Aside from appearance and personality, another point of concern for the misrepresentation of Asians/Asian Americans in the film industry is sexuality. In many cases, we normally see Asian men as desexualized and Asian women as hypersexualized. Both Asian/Asian American men and women are seen as the “other” in films or shows, however it is how they are being portrayed that creates this binary in sexuality between the two. Asian/Asian American women tends to be more submissive and exotic, leading to the assumption that they are sexual objects. This is actually really annoying because it still exists to this day. You hear about the sexual objectification of Asian women in recent popular songs (i.e. Ace Hood – Body to Body, there was a section that mentioned how “her” eyes made “her” look partially Asian and this is a song about sex in general). On the other hand, Asian/American men almost always NEVER get the girl, sometimes not even a kiss, thus making them look weak and feminine. An example of this is Jackie Chan, when he stars in American films. He’s always portrayed as a shy or awkward character who can’t get the girl because he doesn’t want to approach her. A reason for the desexualization of Asian/American men is so that white males can maintain their dominance and masculinity in society, as stated by Celine Parrenas Shimizu in Straitjacket Sexuality.
The perception of sexuality started to change when Asian American actors, like James Shigeta and Bruce Lee, challenged against the stereotype. Both Shigeta and Lee starred as male leads in some of their films; for example, Shigeta in Bridge to the Sun and The Crimson Kimono, and Lee in Enter the Dragon. They went beyond the usual depictions of Asian men and began to change the way Asian/Asian American males were being perceived. The fact that Shigeta’s character was able to score a white female companion in his movies was a plus. Alongside with that, Bruce Lee was this martial artist, who fought extremely well in all his movies. These examples boosted up masculinity in Asian/Asian American men.
I am glad that throughout the years, the representation of Asian American in the media is progressing: in appearance, personality, and even sexuality. Even though not all the stereotypes are gone, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in America from whence it all began. I strongly believe that if there are more Asian Americans involved in the film industry, we can continue to get rid of the stigma that hangs on our shoulders. While I am happy that James Shigeta and Bruce Lee changed masculinity in Asian/Asian American males, I have to admit would be even more happier if there could be someone like that for Asian/Asian American females. But that’s another topic to touch on, which will be told another time.