'yellow apparel: when the coolie becomes cool' (2000) explores the commodification and appropriation of Asian cultural elements into mainstream America and examines the effects of this trend on Asian Americans.
In examining the recent trendiness of Asian cultural elements, such as bindis, Buddhist beads, and Chinese character tattoos, 'yellow apparel: when the coolie becomes cool' (2000) seeks to address whether this commodification of Asian culture signals the acceptance of Asian Americans into the cultural fabric of America.
Produced by a group of undergraduates at UC-Berkeley, the video forces the viewer to consider the contradictions between the current fashionability of Asian symbols and the history of oppression suffered by Asian Americans. For example, what does it mean that many white folks like to dress up as Asians while, at the same time, scientist Wen Ho Lee is systematically mistreated because of his Asian appearance?
Combining commentary and spoken word poetry, 'yellow apparel' presents the material with humor, pride, and passion.
The documentary also draws connections between these issues as they concern Asian Americans and the ways in which Black culture is appropriated while Black communities are marginalized throughout society. While explaining the appropriation of an exotic Asia as an attempt to fill the void created by a bureaucratized suburban lifestyle in America, yellow apparel does not attempt to provide a clear-cut solution but rather a critical and informed examination of the commodification of Asian culture.