The Invisible Asian-Americans
By Michael Hong -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/16/2005 7:00:00 PM
Television networks show an increasing number of ethnic faces as minorities are fast becoming the majority.
Among these minorities are Asian-Americans; yet TV continues to turn a blind eye to this group.
This unfortunately doesn't apply only to the casting of Asian-Americans but is also apparent in the lack of opportunities behind the camera and in the executive suites.
A recent Directors Guild of America report on hiring at the top 40 prime time shows revealed that Asian-American directors came in last at 1%.
Meanwhile, the on-air environment for Asians remains stale. While My Wife & Kids and The George Lopez Show, among others, provide some representation for black and Hispanic America, Asian-Americans are still left out. Margaret Cho's All-American Girl, the first and only prime time network series starring an Asian-American, lived a very brief life.
Moreover, the few series on mainstream television that have featured Asian-American actors tend to portray two-dimensional characters, often speaking with thick accents.
Asian male characters are often portrayed as emasculated figures of comic relief. Asian females are cast either as submissive or as “dragon lady” seductresses.
Media have the power to control audience perceptions, tastes, opinions and even actions.
As Asian-Americans, not only are we unable to see our own lives and faces reflected on television devoid of flagrant stereotypes, but, perhaps even more dangerous, the actions of other groups toward Asians can be affected as well, resulting in everything from acts of hiring discrimination to violent hate crimes.
Asian-Americans are in dire need of a basic media platform, a mainstream venue through which we can both shape the landscape of media and watch dynamic, complex and diverse portrayals of ourselves.
We still lack the basic representation on the small screen that BET and Univision offer black and Hispanic viewers.
Since advertising is the Holy Grail, perhaps the lure of increased marketing dollars will lead the change.
While making up only a third of the U.S. minority population collectively represented by Hispanic and African-Americans, some 12 million Asian-Americans account for more than half of the total buying power—nearly $300 billion. And the Asian population is also growing nearly as fast as the Hispanic population.
I am an Asian-American who is part of the “1.5 generation”: someone who was born in Korea but grew up in the U.S. I consider myself to be a full-blooded American.
My peers and I would like to have our distinct cultural voices heard and our faces seen, while contributing on a larger scale to the fabric of this nation, the same as other minority groups.
It is now up to the rest of the media industry to answer this call to action.
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