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Asian American Representation In Media

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Stereotypes

There is a lack of Asian American representation in mainstream media. I remember a time in my childhood where I would turn the TV on and find numerous shows without an Asian American cast member. As the years passed, I started to notice that more Asian Americans were being cast. However, he or she would almost always be portraying the stereotypical roles which have been dominant for decades. Asian American stereotypes have typically been the nerd, the kung fu fighter, the immigrant, or the one who makes a fool of themselves.

Whitewashing

Asian misinterpretation in the media has created a one-sided and misleading image that reduced the richness of Asian culture. Art imitates life, and every stereotyped Asian representation simplifies our culture. As a result, a false picture is painted to those who don’t know any different.

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It’s not uncommon for whitewashing to happen when an Asian role is presented. White actors have been cast in the roles of Asian characters before. For example, Scarlett Johansson was cast in the anime adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. I personally thought that it was demeaning to cast a white actress to portray an Asian woman when there are plenty of Asian actresses who could’ve fit the role. In addition, digital effects were tested to make Johansson appear more Asian when producers could have easily hired an Asian woman.

Asian Entertainment

I lost my identity because who I watched on TV wasn’t representative of who I was. It’s easy to lose an identity when watching characters, who are supposed to represent you, act a certain way over and over. However, when I became interested in Korean, Thai, and Chinese films, I realized that there were Asians who were represented outside of the stereotypes that I grew up and become accustomed with. This completely changed my view on how I was being represented, how I should act, and how I was being affected by American media. Over time, my interest in Asian entertainment gave me a positive and well-rounded view of Asians in general that I couldn’t achieve from watching American shows.

Even though my fondness of Asian entertainment shifted the way I viewed myself as an individual and gave me confidence, I still felt that American media was majorly affecting me. I knew my peers, as I did, had their idea of Asians based on what the media was presenting to the world. This made me feel strange expressing my new found confidence because we typically see Asians as the awkward, quirky type.

Crazy Rich Asians

Perhaps the one movie that left a significant impact on my life is Crazy Rich Asians. Although there is a slow rise of seeing more Asians roles in the media, Crazy Rich Asians had a full cast of Asians. The ABC show, Fresh Off the Boat, has its main cast full of Asians, but the show consists of caucasian supporting roles and contains more Asian stereotypes. Crazy Rich Asians, however, had their entire cast full of Asian people. Never in my life have I seen a major film consist of an entirely Asian cast.

One of the reasons why Crazy Rich Asians impacted me so much was because I have never seen an American film represent Asians in a different way from the stereotypes. The characters each shed light on the type of roles that Asian Americans are capable of portraying. Particularly, the Asian women characters in Crazy Rich Asians left the biggest impact on me.

Starting with the protagonist, Rachel Chu was one of the characters that left an impression on me. Rachel cherishes her family and has pride in herself as well as her culture. Rachel has difficulties in getting her fiance’s mother’s approval, but unlike how we typically see Asians being portrayed as weak and unable to stand for themselves, Rachel doesn’t let her future mother-in-law sway her confidence despite the mother-in-law’s attempts to break Rachel down. Instead, she uses her knowledge in strategic games as a way to nonverbally tell her mother-in-law that she’s prepared to go head to head with her mother-in-law. I viewed Rachel as a character who represented strong Asian women who know exactly what they want. Rachel’s personality was reassuring to me because so often we see Asian characters, especially women, being the fragile type who doesn’t have a voice.

The next character who left an impression on me is Peik Lin. She is sort of like the quirky Asian stereotype, but the way her character is portrayed is different from what I’ve seen. I usually see the stereotype of quirky Asians as those who are making a fool of themselves, but Peik Lin has a quirk where it is admirable because of how confident she is. Peik Lin has sass, humor, and never-ending confidence. Her character really showed me that Asians could be quirky and not make a fool of themselves.

The last character that left the biggest impact on me is Astrid Leong. She is down to earth, elegant, intelligent, and independent. Astrid is always grounded and looks out for those around her. However, Astrid shrinks herself so her husband doesn’t feel less of a man by hiding her purchases, denying higher-paying jobs, and rejecting volunteer work. Astrid’s character really impacts me when she realizes that she is a powerful, independent woman and tells her husband, “It’s not my job to make you feel like a man. I can’t make you something you’re not.”

Crazy Rich Asians impacted my life because of the confidence portrayed through the Asian women in the film. I’ve spent the majority of my life watching shows where Asian Americans and women are stereotyped into a certain perspective. It was refreshing to see that two things that directly apply to me were represented differently in one film. Through my fondness of Asian entertainment and Crazy Rich Asians, I was able to realize that I don’t have to be what the media and others think of me.

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