The pressure of presentation

In this weeks airing of Fresh off the Boat, viewers got to witness first hand the effect that representation in the media has on minorities. Often it is the case that representation of minortiies in popular media is few and far between. When a minority character is cast, their role can have lasting impressions on an ethnicity as a whole. In this episode of Fresh off the Boat, Lewis dreads the representation of Chinese Americans that the character of Long Duk Dong created. This goofy and dehumanized character shows a foreign exchange student in a very racist light. The demasculinzed character is then often applied to Lewis in his own life, in which friends and strangers poke fun at his accent.

As seen in Slaying the Dragon, even real world Asian actors talk about their experience as being made fun of or called Long Duk Dong growing up in high school. We can see how this racist trope of nerdy and meek Asian can really effect Asian men in real life.

Lewis is then faced with the immense pressure of being the “correct” representation of his race when given the opportunity to air on TV. Since Asians are so rarely given this chance, Lewis feels the pressure of being true to himself, or being the perfect, smart, slightly funny and impossible representation that his wife wants him to be. This struggle may seem exaggerated in the television show, but it is not a far stretch to think that Asian American actors face this dilemma in their own careers. Do they choose to be themselves, as Lewis says, a funny guy that happens to be Chinese, or must they work harder than any other actor to be inspiring representations of their race.

This struggle shows that Asian Americans deserve more roles across media so that the immense pressure to represent their ethnicity doesn’t boil down to a few select characters.


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