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  • Writer's pictureJunto HKIS

Asian American Representation in the Media

Jun Nam

February 15th, 2023

Ever since the mass Asian exodus into America, Asian Americans have faced systemic inequalities and challenges that have hindered their ability to succeed. A culprit of the continued resistance that Asian Americans face is undoubtedly forms of American media. They have consistently perpetuated harmful tropes and rhetoric across popular media that have devastated the Asian-American community in various ways.

The media has perpetuated multiple negative characteristics of Asian Americans, including the hypersexualization of women, the emasculation of men, and the perpetuation of the “hardworking robot” trope. The hypersexualization of women involves fetishizing Asian-American women as “far away” and “distant,” creating a sense of “exoticism” to them. The emasculation of men originated in the early days of Asian-American immigration, where they were forced to work as launderers and domestic servants, stripping away masculine features and replacing them with feminine ones. Finally, the “hardworking robot” trope has deemed Asian Americans extraordinarily intelligent and able to complete complex tasks while being unable to think for themselves or have a sense of emotion.

As such, several consequences have followed. The constant hypersexualization of women led to the infamous Atlanta Spa Shootings, in which the gunman murdered 6 Asian American women in cold blood in order to “resist the temptation” of the women. The emasculation of men led Asian American men to feel unworthy or inadequate or to experience anxiety and depression in a far greater proportion as compared to other races. The “hardworking robot” trope has created what sociologists claim is the “bamboo ceiling,” in which their supposed lack of creativity and critical thinking limits them from reaching higher positions on the corporate ladder. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the extent to which these tropes have influenced Asian Americans.

The recent hate crimes in the US seem to be sporadically spurred on by the rise of Covid-19 and the egging on by politicians such as Donald Trump. Yet, a look beneath the surface forms a very different reality. Recognizing that the hypersexualisation of women and the emasculation of men have painted Asian Americans in an extremely meek and submissive position within the power dynamics of races, these tropes have undoubtedly portrayed Asian Americans as easy targets. This has then led to a vicious cycle where growing numbers of Asian Americans as victims of hate crimes have further perpetuated that same sentiment.

Popular media has perpetuated tropes that have disproportionately affected Asian Americans and their ability to succeed in all aspects of life. Not only has it hindered their safety, but it has also limited their ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder. In this light, it is imperative that the media takes it upon itself to demonstrate far more accurate portrayals of Asian Americans in order to create a safer, better future for Asian Americans.


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