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Pet Sins January 2000 Issue
Caricatured, vilified, marginalized or erased - Asian men in Western mass media

The roles of Asian men in the fiction of Europe or the European diaspora have been rather limited and predictable: bumbling characters with comic accents, goons that exist to get beat up by the white man, or loyal sidekicks to a white hero, or an oppressive villains from whom the white hero must rescue Asian women, or a wise old teacher who imparts Eastern wisdom to the white guy, or some bookish type or child who needs the white hero's help/protection. In short, the role of Asian male characters, whether negative or positive, in Westerner's stories, is ultimately to boost the egos of Westerners.

That is, if Asian men even appear in a story at all. Asian female characters appear at a far higher frequency and in more prominent roles. Nevertheless, Asian fmales and other people of color also exist in white narratives to serve a similar ego-boosting function for whites, though the way in which they are used to accomplish this may differ.

Those of us who are in the position to serve as storytellers may do ourselves and our audience a service to question our own unconscious assumptions and subconscious motives before we churn out another run-of-the-mill plot or character. There are story tellers, both from inside the Asian community and outside of it, that have managed to create more balanced portrayals of Asian men. But there needs to be many more such talespinners before the flood of negative stereotypes and racist mental conditioning against Asian men can be overcome.