Discussion of Asian American in American sitcoms

Introduction

In this diverse cultural society, it has many different people who have different cultural backgrounds than others, and there is a growing minority comes to notice which is known as Asian. A research mentions, “According to Census Bureau data, the number of US native and foreign-born Asian residents rose 56 percent from the 2000 Census to the 2013 American Community Survey (one year release).” (Cox 2015) Undoubtedly, many Asian characters have started involving in the American entertainment industry. Superficially, Involving Asian characters in American sitcoms is a good sign because it offers extra opportunity to other ethnic groups to know about the ethnic group of Asian. Behind the back, most American sitcoms project negative Asian characters in the screen who are problematic, this is known as stereotypes. Hence, it is interesting to analyze these Asian characters that depicted in shows and see how they affect myself and people like me with this identity.

 

Varies of Asian stereotypes depicted in American sitcoms

Every Asian character has a similar characteristics in American sitcoms because these characteristics are centered on common stereotypes of Asian. For example, a video clip that trims a funny moment from a scene of The Big Bang Theory by a YouTuber called DengProductionsify.

From this video, Raj (the Asian character) is portrayed as a nerd who is being shy and try to evade Penny’s question (the White lady character) with odd action. Then, Penny comes to an assumption which is that Raj doesn’t speak English. According to these two aspects, we can see two common Asian stereotypes out of this scene. I am not judging about these because it is common to see some people who don’t speak English in this society, especially for those who are first-generation immigrants. However, I want to use my personal opinion and experience to explain why this character act like this. Let’s think of the “tiger mom” that we have heard about recently from media. (http://www.yourdictionary.com/tiger-mom) She treat you harshly and supervise you to ensure you use all your time in study before you step into the real society. That’s probably the reason we see many Asians are described as “nerd” because they sacrifice their own time and use every second of their life to study in the early age. As a result, this group of people possible become introverted and feel overwhelmed when talking to others, especially members of the opposite sex. There is another possible reason formed such phenomenon. From my personal experience, in older Chinese culture, boys have been told to stay a respectful distance between girls, which means that it is improper to touch or get close to girls for boys until they get into colleges (Of course, some people do not listen to it). Therefore, this creates a traditional trend for student’ daily life in school in which they often hangout with others of the same gender. (And of course, they are not gay.) I think that is the possible cause for Asian men don’t know how to communicate with women.

On the other hand, I do not encourage to show this stereotype in the screen because this will keep people to think that Asian is “nerd” and feel shy of communicating with women. Another reason is because there are bunch of people who are good at social communication, regardless of the gender of people and in what occasion. For example, Joe Wong is a Chinese American comedian who performs a very good and famous show in the Annual Dinner hosted by Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association at 2010.

Would he accept the stereotype of nerd, and who cannot talk to strangers or people of different gender? So, why can’t we try to portray these Asian characters without stereotypes and positively?

Another American sitcom called 2 Broke Girls, there is an Asian character called Han who owns an Asian Chinese restaurant where 2 broke girls work. In the show, you will notice that Han is being portrayed small and ethnic, speaks with accent. A video called Han’s Best Funny Moments and posted in YouTube, and there was a funny scene that showed how his employees made fun of his accent. (http://www.tubechop.com/watch/7917353#.VxuuRLmvBNU.link) It shows a stereotype that is Asians speak accented English, although the Asian character is an immigrant so it is not a problem for him to speak accented English. At some points, I personally feel it is bad to characterize all depiction of immigrants having an accent as necessarily negative depiction because it only bring a lot of negative effects. First, it reinforces the stereotype which every immigrant speaks accented English, but there are some immigrant who can speak perfect English. Second,  some “second generation immigrants”(who were born in the U.S and considered as Americans) may feel disgraceful when their peers mock them with accent, and in a broad perspective, sometime bullying is involved. “Situation comedies and reality television, as well as real life situations in schools, for example, show that acting out is more likely to get noticed than behaving oneself civilly and courteously.” (Bullying Statistics) This is also one of the reasons for me not to encourage TV shows to project stereotypes in the screen because they seem to help perpetuates stereotype of an ethnic group and implicitly bring negative influence on a certain aspect.

 

Summary

I am wondering why do we need to embed stereotypes into Asian characters in American sitcoms? Do we mean to do that, or we are lack of knowledge about this ethnic group so we can only go with stereotypes? An article called Asian Americans Struggle to ‘See Themselves’ in College Courses which presents a very useful way that seems possible to stop transmitting stereotypes. It mentions an Asian who is organizing a campaign to advocate adding ethnic studies in school program. I think it is a very well idea since it offers a chance or opportunity to people learn background information and knowledge about other cultures.  That the reason we construct stereotypes about other ethnic group is because we do not know about them. Therefore, it helps reduce stereotype if we get a chance to know about them. In conclusion, I find it is improper to present stereotypes in American sitcoms or even TV shows because media is most effective to spread information. I think we should understand the concept that stereotype is dangerous and harmful because it is like a wall that builds between people and prevent people from getting know each other. Therefore, the first step we should make is stop spreading stereotypes of an ethnic group in American sitcoms.

 

 

Learning moment

Throughout the term in this course, I feel like I have progress in my English writing and reading skills, and does something that I normally do not do and learn few analytical skills. First, the blog post is the biggest part to me, it offers me a chance to share my comments in which I rarely do it in a real class. Second, after reading many of my peers’ thought about a subject, it kind of trains me to become an objective person who can see one thing from different perspectives.

Additionally, the two valuable skills I learned throughout this course are the skill how to analyze an advertisement and the newsworthy criteria. News and advertisement are the media that are closely related to our daily life because we see it everywhere. Both of them are informative and easily spread message to people. Therefore, it is necessary to apply some critical skills on information we perceive from these two media in order to avoid receiving wrong, useless and misrepresented info.

 

 

Reference

Speedhar, Anjana. “5 Most Offensive Asian Characters in TV History.” Saloncom RSS. 22 Sept. 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/09/22/tvs_5_most_offensive_asian_characters_partner/

Cox, Wendell. “Asians: America’s Fastest Growing Minority.” Asians: America’s Fastest Growing Minority. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. http://www.newgeography.com/content/004825-asians-americas-fastest-growing-minority

Luhar, Monica. “Asian Americans Struggle to ‘See Themselves’ in College Courses – NBC News.” NBC News. 13 Jan. 2015. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/asian-americans-struggle-see-themselves-college-courses-n284396

Sun, Chyng, Rachael Liberman, Allison Butler, Sun Young Lee, and Rachel Webb. “Shifting Receptions: Asian American Stereotypes and the Exploration of Comprehensive Media Literacy.” The Communication Review 18.4 (2015): 294- 314. http://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/doi/abs/10.1080/10714421.2015.1085778

Teng, Elaine. “Why Is It Still Okay to Make Fun of Asians?” New Republic. 16 Mar. 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/131631/still-okay-make-fun-asians

“Why Do People Bully? – Bullying Statistics.” Bullying Statistics. 2015. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/why-do-people-bully.html

 

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3 thoughts on “Discussion of Asian American in American sitcoms

  1. Hi Jing,

    I loved reading your post, it was very insightful. I agree that many American sitcoms misrepresent Asian-Americans through offensive stereotypes. I have seen both “The Big Bang Theory” and “2 Broke Girls”, and they can be offensive. I liked your video example of how Raj was being stereotyped by Penny. People often assume that ethnic people do not speak English, even after they respond in English. One critique is that while your Chinese example of boys being taught to keep their distance from girls is good, I am not sure that it applies to Raj’s Indian character. Do you know if those two cultures have that in common? Lastly, I also really liked how you discussed bullying and “2 Broke Girls” in the same paragraph. The characters in that show do seem to bully Han a lot. They portray it as being funny, but it is relentless and mean most of the time.

  2. Hey Jing,
    I really enjoy reading your post, and it also relates to my daily life. I also felt very strongly that American sitcoms usually spread some negative stereotypes about Asian-Americans. As you said, “Don’t know how to speak English” and socially awkward are main negative stereotypes of Asian-Americans. Indeed, a part of the first generation of Asian immigrants has these impressions, but there are a lot of Asian immigrants through the efforts to change these stereotypes. However, the media’s portrayal definitely let many people think Asian immigrants are all like that, so the first impression of Asian immigrants is fixed (non-English or socially awkward). It’s really hard to change these stereotypes, but I think that the spread of media is one side, and other side is our Asian immigrants who need to work hard to improve these negative stereotypes through our efforts.

    Good Post!
    -Dahui

  3. Hello Jing,

    I believe not just Asian Americans, but Asians as well receives a similar stereotype. When some Asians speaks English well with no accent, most would automatically conclude that “they must have been born and raised here to speak so well,” Which is not true. People also shouldn’t conclude that one does not know the language simply because they were not raised here. English is taught where I was born because it is consider a global language, so when I did know some English when I was moved here with my family.

    I agree, this class is my first online class and it has helped me improve my writing greatly. I had never wrote so much and interact with the class as much before. Thank you for posting!

    Have a great summer!

    Chun

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