I did a little digging to see what regular, recurring roles on television Asian Americans were getting, both today and in years past. I’m happy to say that while there are a lot of techies and doctors not surprisingly played by Asian Americans, there is a widening of “regular joe” roles, particularly for TV geared towards younger audiences. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the roles Asian Americans actors are getting these days. What do you think?
Who did I leave out? Please help.
Sandra Oh, actually Canadian. Role: Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy. 2005-currently.
Ming Na Wen. Role: Dr. Jing-Mei “Deb” Chen on ER. She was on Season 1, Season 6 through 11. She went on to star in other successful TV shows such as Stargate Universe.
Charlyne Amanda Yi. Role: Dr. Chi Park on House. 2004- currently. She joins House for season 8 in 2011. She had her own show, Inconceivable, in 2005 which lasted 2 episodes. She played Rachel Lu, co-founder of a fertility clinic.
With a Martial Arts Slant
Margaret Denise Quigleyor Maggie Q. Role: Maggie Q in Nikita. The series focuses on Nikita (Maggie Q), a woman who escaped from a secret government-funded organization known as Division and, after three-year hiding period, is back with schemes to bring down the organization. 2010-present.
Thank you to children’s author of the excellent The Great Wall of Lucy WuWendy 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.