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Friday, September 5, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Commentary

'Little Girls' presents big ideas without forgetting angry origins

Seattle Times staff reporter

Commentary


"Searching for Asian America," a series that focuses on four Asian Americans and their views of their culture, including a segment on Lela Lee and her comics, reception at 6:30 p.m./screening at 8 p.m. today; the reception will be held at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, 407 Seventh Ave. S., Seattle; the screening will be held next door at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S.; $25 (206-340-1445 or www.angrylittlegirls.com).
I've often wished for the kind of untamed mouth from whence awful, mean words fly. Mine is restrained, to a fault, by a mind that thinks twice before letting it talk.

That's why Kim, the 6-year-old star of Lela Lee's comic strip "Angry Little Girls," has become my heroine. She's got the mouth that I want (sometimes). She's the angry little Asian girl.

Top 10 Reasons I Love "Angry Little Girls"

10. You'd never see a comic strip titled "Angry Little Boys." It's just not a big deal, boys getting angry. But Lee's "Angry Little Girls" throws a whole lot of rage at the notion that girls should always be good, accommodating and not too outspoken — especially in the face of racism and chauvinism.

9. Kim and her crew of severely peeved little friends simmer with the kind of foul-mouthed comebacks I'd only dream of once it's too late. Lee weekly updates the comics on her Web site, www.angrylittlegirls.com, which receives about 800,000 hits a month.

8. As a featured subject in the three-part PBS series "Searching for Asian America," the story of Korean-American Lee and her comics provides a light, humorous segment in an otherwise serious trilogy. "Searching," which focuses on Gov. Gary Locke, two Filipino-American doctors living in Oklahoma and Lee, receives its Northwest premiere tonight at the Theatre Off Jackson.

7. Kim is a refreshing twist on the tough Asian girl image (lethal Lucy Liu in "Charlie's Angels," the ever-acerbic Margaret Cho). Kim is angry, Kim is explosive, but Kim is also really cute.

6. Lee, also an actress who has appeared on "Friends" and "Scrubs," draws on her own experience for comic-strip material. As a youngest child, the Los Angeles resident said she spent most of her girlhood being ignored or walked all over because "people assume you have nothing really of value to say or add." The comic strip where a bunch of boys in math class taunt Kim, saying they could blindfold her with dental floss, is autobiographical, Lee says.

5. Kim's insults: "stupidhead" or "ignoramus." Never just "jerk."

4. The comic's angry origins. Lee was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, when she visited Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. She walked out feeling mad, having sat through a slew of ethnic jabs. She drew her own animations that night with Crayola markers and used video-editing equipment at school to complete her first episode. The video became a comic strip six years later, in 2000.

3. The 29-year-old Lee toned down the profanity, the finger gestures and the rawness of "Angry" once people suggested the comic's commercial viability, but toned everything back up two years later to stop censoring herself.

2. Kim's little eyebrows. They furrow like two annoyed French accents when she's upset.

1. Kim's tiny fists. They shake when she's mad.

Young Chang: 206-748-5815 or ychang@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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