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.