When was the last time you saw an Asian male kiss a non-Asian female in a movie or TV show? Or when was the last time an Asian-American male was the desired person in a romantic comedy? And more specifically, when where they not Kung Fu practitioners or computer geniuses? I can only think of two examples: So it takes either a zombie apocalypse or the munchies to see a fully breathing Asian male lead, or a Photoshop campaign StarringJohnCho for an Asian protagonist with actual thoughts in his head.
When you look back on your long tenure on The Walking Dead, what makes you proudest? I am Asian, and Glenn is Asian.
But I was very honored to be able to play somebody that showed multiple sides, and showed depth, and showed a way to relate to everyone. It was quite an honor, in that regard. This moment with Bruce Lee is most likely fictional, but the weight of it is not lost on us: This was a powerful moment for me as a kid, because I grew up with the same sort of mocking laughter, whether it was watching Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with my white neighbors, or being assailed by the Bruce Lee wail in the local grocery store.
I knew they were laughing at me, and not with. More than that, it plays into the same creepy objectification of Asians as sexual play-toys. The creative risk is too daring. So besides whitewashing an entirely Asian property, the next best thing is to throw in a scrap of representation by using the whole stereotype.
I will never be the action star or the romantic lead. God forbid that an Asian-American male would ever win against a non-Asian. In some cases, Asians have capitalized on their own mockery by making fun of themselves in minstrel-like deprecation.
Even other Asians want in on their own sabotage. Representation for the Asian-American only seems to happens when it aims for the least common denominator. All the benefits, none of the fuss. Use my name without the actual struggle. If you replaced the race with any other, the response would be louder, with solidarity on every side. Literally and statistically, no one cares. The thing is, there are no shortage of Asian-American men who are physically and intellectually desirable, who could portray themselves as fully living beings with compelling stories and relatable conflicts.
Is it possible that the mainstream, for all its talk about diversity, is afraid of encountering a man who is both Asian-American and attractive? Is it simply intolerable to witness an Asian-American switch lanes between the sidekick and the star? Has the Asian-American male been permanently imprinted as comic relief or Karate expert? Is it too culturally explosive to pair an Asian-American male with a non-Asian female?
Can we really handle an Asian alpha male who gets the girl at the end? Much less a non-Asian female lead get an Asian guy at the end? I have to admit that some of this is on us. I would never, ever perpetuate blaming the victim. The shift in perception of the Asian-American male coincides with a shift in self-perception.
Is it also possible to take a creative risk without guarantees? In a recent interview, he says: My agents will tell you when I first signed with them, I turned down the first three or four things that came up.