I was reading a slightly inane conversation on Rotten Tomatoes. Someone was sincerely arguing that black women aren’t all that underrepresented when it comes to roles in movies. I’m far too lazy to actually format a response because the idea is absurd, but not absurd enough to actually put in the effort for the type of conversation that is going on. And, predictably, Asians were brought up. I say predictably because any conversation about minorities almost always goes to Asian because they are the race that the other side always references about how to be a ‘proper minority’ (to put it in the most blunt way possible).
I’d rather not get into the problems with these comparisons. However, I do think it is a worthy note, despite the intent of the conversation in question, to talk about Asians in reference to popular culture. And what is their reference in popular culture? It’s pretty much martial arts and that’s it. The only time Asians are typically seen in mass media is the nerd, the exotic and sexualized female, or the aforementioned martial artists. Granted there is a broader use of Asian women than I have mentioned here. But, when it comes introducing new people in society, the women usually come first as far as entertainment goes because there isn’t particularly a perceived threat with adding women to the society. It also helps that the majority of men love women regardless the color and would gladly pounce upon.
This goes into Asian men. While the mainstream thought isn’t the ‘mandingo’ (fear of black male sexuality) for them, it is rather that of impotence (regardless of the fact that there billions of Asians). The men are almost unilaterally presented without sex. They may be in relationships like in the Aaliyah and Jet Li movie Romeo Must Die, being able to actually have sex even just the aftermath, is never shown. They may get light kisses and that is the beginning, middle, and end of that. The only assertion of masculinity in American culture that Asian men are allowed is that of martial arts. But that is usually subdued to an extent and mystified to another.
Granted this is far better than it was decades ago when they were marginalized either to propaganda comic evil caricatures or passive apologetic wimps. It actually wasn’t until Bruce Lee blew up on the scene. Unfortunately, Asian men haven’t had another Bruce Lee. There roles have stayed static within this mold, or have branched out a tad more with Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s infiltration into American cinema. There needs to be a grand acting role for Asian males. That is the only way they can at least have a chance of gaining more opportunities.