Ooooooooooo. Look at that sweet smile. Isn't she adorable? And she's so teeny!
She's an Asian American cartoon character known as Kim to her cartoon friends. She falls asleep in class and looooooves honey nut cereal. And with black hair and dots for eyes, she looks like she'd be Hello Kitty's best friend.
Here she is on the first day of grade school. "Hello. . . . I'm new to the neighborhood," she smiles.
Doesn't she speak English well, remarks her teacher.
"I'm an angry Asian girl you stupidhead!!!" Kim screams. "I was born here. . . . Read some real history you stupid ignoramus!!!"
She's no Hello Kitty. This girl's a human explosive.
She's the "Angry Little Asian Girl," a foul-mouthed spitfire who stars in her own online comic strip of the same name. The strip is not syndicated in any newspapers -- this little girl goes uncensored, with a shock value similar to "South Park."
When two little boys tell Kim her eyes are too small, she retorts that they have "golf balls" sticking out of their sockets.
And watch out if you say it's easy being a girl, or that Asians are foreigners.
"Have you been living under a rock?!" she screams at her teacher. "Asians make up 4 percent of the U.S. population!"
She'll teach you a thing or two about race and gender.
"Angry Little Asian Girl" is the brainchild of Lela Lee, a Korean American actress who lives in Los Angeles. She has had roles in "Friends," "Charmed" and "Felicity," but thinks she'll end up making comics her day job.
Like Kim, Lee smiles cheerfully in her publicity photo. But ever since she was a child, frustration with race and being a girl built up, she says. Then, when she was a sophomore at Berkeley, she went to Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. The "chauvinistic male behavior" of some of the films offended her, she says.
"I was so angry and I could not articulate why," she says. A friend suggested she vent with her own animated video.
Out came the Magic Marker. She quickly drew a girl in a red dress. Add a video camera, and a potty-mouthed sweetheart was born.
But then Lee hid the tape. It was too angry, she says. It made her embarrassed.
When she brought it out on a whim four years later to show some friends, their response shocked her.
"I started hearing it was this great heroine against the [Asian] stereotype, and I thought, 'Wow, that sounds really great and important,' " Lee recalls.
From her only animated video, "Angry Little Asian Girl," Lee started drawing the strip and launched www.angrylittleasiangirl.com in 1998. Soon she gave Kim a whole posse of friends: Deborah the Disenchanted Princess, Maria the Crazy Little Latina, Xyla the Gloomy Girl, Wanda the Fresh Little Soul Sistah, and Pat (a boy).
Online visitors started trickling in, and at her most recent count, Lee says the site averages 750,000 hits per month, 1 million in December being the highest. The "Angry Area" chat room sprung up from there, reaching 108 Web pages of comments last week, Lee says.
She had the Web site. So why not T-shirts? She came up with a few designs -- one with Kim giving the finger with both hands and the title "Angry Little Asian Girl," another with the entire gang labeled "Angry Little Girls." She linked up with a distributor in Canby, Ore., and started selling around 30 each week at $15 a pop. By now, Lee says excitedly, friends have even reported flashes of Angry fabric as far away as Boston and Atlanta.
The core of being "Angry" is about feeling different, she says. "Everyone deals with race. In junior high school, I would remember ethnic groups eating at different tables. I get e-mails from kids saying they're in junior high school and this is something they can relate to, and that there's no other outlet to talk about this."
In Kim's cartoon world, it's tough being an Asian American girl. She's the only one in her classroom, and a pretty blond girl gets most of the attention. Lee says she throws a lot of the angst from her own childhood into Kim's sandbox.
The time the teacher was shocked to learn Kim knew English? That was her.
The parents who want Kim to fit a perfect image? Hers again.
"She's poking fun while at the same time pointing out obvious stereotypes," says Henry Tang, chairman of the Committee of 100, a New York-based organization that focuses on Chinese American issues. "It's contrary to only showing the best parts of us, and sweeping the other parts under the rug. It breaks away from the mold."
The stereotype goes beyond ethnicity, Lee says. Tiny Kim confronts an array of issues: being a girl, being Asian, bullies and general childhood angst (like a boy kissing her while they build a sand castle).
"The stereotype is something that we all experience, but we never put words to it," says Lee. "We talk in the privacy of our friends and in hindsight think, 'I wish I could have said this.' But this comic strip character says right at the moment what she is feeling. And that's what people enjoy."
Lee herself has a sunny, cheerful voice. "That's the beauty of animation," she chirps over the phone. "Because it's a cute, small character, it diffuses it than if it was actually me talking."
Sure, her comics may offend some, she says. She says she has received e-mail from Koreans who don't like Kim's image.
"They are kind of ashamed that I'm using strong expressions, which is really ironic," Lee says, since her cartoon is fighting against that shame. "One time someone wrote in that when the teacher complimented Kim's good English, it was a nice compliment, and for her to be angry was shameful."
She says she's shooting for "the sweet spot, where people love it and hate it at the same time. Because even if people hate it so much, they'll talk about it."