Racial Hierarchy in Media and Film

Dana Roy

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The power and manipulation of film and media has had an enduring effect on Asian American actors. As I read Celine Parrenas Shimizu’s Straightjack Sexualities I thought about what it must have felt like to be an Asian American male actor who had to assume roles that made them encounter self-inspection of their Asian American identity.  Not only was there a complexity of being stereotyped into a role in which their masculinity was not a priority, but they also had to face the challenges of always being represented as one kind of hero. In relation to our class discussion, Asian Americans often found that they were cast into roles that aligned with racial hierarchies. In chapter 5 of Straightjacket Sexualities, Shimizu particularly addresses the racial hierarchies of manhood as presented in the film “The Crimson Kimono”. After reading the analysis of the character roles for the film, I learned about how the Japanese American character Joe, had to struggle with his love for a Caucasian woman, Chris. Caught in the love triangle which involved another Caucasian man who was also his dear friend, Joe placed his love for Chris secondary to his respect for the friendship he had with his friend Charlie. As I notice more of the differences between Asian American and Caucasian roles in film, I start to become more aware of the limitations Asian American actors have as far as experiencing a wide variety of characters that embody more complexity and centrality.

To be honest, I did not have a strong opinion about the treatment of Asian American actors before participating in this class. At this point in the quarter, I notice that I am still trying to gain more understanding and knowledge about the Asian American experience. Thus far, I have found it inspiring to see Asian American artists addressing their challenges and how they have overcame them. For example, the news anchor in the film “Slaying the Dragon” discussed her ability to work in an environment where she does not feel repressed as the stereotyped “passive” Asian female.  Instead she has learned to be bold about who she is and has accepted her nature of doing things, regardless of how others will stereotype her for being an Asian American figure on television. One line that resonated with me from Straightjacket Sexualities was: “Instead we should look for masculinities that find different places across the map of representation and of history where individual men like Jason Scott Lee chart their own way as productive members of society” (Shimizu 231). I felt that this statement was very accurate in terms of what many artists want to contribute to society. Asian American artists express their awareness of social issues and address them in their artistry and craft. I believe it is important to continue encouraging and supporting these artists in their work, and to notice the limitations that film and media create. Then we can address what needs to be accomplished so that they are not limited to being represented as only one kind of hero.

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