American Television Sitcoms Representation of Asian Women Essay

Total Length: 1080 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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According to Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho, her first appearance on American television was one of the most devastating experiences of her life, rather than something positive and uplifting. Her sitcom All-American Girl was the first sitcom ever to depict an Asian-American family on screen. But Cho was not permitted to be her funny, raunchy self and the scripts were fully of stereotypes of Asian American people “Critics panned the show for its bad jokes, stereotyped characters and banal storylines that endorsed, rather than shattered, ethnic myths” and Cho struggled with the constant criticism of her weight and appearance by the show’s producers, which they felt was inappropriate for an Asian American woman (Woo). Despite advances in understanding in the intersection of race and culture, representations of Asian women in American sitcoms still revolve largely around the stereotype of the demure yet hyper-sexualized geisha and the desexualized “nerdy” positive stereotype of the Asian American as modern minority.



Literature Review



While there are many different stereotypes of Asian-Americans in popular culture, all have largely filtered through a white, male gaze. According to a survey of different Asian American roles on television by The Guardian, one actor trained at Yale School of Drama, when auditioning for roles after graduation, was told he needed to use an “Asian accent” that reflected how Asians were supposed to sound, not how immigrants would actually speak from different Asian nations (Levin). Given that Asian characters of both genders still only comprise made up only 3%-4% of roles on all broadcast shows, even a few highly stereotyped depictions can have a significant impact (Levin).

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Despite attempted claims by networks to increase representation The Guardian reports Asian actors such as the Japanese standup comedian and actor Atsuko Okatsuka being forced to read for a highly stereotypical “Japanese schoolgirl…I had to squeal a lot and speak in a very high-pitched cadence in Japanese. And giggle” (Levin). But while actors of both genders may suffer narrowly defined roles based upon race, women are often particularly subsumed with the “Orientalist” stereotype, which characterizes the so-called Orient versus the Occident as stealthy, feminine, submissive, and sensual.



The ideology of Orientalism, a literary theory first advanced by Edward Said, thus takes on a particularly reductive emphasis when applied to women, according to postcolonial literary criticism, as it “suggested all women were inferior to men; and that oriental women were doubly inferior, being both women and Orientals” and Asian women could be doubly exploited both as women and as the fruits of empire (Shabanirad and Marandi 24). Even today, despite the increasing globalization of modern commerce, the assumption is that the gaze upon Asian American women is white, male, and can easily possess the woman because of her vulnerability (Kim and Chung). Another component of Orientalist ideology is the idea that the white man must save the non-white, highly vulnerable Asian woman from oppression by savage non-white males from her culture, because of the inherent barbarity of Asia. Whiteness and colonialism’s carrying of….....

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References

Kim, Minjeong, and Angie Y. Chung. “Consuming Orientalism: Images of Asian/American women in multicultural advertising.” Qualitative Sociology 28. 1 (2005): 67-91.

Levin, Sam. “We're the geeks, the prostitutes: Asian American actors on Hollywood's barriers.”
The Guardian. Web 10 Apr 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/11/asian-american-actors-whitewashing- Hollywood

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York, NY: Vintage, 1979.

Shabanirad. E. & Marandi, E. “Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Representation of Oriental
Women in George Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days.’” International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences. 60 (2015): 22-33. Retrieved from:https://www.scipress.com/ILSHS.60.22.pdf

Woo, Michelle. “All Grown Up.” More. 15 Sept 2014. Web 10 Apr 2018. http://kore.am/20-years-later-margaret-cho-looks-back-on-all-american-girl/

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