Asian Americans — Representation in the Media

Hi everyone! For today’s post, I wanted to talk about something I’ve been meaning to for some time. I think the headline of the post says it all but I’ll reiterate: Asian Americans — Representation in the Media.


This topic has long been something lingering at the back of my mind. It resurfaces every time I watch a movie or TV show or read a book with an Asian or Asian American character. Reading more #ownvoices posts on blogs I enjoy, and finding diverse book recommendations has also led me to talk about this topic with you today.


Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I am not accusing anyone of anything. I’m just a tween — I’m aware that there’s a lot I don’t know, and I’m not trying to assume anything. I also absolutely do not want to offend anyone. I’m a little nervous about putting this post out, but I feel it’s the right thing to do as my responsibility as an Asian American blogger.


So let’s get into it!


Having a representation in the media is important. But not as important as a realistic representation. The opposite of a realistic representation can lead to a stereotype.


What is a stereotype? Good question. The definition is: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. 


The stereotype of an Asian American is something we’re all familiar with : 

       
Glasses. Clutches books a lot. Very concerned about grades. Encouraged to be more social.


Some media try to combat this stereotype, and instead come up with a character who looks something like this :


Takes school more lightly. Active on social media. Friendly (sometimes) and popular. 

But I think that this in turn becomes its own stereotype.


Which one is right?


Well, there’s no wrong or right way to be Asian American. But as a minority group, it seems that we are sometimes oversimplified in the media, and cut down to just one or two stereotypical traits. Collectively, we are all assumed to be the same.


But we are so much more than that. 

We have faces and voices. We deserve to be seen and heard for who we, as individuals, are. We should not be confined to an image of emotionless, straight-A machines. 


It’s not enough to be represented. Asian Americans deserve to be realistically represented. 


Behind our actions, who stops and considers what our drive is? If we score 100% on the math final exam, what will the reaction be? Will it be ‘Oh, of course they got 100%, they study all day for no reason,’ or ‘Wow, their determination and hard work really paid off!’? 


Unfortunately, I think the former is the more voiced reaction.


Asian Americans are known for being worked up about their grades. Which is understandable. Education is important. But personally, my focus isn’t only on the grade. It’s on actually learning. 


I get a thrill when I learn about hyperbolas or learn what a cosine graph looks like. I’m deeply intrigued when I read about centrifugal force. I want to experiment with unreliable narrators in my writing. I marvel at the intricacies of the government system in China during such an olden time as the 7th century. 


Is this the behavior of a straight-A machine? I think not.


Having ourselves realistically represented isn’t as easy as it seems. Our hard work is sometimes ignored, even criticized for lack of actual passion. Which is, honestly, ridiculous.


Is seeing ourselves appreciated so much to ask for? 


Imagine emotions as colors of a painting. If all Asian Americans were represented in that painting realistically, there’d be shades of all sorts of colors. When presented to viewers who are not Asian American, what will they say? I hope it can be implied that each one of us has a variety of different feelings, thoughts, and experiences, and they have already manifested into our own stories…stories that we need to share and want to share. 


Please allow our voices to be heard. Please don’t put us under a huge black umbrella — put us under our own individual colorful umbrellas.


I hope that in the near future, Asian Americans and other minorities can be recognized more in the media for who we are — not what others have labeled us to be.  


Thank you for reading this post — you have my sincere gratitude. 

If you liked this post, you may also like :

Aditi’s discussion about Indian representation in the media.

Kay’s thoughts on Ownvoices and being a biracial reviewer.

22 thoughts on “Asian Americans — Representation in the Media

  1. Wow this was SUCH a great post, Eleanor! Thank you for not being afraid to share it. We need to read more posts like this. ❤
    You are absolutely right: there are stereotypes, and then we have the stereotype that was created in an attempt to break the first one! I reaaaaaaaaally wish stereotypes looked optimistically upon the individual instead of hyper-focusing on the most extreme person from that group (which is usually done in an unkind fashion). It's so unfortunate. Misconceptions run rampant because of what the media spreads.
    Reading this post has reminded me of the fact that there are stereotypes my family and I fall under, and I would love to share on my blog our personal experiences to break the mold. It really helps people (who are open-minded) to hear from individuals sharing their unique life experiences! It's only through those conversations that we can bring awareness to what makes us different 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Maggie! Aw that means so much!!

      I think, like you said, stereotypes have long held a negative connotation, and they really do focus on the very extremes of a group. I agree with everything you said basically 😀 and the media should be more careful about what messages they spread. I’d love to see you do “breaking the mold” posts, I think they’d be great, impactful reads!!

      Spreading awareness is indeed the first step to big change. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, I enjoyed seeing your thoughts!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! And yes! I’m so excited about adding them to my list of posts ideas. 💜

        Most definitely! And yes, I love posts that get conversations going in the comments. 😊💖

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post, Eleanor! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said here! I’m a Korean-American teen, and I want to see myself in the books I read. Not all Korean parents are strict and demanding, believe it or not! Not all Korean parents are obsessed with their daughters marrying nice Korean boys! Authors, you don’t need to name-drop every single Korean food in existence; all we want is to see ourselves in the books you write, just as we are — each one of us unique from anyone else.

    Amazing, amazing discussion, Eleanor! I loved reading this post! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Abby, thanks for stopping by! Exactly — I feel like those parent stereotypes are also too extreme, and somewhat old fashioned. Like, hello, we’re in the 21st century already!! Also, those stereotypes are hurtful, because based on my experiences, Asian parents are really considerate and kind and want the best for us, so I don’t like how they’re portrayed as the opposite. Haha, it’s the author’s job to make sure that they don’t interpret the culture, rather, tell it the way it is, and not exaggerate or cut back on aspects. It’s important to make the distinction that we’re not all the same, and I hope minority groups can be more recognized for who we are as individuals…and SOON. Thank you so much for your kind words!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such an important post, Eleanor!! Thank you for writing it! I absolutely agree that stereotypes of different minority groups are extremely harmful (and we need to cut out the whole model minority BS. stereotypes help NO ONE even if it’s a ‘good’ stereotype!).
    As an Asian living in a predominantly Asian neighborhood, I see that a lot of us deeply value studies, but it’s interesting to look at the history behind that. Chinese and Asian immigrants weren’t even *allowed* to come to the USA in the ’60s to ’80s unless they were doctors or engineers, which obviously meant that diaspora were pressured with the same rigor that their parents had to go through, and our communities started valuing education a lot more. Also, a lot of Asian cultures are ANCIENT, and when they were colonized by Britain (talking about India here), stereotypes about social classes and education were made. Which means that it’s incredibly hard for immigrants to come from Asia UNLESS they’re on a work visa (which typically goes to higher educated people). Obviously, the same pressures go to the kids, which is where these stereotypes emerged from.
    Anywaysss, sorry for the history lesson there 😂 I just find it really interesting!! I care about my studies but I’m more than a study machine, like you said, and Asians deserve better representation 💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Aditi, thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciated the history lesson 😀 I think it’s important for more people to fully realize WHY Asians and Asian Americans are so “worked up” about their grades. We essentially strive for a good education so that we can do good in life, and when some media portrays this as something “nerdy and weird”, it’s frustrating. Our hard work isn’t valued as much as it ought to be, because some people don’t consider what our drive is, they just assume we’re super stressed about our grades, and don’t consider that we are more than “machines”. Plus, it’s not easy to maintain hard work and a good study plan, but many of us are able to follow through with it…and this is sometimes ignored and passed off, which is, again, frustrating. The history you talked about also shows why our community values education and it makes sense how this passes on through generations (quite proud of this! :D), and I hope this can be more of an eye-opener for those who aren’t Asian American. Hopefully we can see Asians get the representation they deserve SOON. Again, thank you for commenting, I enjoyed reading your thoughts!! 

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well articulated, as always! I think this is such a relevant topic to today’s entertainment and absolutely agree with the stereotypes you have mentioned. It is indeed saddening to see the extreme ends of a spectrum focussed upon, leaving out the middle.
    Also, I loved the umbrella analogy, clear and precise.
    Thank you for sharing, Eleanor!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. love this post! i think as we begin to get more representation in media, it’s definitely important that it’s as realistic as possible to avoid becoming harmful to the people they’re trying to represent. i’m also an asian american who places a high importance on grades, but like you said — we’re much more than just a studious straight a machine and have a lot more depth to our identity than just that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, May! Definitely — while we care about grades, we each have our own drive behind it, and have great personalities that are sometimes ignored. Especially since non-realistic representation can create false ideas about a group of people, it’s really important to avoid that as well. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is wonderful, Eleanor. I am not Asian, but I absolutely agree with you that accurate representation in the media is essential! Every person does belong under their own colored umbrella, not one big one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Esmeralda! Definitely, each individual has their own unique story to tell, and progress has been made in bringing these experiences to light!! I can’t wait to see even more colorful umbrellas 😊 and hope they keep on coming!!

      Liked by 1 person

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