Growing up, I would watch movies and tv shows with mainly all white actors and a couple of people of color, or none at all. I’ve noticed the lack of Asian representation in popular culture. Both my parents are from Vietnam, while I was born in the United States. Growing up being Asian in America comes with some sort of stereotype. I haven’t faced any type of stereotype personally, but I’ve seen some stereotypes in school and/or in public. I’ve also seen Asian stereotypes portrayed in popular culture. In television and movies, Asian parents are portrayed as “foreign”, meaning that they speak in a thick Asian accent, and being extremely strict. It’s not common to see an Asian as a lead character, and they’re normally seen as a supporting character. Some common Asian stereotypes are that they are super smart, they can’t see clearly, and are nerdy looking. They’re being negatively portrayed in the media which gives society the wrong impression of Asian-Americans. For this project, I’ve decided to explore the identity of Asian-Americans in hopes of learning more about how they are being represented in popular culture.
Fresh Off the Boat is a comedy television show that is loosely based on Eddie Huang’s biography of the same name. The show focuses on a Taiwanese-American family of 5, who moved from Chinatown of Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. The character, Jessica Huang, played by Constance Wu, speaks in an Asian accent, while Randall Park’s character, Louis Huang doesn’t have one. In real life, Constance Wu doesn’t have a thick accent, and on the show, you can tell that it sounds fake and not authentic. Another stereotype that is portrayed on the show is that Asians are overachievers and really smart. One character is seen as an overachiever and expects everything to be perfect, while another character is very intelligent in school and mature for his young age.
With the success of her show, Constance Wu wanted to look at other projects that would make a social and cultural impact. Crazy Rich Asians is an American romantic comedy film that follows a story of a Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family, only to find out that they’re the richest family of Singapore. This film became the first major Hollywood film with an all Asian cast in 25 years. Not only do they have an all Asian cast, but they also have a female lead played by Constance Wu, who plays Rachel Chu. Asian-American women are hardly ever in the center of the entertainment industry and they’re normally in the background or being objectified. Rachel was raised by a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. Her mother worked hard and sacrificed everything to create a better future for her daughter. I relate to this because my parents were Vietnamese immigrants who moved to the U.S. to create a better life for me. Their sacrifices and struggles are something women today are still facing. Rachel is depicted as a strong independent woman in the film, because she struggled with her boyfriend’s family’s objections to their relationship, and ultimately she had to pick her boyfriend’s happiness over hers.
In the media, Asians are stereotyped to be shy, bully victims, and being good at math or piano. With the release of the film, it featured the all Asian cast playing many diverse character types that will help change the view of Asians in the media. The film also focused on the culture of Singapore with the food and language that was spoken in the film. Some people have criticized the film for failing to represent the true diversity of Singapore, but I think that it still represented the Asian community because they can all relate to some scenes of the film. The writer’s of the film wanted to focus on the emotional journey when traveling to your homeland for the first time because your cultural identity splits.
There are other films and television shows that portray Asian identity, but I chose to analyze Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat because I can relate to them. Asian-American actors are fighting to be visible and not ignored in Hollywood. Constance Wu and other Asian-American actors are advocates for their own visibility and called Hollywood out for taking Asian roles and replacing them with Caucasian actors which can be known as “whitewashing”. For many years Hollywood has been casting white actors to play Asian characters because they believed that white actors attract more audiences and would raise the box office. Asian stereotypes in the media are portrayed falsely which can be disheartening to viewers watching those shows and movies and how it can affect the Asian culture. It can be hurtful and annoying because everyone is expecting the Asian community to act and look a certain way based on how we’re portrayed in popular culture.