Another notification lights up my phone. “Evonne Nicholson sent you a direct message!” I swipe across the screen only to be greeted with the most blood-boiling form of entertainment: a meme of a distorted Asian face with eyes stretched to full capacity, decorated with a the caption, “Waah? No maah rice?!” However, even more enraging was her comment, “Omg! This is so funny!!”
While the media is the greatest source of worldwide connections, it also holds the heart of dark humor. The Asian stereotype in western culture today stems almost entirely from inaccurate portrayal by the media. So common have simple terms, such as “rice” and “math,” been demoted to derogatory comments that the comedic interpretation of Asian culture has become socially acceptable. The constant notion of “soft” racism not only enforces more stereotypes but also presents orientals as a bland and monolithic race.
A clear example of such incidents include the 2016 Oscar’s joke by Chris Rock and the notorious insult by Steve Harvey, all eliciting strong laughs from the audience at the plight of mocking another race. Similarly, the Fox News report by Jesse Waters broadcasted an episode subjecting poor, elderly residents of Chinatown to a series of pointed questions about American politics to which they had little response. Thus, these episodes present a very lacking yet somewhat accurate response of Asian Americans to American humor.
Although the endless stream of jokes invoke widespread fury and hatred within the Asian community, only a few are speaking out against the issue. The lack of confidence and justice reflects the extent of the problem, planted deeply by uncensored media.
The main problem with media portrayal is the lack of juxtaposition. Commercials often manipulate actors, such as Ken Jeong, into wearing a ratty outfit with glasses sliding down his face while poking curiously at a McDonald’s Burger. The use of Jackie Chan to represent the “tough” part of Asian culture is simply a facade, undermining its complexity. The portrayal of Lucy Liu as a prostitute and countless other Asian women as nerds and geeks only fuel the disparity between yellows and white.
Only rarely have I seen Asian males portrayed with the same ferocity as white or black actors, such as Hugh Jackman.
Because society only sees what the media exhibits, there is little that can be done to change the already embedded idea of Asian stereotypes, but the influence of the media can be also used to spread the reality of situations. Only through the rise of Asian American voices through the media can powerful experience outweigh the effects of its own cultural flaw. Rather, perhaps the only solution is respect from both sides of the table.