The Lack of Asian-Americans On-Screen and its Influence on Me

I think it is pretty crazy how blind I used to be before coming to college when it came to API issues. I never really questioned why there were only white people on the big screens and how I always wanted to be that white character vs the POC character when growing up. I also thought that if a movie did not have an attractive white couple as the leads of a movie, I did not give the film a chance. This only shows how much of a socially constructed American consumer I was, blinded in this white hegemony.

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As a kid, I probably would not have questioned this casting…

After learning about the history behind Asian-Americans in the media and how we were left with deeply embedded stereotypes and negative representations, it makes me feel bad about dissing on my heritage and my culture. Growing up, I had a strong desire to be white, always wearing sweaters to avoid being darker and embracing American culture while putting my family culture to the side. I am ashamed of how I looked down on my fellow Asian-Americans because they did not act white enough and would not stop coming off as embarrassingly FOB.

Even coming to UCSB, I tried rejecting my culture, but funny enough, I was placed on the API floor my freshman year. I marked the API living learning preference on my housing contract without knowing what it was actually. In the end, living on the API floor changed my perspective on my identity. Slowly, I learned what it meant to be Asian-American and educated myself of the issues I faced that were similar to my peers’ experiences. I was not alone. Ultimately, I learned to love my identity in its entirety.

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I even became an API Mentor the following year.

Thus, when I learned that these stereotypes still had not changed in the course of time since the first yellow face, it vexes me of how the chances of diminishing these stereotypes are slim. The social construction of how Asian-Americans are viewed in media is almost improbable of becoming undone. Therefore, it only makes sense to tackle this issue in a different way. Some ways that have been a good start in combating these stereotypes of both Asian-American men and women is the growing numbers of Asian-American leads on network television. Growing up, I did not have a role model that I could look up to on TV that shared similar struggles as I, or shared cultural references. With more Asian Americans on the big screen, future generations of Asian Americans will feel a deeper connection with these actors who represent Asian Americans in a more genuine way. Hopefully, the result of increasing the face of Asian-Americans on the screen will lead to more complex characters that will create a greater impact on how Asian Americans are people too, not just a stereotype or the butt of the joke.

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