First Steps

In this particular course, we focus and discuss the representation and presentation of Asian Americans in the dominant, popular media. For so long, Asian Americans have been stereotypically portrayed in the media in binary means (i.e. the nerd or the gangster). Growing up, I did not see Asian Americans with leading roles on television or in major films. When I did, it was of Asians who did not appeal to my own identity and life circumstances. Their roles represented only a dis-oriented lens at how stereotypical Asians are. Of course, at this time, I have not obtained the skills to think critically about these issues. I do remember scrunching my face, like something funky was in the air, whenever I came across these presentations of Asians.

With the recent rise of Asian Americans holding leading roles in the media – it makes me hopeful yet anxious, but mostly hopeful about the future of Asian Americans in popular media. Last Fall, I watched season one’s trailer of “Fresh Off The Boat”, the new ABC show that was going to air the following year, and I was a bit horrified – to say the least. The comical atmosphere around this trailer totally threw me off. I felt that it was catering to the dominant culture’s taste more than to an accurate depiction of Asian Americans. But that’s an issue in of itself as well. It’s difficult to put individual life experiences and perceptions out there, trying to generalize it to a larger group and at the same time, “reclaiming” a very offensive phrase without the consideration of how all Asian American communities felt about that. Sure, you can’t please everyone but it was still a selfish and arrogant move.

To be completely honest, I sort of (for lack of better word) boycotted the show – just in terms of viewing. Much reason is due to the fact that as a college student, I don’t have much time to catch up with television shows weekly and can only catch up when the whole season is uploaded onto Netflix. But when I did find time to catch up, I avoided fresh off the boat. Eventually I caved because I figured that there’s not point of boycotting something I know nothing about. I watched the first few episodes but it didn’t really catch my attention. I lost track after that.

To reject and to challenge stereotypical roles that are produced by white, Anglo-Saxon elite male perspectives and upheld by oppressive systems and institutions in this society is to say, “No, I will not conform to your ignorant and incorrect representation of the identity that my people and I share”. Well, along those lines and probably with much more specific input. I felt that Fresh Off The Boat was saying, “Look, I’m going to try to not conform as best I can but I also have to cater to the people in power to stay on air. Sometimes drawing in a bigger crowd means starting with the stereotypes and we’re not sure when that will end but hey, Asians now have their own show so….” Yeah, there’s finally a full Asian-American family sitcom in over 20 years but there is still a lot to work to do and many steps to take from here on out.

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