How often do you see Asians in American films or television series? If you watch as much movies and TV shows as I do, you would notice that they appear quite frequently in the media. Though, the main question is: what kind of character roles do they play? There are a few instances where you see an Asian actor/actress having the lead role. However, you would normally see them as supporting characters who are either smart, have some sort of martial arts background (as if we’re all Jackie Chans and Bruce Lees), own small businesses (like Apu in The Simpsons for instance), and the list just goes on.
As I continue to see more and more Asians in the media, I begin to notice that most, if not all, Asian characters are depicted in relation to Asian stereotypes. For example, one stereotype of Asians is that they are bad drivers. This stereotype can be seen in one episode of Family Guy, when Peter Griffin compares his abstinence to the use of turning signals in an Asian woman’s car. [Click link to watch clip: https://youtu.be/YTpCHj-VRAg]. Another Asian stereotype that is depicted in Family Guy is that Asians are demanding and speak too fast. [Click link to watch clip: https://youtu.be/drI3hIeczyQ]. As hilarious as it may be (I admit, I laughed too), it’s quite offensive because not all Asians are bad drivers nor do they speak that quickly. It’s true that not all Asian stereotypes are bad, like how they’re supposed to be really smart at math and science. But this may cause harmful misconceptions if the expectations aren’t there (and they’re not all intelligent A+ students).
Why does this matter to me? Well, for the most part, I’m Asian American and the way Asians are presented in the media reflects how society would see me. Don’t get me wrong; I love seeing Asians on TV and the big screen. I just feel like we are being represented through the lens of Caucasians, which is pretty much the dominant society. I would love to see Asian Americans doing non-stereotypical things in films or TV shows, like John Cho and Kal Penn in “Harold and Kumar.” That’s probably the only movie I’ve seen that features two Asian American actors who aren’t smart (well, Kumar is a college graduate who has a family line of doctors, but he’s lazy and not interested in school so I guess it counts) or good at martial arts. The movie may be somewhat inappropriate but it was surely a good movie. If you know of others, please do let me know! On that note, it would be a lot better for the media to depict Asian Americans in a broader sense, to show the many ways that Asian Americans can be.