Empowering through Asian Stereotypes
Being an Asian American, you find that stereotypes are based on assumptions usually coming from what you see and hear around you. Coming from Japan and moving to Hawaii, I experienced all types of stereotypes being that Hawaii is a melting pot with a diverse community of people. In this day and age, where technology is rapidly advancing, stereotypes that are portrayed in popular culture and media can affect the way one thinks of another. To discuss this issue, I analyzed the T.V sitcom “Fresh off the Boat”, a sports article from BleacherReport on basketball player Jeremy Lin, and an online article talking called “Getting the Message: Media images and their Stereotypes and their effect on Asian Americans.” I will be implementing these sources to bring attention to the stereotyping of Asian Americans and how the Asian community has successfully combated this issue through popular culture.
FRESH OFF THE BOAT:
In the research analysis, one T.V show that I used as a source is “Fresh Off the Boat”. Fresh off the Boat is an American sitcom based on the book Fresh off the Boat: A memoir by Eddie Huang. The show depicts how Eddie and his family who moved from Chinatown in Washington D.C to Orlando Florida and the adjustments that the Family has to make being that there is not a large Asian population there. Many people found the title of the show “Fresh off the Boat” to be offensive, implicating that the immigrants are arriving to America off the boat. This can be dated back to the 1880s when people were migrating over from different countries to come to America. As you can see, this was a long time ago, and seems outdated and irrelevant because immigration of Asian Americans happened generations ago. One thing I noticed about the show is that Eddie the character and narrator, tries very hard to try and fit in and mentions that that’s all he was trying to do. He wears shirts with famous black rappers as that is the culture for young kids. He was getting teased about his accent so he kind of goes against his culture and adapts to fit the one that surrounds him. His mother is having a hard time adjusting as well. She is used to her ways in Chinatown and finds American culture rather odd and different. His dad is ambitious and believes in the American dream as he owns a cowboy themed restaurant trying to make it in the business.
I found it interesting how Eddie wants to adapt to the American culture. Although his parents have noticeable accents, he does not. You can see it in the way he dresses such as wearing chains, jewelry, basketball jerseys, hats, and just keeping up on American trends. In another scene, Eddie is invited to sit with other kids at the lunch table because he liked a particular rapper, however they kicked him out because he was eating noodles which they found weird. This was also another stereotype. In the asian culture, rice and noodles are a staple in the cuisine so it’s not a surprise during the scene where he brings noodles for lunch. However, the “Americans” on the lunch table looked at his food in disgust like they’ve never seen noodles before. There reaction was over the top and made it seem that was such a foreign item that does not belong in the U.S. Another interesting thing was just seeing how the family tries to adapt to the culture around them. The father tries to fit in by opening up a cowboy themed restaurant in Orlando Florida. He is pursuing the American dream which is why many immigrants come to the U.S so that they get that opportunity. He is optimistic and is obsessed with his restaurant. The mom however, does not enjoy the move and is having a harder time adjusting to the move and adapting to American culture. She does not like the other moms around their neighborhood but is forced to hang out and spend time with them. She does things that the other moms like, such as jogging and doesn’t understand why they do it. The show is about how the Asian culture isn’t “normal” and how it isn’t accepted by western society, forcing the Huang’s to feel obligated to adapt to the people around them.
Jeremy Lin Remain an American Icon:
A secondary source that I found is an article on BleacherReport, Jeremy Lin Remains an American Icon, Even Five Years After Linsanity . This article talks about the Asian-American NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin and his unorthodox rise to success on the court. The author talks about how big he was, especially to the Asian American community, even those who weren’t basketball fans. He broke down stereotypes and prejudice that dates back to the 1800’s with the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 and Japanese internment camps during World War II. The author, also being an Asian American, talks about him growing up during Jeremy Lin’s prime in Massachusetts. He was familiar to the stereotypes that was said about his race and identity as Asians, that they come to America and are automatically labeled as smart, nerdy, dorky, and just not that good in sports, especially basketball. Jeremy Lin defied all of that. Nobody thought that an Asian can actually make it to the NBA. He didn’t listen to the stereotypes that were labeled to his race and the criticism that came with it. During college, he was called many offensive words and terms. He recalls one time during a game where the opposing team’s fans chanted “Ch–k”. He didn’t let that get to him however and just ignored what they had to say and just kept playing ball.
Basketball is a large part of the American culture with many of the stars being some of the highest paid and well known people in America. So for an Asian to become a star in the NBA means that he was an icon to Asian Americans. He excelled in the spotlight where everyone was watching. Fans and Americans saw that he didn’t fit the stereotypes of Asians, how they aren’t athletic and can’t play sports. Yet Lin broke down those barriers. By making it to the league, Lin disbanded the stereotype that Asian Americans were not just good at academics and school, but expanded the limits to what Asians can do and inspired many Asian Americans to not fall into these stereotypes. He embraces this role and said, “I rep for all the Asians, I rep for all the Harvard dudes, I rep for the Cali guys, I rep for the underdogs. I take pride in it. It is not a burden to me anymore.”
Getting the message:
The final article that I found is called “Getting the message: Media images and stereotypes and their effect on Asian Americans” by Mok, Teressa A. The article talks about how there is little amount of positive Asian American images and role models that are portrayed in mass media. This article discusses how the media does not often portray diversity for the the Asian American culture and how this may affect the perceptions on Asian Americans in western society. Mok also explains about how media can be a large source of information to how beauty is defined. This is important because of the lack of Asians that show up in pop culture and media such as movies and T.V shows. Media has a tremendous effect on society and especially pop culture because it’s how people receive information and knowledge on things. That is why with so few Asians being portrayed in media and popular culture, it affects how they are seen and what defines certain characteristics of the Asian identity. If Asian Americans aren’t portrayed without stereotypes, then people will still label them with those stereotypes. And when they are shown and made fun of, that’s how people will think that all Asians are based on what the media shows.
A significant moment that I had during the term was the discussion post from week 7, which asked us if we ever got tricked by the news we consume. We were asked if we were ever tricked by fake news and and fell victim to “clickbait”. Thinking about it, I realized that a lot of sources and information comes from media and such and noticed that they catch you by using titles that seem very interesting, however not true. It’s just a hook to get you to try believe something or make you think a certain way. This was important because it made me realize how influential media can be in popular culture. Mostly all of the information that we perceive is through news whether it’s on TV or social media. You can easily be persuaded to one side of a topic through what everyone else is saying and not your own true opinion. That’s why I believe that media is what drives stereotypes to existence and to have them stay and be relevant because that’s what people follow.
All stereotypes come from assumptions, based on what you hear from an outside source and what everyone else believes. This is heavily influenced by media in popular culture because access to information and news is always a click away. However, not everything you read or see is true and you should never assume how a certain person is like based on their race, culture, or social class because every individual is different. Asian Americans have broken down these barriers and are fighting against this issue through taking stands within popular culture . Stereotyping still exists because of the way Asian Americans are portrayed on media. With media having such a large influence to the people, we can kill stereotypes by eliminating it from tv shows, movies, and articles and present people to who they truly are through their individuality and unique characteristics.