hardyandtiny in seoul: Angry Little (Asian) Girls

interviewed 6/8/2001 by IndieRAG [original site]

original url for the text as shown below: http://hardyandtiny.typepad.com/general/2004/02/angry_little_as.html

Angry Little (Asian) Girls

Angry Little Girls A funny little website created by a Korean American 
actress and cartoonist Lela Lee. The comicstrip is updated weekly.

Lela Lee, a cartoonist, actress and writer, first created "Angry Little
Asian Girl" in 1994 while she was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. After four
years of the video collecting dust, she introduced the 5 shorts to sparkling
reviews by the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. In April of 1998, she
launched her website "angrylittleasiangirl.com" based on her cartoon
character. She is now currently working on books for her expanded cartoon
characters "angry little girls." In addition to cartooning Lela has appeared
in the independent films "Yellow" and "Shopping for Fangs." She has worked
with Margaret Cho on a television pilot for 20th Century Fox and appeared on
television shows such as "Relativity," "Profiler," "Felicity," "Charmed,"  
and "Friends." She has also been several commercials, most notably for
American Express. Lela Lee continues to work on her comic strip and hopes to
get it syndicated.

iR: So how did "Angry Little Girls" begin? In 1994, I was a sophomore in
Berkeley where a friend took me to see "Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted" for
the first time. I came out of the theater feeling very upset. I didn't like
those cartoons at all. They were showing videos that were very chauvinistic
and male-humored, and I didn't think they were funny. My friend suggested
that I should make a cartoon about myself, so I went home and started
drawing a little Asian girl with a red shirt, black pants and pigtails. I
made a story about this girl at her first day of school who was being
introduced to the class. When the teacher asked her how she spoke English so
well, being the angry little Asian girl that she was, she just exploded.

iR:  That was completely before your acting career? Tell us about your
background. Yes, actually I did the video before I started acting
professionally. I graduated from Berkeley in 1996. I was born in Los
Angeles, and I also lived in Korea on a chicken farm until I was four. I
grew up in San Dimas until I was eighteen. I went to college at Berkeley,
and I came out here to LA after. 

iR: But you didn't do that much to it until a few years later. Why did you
decide to come back to the angry little Asian girl? I was watching a lot of
animation like "Southpark." In fact, I saw a bootleg copy of an early
version of "Southpark" and thought it was similar to my little girl idea. So
I animated the first episode, along with four more new episodes put it
altogether and sent it out. I eventually also added four more little girls
and it became "Angry Little Girls" featuring the "Angry Little Asian Girl."
When I sent it out to American Cinematheque and Spike and Mike, Spike & Mike
purchased the exhibition rights for all the first five episodes. American
Cinematheque had it reviewed in LA Times and LA Weekly, and the reviews were
great. I was stunned. There was suddenly this whole buzz about it. I wanted
to make some T-shirts, so I initially made 300 of them. I made my good
friends buy them. They bought them and started wearing them outside. Soon my
phone was ringing off the hook. I was even getting strange phone calls after
midnight for my T-shirts. So I decided to make a website to sell the
T-shirts and launched it in 1998. I also sent it to NAATA (National Asian
American Telecommunications Association) to get my first episode shown, but
they rejected them. It was funny that around their film festival's time I
met Kayo Hatta up there, who was on their board, and she said she was glad
to show the film. And I told her that they weren't showing it. She was quite
surprised. Lela Lee among the cast of "Yellow," a critically acclaimed
Korean American teen drama set in Los Angeles

iR: What happened after you launched the website? MTV heard about it, and
they wanted to talk to me about doing something. After they reviewed it,
they said it was cute but there was no market for Asians.  Basically I
couldn't force them. They said no, so I was pissed and thought that wasn't
true at all. When I was out selling shirts, a lot of people really liked the
shirts and the video. The website was also getting a lot of hits. I felt
like I hit on a nerve of some sort. A lot of people like the attitude, and
it's not for only Asians or only about Asians in that matter.  It's about
being an underdog. So I expanded "Angry Little Asian Girls" to "Angry Little

iR: Why are these little girls angry? The whole thing is about being a girl,
growing up as a girl and how difficult it is. What happened in college was
that my bubble was burst about how the real world operated. There were a lot
of things that didn't make sense. I had no part in creating them, yet they
affected me. That was why I was angry. But as I got older, I realized that's
how the world worked. It was this idea of disruption and disappointment. I
hope my comics appeal to people who are disenchanted.

iR: So "Angry Little Girls" are both animation and a comic strip? It started
off as animation. Then people started calling it as a comic strip. To be
honest, the animation is a quite lame and pathetic (wink). So I started
thinking about it as a comic strip and then as comic books. Before that, I
never really read anything or follow anything about comic books.

iR: So right now, what is the direction you're taking? Now each of the Angry
Little Girls has their own comic book, and I hope to get them in the
newspapers. I've been working a lot in terms of honing that art. I've been
studying a lot of the line work of other cartoonists. I want to improve but
also keep it simple. The time that I took to hone my art has really paid
off. "Angry Little Girls" has improved a lot.

iR: So what are the good stuffs on the website (http://angrylittlegirls.com)? 
T-shirts, mugs, and mousepads. Soon there will be magnets and more styles of
mugs. The Angry Board where people can post their angry experieces Every
week, I post new comic strips. There's also an area where people post their
angry experiences.

iR: Who do you think is your audience? Teenagers in high school and also
people in college. On the angry board, the postings are mainly from high
school students and people in college.

iR: Are there people who feel threatened by "Angry Little Girls"? There was
a time that the website was really raw and dark. At that time, people sent
strange e-mails and they basically said, "What's wrong with you?" In a way,
I've gotten tired of being angry (on in one-dimensional way) and my art sort
of changed. I had the same core of things that upsets me, but it has become
more subtle. There are people threatened by it, and (funny) a lot of them
have been Korean.  They'd say something like, "What kind of a Korean are
you? We are so ashamed of you." A lot of them were Korean males.

iR: How did you respond to them? I didn't respond to those e-mails. My
attitude is that if you don't get me, I'm not going to bother. Whatever.

iR: Tell me more about each of the Angry Little Girls One of them is very
disenchanted and depressed. The other is very active, wondrous and very
positive. The thing is really about anger and how different people react and
deal with things that make them angry. One girl gets depressed about it, or
another girl responds to it as a challenge.  Their core emotion is a lifting
of the wool. The wool's coming off and they're seeing stuff.

iR: So how's the website doing in general? I get about 800,000 visitors
consistently a month, and at holiday seasons it goes up to about a million.
iR: What are you working on now? Right now, I'm working on books. They're
"Angry Little Girls" books. I can't tell you what they are, but I'm really
happy with them and I'm getting them out. I felt like that it has come a
long way.

iR: What are you working on now? Once I'm done with the books, I'm going to
do more FLASH. I want to animate the comic strips I'm drawing and posting
weekly. For now, people can see the first five episodes on-line.

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