When I started going to middle school, my brother showed me this small online forum his friend made. It was a very small community for my brother’s friend group plus me and we discussed our lives and things that we liked. Most commonly, we would post links to videos or YouTubers that we were particularly fond of. Surprise, surprise, one of the very first people we made a thread about was Ryan Higa.
Even though we never said it out loud, in retrospect I think that many of the people we talked about in our little forum were Asian American YouTubers or from Japanese culture because that was the only place we, as Asian Americans, could find representation. At the young age of 11-13, I doubt we were actively thinking about how terrible it was that we couldn’t relate to anybody on mainstream media but at the same time I distinctly remember having no real interest in American live-action television at the time. Of the people we discussed, I remember that I personally loved Ryan Higa the most; I remember checking his YouTube page nearly every day to see if he had made a new video. I think the reason why I liked him so much was because he was subconsciously my only real role model: he was cool, he was funny, he was personable, and most of all he just seemed fun. Mind you, I didn’t consider my parents role models because that was around the age when I started getting rebellious and didn’t want to listen to anybody older than twenty five, so my views might have been a bit skewed. However, after I realized that Ryan Higa wasn’t going to post videos all the time, I started turning to my Asian American peers and elders (and by “elders” I mean seventh and eighth graders.)
I was one of the lucky ones. I grew up with Asian Americans in my life and didn’t need to worry about people seeing me as a representative of Asian people because there were enough around that people could just see that there were many different kinds of Asians. I don’t doubt that there are people my age who were the only Asian in their school or neighborhood who had to look to internet celebrities for representation but after seeing A Survey about Asian Americans in Mainstream I’m glad to know that future generations of Asian Americans can count on having not only someone representing them, but also having someone to look up to as a role model. That’s something that alternative forms of media like YouTube have given them. And that’s something that I’m very happy about.