Asian American Men in the Media

The portrayal of Asian American men in the media has been limited to various roles such as the nerd, kung fu master, or villain. They are almost never the hero, never is the heartthrob, and never gets the girl in the end. Asian/American men have been emasculated and desexualized in various media outlets such as movies, tv shows, and even magazines compared to their white male counterpart. Although Asian/American male roles have changed since the early 2000’s there are still some Asian stereotypes that are still present. For instance, it was very shocking that a magazine was able to publish an article in 2005 that was titled ‘Gay or Asian’! It then went on to feminize the Asian male image which was very hard to digest because not only was it offensive, but I took it extremely personal. I am an Asian American woman and I have a little brother, little cousins, and uncles, and my own dad that I do not view that way at all! And it’s upsetting that popular American discourse would humiliate the Asian male in that way. It makes me anxious about how people will view my younger brother or how he would think of himself when exposed to these type of images of what an Asian man is like or perceived to be.

In the documentary, Slanted Screen, it gave us the Asian/American male perspective of directors, producers, and actors which proved to be useful in assessing why Asian males would take these roles. In early Hollywood, there was almost no control over the Asian role and how the Asian male was perceived. Many of the Asian male roles were given to white men which is ludicrous because how can an all white cast with an all white directing team embody an Asian character? But that did not matter to Hollywood or Americans. They did it the way they thought was fit and of course it came out as extremely racist. However, it was interesting to see how Hollywood casted James Shigeta. He was a Japanese American actor in the 1960s. He had lead roles, was a heartthrob, was in romantic scenes, and played in interracial relationships with white women on screen. I believe this was an improvement on the Asian male role. Although when it came to the 70s when Bruce Lee came out as ‘The Asian Guy’ some of the actors criticized him for just taking martial arts roles and especially his role as Kato in The Green Hornet. Other actors looked up to him as a hero, as someone they could look up to because now Asian males were seen as bad ass!

Asian American male roles in the media are getting better. It’s not as bad as it used to be in the early 19th and 20th century. Unfortunately, progress is slow but there are some films in which Asian males aren’t just nerds or kung fu masters. There are also roles in which being Asian did not matter to the role they were playing. Like the interviewees said in Slanted Screen, they just have to be aware of the roles they take and maybe have a say in the script and even create whole new roles/characters that sufficiently embodies the Asian/American male.


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