hoping to someday be a force of nature
Changing The Ways Asians Are Viewed In Media
Geeks, dragon ladies and karate experts. These are three of the few categories that Asians have been put into through media, entertainment and film. Being an Asian, seeing my race constantly being portrayed in these ways on television has affected me in ways I didn’t even realises they could. I am passionate about changing Asian stereotypes because it is important for the young Asian generation to be able to express themselves freely. Socially, mentally and physically, we have been hardwired to think in certain ways and see things differently.
Appearance. Most of today’s preconceived notions and prejudices are drawn from some one’s appearance. Wether it’s their wild hair, bold makeup or narrowed eyes, people have somehow found a way to only see the worst in others. Because of the preconceptions media has of Asians, Hollywood, film directors and producers only offer a handful of suitable roles for the members of the Asian community. Asians often play devious dragon ladies, gawky geeks or killer karate masters. Let’s not forget all the muddled foreigners on sightseeing tours! It is hard to believe that last year, Asians were less then 5% of Hollywood’s leading roles. Hollywood’s paradigm of the Asian community has been the same for a long time. “Rapunzel cannot be Asian!” ; “We can’t have an Asian James Bond!” If there isn’t a paradigm shift soon, think of all the talent and skill that will be denied again and again. Some people may say it’s hunky-dory to cast Asians in the same roles repeatedly because the said stereotypes are true…are they?
Asian countries embrace education more than some others. They are proud to have such strong education systems. However, if I get a good grade, it is because I studied. Not because my Asian ancestors are whispering the process of photosynthesis into my ear! Many prominent martial arts originate from Asia. Karate, kung fu and jiu-jitsu have been practised for centuries; they have been engrained into Asian culture. Jackie Chan has become the poster child for the martial arts film genre, but that doesn’t mean I could crack your sternum with one kick to the chest! So, is it okay for people to be judged solely by their appearances? For entertainment purposes at least? I don’t think so…and you shouldn’t either. A subtly racist comment meant for laughter can be misconceived for an offensive remark. Socially, it is not acceptable.
Social stereotypes regarding Asians can make life and social experiences difficult for young Asians. Let me paint a picture. February 2010, my family and I have just moved to London. I am sitting at my little class one desk, colouring a questionably drawn flower. A crowd of children gather around me to investigate the ‘new kid’. ‘So…are you Chinese or Japanese?”. Silence. Oh no, I don’t speak English…I don’t understand them. I say Japanese because I like the way the word rolls of my tongue. For the next year or so, I was officially classified as Japanese. A group of six year old girls weren’t aware of the mistake they were making, or of the gargantuan topic hidden beneath their simple question.
My own experience with being Asian has greatly affected me. I feel the pressure everyday. My grades have to stay high, I should know this, win this, ace this. I have come to the realisation that this pressure isn’t even coming from my parents, friends or teachers…but from me. I used to think that everyone around me expected this of me, expected me to be the best. I used to scan people’s expressions when they saw my grade; were they disappointed? Was I reaching their expectations? Of course, this is absolute lunacy! Why should I care about what they think of my academic progress? But I do. The expectations I have set for myself are sky high, and some of those expectations are drawn from various Asian stereotypes. I see others differently if they make a discriminatory remark, or make ignorant observations. I have people come up to me saying: “You’re from China right? I then correct them by saying I’m actually from Kazakhstan, after which I am returned with a satisfied countenance because at least they guessed the continent right. These small, apparently menial remarks weaken the Asian community, and make it harder to have a strong voice in the crowd. It shrinks this exigent movement into a cowardly complaint and act of ingratitude.
Geeks, dragon ladies and karate experts. I don’t fit into any of these categories. It is unfair that automatically, I do to social media and film. We need to alter the perspective society has of Asians. Young Asians build their lives around what they should be like…we should be smart, we should be perfect, we should be the sidekick. We can’t be the action figures, we can’t be the love interest. My dad's Asian, but he is a good driver. My mom is Asian but she's opinionated. My sister is Asian, but she isn't a karate master! I am Asian but I'm not a genius. I am Asian but I do have a social life. I have a passion. A passion to set things right, a passion to change. Let’s drive this passion to achieve great things. Let’s use this passion to put more powerful Asian women, men and children on the stage, on the screen. Let us be role models, decision makers, powerful, strong…what’s the word? Let us be epic.
When I have a TV show that I enjoy...it becomes...mine.
My ritual begins with a binge watch that can last up to a week. I must cram every last second of 6 seasons into 3 days. I proceed to create fanpages, tweet, post and talk about it. That show/topic becomes my beacon. Every conversation has to swerve back around to the light of my life.
IF YOU DARE LAY A FINGER ON MY CHILD I SHALL UNLEASH THE DEPTHS OF HELL ONTO YOUR SOCIAL LIFE. Of course, I shall do so silently because I hate confrontation.
I have this nerve in my brain and heart, you see? If I overhear somebody speaking about this show...it hits this nerve and that is all I can think about for the rest of the day. why is that person speaking about my child, what do they want from it, from me?! mama bear shall cut you along with all your tv shows.
I am now hearing how dramatic all of this sounds. Let me clarify: I am not crazy.
It has been over three years since I discovered the almighty 'Grey's Anatomy'. It was only a year and a half ago when I became infatuated with it.
On September 28th, the TGIT lineup will resume. Grey's Anatomy's 14th Season is airing.
I know not why I am so overprotective and paranoid. Perhaps it is in my blood. Maybe millions of years ago, a little cave girl was slowly becoming fascinated with the latest source of entertainment; " Cave's Anatomy". Of course in those days it would be known as 'Uggha-oog-hga'. She sat on her rock and watched as patients came onto the field and a qualified amateur would drill holes into heads with sharp rocks. Maybe she felt a rush when she saw the drama: Dr Ug slapped Dr Urg and the chaos began. First, Dr Urg's fist flew in and made a dent in Dr Ug's cheek. Dr Ug fell to the ground, writhing in agony. It took a few moments for Ug to regain his balance and run away. The little cave girl would be disappointed in the brief and uneventful conflict. As she slid off the best seat in the house, Ug ran back onto the scene and ended Urg with his own club.
*the crowd goes wild* *aaaaaaahhhhh* *oh my gosh that was epic* *go ug*
next episode airs after Urg's burial (just kidding this is never happening again)
this is a story about humiliation, courage and self doubt...settle in.
i recently found myself sitting alone at the adult table. i would usually sit with the children, however they had the audacity to run away while i was eating my noodles. when i looked up from my empty bowl, i came to a realisation that i had to stay. i couldn't run off to the kids because it was too late to do so and frankly, weird. i couldn't leave just like that because that would lead to a whole series of questions. so i stayed.
i listened in on the adult conversation, which proved to be quite boring. i have never realised how alike the adult dinner table is to the child one. there are awkward silences everywhere and when someone finally comes up with a witty story, it is apparently shameful to not laugh so hard your lungs give out. it has to be established that we all appreciate this courageous decision to share something with the table.
we were enduring a particularly harrowing silence when i was asked to contribute something to the table. to the apparently existent 'conversation'. i, my already socially awkward, frazzled, stressed self suddenly fell into panic mode. i scraped my brain for something witty, something smooth. before i knew it, i was spewing out the next four words.
"hippos have pink milk"
before this contribution, the dinner table topic theme was somewhat ordinary and mundane. everyday things, plans for tomorrow and what we had for lunch that day were the emotionally charged things i had to sit through. suddenly, it felt like i had opened the gates to another world.
"why is it pink?", "has it always been pink?", "has it just recently turned pink?", "what is the science behind this?"
OH MY LORD. i did not know the answers to these questions. i had learned this fact from a quick skim through a national geographic magazine, not the hippo encyclopedia. i was the vessel for all their hippo milk related questions and i was about to drown. i quickly diverted the subject back to our plans for tomorrow.
a certain adult had taken interest in me after this and invited me to sit in the empty seat next to her. another lady was also there. i was cornered my two chatty women who clearly understood my loathing of general conversation, yet still decided to burden me with their questions. i told them about my school, my friends, my grades and my breakfast.
i must say right now that i simply don't understand the use or point of light chit chat. if you are having 'chit chat' with someone and that is all it has been for 10 minutes it is safe to say you have hit a dud. move on, clear away the duds! adults do not seem to get this concept. they continuously question the younger generation at dinner tables. of course, they may be genuinely interested and in those cases i guess it is okay. but sometimes it just isn't okay.
i was recently being questioned about my sports life . at the moment, i play tennis, and have swimming lessons regularly. i also mentioned that i used to do kickboxing. i really enjoyed my time in the dojo, and if it hadn't been for us moving away, i would have continued. this particular sentence was returned with a sour, judgemental face. this adult clearly did not like the idea of me partaking in martial arts. why? because i am female. they proceeded to lecture me on the 'right way to be a lady' and that learning self defence was not correct decorum. i brushed the inexplicably ignorant remark away with a laugh and i continued to sit through their conversations.
this is where the story comes to a close. but do not fear, because i will be back.
when i was incredibly young, i was introduced to this fellow (image below).
S O Y A
what did this foreign exotic word mean? turns out, soya means soya beans. I was far too young to understand this concept but if I had at that time, I would never have tried it and unleashed the mighty power of the holy bean milk. I spent my first 6 years in Kazakhstan and then moved on to London for the next 6. Kazakhstan couldn't provide me with (fake) veg milk so my diet roughly consisted of banana flavoured juice boxes and rice. when I was introduced to the city lights and excitement of London at 6 years old, my eyes were opened to the shiny aisles of Waitrose (supermarket). I may be exaggerating.
I remember soya milk being very important when I was young. it was used in baking recipes, soups, and mashed potatoes. all to the despair of my siblings who do not like soya milk. my favourite kind was, of course, the vanilla flavoured one. soya milk gods also produce things like 'chocolate flavoured soya milk', 'coffee flavoured soya milk' and other varieties of bean/nut milk.
one day I came across a carton of 'almond' milk. I carefully observed the suspicious box. same brand, same colourful beans on the packaging. yet it is 'almond'. I am allergic to almond. what an abomination! the soya gods have cheated me! how dare they create something I can drink yet cannot?! of course, my attitude towards almond milk has changed and I am working on my anger towards such mockery. phew. breathe.
I think that I have outgrown soya milk. I used to drink it by itself every day but it just doesn't appeal to me anymore. I still appreciate its existence and despite all the nutritionists saying it isn't and was never healthy, I will always look down upon regular milk thinking I have conquered the world by drinking milk from the holy bean.
"may contain milk"
why? because i'm allergic to milk. the phrase "may contain milk" is what you can find on the 'ingredients' label on food products. you yourself may not look at that too often if you're not allergic*. this phrase used to be the bane of my existence. quite literally. so literally, that if i were to ignore this label, i could have a severe reaction which could indeed result in a long long sleep (death). a few years ago though, i decided to live dangerously. no label was going to tell me what i can and can't eat. this, of course, was a foolish idea my eight year old self had. it perished in the ER of some hospital. today, i know how to avoid the possible consequences of this phrase.
being allergic sucks. it just does. personally, i am allergic to milk, eggs and nuts. all of which can be found in various foods. nuts don't really bother me and eggs are easier to avoid. milk, however...milk can suck it. my allergies have always played a large role in my life. prick tests, doctor visits and ambulance rides. being allergic sucks.
when allergic, one learns how to appreciate the things they can eat. one also learns what hatred is at a reasonably tender age. hatred towards people without allergies, hatred towards people who take it for granted. to see what this blog entails, i guess you'll just have to sit around and wait for it to come. sit tight, another one is coming your way.