The mainstream media (consisting of films, TV and print) shapes the manner in which people form their self-concept and interact with others. The media also helps to share the stories of people’s culture, and what people of other cultures can expect from them. However, many are the cases whereby the mainstream media helps to propagate some stereotypes. Stereotypes are unfounded beliefs, and the mainstream media helps to strengthen those beliefs through the use of characters performing stereotypical roles. A good case is the portrayal of Asian Americans in film and print media. The mainstream media still conveys the notion that Asian Americans have not been fully assimilated the American culture. The media also spreads the idea that Asian Americans have funny accents, names and mannerisms, and they stick to clichéd occupations. The restrictive portrayal of Asian Americans is widespread in the film industry. In the film Sixteen Candles, for example, the Chinese student is given is christened “Long Duk Dong” (Feng 54). Students laugh hysterically on hearing the name. In this case, the film portrays the idea that names of Asian Americans are rather comical. The film industry also conveys the idea that Asian Americans have not been fully absorbed into the American society. There are also cases whereby other forms of media use Asian American characters with foreign accents. A case in point is the comical portrayal of Judge Lance Ito (in radio comedy) using a foreign accent (Xing 25). Such acts further the notion that anything Asian is foreign.
Asian Americans are also portrayed as people who do not contribute to the growth of the American society. Asian immigrants are viewed as people who make wealth in the country but “take it back.” In the movie, Falling Down, for example, the Korean grocer is accused of draining American resources (Feng 53). The lead actor, therefore, justifies the destruction of the grocery shop. In another film, The Rising Sun, the Japanese businessman is portrayed as having enriched himself through murder and deceit (Feng 53). Other films have also portrayed that the growth of “Chinatowns” is riddled with crime. All these episodes further the notion that Asian Americans do not contribute positively to the growth of the American Society.
Additionally, Asian Americans are portrayed as people who restrict themselves to clichéd occupations. Many are the forms of media that portray Asian Americans as grocers, martial artists, prostitutes and cab drivers (Ono and Pham 67). This restricted portrayal misrepresents the diverse professions that Asian Americans do. In addition, Asian women are portrayed as loyal, subservient and eager to please. For example, in the film, Madame Butterfly, the Asian characters portray these personality traits.
The misrepresentation of Asian Americans can be erased through fair and balanced characterization in the mainstream media. For example, instead of portraying Asian women as subservient and eager to please, there should be more Asian American characters given roles of self-confident and self-respecting women. The notion that Asian Americans have not been absorbed into the American culture can also be erased by given more Asian Americans roles that show that they are part of the American culture and can speak without foreign accents. In addition, the idea that Asian American do not contribute to the growth of the American culture can be erased by giving them roles that show how they have contributed positively to the society.
In conclusion, the media shapes how people think about themselves and people of different culture, race and geographical locations. Over the years, the mainstream media has contributed to the exaggerated stereotypes about Asian Americans, and this can be solved through portraying them in a positive light. The media have the power to change perceptions, and this should be a perfect opportunity to eradicate stereotypes which have no place in the 21st century.
Feng, Peter X. Screening Asian Americans. Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press, 2002. Print.
Ono, Kent A. and Vincent Pham. Asian Americans and the Media. Boston, MA : Polity, 2009. Print.
Xing, Jun. Asian America Through the Lens: History, Representations, and Identity. Lanham, MD: Rowman , 1998. Print.