Crazy Rich Asians: Mixed Messages about Asian

Eric Hall ‘18
Editor Emeritus, Sr.

Barely ten minutes into watching Crazy Rich Asians, I caught myself tearing up. In the film’s prologue, a racist hotel manager dismisses Eleanor Sung-Young (played by the peerless Michelle Yeoh) and her bedraggled family. “Perhaps some place in Chinatown?” he suggests. Sung-Young’s wrath is swift and satisfying—she buys the luxury hotel outright and shows him the door.  Sitting next to my own Chinese mom in the theatre, I thought back to the times an airline employee or a repairman had dismissed her, and how she had fiercely made them regret it. Crazy Rich Asians is a breakthrough. I loved it for so many reasons. Its depiction of pride and expectation in Asian mother–son relationships felt familiar. The disapproving but envious treatment of ABCs (American-Born Chinese) was gut-wrenchingly accurate. Setting aside the “Crazy Rich” part, so many of the film’s most powerful moments could have happened in my own life. I never imagined scenes like these would play at my local Regal Cineplex. Asian journalists have praised the film’s victories—and fairly so: representation matters. But if Hollywood is going to make more movies with all-Asian cast (and I sincerely hope they do), we need to talk about this one’s shortcomings. As a mixed-race, half-white, half-Chinese male, I think casting Henry Golding in this role was a mistake.

Western culture has long emasculated Asian men. In movies and TV, they are depicted as awkward, and devoid of any sex appeal. Think of how rarely you see a movie that features an Asian guy who isn’t a martial arts master, a nerd, or the butt of a penis joke. My heroes growing up were Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Sam Neill, men who saved the day and got the girl but looked nothing like me (and even less like my Asian relatives). They starred in movies in which Asian men played the conniving villain, or the ethically bankrupt geneticist.  These depictions of desirable White men juxtaposed with undesirable Asian men seep into real life. They erode the confidence of Asian young men. They implant the idea that Whiteness—and only Whiteness—is masculine. As a teenager, I was certain my lot was to be brainy and behind the scenes. Talking to girls was unthinkable because I believed I was deeply undateable. That view is apparently widespread. In his book Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity, founder of OKCupid Christian Rudder compiled data from three popular dating sites. In the tens of thousands of anonymous responses, he found that women were 26 to 35 percent less likely to rate Asian males attractive. Asian females, by comparison, were actually more likely to be rated attractive than average. As Eddie Huang, writer of the ABC series Fresh Off the Boat, has written, “Asian men are told that they simply don't possess the ingredients to be considered masculine or attractive.” While these depictions have subsided in recent years, no Asian has yet ascended to leading man status. Those roles remain reserved for the chiseled White men I grew up watching. Where is our Asian Hugh Grant or Idris Elba? Where are the Asian actors notable not for their coding skills or karate chops but their sex appeal?

Here was the promise of Crazy Rich Asians: a movie with an Asian man worthy of desire. Finally, an idol to show young men with Asian heritage that they too deserve romance. Instead, we got Henry Golding; a message diluted by one-part Whiteness. To be sure, Golding was born in Malaysia to a Malaysian mother. He is a fine actor and excelled in the role. He was funny and charming, and looked great shirtless—prerequisites for any rom-com heartthrob. As a fellow Hapa male, of course I look forward to seeing him in more roles that might have gone to all White actors. More importantly, he depicted Asian-ness accurately. He spoke the language and smoothly respected his elders in a way that reflected his genuinely Asian upbringing. But my complaint isn’t with Golding’s cultural representation. My complaint is far more superficial. Cultural representation matters, yes. But so does physical representation. When minorities talk about representation in film or the White House or the Supreme Court, part of what we’re looking for is role models who look like us. Looks matter, especially in the romantic comedy genre where the themes only reach skin deep.

A week after watching Crazy Rich Asians, I saw BlacKkKlansman. One scene reenacts a striking speech from real-life activist Kwame Ture. He talks about growing up watching TV and rooting against the Black villains—the characters who shared his physical features. He describes his realization that Black men and women have to define for themselves what is beautiful, to “stop running away from being Black.” Those words, although directed at another people with a distinct experience, stirred a buried shame in me. For most of my life—and even in law school—I used my White half to escape my Chinese half. On my dating profile, when I had one, I described myself as only “vaguely Asian.” In college, I developed a canned response for the times someone would make an Asian dick joke and look to see if I was offended. I’d say, “Don’t worry, only my top half is Asian.” In middle school, when I moved to suburban Ohio, I let people believe I was Hawaiian so I wouldn’t be sorted with the Asian kids who played chess and joined math club. In elementary school, I tugged at the corners of my eyelids with everyone else chanting “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!”

I am embarrassed that I acted this way, but—although it is no excuse—the Asian culture I grew up with never tried to correct me. On the contrary, much of Asian culture promotes Whiteness. Many K-Pop stars, for example, are distinctly “Hapa” or mixed race. My own mom had surgery to add folds to her eyelids. I’ve known many full-Asian friends who wear colored contacts to lighten their dark brown eyes, and get perms to tame their stiff black hair.

As much as my Asian family encouraged Whitewashing myself, my White friends let me get away with it. They laughed at my dick-joke rebuttal and peppered me with questions about which of my traits were White. I have memories from every stage of my life when a friend would mention a common stereotype about Asians, then seek to reassure me: “Oh, but I’m sure that doesn’t apply to you because you’re only half.” I dated girls who told me they would never date an Asian guy, but mercifully made an exception for me. It’s as if society carved out an exception for me because I am mixed with White. Again, the data plays this out. In the same analysis that found that Asian men are less likely to be rated attractive, Rudder found that men who check boxes for both Asian and White get a 32–48 percent boost over the average. As Rudder puts it, “When you add White, ratings go up, across the board.”

So what does casting Henry Golding do for the perception that Whiteness equals beauty? Absolutely nothing. If anything, his casting entrenches the status quo. Just as I have done my whole life, casting a mixed-race Asian man as a full Asian character gives the audience an excuse for his attractiveness. It lets them say, “Oh, but he’s just half.” Golding’s Whiteness allows the audience to reconcile its stereotypes about Asian men with what they’re seeing on screen. The implication is that he’s attractive and masculine because he is mixed with Whiteness. The message to young men watching is that a full-Asian male is not plausible—or, perhaps, palatable—as a sexy male lead.

After the movie came out but before I saw it, a family friend whom I consider especially woke commented that I might look good with a hairstyle like Henry Golding’s in the movie. When I finally saw it, I realized I could never have hair like that. I simply didn’t inherit that particular White gene. His hair is wavy and lays neatly on his head. Mine is distinctly Asian, bristly and usually cow-licked. I make a point of putting product in my hair daily to keep it under control. That comment stung where I didn’t have Whiteness to protect me. Here was supposed to be this modern symbol of Asian masculinity, and at least one of his attractive features has nothing to do with his Asian heritage. Which other parts of Henry Golding fit into the same mold that produced Zac Efron? George Clooney? Either Hemsworth?

I’m not the first person to grumble about Henry Golding’s halfness. When Entertainment Weekly asked him to respond, Golding said, “I was chosen because I came as close to the character as possible” Except that’s not true. Nick Young’s father and mother were Chinese, both in the book and the movie.“Where are the boundaries? Where are the lines drawn for saying that you cannot play this character because you’re not fully Asian?” Golding asked. His question was rhetorical but—at least for this movie—the answer is obvious: two Asian parents just like the character was written. If we want to stop running away from being Asian, we need to stop casting actors with distinctly White characteristics. Our eyes are slanted. Our hair is straight. We are Asian and beautiful.

The Daily Grind: MyLab Coffee Reviewed

Winnie McBride ‘19
Daniel Grill ‘19
Guest Reviewers

Whether you’re a 1L burning the midnight oil or a 3L trying to make it through your first class at noon, the coffee machines in MyLab are central to life at the Law School. This year, students were welcomed back to the library by two new coffee machines. The new Encore 29 machines offer a wider variety of coffee drinks, including cappuccinos and café lattes, than the old Keurig machines and have the added bonus of interactive screens. The new machines are also more environmentally friendly as they do not require the use of plastic K-cups (#savetheturtles). However, the ultimate measure of a coffee machine is the quality of its coffee and the time it takes to make each cup.

3L students, Daniel “What’s the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino” Grill ’19 and Winnie “My Shenandoah Joe’s Order is Over $6” McBride’19, have provided a guide to the timing and flavor of the new coffee drinks.[1] Winnie is a renowned reviewer of coffee and all things luxury. Daniel, on the other hand, has a less discerning coffee palette. He does not mind the taste of K-Cups and typically drinks his coffee black.

 The authors, pictured mid-tasting. On the left Daniel Grill on the right Winnie McBride (both ‘19).

The authors, pictured mid-tasting. On the left Daniel Grill on the right Winnie McBride (both ‘19).

1) House Blend (Time to prepare: 0:57): This was a decent dark roast coffee. Winnie detected a note of nail polish remover. It is not the best, but a good everyday coffee if you hate life and need something to get yourself through the day.

2) Major Dickason’s Blend (Time to prepare: 1:01): Winnie was quick to recognize a nutty flavor and thought it tasted similar to house blend. Daniel liked it but it was so hot he spit it out. He felt like the flavor was so strong it hit him across the face.

3) Segafredo Vivace (Time to prepare: 1:03): Daniel found the taste bitter and thin, but a less acidic aftertaste than other blends. Also, who is Segafredo Vivace?

4) 50/50 (Time to prepare: 0:59): This was the best of the straight-up coffees. It packed a punch despite being only half caffeinated.

5) Hot Chocolate (Time to prepare: 0:12): This was better than Swiss Miss hot chocolate. It was less sweet than expected and very tasty! We kept drinking the hot chocolate between the other drinks.

6) Mokachino (Time to prepare: 0:43): This drink was solid and we would recommend it if you like chocolate.

7) French Vanilla (Time to prepare: 0:41): THE RIGHT COFFEE MACHINE GAVE US HOT WATER INSTEAD OF FRENCH VANILLA! Once we got the drink from the left machine, it was a bit frothy and tasted like burnt sugar.

8) Vanilla Choco (Time to prepare: 0:59): VERY watered-down hot chocolate without the lasting taste of chocolate.

9) Vanilla Coffee (Time to prepare: 0:46): BEST COFFEE FLAVOR! We couldn’t really taste the artificial vanilla flavor. The drink was full-bodied without an after taste. A must try!

10) Vanilla Choco Coffee (Time to prepare: 0:44): This drink was unremarkable and forgettable.

11) Café Latte (Time to prepare: 0:48): Neither of us liked this drink. It was bitter with citrusy notes.

12) Cappuccino (Time to prepare: 0:44): This was an overall solid drink. It was kind of bitter, but good enough to take the place of purchasing a cappuccino from a café every once in a while.

13) Choco Latte (Time to prepare: 0:14): This drink was similar to hot chocolate, but less good.

14) Vanilla Choco Latte (Time to prepare: 0:14): This drink was gross and should be avoided. It tasted like melted Swiss Miss marshmallows.

15) Hot Water (Time to prepare: 0:09): There’s a reason this is the most popular drink on the machine. The water was hot.

In conclusion, the new machines make some coffee drinks very well, and some not so well. Our favorite was the Vanilla Coffee (not to be confused with the French Vanilla). We are a bit concerned with the time it takes to prepare each cup, as the traditional coffee blends take about one minute to brew. We will continue to monitor the line for the coffee machine as the semester continues and stay tuned for next week’s review: Left or Right: The Battle of the Coffee Machines.

[1] All coffees were 8 ounces and consumed black and at middle strength. Palette was cleansed in between drinks with Goldfish and Miss Vickie’s Salt and Vinny Chips.

Supplemental Reading

Madison Bush ’18
Guest Contributor

We all dread the search for the perfect supplement—whether fighting for the library reserve copy of a suggested text or hunting through the piles of hornbooks at the PILA Book Sale. Similarly, finding the perfect novel, while certainly more enjoyable, can be equally frustrating. Most law students love reading (or don’t and maybe should have thought the law school thing through a little better), but are too overcommitted and under-caffeinated to choose a book, much less read it. In this column, I’ll do the work for you, giving you that perfect title which will float around at the bottom of your to-read pile, waiting for the magical day when you find yourself with the elusive creature called free time. Reading this review is a short investment, which you can walk away from at the end (unlike your journal—good luck 1L’s).   

In a world of self-help books, hobby blogs and fake news, I am happy to see the growth of the online literary magazine.  The publishing world offers few paths for writers, and traditional publishing has killed as many careers as it creates. Meanwhile, the online self-publishing industry opened the floodgates for authors who could not get their work past the to-read pile of an editor’s desk. Of course, that is not always a good thing.  Editors are important and without them many works appear in an immature, unpolished form. Literary journals strike the happy medium between the stringent world of traditional publishing and the free-for-all of self-publishing—offering new writers and new editors room to grow. 

 he Kava plant. Photo courtesy

he Kava plant.
Photo courtesy

Rumble Fish is a brand-new online literary magazine edited by Katie Sions, a University of Virginia graduate who puts her English degree to good use in this clever, curated collection of short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and art.  The clean WordPress site—evergreen and cranberry, with a swampy cover photo—beckons visitors to enter a literary realm, one replete with (perhaps unintentionally) strong ties to Virginia.  The debut Winter 2017 Issue contains two poems, two short fictions and one non-fiction reflection, in addition to four black-and-white original drawings. The drawings complement the works, ranging from a cartoonish rat to an exercise in shading, followed by a pair of lovely cardinals and ending with a satellite tower, of all things. The Editor’s Note sets off the issue, an exuberant introduction disguised as a thoroughbred race (Editor’s Note, an actual horse, won the Belmont Stakes in 1996). 

The two short fictions are both contemporary pieces with the dark, pastoral flair of the Southern Gothic style of Faulkner and O’Connor. In “Routine Maintenance,” life, death, and rats intermingle.  Two men, Teddy and Isaiah, try to solve a rat problem they created in the first place. The delicate imagery of pet rats, rat poison, and a pregnant sister contribute to the reader’s unease, which carries the story through to a suitably uncertain end. “Appomattox, VA,” falls deeper into heavy themes, introducing us to a first-person narrator, “Winnie,” who spits and smokes and is “the meanest 19 year old” one will know. Readers familiar with old farmhouses and muddy creek beds will easily tromp along with Winnie and Andrew, all the way to a pair of hidden plastic chairs. Grief, growth, and poverty complete the portrait of life in one of the world’s small corners. 

Both poems complement the themes introduced by the short fictions. “Kava Kava” somehow manages to be insufferably hipster and wonderfully honest in fifteen short lines. Kava is a plant grown throughout the Pacific Islands, used traditionally by Pacific Ocean cultures for its medicinal properties. The poem captures the constant American hunt for new fads—a trend which creates cultural appropriation in its wake—while still celebrating the search for new experience. The Winter 2017 Issue ends with David Kunkel’s poem, “Dr. Frock Lectures a Company,” a thought experiment that overlays imagery with scientific formula, in a whimsical theory of grad student existence. 

Of all the pieces, however, I was most struck by B. Wilder’s “This is Me,” a non-fiction reflection on the struggles of living with bipolar disorder. “This is Me” takes the reader along with the author’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, traveling through Hawaii, South America, and Australia, on a series of backpacking adventures, misadventures, and workplace friendships. Some people in the author’s shoes may have been satisfied with learning to cope with bipolar disorder, but B. Wilder shows us how to thrive. 

Rumble Fish hits its mark with this debut issue. Like any first effort, there is room for improvement, from the overly metaphoric editor’s note to the scattered rhombuses filling the empty space. Despite a slight immaturity, however, the twenty-seven pages of the Winter Issue are amazingly balanced and coherent, carving out a place for young authors (with strong ties to Virginia) to celebrate and lament modern America through poetry, fiction, and artistic expression.  

You can find Rumble Fish here:


Finding the Best of the Worst Part 2: Rock the Kasbah

Nick Rutigliano ’18
Guest Columnist

I was having a very enjoyable Sunday. I spent most of the unseasonably idyllic seventy-degree afternoon with some good friends in Gordonsville, VA eating approximately ten pounds of barbecue at The Barbecue Exchange’s Seventh Annual Porkapolooza. I went bowling afterwards, and I even managed to roll better than my decidedly mediocre and inconsistent standard. I knew that I would have to sit through some pretty awful films during this little experiment of mine (reminder, I am only watching/reviewing movies on Netflix with a 20% or lower rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Regardless, I wanted to end this otherwise pleasant Sunday on a good note. This week, I really wanted to find a diamond in the rough. Rock the Kasbah (2015) seemed like it could have some potential, despite its 9% critic score. I also vaguely remembered seeing a preview for it at some point with Bill Murray singing “Smoke on the Water,” and that made me chuckle. With Murray as the lead actor and Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride having prominent roles, I thought there was a decent chance that maybe – just maybe – the critics got this one wrong.

 Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato. Photo

Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato.

Nope. The critics were right. This movie is terrible. 

Bill Murray plays Richie Lanz, an aging and failing music talent representative that lands an opportunity to take one of his singers, Ronnie (Deschanel), on a USO tour in Afghanistan. Ronnie is less than pleased with the plan. Shortly after arriving, Ronnie takes Richie’s money and passport and flees the country, and thus Deschanel is also to escape this movie early on. Richie then gets tangled up with international arms dealers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride) and agrees to help them out so he can get money and a passport. This leads him to discover that a young Pashtun girl in a village has a beautiful singing voice, and Richie then devotes his efforts and helping her win Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. Oh, and along the way he meets a prostitute (Hudson) and mercenary (Willis) that both help and hurt his quest in various ways. 

If that summary made it seem like the movie was disjointed, well, it was. There were way too many moving parts, way too few laughs, and a futile attempt at sentimentality in the last half hour of the film. That being said, there were a few highlights. The soundtrack is great, despite not actually including the song “Rock the Casbah” or anything else by The Clash. Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and others provide a nice classic rock sampling, and renditions of their songs by Murray, Deschanel, and Leem Lubany were fun to hear. Speaking of Lubany, she turned in, by far, the strongest performance of the film. Lubany plays Salima Khan – the young girl attempting to break cultural and gender norms by appearing on Afghan Star. She was phenomenal, but was introduced far too late and not featured nearly enough. Her appearance on Afghan Star was ostensibly meant to be the focus of the plot, but the film meanders through strange subplots and side stories for the first half of film. As a result, Lubany’s character’s story feels like a rushed afterthought, despite it being the only captivating element. 

Ultimately, the lack of focus throughout the first half of the film is what does the film in. I just didn’t care about what was going on. Murray provides a characteristic deadpan performance that is sporadically effective for comedic effect, but also renders him a completely unsympathetic character. The guy is literally stranded in Afghanistan with no money or passport. He’s inexplicably apathetic through most of the weird developments prior to meeting Salima. It just wasn’t entertaining, and I found it incredibly difficult to pay attention. It might have been because I was still busy digesting all of that sweet, sweet barbecue from Porkopolooza, but I digress.

This film isn’t exciting enough to be an action movie and it isn’t funny enough to be a comedy. But worst of all, the actual portion of the plot dedicated to Salima and her attempt to win Afghan Star is too rushed and undeveloped to save the rest of the convoluted but uninteresting story. This isn’t like Yoga Hosers (my first reviewed film) where you could go in with low expectations and get some cheap laughs. All in all, not a great end to an otherwise great Sunday. That being said, nothing could have fully ruined the experience of Porkopolooza. Maybe I should have just written about that instead. 

Tomatometer: 9%
Audience Score: 28%
Nick Score: I guess I’ll just go with 9% as well. 

Nick can be reached at


Finding the Best of the Worst Part 1: Yoga Hosers

Nick Rutigliano '18
Guest Columnist

 Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Smith, stars of Yoga HosersPhoto courtesy

Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Smith, stars of Yoga HosersPhoto courtesy

Each week I’ll be diving deep into the depths of Netflix and reviewing a movie that has a 20% or less rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To kick things off, I watched Yoga Hosers, a 2016 film that has already slipped into obscurity. This movie seemed like a natural place to start. The title itself is pretty ridiculous (“hoser” is a Canadian slang term that roughly means “loser” or “idiot”) and the premise is so nonsensical that it had to be that way by design. In a nutshell, two Canadian teenagers find themselves relying on their yoga training to defend themselves after the convenience store in which they both work is overtaken by genetically-engineered Nazi monsters made out of bratwurst. But, hey, I figured that this could be a Sharknado-type deal where the movie was so bad and ridiculous that it was kind of....good. 

But here’s the kicker – this is a Kevin Smith movie. Clerks is an all-time favorite, and if anyone can make a funny movie out of something absurd, Kevin Smith would be that guy. I mean, the guy basically made a name for himself by following exactly that model. And then I took a look at the cast. Johnny Depp, Justin Long, and Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) have minor but visible roles in this movie. They essentially save the first half of the movie from being utterly unwatchable. Stan Lee also makes a cameo for some reason. So I fired up Netflix with a little bit of hope that Smith and a decent supporting cast could maybe salvage what should have been, by all other accounts, just an unadulterated disaster. 

There was really nothing redeeming in the first half of the movie. We meet Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith), the aforementioned “yoga hosers.” They’re best friends and work together in the Eh-2-Zed convenience store in between their yoga sessions with Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). The first act really crawls along as we see how the Colleens navigate their high-school lives in Manitoba. The biggest problem was that I really couldn’t understand what this movie was “going for” for the first forty minutes or so. Obviously it was never meant to be a serious movie, but I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to get our laughs through jokes and situational humor (a la Clerks) or through Yoga Hosers functioning as a type of meta-satire. For instance, each actor’s Canadian “accent” is pretty much just their typical accents while throwing in “ah-boot” and “sore-ee.” I guess it could have been funny if they were meant to be that bad. But it wasn’t obvious that was the intention…or if the movie was just poorly acted. It all kind of missed the mark. 

Eventually Guy Lapointe (Johnny Deep) tells the girls about a mysterious death in town (I’ll spare the details), and from this point on the movie actually starts to border on being okay. Spoiler alert, I guess? The girls get called in to work at the convenience store, one thing leads to another, and soon they’re wielding hockey sticks and fighting off miniature cloned Nazi bratwurst monsters. At this point it was obvious enough that Smith was going for a “so bad it’s good” vibe. The combat scenes are ridiculous, the dialogue is contrived, the on-screen graphics and music get louder, but I found myself chuckling and even starting to enjoy myself. 

The movie is not laugh-out-loud funny at any point, and it still pales in comparison to Smith’s other work, but given my non-existent expectations literally as soon as I read the title, I’ll admit that it ended up being slightly better than expected. Harley Quinn Smith turns in a strong performance and has some decent comedic timing. Given that she’s only seventeen years old, she certainly seems to have a lot of potential for a promising career. Once the film stops trying to make jokes, and simply allows the audience to laugh at the film itself, it becomes much more effective. But the question then becomes, what was Kevin Smith’s purpose here? Clocking in at just over eighty minutes, and with the absolutely nonsensical plot, it never feels like a serious attempt to make a good movie. Two of the characters mention their disdain for “critics” of their work. Smith has had a contentious relationship with his critics at times throughout his career, and it seems likely that at least a portion of this film was directed to them. If he was intending to send them a message, it still seems unclear exactly what that message is. I just find it hard to believe that Smith would make what feels like a bad parody of his breakthrough hit Clerks without doing so deliberately.  

Final verdict: It’s a short movie and it isn’t good. That being said, if you’re looking for a Sharknado type experience and a few laughs, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life. But if you enjoyed Clerks, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, this film will definitely have you wondering what’s up with Kevin Smith. 

Tomatometer: 20%
Audience Score: 39%
Nick Score: 30%

     See Hoser, Urban Dictionary (May 5, 2007), 
2     So, yeah, Johnny Deppís daughter and Kevin Smithís daughter are the two lead actresses. I donít think the film industry has nepotism laws. See, e.g., The Godfather Part III, (1990). 
3      We even get an "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" so that was a nice touch. 
4     In my COMPLETELY unqualified opinion. 

Performing Statistics Exhibit

Tex Pasley '17
Co-President, Va. Law in Prison Project

By now, I suspect that everyone at this Law School (who is either a user of the library or who likes their coffee free) has passed the art exhibit currently on display in Withers-Brown. If you have not already, I encourage you to read the text accompanying the exhibit and take a copy of the materials provided on the table to the left of the library entrance.

All the artwork in the exhibit is created by a group of incarcerated youth at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. Every year, the children visit Art 180—a Richmond non-profit—and work with artists to produce exhibitions that visualize their ideas for transforming the juvenile justice system. Under the name “Performing Statistics,” Art 180 works with the Legal Aid Justice Center to advocate for changes in juvenile justice policy here in Virginia. The current exhibit will run until Spring Break, and we hope to hold a reception with Performing Statistics in the last week of February, during the National Student Week Against Mass Incarceration (co-sponsored by the Virginia Law in Prison Project, and the UVa chapters of the National Lawyers’ Guild and Black Law Students Association).

I recognize some may object to the content and prominent location of the exhibit within the law school, and I encourage people to e-mail me at if they have questions or concerns. My hope is that the exhibit forces us to discuss the moral, political, and legal appropriateness of the choice to deprive a person—juvenile or adult—of her liberty. The process of legal education prepares us well for the objective, rigorous analysis lawyers need to advocate, but we sometimes need a reminder that the law is fundamentally an effort to protect human dignity. 

This show would not happen without the efforts of many people, and I would like to especially thank Kate Duvall in the student affairs office, Taylor Fitchett and Micheal Klepper in the Law Library, the staff at Performing Statistics, and the members of VLPP and CARE for their help in putting up the show.


K-Cup Compendium: The Definitive K-Cup Rankings

Nick Rutigliano '18
Guest Columnist

PILA is over and exam season will soon be upon us. This next month will leave the best of us weary and exhausted. For those of us that will be spending a significant portion of our waking hours in the library, the Keurig machines in MyLab offer sweet, sweet temporary reprieve. Free coffee in the library is one of the most appreciated perks of being a student here, and we have access to a nice variety of coffee at the press of a button. As part of this investigative piece, I took the time to sample them all and offer my thoughts on each blend. 

Disclaimer – any negative opinions expressed are purely out of jest. This author appreciates all of the fine coffees available to us here and would never mean to genuinely disparage them. Please don’t ever take the coffee away. 

Columbian Fair Trade Select

Described as “classically balanced with a ripe fruit finish,” this is actually a pretty good cup of coffee. It’s a nice medium roast, and true to its description, very balanced and smooth with a pleasant after taste. I’m really not sure what this “ripe fruit” is all about, but this cup finishes with a nice acidity that plays off the caramel notes up front. 

Dark Magic

As far as K-Cups go, this blend will actually deliver a somewhat complex flavor profile. Rich aromas of a heavy dark roast linger after the initial dark, cocoa flavors develop. Minimal acidity with some pleasing bitterness as the coffee finished. 

Newman’s Special Blend

This is good, it’s just not much to write home about. Or in this case, write in the Law Weekly about. If someone just wanted “a cup of coffee,” this is probably their best bet. The initial flavor is subtle and balanced and will not linger long on the palate. In my opinion, this K-Cup also probably has the highest quality grind and coffee beans, but I’m basing that on nothing but haphazard sampling and speculation. 

Sumatran Reserve Magic

Most pleasant and intriguing aroma, but somewhat disappointing flavor profile. As the coffee brews, sweet caramel and butterscotch notes emanate from the Keurig. Your mind starts to wander and your anticipation grows. I honestly can’t write a review for what the actual coffee tasted like because I forgot. It just tasted like coffee. I think. I don’t know. It wasn’t nearly as memorable as it smelled. I’m sure it was just fine.   

Breakfast Blend

The description on the box for this coffee is apt (“light roast”). Keurigs have a tendency to brew coffee lightly as is, and this roast is very light. Unfortunately, not “light” in the “bright and cheery start to your day!” kind of light–more like, “this kind of tastes like flavored water” light. Which is okay! Some people prefer that, I guess. It doesn’t taste bad by any stretch–it just doesn’t taste like much at all. But it still has caffeine so that is a good thing.

Italian Roast

Another apt description (“dark roast”) and the polar opposite of the Breakfast Blend. I’m a believer in dark roasts, but this is just a tad much. The flavor is very deep with a heavy roast that borders on being too harsh. The coffee finishes somewhat unpleasantly with a burnt taste. I’m also sure this isn’t a technically term (nor if it makes sense), but this coffee tastes gritty. Every sip is like the last sip of a French pressed coffee when you accidentally drink a bit of that sediment that sunk to the bottom. I felt like I needed to check my teeth after drinking.   

French Vanilla

Look, take my opinions on flavored coffees with a grain of salt because I’ve come across very few flavored coffees in my life that I’ve actually enjoyed. Most of them – like this particular flavor – simply overpower the coffee flavor. I take my coffee black for a reason – I want the coffee flavor to come through. The box’s reminder that this coffee is “artificially flavored” is unnecessary because you’ll know as soon as you take a sip. I wouldn’t drink this again because I really disliked the aftertaste. The coffee actually had a kind of nice, interesting taste at first – very sweet with some hints of vanilla. But, the “artificial-ness” asserts itself at the end and, literally, leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  

Pike Place

This coffee kind of smelled like something burning in the oven as it brewed. Maybe a burnt ham? Regardless, not the type of scent you want to prime your taste buds for a cup of coffee. With admittedly low expectations going in to the tasting, I was not pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The flavor was very assertive with an initial heavy, charred flavor that finished bitterly. 


I’ve never tasted a real hazelnut before, and I don’t really want to after drinking this coffee. I don’t understand why nut-flavored coffee is a thing. In my opinion, it is a very bad thing. 

Dishonorable mentions:

French Roast Decaf and Newman’s Special Decaf


Best of luck on exams everyone. May you stay alert, refreshed, and well-caffeinated. Stay tuned for K-Cups Ranking Part Deux, The Tea Edition, in 2017. 



1     I know I sound like a coffee snob. I tried my best to avoid doing so. It couldn't be done. 
2     Maybe. I'm much more of a coffee person.