook CEO saw his ranking among top US CEOs plummet this year, from No. 16 in 2018 to No. 55 this year, though he does have an approval rating of 94 percent, according to new data from Glassdoor, a site where employees can anonymously rate their jobs and their CEOs. His approval rating was 96 percent last year.

The average CEO approval rating among the 900,000 employers reviewed on Glassdoor is 69 percent — so Zuckerberg’s 94 percent approval is well above average, even if it’s not as high as it used to be.

Back in 2013, when Glassdoor first started ranking CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg was ranked as the No. 1 CEO in the US, with a 99 percent approval rating, and the company overall was considered the best place to work. This year it dropped to the seventh-best place to work, from No. 1 in 2018.

Last year, even after Facebook had undergone a brutal 18 months of scandals and reshuffling, Recode’s Kurt Wagner wrote that “no one in Facebook’s upper ranks ever seems to leave the company.” That changed this year when two of the company’s most important executives — both named Chris — left. The company has also seen defections from leaders of the companies it has acquired, including the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram.

Employees at tech companies including Google, Uber, and Amazon have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of their employers. Facebook largely has avoided such blowback, but increased employee dissatisfaction could portend protests among Facebook workers as well.

Why Zuckerberg — and Facebook — are only now losing favor with some employees is unclear, though recent comments on Glassdoor about the company’s leadership provide some clues:

“Start taking your morale issue seriously. Leadership needs to take several steps back, really listen, and show that you are serious by taking action.” —Lead Data Specialist

“Due to the recent scandals, the company has become cautious to an extreme and every privacy decision is taken with painstakingly slow speed because it’s been vetted by layers and layers of people. It’s also a very fast paced and competitive place, so some people find it hard to keep up.” —Product Manager

“Very competitive environment. No[t] possible to succeed if you don’t work 60+ hours. Focus on short term impact due to performance cycle every 6 months. No clarity on expectations of roles. Mix signals from leadership about culture.” —Data Scientist

General public sentiment toward Facebook has become more negative in the last few years as the company has struggled with a number of issues on its platform, including Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and several privacy mishaps related to storing passwords on unencrypted servers and buggy software.

As a result, Zuckerberg and his company have been under fire from the media and politicians alike. The Federal Trade Commission is also reportedly preparing for a potential antitrust investigation of Facebook.

Facebook did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Other notable takeaways from the Glassdoor report: The CEO of enterprise software company VMware, Pat Gelsinger, has been buoyed by positive employee reviews and now ranks No. 1, a huge jump up from No. 78 last year. Salesforce CEOs Marc Benioff and Keith Block made the top 100 for the first time, ranking No. 17. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella jumped up from 20 to No. 6. The rank of Google CEO Sundar Pichai remained steady, dropping one to 46. Apple’s Tim Cook rose from 96 to 69.

Glassdoor’s large company CEO ratings were tabulated using reviews written by current and former employees between May 2, 2018, and May 1, 2019. Glassdoor uses a proprietary algorithm that considers quantity, quality, and consistency of reviews to calculate the exact approval rating. Only companies with at least 100 reviews each from both rank-and-file employees as well as senior management are considered in these rankings.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.

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20 People Whose Looks Smash Ordinary in the Face

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A flawless body, big eyes, plump lips, a straight nose, thick hair, and perfect skin — all these so-called beauty standards are not only outdated and old-fashioned, but also a little boring and distorted. Freckles, unusual eye colors, and skin and body features — these are what truly fascinates and catches one’s eye.

Bright Side has collected 20 pictures of people with unique appearances that will definitely get your attention.

1. Sem Kobelyan has vitiligo that affects his hair and even his eyebrows — and it creates an even more unique look!

2. TK Wonder is not only a writer and a singer, but she is also the owner of unbelievably voluminous hair.

5. This blue-eyed child with vitiligo won our hearts.

6. Yulianna Yussef’s birthmark covers most of her back and she raises positive awareness of CMN through her Instagram.

8. Ia Östergren’s legs are extremely long — her height is 5’8″ and the length of her legs is 3’5″.

9. Mekhi Lucky gained people’s attention thanks to his striking eyes — one is blue and one is brown.

10. This beautiful baby girl with albinism is Nova Winter and her parents have their own blog — the Larson family.

11. Samuel Silva — a unique-looking kid model with vitiligo

12. Cassandra Naud, a professional dancer, says her big birthmark is exactly what distinguishes her from everyone else.

13. Russian illustrator, Maria Oz amazes everyone with her non-standard appearance and huge beautiful eyes.

15. James Stewart calls himself a “13-year-old kid with grey hair” and openly tells his audience what life with vitiligo is like.

16. Hamad Jaman has embraced his freckles and made a modeling career out of his unique appearance.

17. This textile-design student, Gao Qizhen, started her modeling career thanks to her non-standard look.

18. Daria Svertilova is a photographer who captures non-obvious beauty as she embraces her own.

19. This young makeup artist, Lauren Elyse, doesn’t let vitiligo stop her from showing the world her amazing skills.

20. Stef Sanjati is a video blogger who is famous for her non-standard appearance due to a rare genetic condition.

Which unusual traits are there in your appearance? We’d be happy to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Reddit Users Talk About the Awkward Situations They Will Remember for the Rest of Their Lives

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We’re pretty sure that everyone has been in a situation when they were super embarrassed and just wanted to disappear forever. However, these otherwise awful situations prove to be quite interesting and unique which is why they’re enjoyed by hundreds and thousands of people online. The stories we’ve collected here are by far the best and we couldn’t help but share!

We at Bright Side think that if you can transform your unpleasant memories of an embarrassing situation that happened years ago into a funny story, you should. And that’s exactly what the people in this article managed to do.

  • I get into the elevator with some guy. We start going and he asks me, “Do you want to go to a cafe?” I smiled at him and said, “I do.” He looked at me in a weird way and pointed at his Bluetooth earpiece. So, have you ever wanted to jump into an elevator shaft?
  • The 2 things that our camp guides were most scared of were losing someone and someone getting pregnant. And so my friend Mary (we were 12 years old) told the camp guide that she seemed to have gotten pregnant (she just loved attention). The camp counselor was terrified and whispered, “From who?” Mary was scared and whispered back, “Does it have to be from someone?” The counselor yelled at her so loudly that I think half the camp woke up. -NikkiKi
  • I snapped this intriguing shot while driving. I captioned it with something like, “When you have a crazy day and a lot of work but you can’t forget about beauty because your skin won’t take care of itself”.
  • I was in the elevator area of my former job and wearing a skirt that was a little too big for me. Luckily, I had one of those long sweaters on over it because I was talking to the maintenance guy and the skirt just dropped to the floor like, “and we’re done here…” and the guy and I just stared at each other for a small eternity. — © sinicuichi
  • I’ll never forget how on one of my first days in college, I met a guy whose name was Chandler. When he asked me for my name, I told him I was Monica. My friend witnessed this conversation and later asked me why I lied. I said I wanted us to be like the characters from Friends. And he was like, “Are you nuts? Your name is Rachel, and there was a Rachel on the show!”
  • Once, I had this really weird conversation with a guy. I think he was too nervous:
  • I ran face first into a street light lamp post because I was staring (while walking) at a beautiful girl walking toward the direction where I was coming from. It was in front of the main gate of our university. Hundreds of students saw it. My friends laughed so hard. — © KiwiPin0
  • I’m a very responsible person. But once, after a crazy party, instead of setting my alarm clock, I entered “8:30” in my calculator.
  • Yesterday, after a bachelorette party, we went to a water park where I almost drowned. The next day I was very angry that the employees didn’t care about the safety of the visitors. But then my friends sent me this photo and it just turned out that it was me who was crazy and thought I was drowning in a pool for children.
  • A blind woman wanted to know where the front of the bank was and I pointed and said, “It’s over there.” — © Kirjath
  • My wife and I went out for a drink one night. We walk into a bar and I see someone I know with their back turned. I walk up behind them and tickle their sides. Turned out, I didn’t know this person, they just gave me a weird look and walked away. Got their spot at the bar though. — © buefordbaxter

  • My wife and daughter gave me an iPhone. I had never used one before and I decided to text a voice message. This is what I sent to my daughter:

  • I took my grandmother to Starbucks for the first time. A barista asked her a standard question: “What name should I put on the coffee?” Grandma was amazed, looked at him, then turned to me and said, “He wants to give my coffee a name. Is he a junkie? How was he even hired in the first place?”
  • It happened in my childhood. My mom was in the kitchen with her friend who was complaining that men don’t care about her at all. Then I said, “This is very bad. I also didn’t take care of my fish and now it’s dead. It’s sad, you are still so young.”
  • Before the prom, I went to a salon and asked to make the hairstyle like the one in the left photo to look like a princess. But I ended up looking like our principal:

Which of these stories did you like this most? Maybe you could tell us about some other similar situations from your own experience!

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