Lack of Asian representation in US media (Movies, Music, Video Games)

Like the title says, there is a lack of Asian representation in American media (TV, Movies, Music, Video games, etc), and while it doesn’t especially bother me, it does annoy me that when Asians do appear in media, it usually reinforces negative stereotypes. For example, Asian men are usually depicted as shy and nerdy, or some martial arts master (thanks Bruce Lee), while Asian women are usually the love target for a Caucasian protagonist (see: Charlie’s Angels, Limitless, Karate Kid II, Last Samurai, the Social Network, Dragonball Evolution, the Hangover, Shanghai Knights, etc). That is if Asians are depicted at all.

Its odd to me, considering that L.A has probably one of the highest concentrations of Asians in America, and being home to Hollywood and the entertainment industry, you’d think Asians would get better representation or have more roles in blockbuster films and/or TV sitcoms. Same thing in music. While some successful singers in Asia have gotten some roles in Hollywood films (Jay Chou, Rain) or debuted in US (BoA, Wondergirls, Se7en), the fact remains that there are no popular mainstream Asian American singers either, which is pretty sad considering how many undiscovered musicians there are on Youtube (mostly Asian musicians).

This extends to the realm of video games as well. How many times have you seen a video game being set in New York City, or Los Angeles, versus in Asia? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a video game with an Asian protagonist, set in an Asian city? I keep thinking how derivative it is to keep using cities like NYC as a backdrop, when there are cities in Asia (Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Mumbai) which are much bigger and more diverse. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to have a Grand Theft Auto: Shanghai edition?  It makes me sad that there are so much natural scenery / history in Asia and video game developers are ignoring all that to “appeal” more to American audiences.

And I think thats what it all comes down to. The reason why Asians aren’t portrayed as much, is ultimately because they constitute only 5% of the American population. And the people in charge who make the decisions decide that whatever movie, artist or game is coming out, must be fit for consumption by the primary American audience (composed of Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic Americans). But I think, as Asians become more prominent and make up more of the population, they (the people in charge) will eventually have to concede that they will have to cater to them more. Which is a good thing, because it makes the US more heterogeneous and more diverse as a nation.  I just wish they would stop trying to remake Asian titles into American ones by casting White actors (see Dragonball Evolution,The Last Airbender, My Sassy Girl). It just doesn’t work.

P.S: One movie I really do recommend is Shanghai Kiss. About a Chinese protagonist suffering from an identity crisis. Breaks all the stereotypes. Really wish they could make more of these kinds of films. Too bad it isn’t widely known.


2 responses to “Lack of Asian representation in US media (Movies, Music, Video Games)”

  1. I clicked on the Shanghai Kiss link…funny how the cover is dominated by Hayden XD

    I think it would be interesting to finally see a famous mainstream singer that’s Asian..but I’m not particularly looking forward to it because good music is good music in the end. Most of the bands I listen to…I have no idea what they look like..and I’ve been listening to them for years too lol

  2. I have never thought about the issue before, but I think that you’re right. Problem is that with Asians only occupying 5% of the US population, change will come slowly. Actually, it’s up to people like us to break these stereotypes. What’s out there is the older generation’s public perception of Asians, not what Asians actually are.

    Another fix is to just get more Asians into the media business. If you think about how many Asian-Americans are brought up, they’re discouraged from going into media at all. And without any Asians making decisions in the media, change will be slower than otherwise.

    Also, I don’t know if media leads or lags behind public perceptions. If it lags, then we’re all okay. If it leads, then it’s time to go on a rampage.

    (Though I really like the martial arts master stereotype. It teaches people that you can’t mess with Asians. =P)

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