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


Bond, Black Bond: Reactions to Idris Elba Rumors as the Next James Bond

Photo Courtesy of: Getty Images

The entertainment media industry is an unpredictable one, that’s why many content makers tend to stick with things they find familiar and previously successful rather than attempting new and unheard of plots and story lines. Sticking to what’s familiar often results in cross-production, take the James Bond Franchise. From books, comics, many movies, TV shows, and even radio, Agent 007 can be seen in all types of media. But what about changing things up a bit?

Amidst the hacking of Sony’s emails back in December 2014, an email exchange about the possibility of Idris Elba, a black man, playing James Bond in the next movie sparked a small debate.

Rush Limbaugh, an American radio show host, said that James Bond must and can only be white and Scottish and was never created to be black. In the video above Cenk Ugyer reacts by making one important statement, while Bond has always been white, he’s a fictional character, and Ugyer is right. Fictional characters aren’t real, they’re the results of creative minds, they aren’t walking among us. This means other creative minds can change fictional characters however way we want them to be changed.  From the start if James Bond had been created as black, he could have been changed at any point. The movies could have taken an originally black James Bond and white-washed the movie cast just like they always do a majority of the time (but that’s a different topic). So what’s the difference if they cast Idris Elba as Daniel Craig’s successor? There shouldn’t be a difference, but unfortunately many people think there is, just because they have a problem with the color of his skin. There are people out there that look at race over talent.

Aside from negative responses, not everyone holds racist reactions, an article from the daily dot addresses great reasons for the need of a black actor to play James Bond. Specifically addressing the need for black actors to get better roles and the fact that if Bond Girls and the villains can be portrayed by a variety of actors and actresses so can James Bond. The article also mentions when Denzel Washington, who has a impressive list of box-office successes, caused #denzelisjamesbond to trend on Twitter after he tweeted he would  take on an opportunity to play James Bond. There shouldn’t be a reason to deny him with his amount of talent, the same case for other talents including Idris Elba. The only way black actors can get bigger is if they get these big opportunities in the first place.

Idris Elba addressed the rumor stating:

“Honestly, it’s a rumor that’s really starting to eat itself, If there was ever any chance of me getting Bond, it’s gone.”

So, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Elba as Bond, but film makers need to wake up and give black actors, and other minorities better opportunities.

-Elena Sayasen

The Missing Diversity: “White Washing” in the Movie Industry

Box Office failures are not uncommon and should always be looked at as a possible outcome of a movie, regardless of whether you have an A-list celebrity cast or a big budget. There is no guarantee for success. However, as bad as it already is to have a box office bomb, add on a controversy and it doesn’t look too good for you. This is the case for Aloha directed by Cameron Crowe. The movie received much criticism on their choice of casting.

Emma Stone plays Alison Ng in the movie “Aloha” Image: Columbia Pictures

This article from Huffington Post analyzes the key points of the movies central themes, and the movie’s representation. Big name stars, a love story, and beautiful scenery, it sounds like the perfect movie, there’s one problem however, the movie is an example of an extremely “white-washed” representation. It is a movie about Hawaii, without any Hawaiians, an inaccurate representation. In addition to there being no Hawaiian actors, Emma Stone was given the role of a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian character. The director responded by saying Stone’s character was meant to not look Hawaiian or Asian. Prior to the release there was a buzz of reactions on social media. It is not just the movie Aloha that is guilty of white washing movies. Unfortunately, white washing is all too common, and definitely not the first time it has happened.

Image: 20th Century Fox

Another example of white-washing includes the 2014 movie Exodus: Gods and Kings. The four white lead actors played rich, upper class royal Egyptians, while the lower-class and degraded characters like thieves and slaves were played by black actors, representing an all too common cast list. The director of the film stated with the proposed budget of the film casting those famous white actors over lesser known non-white actors was the only option for him to get the funds to go on with the movie. Social media attempted to start a boycott for the movie, however, unlike Aloha the movie ended up making money.

So why is Hollywood so obsessed with choosing to cast white actors over non white actors? There are plenty of talented non white actors out there in today’s industry. But when it comes to lead roles it is rare to see a non white actor casted. Minorities are either portraying supporting and often degrading roles, or simply not there in the first place. There is so much diversity in America that I find it frustrating that producers are making up excuses like financial reasons as to why they don’t choose to take advantage of the diversity in the society.  The true image of America isn’t portrayed as it should be in media. When a minority is represented in the media some people see it as a huge step in Hollywood, but, it shouldn’t be seen that way because statistically media still has a long way to go in representation.

-Elena Sayasen

Racial Face Mask: Media’s Race Portrayal Through Make-up

What’s the borderline between entertainment and racism? This has been a question that has been asked for years, and as with most questions regarding issues around race and representation, there is no easy answer. America has had a long and tough history surrounding race. With the rise of media and technology came a form of entertainment called blackface, along with other variations including whiteface, yellow-face, and brown-face. Blackface involves using makeup to darken the complexion so white or non-black actors can take on black roles; the other variations involve a similar process.

Screencap from YouTube Popchip Advertisement

This isn’t just a thing of the past, although a lot less common, this practice is still visible in today’s entertainment. And we can’t stop at just movies; it’s also present in television broadcasts, video advertisements and also print advertisements as well. Stereotypes are commonly used as a way to present easy humor, but it can be difficult to portray that humor without being offensive. Ashton Kutcher received much backfire for his advertisement campaign for popchips in which he was given a darker complexion and played a Indian character named Raj. Kutcher used a racist accent and referenced stereotypes to portray a Bollywood movie producer looking for love, there was no reference to the actual product, at first glance the viewer would not realize it was a advertisement for popchips. Aside from the Raj character Kutcher also played other stereotypes including a Hippie, a biker, and a diva. Many people used social media to express their concerns, but others failed to see any racist elements.

Examples of blackface & whiteface in the 21st century [Pics: Huffington Post]

Examples of blackface & whiteface in the 21st century [Pics from Huffington Post]

After Julianne Hough wore a blackface Halloween costume, A Huffington Post Article was published to address the history of blackface portrayal and how offensive they can be in the film industry starting from the 1915 to today in the 21st century. In regards to the 21st century two movies stand out in the list presented, 2004’s White Chicks and 2008’s Tropic Thunder. In Tropic Thunder Robert Downey Jr. plays a method actor who gets his skin surgical darkened. The movie White Chicks is about two black FBI officers who go undercover as white females, the movie also contains stereotypical elements of white females. Despite criticism both movies made profits at the box office, people found it funny and worthy of their money. Are we so used to media portrayals of this nature they go unnoticed to us as we consume media?

Something that concerns me is that there are many people out there that don’t find these makeup portrayals as offensive or racist. I think skin complexion changing in media is rarely okay. The start of these portrayals all were a result of racism and poking fun at certain groups. It may be a thing of the past but if we continue to say it is okay for these portrayals to be made the past is at risk to be repeated. Whether it’s in TV, movies, advertisements or even as Halloween costumes, It is never okay to change your complexion and play on racist stereotypes to get a few laughs.

-Elena Sayasen