Asian in America

How Asian Americans Are Portrayed in U.S. Media. Who Should Be the Next Asian Old Spice Guy?

Russel Wong Cute Hunky Asian American Actors JadeLuckClub

Asian Americans Portrayal in Media TV Commercials JadeLuckClub Calgon Ancient Chinese Secret Laundry Service Dry CleanersThank you to children’s author of the excellent The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Wendy Shang for sending me this link. And yes, we both grew up “Asian Spotting” on TV because … there just weren’t many Asians on the small screen. We were never in ads of any kind and I remember what a big deal it was when Margaret Cho got a TV sitcom that lasted about two episodes.

“Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, Jeff Yang, a New York-area marketing consultant, used to engage in “Asian-spotting” while watching TV and movies or looking at advertising. “If you saw an Asian in any role, it was remarkable,” he says. “Even if it was trivial or offensive, you felt that it was somehow better than being invisible.'” The Washington Post

And, I TOTALLY remember this ad:

“The few depictions of the 1960s and ’70s trafficked in gross stereotypes. In a famous early 1970s commercial for Calgon water softener, a laundry proprietor named Mr. Lee confided an “ancient Chinese secret” for cleaning shirts to a Caucasian customer. ” It actually didn’t bother me because there was FINALLY an Asian in a commercial without an thick accent.

Paul Farhi’s article asks a good question, “[Why] There’s no Asian American equivalent of the Old Spice guy, the hunky leading-man type played by an African American actor, Isaiah Mustafa. In fact, Asian American men rarely play romantic roles on TV or in American-made movies.” The article points out that there are basically two roles  for Asian Americans: techy and smart which is, I have to say, better than nerdy but still a small slice of who we really are.

“Even into the 1990s, marketers still depicted Asians as either martial arts experts or nerdy submissive types too shy to speak in public, Yang says.”

“‘When Asian Americans appear in advertising, they typically are presented as the technological experts — knowledgeable, savvy, perhaps mathematically adept or intellectually gifted. They’re most often shown in ads for business-oriented or technical products — smartphones, computers, pharmaceuticals, electronic gear of all kinds.”

And here’s the kicker:

Scholarly research shows that Asian American consumers accept the “model minority” advertising stereotype about themselves. In a study conducted last year, Yoo, the University of Texas researcher, showed panels of Asian Americans two sets of mock ads for mobile phones, the first featuring Caucasian models and the second with Asian models. Then, she repeated the experiment with ads for a “non-tech” product, cologne, alternating ads with Caucasian and Asian models.

Result: Asian American consumers were more favorably disposed toward the tech products when they were endorsed by the Asian models. They also liked the non-tech products more when they were endorsed by Caucasian models.

Yoo theorizes that this is a reflection of the “match up” theory: Asian American panelists have bought into the same cues and stereotypes as other Americans thanks to years of cultural exposure.”

In all fairness, the Best Buy Geek Squad ad below only depicts one Geek as Asian … among other ethnicities. I don’t think it’s offensive at all! What do you think of this ad and how Asian Americans are portrayed in general?

If there was an Asian American equivalent of the Old Spice Guy, who would you pick? My vote would be for Russel Wong.

Russel Wong Cute Hunky Asian American Actors JadeLuckClubRussel Wong

Philip Moon Hunky Asian American Actor JadeLuckclubPhilip Moon

John Cho Hunky Asian American Actors JadeLuckClubJohn Cho

Kal Penn Cute Asian American Actors JadeLuckClubKal Penn

Daniel Dae Kim Image cute hunky Asian American actors JadeLuckClubDaniel Dae Kim

Ken Leung actor cute asian actors JadeLuckClubKen Leung

B D Wong cute hunky handsome Asian American Actors JadeLuckClubB D Wong

James Kyson Lee hunky asian american actor JadeLuckClubJames Kyson Lee

Daniel Wu hunky handsome hot Asian American Actors JadeLuckclub next Asian Old Spice guyDaniel Wu

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14 Responses to “How Asian Americans Are Portrayed in U.S. Media. Who Should Be the Next Asian Old Spice Guy?”

  1. On September 19, 2011 at 9:03 am WendyS responded with... #

    Thanks for the photo gallery! Oh, wait – am I supposed to get work done today?

    Anyway, highlights from childhood Asian-spotting: Mr. Sulu, anyone with a speaking role on MASH, and Rosalind Chao playing Arnold’s teacher on Diff’rent Strokes (who also had roles on MASH).

    • On September 22, 2011 at 3:43 am


      responded with... #

      To Wendy S,
      Thanks again for sending me the link. It does really make me think that it is a cultural bias that Asian men are NOT considered sexy but there are certainly many who qualify!

      And great Asian spotting. I had forgotten about MASH! I never saw the Diff’rent Strokes episode. I wonder how I missed that one?!

      • On January 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm


        responded with... #

        hey. sorry to be a bother but i would really appreciate it if you could take a minute of your time to fill out this survey regarding asians in the media. Thank you!

        • On January 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm admin responded with... #

          To RugRaMel,

  2. On September 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm mamazilla responded with... #

    i think dwayne “the rock” johnson would be an excellent asian/pi old spice guy…

    also, daniel liu – coz really, the world needs to see more shirtless daniel liu…

    ooo! and daniel henney… huh, who knew daniel was such a popular name…. 🙂

    • On September 22, 2011 at 3:44 am


      responded with... #

      To Mamazilla,
      Good calls!!

  3. On October 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm


    responded with... #

    From my LinkedIn Group Voices of Asian Americans USA:

    I only saw Russell Wong as Chinese gang leader in movies. I like Ken Leung’s acting but I don’t think he would be “Old Spice Guy”. So I vote for Daniel Dae Kim. He was excellent in Lost.

    Posted by Kwan

    • On October 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm


      responded with... #

      To Kwan,

      Good choice!

  4. On May 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Manly Peril

    responded with... #

    This is something that my blog deals with directly:

    It’s a difficult situation because the majority of audiences would feel unusually, uncomfortable seeing an Asian man playing a romantic lead. There are many things contributing to that feeling.

    But for the Old Spice Guy or let’s say any lead role, it helps to be funny and relatively good looking. It’s a rare combination. Many times, actors are either one or the other. To add to it, you’ll have to convince the audience that you are “American” if that makes any sense.

    • On May 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm admin responded with... #

      To Manly Peril,
      Thanks for the link to your site. I will definitely check it out! Yes, sigh!, when will Asian American men be considered “sexy” by Madison Avenue ad agencies? They are! And funny too! And American!


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