A Story of the Underdog

In this video, I attempt to illustrate a progression of an Asian American experience as a result of misrepresentations of them in the media. My idea was to debunk this stereotype of how Asian Americans are expected to be the sidekick or the underdog. What the media has done is influenced young Asian Americans and their perception of how they should act in a white hegemony and give them no agency when facing injustice and a constant silencing. This video should illustrate how, as life progresses, the Asian American eventually has enough of the disrespect and has an agency to turn his situation around.

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Master of None Asian Women

The authorship in Master of None was definitely noticeable. Not because it was extremely horrible. On the contrary, it was extremely great at presenting an in your face and authentic representation of reality. The opening scene of the pilot episode was a sex scene between a man of color and a white woman. Honestly, yeah, threw me off a bit. But, I kept watching and do I not, Not NOT regret that decision!

It does not go unnoticed by most fans of the show that white women are predominately his love interests. The only Asian woman (Annie Chang) that went to dinner and made an appearance as a potential love interest of Dev was only in it for the free food. She definitely wasn’t the one in bed with Dev in the pilot episode. What does this say about this writer/producer’s choice? It can be interpreted in a lot of ways. From a comical standpoint, it points out this idea of dinner dates as just free dinners that can just be the main motive as to why women would give men the time of day and vice versa. And thinking of it like this, can make it hilarious. Maybe, the choice was to not perpetuate this stereotype and avoid painting an image of orientalist Asian woman in the opening scene. It can also be interpreted as a message that says that not all Asian women are hypersexual beings: and can only be either the dragon lady or the lotus blossom. It could have been the choice to make a claim that those aren’t the only two personas Asian women can have when it comes to their sexuality as well as character. Since there is an Asian women fetish in porn as well, that just made the decision speak for itself? OR MAYBE, these could be totally wrong assumptions about the possible reasons why.

What is about to be noted here does not focus on the headline, but I just want to attach it to this post, and it is that the second episode “Parents” was one of my favorites. As mentioned by Amy Lam on bitchmedia.org, “It’s a story that’s so common for children of immigrants. But the part of what brought me to tears, as a first-generation American myself, was realizing how painful and true and jarring it is to see our narratives reflected back to us on screens that have ignored our stories for so long.” Lam was able to sum up my experience with this episode in just 2 sentences and that just highlights the collective experience immigrant children have. It also says something about this show and how this particular episode was able to captivate the true realities of lived-experiences that the network primetime television shows I have been exposed to, have failed at attempting to portray.

Like Lam, I am hoping to see more women of color included in the second season as well. Of course I do not require this demand to be met. The show in itself has done so much on accurately presenting & representing realistic experiences and there are much thanks to be given to that. But I won’t deny that it would be nice to see Asian women also being represented as well as presented.

The Impact of Alternative Media: YouTube

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.

Master of None

In reading the bitch media article I realized even more how the underwhelming representation of minorities in the U.S. media is especially based on the fact that SO MANY of the country is made of of immigrants or 2nd/ even 3rd generation.

Being a first generation I definitely related to the parents episode a lot. In fact I had a discussion with my own father, who left his home country of Lebanon during war-time to become a grad-student in the U.S. and learning about how he struggled with his identity and adapting to the new culture – all sacrifices to make a better life for his children really made me realize how blessed I was.

I wondered after seeing this episode, why don’t we see more shows like this – I mean these are the types of stories that I want to hear, that I am not alone in this generational gap. Isn’t a good story that brings you to tears better than a generic “white” version of the world. I think the quality of television can be vastly improved if we focus on stories like this because it can become a learning experience even for those who are white. Instead of watching mindless cookie-cutter comedies we can learn from one another and even grow from watching shows that are more “real”.

Mimicking and Mocking Stereotypes

This week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat touches upon the controversial topic of Asian American representations in media, and how stereotypes become a fallback for appealing to the often warped perspectives of middle-class white suburbia.

In the episode, Eddie’s father Louis is visited and interviewed by anchors from “Good Morning Orlando”. The anchors visit Louis’s restaurant to showcase and promote the business as part of a segment on the show that aims to increase the publicity of local proprieties. In an attempt to generate appeal, Louis performed a number of comedic impressions, which also happened to align with what could be considered the “mimicry and mockery” of stereotypes surrounding Asians and Asian Americans, and attracts the attention of the anchors (Asian Americans and the Media, 99). Consequently, Louis is offered a part in their show that his wife, Jessica, believes to be a great opportunity for the restaurant to receive further publicity despite disagreeing with his portrayal of himself as part of the act (which incidentally further compounds stereotypes in representation). Jessica even compares Louis to Long Duk Dong – a personality in his favorite television series – commenting on how they were alike, and that Dong’s representation of Asians in media aided in the compounding of social stigma and stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans and Asian cultures.

Louis’s portrayal of Asians and Asian Americans through his impressions directly correlates with Kent Ono’s concept of “mimicry and mockery”, where acting out certain stigmatic social and cultural perceptions of a specific ethnic group cyclically and paradoxically compounds the ignorant stereotypes associated with that group in the eyes of others; in order to gain the approval of the anchors, Louis feels he must perform certain impressions in order to align himself with the identity of Asians as perceived through the lens of ignorant stereotypes, ultimately resulting in the misrepresentation of his own culture and race. This reveals the deeper battle for accurate and authentic representations of Asian Americans in media, and the struggle to create agency and flexibility for the community without compounding the cultural and racial stereotypes held by others.

Asian-American Women in the news

I was surprised to see from the screenings how Asian-American women were even stereotypically cast as anchorwomen. You would think that in a serious profession like journalism, something as insignificant as shorter hair would affect a job offer. It makes a little bit of sense that image is of importance, but only in the professional manner. Meaning that if the candidate is professional looking why does it matter how “Asian” she looks.

I would have never been aware of this issue if it wasn’t for the screening and I am glad to be knowledgeable of this fact. It is still a shock to me that these news channels wanted to hire Asian-American women with exotic makeup and hair. What does this have to do with the news? Are they trying to sexualize the news? It just doesn’t quite make sense why these employers were so set on this image.

Stereotypical Roles

I have previous knowledge of how women are sexualized in media. The terminology associated with Asian American women and their hypersexuality is something new to me. I may have heard of terms such as lotus blossom and the dragon lady but I did not know the true meaning of them. Being a female, I can relate and sympathize with these ideas. I take ideas like these personally because I do not like the unfair treatment of anyone, especially females, due to all the inequality women face today.

The fact that Asian American women in the media are often sexualized is incredibly unfortunate. I think that this idea of being sexualized can expand to all races too. This idea really hits home with me because I always notice how women in commercials, movies, television, and ads are usually associated with being sexy in some way. It makes something that could be regarded as positive into something completely negative and demeaning. A lot of women aspire to be sexy but this form of sexiness that is portrayed in the media is completely one-dimensional. The women do not have any other aspect to them other than being sexy which in return objectifies them.

A video I watched in a class explained the lotus blossom and dragon lady stereotype. I understand that both stereotypes are not necessarily positive but it seemed like the dragon lady was, for lack of a better term, the more accepted stereotype. In the video, Lucy Liu was shown being a dragon lady in multiple movies. I understand that this “dragon lady” is a powerful and dominant role but the fact that it is still sexualized still makes it demeaning to ladies. I may have misunderstood this certain aspect of the film but it did seem like the dragon lady was a more acceptable role/alternative compared to the lotus blossom for some Asian American women. Either way, what disturbs me the most is that Asian Americans have to be type casted.

I think that culture is really important along with uniqueness and individuality. But there are certain ways to emphasis the qualities of culture in positive ways instead of discriminative, stereotypical ways. Why does Lucy Liu even have to get the dragon lady roles at all? Everyone has their strengths in acting but I don’t believe that the fact Lucy Liu gets these dragon lady roles is a result of her ability. Sure, she is excellent at executing this kind of a role but I think she gets casted as them because of her race and because of the dragon lady stereotype. She is a talented actress and I’m sure could get many less stereotypical roles instead (as she has). I would have been interested if the film included Lucy Liu’s opinion on these roles in her movies like Charlie’s Angels.

This whole dragon lady idea is not unique to only Asian Americans either. I have seen lots of women playing this role in television and movies. Why do women roles always have to involve being sexualized? This must be where the phrase “sex sells” comes from. I just wish women were more respected and less objectified in the media. I think there have been strides towards this but there is still such a long way to go.