Vietnamese Pop, Is There Such a Thing?
It is undeniable Vietnamese American youths enjoy American pop culture. They also gravitate toward Japanese anime, Korean pop music, and Chinese Hong Kong movies and dramas. But what is V-Pop? Vietnamese Americans do not yet have our own unique form of modern day cultural pastime. Therefore, we look to other cultures for entertainment.
However, if you are Vietnamese, you would have heard of “Paris By Night.” This variety show began exclusively in Paris then later moved their production to the United States in the mid-1990s. Can it be considered part of pop culture? Paris by Night is a popular form of entertainment for local and overseas Vietnamese, it is full of hilarious skits and song performances; however, most of the songs performed are pre-1975 (Nhạc Ngụy) Vietnamese and French songs, and frankly quite depressing. Once in a while we see performances from young, hot girls dancing around while lipsynching American pop songs, but everything is usually lip-synced accompanied by bad choreography. When it comes to Vietnamese pop music, it was heavily influenced early on due to the large influx of Americans and French living in Vietnam thus influencing its music culture. Today, V-Pop is influenced by K-Pop and American hip hop and pop culture.
Another sensation that recently hit Vietnam is the K-pop wave. It swept through the Vietnamese entertainment market since the early 2000’s. It is well received by Vietnamese fans, particularly teenagers and young adults probably due to its relatability. Seeing Asian faces doing cool dance moves is an easy sell to this audience. The Vietnamese fan base for K-pop is getting bigger every year. In Vietnam, the youths are making their own covers for these songs and are marketed really well on the streets.
In recent reports, Nguyễn Linh Dương, who is a Japanese aficionado of the comic books genre, proudly explained that Japanese comic books and graphic novels, for children and adults, are a cultural specialty from “The land of the rising sun” and he wants to share this art style with his birth country of Vietnam. What do we have from the land of “Con rồng cháu tiên, dragon father immortal mother” to share with others? We have adapted many other cultures into our daily lives, but has Vietnam or Vietnamese Americans made any significant contributions to pop culture yet?
Indeed, the answer is yes. There are a few Vietnamese influences in American pop culture. The main source comes from movies and a musical dealing with the Vietnam War such as “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), “Forest Grumps” (1994), and the musical “Miss Saigon” (1989). We hear Americans quoting from these movies, but they are usually in derogatory context such as “‘Me love you long time!’ and ‘Good Morning Vietnam!’” The truth is these movies were made for Americans mainly because this is how they get to tell their version of the Vietnam War, whether it is offensive to Vietnamese Americans is irrelevant.
The Vietnamese community coming together to enjoy music and pastime with American Pop music and K-Pop culture is great and our enthusiasm for them is admirable, though it would be more interesting to witness the Vietnamese creating our own form of V-Pop. But for now, we will always have our Vietnamese hat dance, fan dance, and lion dance as a staple.
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A San Jose Native and a recent graduate from San Jose State University in Journalism. Though Anthony doesn’t speak Vietnamese, he wants to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and poetry. He strongly believes contributing to Chopsticks Alley will help him learn more about his Vietnamese roots.