Asian Americans’ new role in entertainment

Asian Americans’ new role in entertainment

Nona Penner

 Asian American artists emerge in the entertainment industry to change and redefine stereotypes




If America is a mixing pot, then our entertainment industry is the spice that makes the soup. Asian American artists are the one or two slivers of ginger that go in for good measure.

In the present day, film and television industries shamelessly use Asians as a means of diversifying the casts of shows; the Media Action Network for Asian Americans has to meet with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to prod the ethnic paintbrush.

Asian Americans performers might just be a little bit ignored.

YouTube stars such as Wong Fu Productions are changing the way entertainment views Asians. Their website advertises concert series ISA and JCPenny’s Breakout Performers contest, which feature Asian American artists. Screenshot by Nona Penner.But this is the 21st Century—Asian people have melded into American society just like any other race from around the world. The era where the Asian community handed out awards to a musician or actress just because she was the only Asian on television has passed.

The Internet deserves much of the credit—YouTube videos like Yellow Fever by Wong Fu Productions have gained popularity just by viral means. They, alongside others like comedian Nigahiga, musician David Choi and rapper Traphik have been aided by the technology that defines this generation. In turn, they define the future of Asian Americans in entertainment.

“They’re influenced by American culture and in a way, they are more understandable. There won’t be such a big gap,” Chinese teacher I-Chu Chang said.

Chang noted that Asian Americans are also rising in job status, where as before, they were not valued as much in business.

“There are more Asian lawyers and doctors in America now,” Chang said. “It’s still a stereotype, but on shows like ER where the main characters are still Caucasian, they might also include an Asian doctor as a smart face.”

Sophomore Grace Zhang is enthusiastic about Asian American representation in film and music, regardless of the presence of stereotypes. She believes Asian artists have a great deal of flexibility with their capabilities.

“They will break stereotypes if they want to, and bring new, non-stereotypical ideas to feature films too,” Zhang said. “I enjoy YouTube artists like Kevjumba, because they’re funny, even though he jokes about Asians.”

Asian Americans can and have defied stereotypes before. Korean American entertainer Margaret Cho initially used references to her Asian background upon request by her producers at ABC. She rose above, though, addressing pertinent social and political issues in her comedy while expanding into the fashion, acting, and music industry.

However, junior Howard Lee finds that stereotypes will still confine Asian American entertainers no matter what.

“Asian American entertainers are becoming more and more Americanized,” Lee said. “Maybe [other races] might think that Asians aren’t nerdy anymore, but I doubt it. There will always be new stereotypes.”

Regardless, it is undeniable that Asians don’t fit into the classic American karate chop formula anymore. Asian Americans are no longer foreigners—they live in the United States, and so they have a place in its entertainment too.

It’s about time America had a taste of real Asian American talent.