Asian-American Representation in Media


Ava Fong, Online Staff Writer

Historically, mainstream media has always been a reflection on our society’s culture and values, whether that be positive or negative. When the Hollywood film industry first started in America, high-grossing films often used the same cast of white, male actors acting in white, male-centric stories. Even if people of color were featured in films back then, they were often portrayed as inferior, or given sidekick roles to ensure the safety and happiness of a white male. Although things have changed, racist stereotypes continue to persist in the Hollywood tradition. The “magical negro,” model minorities, and colorism are all problematic artifacts that continue to crop up in movies today. 

However, things are changing for the better, especially in terms of Asian representation in recent movies and TV shows. Junior Katrina Zeng notes, “Recently Shang-Chi came out, and it was a big breakthrough for Asian representation in Hollywood, mostly because Marvel is a huge franchise. This was a fully Asian movie.” It was a big milestone for Asian representation this year when it came out–breaking multiple pandemic box-office records in part because it featured well-renowned stars Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh. The movie also featured plenty of traditional martial-art style fighting, an ode to Chinese culture. 

Additionally, TV shows like Kim’s Convenience and Never Have I Ever on Netflix have also gained popularity with their Asian casting. Kim’s Convenience portrays the life of a Korean family in Canada who owns a convenience store. Not only is the show funny and sweet, but its well-written dialogue lets the audience experience and learn about Korean culture in a way that is uniquely charming. Likewise, the show Never Have I Ever tells the story of a teenage Indian-American girl going through her sophomore year of high school in California. Besides being funny and clever, the show explores the themes of adolescence and belonging while also portraying the lives of an immigrant family in America. 

Senior Eli Soffer comments,“This past decade has been an absolute boon for the Asian community with regards to representation in Hollywood. It’s been so wonderful to see the increased representation throughout movies of all genres. Not just action movies, not just mystery movies, not just sci-fi movies, but in each and every single type of movie we have seen increased representation, and it really is what this world needs. For too long, Hollywood has been a solely white institution, [but] that is changing fast”. 

Zeng continues: “The inclusion of Asians into sci-fi, action, romance, opens up all these other conversations about the stereotypes of Asians. Having a full Asian cast allows a lot of different Asian personalities [to be displayed], and allows them to break that stereotype of being just sidekicks.”With rising  Asian representation in popular movies and TV shows in the past few years, the Asian community has found more meaning and hope for their lives on-screen.