Asian stereotypes in Films

Introduction:
Have you ever seen a film that stereotypes Asians? If yes, did that film prove that Asians
suffer from stereotype threat in popular culture? In the Looking into the popular culture mirror project, I tried to discover as to whether Asians are stereotyped in films. From what I discovered, Asians are stereotyped in films for entertainment purposes, and a result it could cause insufferable damage to the Asian community.

For my project, I decided to explore how ‘Fresh Off the Boat’, ‘Watters World: Chinatown
Edition’, ‘Fox News’, and ‘Family Guy’ portrays Asians. I tried to answer the following questions about these films: How are Asians depicted in these films? What’s the purpose of these films portraying Asians in the way that they do? If there are stereotypes about Asians in these films, do these stereotypes cause any harm? I used these questions to help accurately depict how Asians are portrayed in popular culture.

 

Analysis of how ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ portrays Asians:
‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is a television show which features the life an Asian family who
recently immigrated to the United States. Both the mother and father of the Asian family in the film seem to not be familiar with American culture. As a result, they are dumbfounded at the American way of life. Achieving the American dream is the goal of the parents of this family.Moreover, Eddie Wong is a child in the Asian family in this show who struggles to fit in with the students at school. As a result, he does some unusual actions to get attention from his peers. Once in the film, he starts eating American food instead of Chinese food at school because his peers ridiculed him due to the appearance of his Chinese food. Overall, it appears that Eddie Wong’s goal is to get the attention of his peers.

Here’s the trailer for ‘Fresh Off the Boat:

 

 

Analysis of how ‘Family Guy’ portrays Asians:
In ‘Family Guy’ Asians are portrayed as intelligent people with thick accents. The most
prominent portrayal of Asians in ‘Family Guy’ is them having thick accents. Practically all Asians in this film have a thick accent. Moreover, Asians are shown to have advanced positions in the workplace in this film. A clip from this film demonstrates an Asian father asks his son in a thick Asian accent if he was a doctor yet. In another clip, an Asian is used as a human calculator. Moreover, another clip shows Asians standing in a line after school waiting at a location so they can be the first to arrive to school tomorrow. These clips are examples of how Asians are used in ‘Family Guy’.

Here’s a video of an Asian being used as a human calculator in Family Guy:

 

 

Analysis of how ‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition’ portrays Asians:
‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition’ is a segment that was shown on Fox News. In the
beginning of an episode of ‘Watters World’, a news reporter mentioned that in the presidential debate Donald Trump gave negative comments about the Chinese. Because of this, he says that they are going to send Jesse Walters to Chinatown to get an understanding of how the Chinese perceive Donald Trump. Throughout the rest of the segment, Jesse Walters makes racist comments towards the Chinese people in Chinatown. Remarks such as asking Chinese people if they know karate, asking them on how their cultural traditions work were done in this segment. At the end of the segment Watters tells the audience that he believes that the people in Chinatown aren’t well-informed about politics in the United States.

Here’s the video of the ‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition’ segment:

 

 

Analysis of how ‘MADtv’ portrays Asians:

Miss Swan is an Asian character in MADtv who shown to not be fluent in English and to
have a thick accent. As a result, she struggles in communicating with others. One clip shows her going to a candy store and struggling to communicate with the store clerk. As a result, the store clerk is unable to understand what she’s saying to each other. In the background of this segment, there are people laughing to the responses that the store clerk makes to Miss Swan’s sayings.

Here’s a video featuring Miss Swan on MAdtv:

 

 

How are Asians depicted in these films?

In ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ the Asian family featured in the show are shown to be unaware of
American traditions. In ‘Family Guy’ the Asians shown are most predominantly seen to have thick accents, and to be highly intelligent people. Watters in ‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition’, made remarks that proves that he believes that Asians are masters of unarmed combat, and are dumbfounded about American politics. MADtv showed through the use of Miss Swan that Asians are not fluent in English, and that they have thick accents. Using all of this information, I deduct that the Asians in the films that I analyzed are depicted to be people with the following characteristics: intelligent, have a thick accent, masters of unarmed combat, unaware of American traditions, and are unable to speak fluently in English.

 

What’s the purpose of these films portraying Asians in the way that they do?

The films that I analyzed stereotype Asians. To me it seems that the stereotypes about Asians in these films are used to provide humor; all of the films that I analyzed are supposedly comedy films. I find that the purpose of stereotyping Asians to provide humor is most noticeable in MADtv; in MADtv one can hear an audience laughing in the background whenever Miss Swan makes an unusual remark using a thick accent with horrible English speaking conventions. In ‘Watters World: Chinatown Edition’, supporting the Republican party appears to be another purpose of the segment for stereotyping Asians. Many critics of Fox News have stated that Fox News favors the conservative agenda (Mitchell, Gottfried, Kiley, & Matsa, 2014). In the beginning of this segment a news reporter mentioned that Donald Trump made many negative comments about the Chinese. Watters at the end of the segment also mentioned that the Chinese weren’t informative about what’s happening in American politics. Lastly, I know that Donald Trump himself is a Republican. Using all of this information, I believe that this Watters World segment was done in an attempt to make the Chinese appear to be not informative enough about American politics to make reasonable counter arguments towards Donald Trump’s negative arguments about the Chinese. This segment doing this would further the political agenda of Fox News in helping make Republican arguments seem more valid, by supporting the then republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

 

If there are stereotypes about Asians in these films, do these stereotypes cause any
harm?

Asians being portrayed to be socially awkward, highly intelligent, masters of unarmed
combat, and uninformed about American traditions were the stereotypes used in these films. Moreover, portraying Asians as socially awkward can downplay an Asian’s values on American culture (Tran & Lee, 2014). This is awful for Asians because they will have to reaffirm their status as a real American; it makes it seem like they don’t know American traditions. Also, perceiving Asians to be intelligent causes them to appear to be the model minority, which can result in Asian hardships in the United States to be ignored (Tran & Lee, 2014). 22% of Asians attend schools where many of the students in the school are impoverished, compared to the 9.5% of whites who attend schools filled with many impoverished students. This results in Asian students being more susceptible to end up impoverished as adults than white students (Glass & Orfield, 1994). As a result of this, I believe that stereotyping Asians to be intelligent is awful, because it can result in people not helping Asians who need financial help; I’m assuming that having higher intelligence results in one in being able to earn more money. Lastly, I discovered that discrimination practices such as stereotyping is proven to cause minorities mental health problems (Kim, Wang, Deng, Alvarez, & Li, 2011). This means that stereotyping Asians in any form is a horrible practice because it can cause them to get mental health issues.

An Asian mentally damaged.

 

Conclusion:
Ultimately, Asian stereotypes in films for entertainment purposes can damage Asians
mentally. Moreover, it can result in people ignoring the problems that impoverished Asians
have. People can prevent Asian stereotypes from forming in their mind by refusing to watch films that stereotype Asians; this may help eradicate Asian stereotypes.

 

Learning Moments:

Week 1: I’ve noticed that the internet usually gives me information that I accept to be
true. I assumed that this meant that my opinions are similar to the majority of others. However, the online filter bubbles Ted Talk showed me that this is not true, because it proved to me that the internet was preventing me from seeing ideas that I would disagree with. Overall, this Ted Talk about filter bubbles proved to me that the internet is preventing me from understanding others perspectives. As a result, I learned that I need to clean my browsing history and cookies, and turn on my virtual private network all the time to ensure that I’m being exposed to ideas that I disagree with.

Week 5: The USC study about inequality in popular films showed how little minorities are
being used in American films. This study proved to me that American films are lacking in
diversity. Due to this I now know that films in popular culture are filled with caucasians. As a result I can help ensure that films don’t give me the inaccurate belief that the United States has little to no diversity.

 

Works Cited:
Glass, D., & Orfield, G. (1994). Asian Students and Multiethnic Desegregation.
doi:https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED410345

Kim, S. Y., Wang, Y., Deng, S., Alvarez, R., & Li, J. (2011). Accent, perpetual foreigner
stereotype, and perceived discrimination as indirect links between english proficiency and
depressive symptoms in chinese american adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 47(1), 289-301. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0020712

Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Kiley, J., & Matsa, K. E. (2014). Section 1: Media Sources: Distinct Favorites Emerge on the Left and Right. Political Polarization & Media Habits. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/section-1-media-sources-distinct-favorites-emerge-on-theleft-and-right/
Tran, A. G. T. T., & Lee, R. M. (2014). You speak english well! asian americans’ reactions to an exceptionalizing stereotype. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 61(3), 484-490.
doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/10.1037/cou0000034

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2 thoughts on “Asian stereotypes in Films

  1. Hi Yogi,
    Thank you for including the “Fresh Off the Boat” trailer. I have heard so many people talking about this show but I never got a chance to look at it and now i know what everybody has been talking about! With that being said I love all of your sources, they are entertaining and fun and kept my attention the whole time!

  2. Hi Yogi,
    This was an interesting post and the video clips complemented your writing very well. I have not seen most of these shows before so I was curious on what to expect from the video clips. Most of the time, like you said, they use these Asian stereotypes as comedy and humor. But they have definitely over do it at times and I think the “Watter’s World: Chinatown Edition” was the worst of them all. These sources are trying to make lighthearted jokes about a culture but it should be taken more seriously and they need to realize the impact it may have on people’s lives. Thanks for sharing these videos and I will do my best to try and avoid these in the future.

    Great Post!
    -Tommy Edwards

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