They All Look The Same: Stereotypes and Generalizations of Asians

My whole life I’ve grown up hearing many stereotypes surrounding Asians, including  “All Asians look the same.” This of course is not true, we are not all the same. However, Asians (specifically east and some southeast Asian groups) are constantly generalized and bunched together as one, especially in media. This isn’t just a problem with Asians, basically it seems anything outside of America is mashed up together into broad categories without actual representation of the true diversity. Other group generalizations include Latinos, Africans, and Middle Easterners. It is not uncommon to see Vietnamese actors playing Chinese characters, Chinese actors playing Japanese characters, the list goes on and on. I can’t seem to think of one particular example in media that addressed diversity accurately and specifically.

Photo: ABC

Randall Park, is an example of an actor that has played many different Asian roles. Park is of South Korean descent but has played other characters including Chinese and Japanese. In one of his recent roles he plays a Taiwanese character Louis Huang on Fresh off the Boat. While I agree that Fresh off the Boat is a great step in shedding light about the lack of Asians in media, I’m not as excited as I could be. Fresh Off the Boat is far from avoiding stereotypes, and being on ABC, a family-friendly network, avoids a lot of extremely complex issues about the darker side of life struggles in general. The show is about Asians and the struggles to adapt to a new predominately white population. What I want to see is a show not necessarily focused on race or adapting to a dominate society. Where are the Asian lead characters in popular shows like Friends, CSI or How I Met Your Mother?

The babble discusses 5 stereotypes it thinks Fresh off the Boat is able to wipe out: Asians dress like nerds, we’re smart and nerdy, we have no social skills, we have thick accents, or that we have “weird Asian” names. I’ve watched a few episodes myself, but I feel you can see those stereotypes at least once if you pay close attention. The show also plays on white stereotypes constantly.

Is this generalization and stereotyping of ethic groups a result of media influence? If the media portrayed these groups better would we be more culturally aware of the world? Although I would say it’s not a direct influence, and there is no easy answer, I do think there is some influence in perception of Asians because of the stereotypical minor characters Asian actors play. In a publication by Qin Zhang, Asian Americans Beyond the Model Minority Stereotype: The Nerdy and the Left Out, Asian stereotypes and the cultivation theory is examined. According to cultivation theory, constant exposure of media will slowly and eventually affect consumers in some way. Zhang’s findings showed some relationship between media, how people perceive Asians and how it affects interaction.

Photo: IC Asian American Alliance

Whatever the reason for the perception of Asians, it’s a problem. Such stereotypes create high standards that groups feel they need to achieve. I think pressure to meet expectations of stereotypes needs to disappear.

-Elena Sayasen


One thought on “They All Look The Same: Stereotypes and Generalizations of Asians

  1. cascadiyeah says:

    Have you seen “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”? It really hilariously breaks down tons of stereotypes but it has a pretty problematic portrayal of both First Nations peoples and “Dong,” its only Asian character. You should check it out. Awesome post, BTW…


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