Whether you want to admit it or not, times have changed. In some states gays can get married, pot is finally legal, and (spoiler alert) our president is Black – again. It feels good, doesn’t it? The ability to step onto the wet cement, take a whiff of the cool air and not even catch a flicker of prejudice dancing in the wind feels relaxing, liberating even. But is that really the case? Oh wait…
The picture above is from a movie that just came out called ‘Cloud Atlas’ and it stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and that dude from the Matrix. But what’s interesting about this movie is the fact that it showcases a blisteringly bad case of yellow face. What is yellow face you ask? Ask Miley Cyrus or Joe Jonas. So when Jim Sturgess (the actor shown above in yellow face) was asked and criticized for being in yellow face, he said in a mind blowingly stupid manner:
You see, it’s so fucking easy for American media to pull off racist shit towards Asian Americans because so much of it is masked and disguised as something else. Oh, a bunch of actors are in yellow face? No worries! It’s all in the name of art! Oh, we made an Asian penis joke on national television? No worries! The Asian actor we made fun of was laughing with us! Oh, the Republican party doesn’t give a shit about ethnic minorities in this country? No worries! They only represent a small percentage of the U.S population!
And in all honesty, Asians and other ethnic minorities do represent a small percentage of the U.S population and, yes, Whites are still the majority. We cannot escape that reality. But we have to still ask ourselves this question: why do we keep seeing racist media after racist media? Why are Asians continually bashed and made fun of? Why do the Asian characters of Glee encapsulate Asian stereotypes and the model minority myth? WHY?!
I‘ll tell you why.
First, we need to accept the reality that a large population of America consists of conservative Whites. Second, we also have to understand that in being a conservative White American, often times (not always) you will encounter people who are very pro-America and very anti-foreigner. Are you still with me?
Third, we have to realize that compared to Caucasians and African Americans – who will almost NEVER be confused as being non-American – Asians are more often mistaken as being from “somewhere else.” Even if an Asian can speak perfect English, they can still be mistaken as a foreigner or some sort. Next, we need to digest the notion that because Asians are so frequently viewed as Aliens from another planet, they will be viewed as non-American and ultimately, NOT WELCOME.
And Last but not least, it is understood that from a marketing point of view, if you are trying to sell a product (in our case, a T.V show or a movie) you need to cater your product to your target market. In other words, if you are creating a new television show for White people (who are your primary audience members) you need to mold and create a television show that will interest Whites and allow them to connect with your story.
So lets wrap this all together:
Due to the primarily White conservative audiences of America that oppose the notion of foreignness, we can begin to understand why we often times see racism against Asian Americans. Glee cannot make Mike Chang be the lead character just as much as American Idol won’t let an Asian win the finale. If an Asian wins at any of those things it almost becomes a symbolic message to America that “THE ASIANS ARE HERE! THEY WILL SOON TAKE OVER!” We may be eons away from Pearl Harbor but the concept of an Asian communist takeover/Red Scare is still very much alive.
That’s why America loves Psy, Long Duk Dong, William Hung and Ken Jeong: they allow us to see Asians in a non-threatening, comedic manner. In the same way that turning on the lights makes the monsters under the bed go away, making Asians look stupid and foolish is also a way to cope with the threat of the Asian Invasion by diluting their image and making it seem like they’re nothing. By stripping away any power that Asians may have, by making them look like wimps and morons who dance around speaking broken English we transform this Red Devil into a meager, defenseless child.
And in regards to the Yellow face bullshit in Cloud Atlas, if you are of the belief that it isn’t racist then please answer this question: would America still find it acceptable if Jim Sturgess went not in yellow face, but in BLACK face? To make things more worse, because the yellow face in Cloud Atlas was done so horrifically, what if we had Jim Sturgess and the Matrix Guy do a BAD version of Black face? Like this:
Could you fucking IMAGINE the kind of shit they would stir?! If that happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NAACP marched to the studio and shut the movie down. It would happen and the people of America would be okay with that because to America, that kind of black face is representative of a time when Racism was not okay. It represents a time when White people really fucked up. But now it’s okay! They don’t do that kind of stuff because apparently they know better. So then what makes it okay for actors to go in yellow face and not black face? Is it because Black people are more American and we just don’t do that kind of thing to our people? Hmmm…
Look, all I’m trying to say is that if we can bind together to fight for the equality of Women and the equality of the LGBT community, we need to understand that race related issues are not a thing of the past. We might not be lynching Asians in the street but lynching a mannequin of Barack Obama? That’s fucking racist. Writing “Chink” on the receipt of an Asian customer? That’s fucking racist. Denying Women the right to control their bodies? That’s fucking sexist. There’s a lot of work we need to do and the only way is for us minority groups – ethnic, gender, sexual, etc – to come together and vocalize our concerns and the concerns of others. I may not be a woman but I can fight for them. And you may not be Asian but we would be honored if you come fight for us too.