Who is a Hero?

Melody Erhuy

Imagine a superhero. What does his costume look like? Is he brazen in red and gold with lasers shooting from his shoulders? Is he decked out in a cool blue, with a cape glistening after every spin, turn and jump? Is he Caucasian? Or better yet, is he ever Asian?

Our vision of a knight in shining armor is usually a brood man straddling a horse. The bad guy is a man of color, covered in black clothing from head to toe. The evil witch sports a hook nose and an apple offering to all her visitors. The princess is a blonde, and is always pretty in pink. The superhero? A buff Caucasian male who always gets the lady while his sidekick, usually a man of color, picks up after him. Many people can concur that these attributes are normally correlated with this roles in American film and media. When an Asian male, for example, is cast in the lead role of a superhero movie, it is surprising for Americans. Not used to seeing someone of a different race play such a role, Americans can illy receive such changes to their ideal image of a character.

Celine Shimizu’s book “Straightjacket Sexualities” delves into this racialized heroic picture as a problem for Asian American males, whose roles are, at best, a counterexample to the heroic male lead to make the protagonist seem even more manly. Moreover, the Asian American male is not seen as an automatic choice for being heroic, because he simply never gets the girl in movies. Many of my peers would attest that they are just ‘not attracted to men of color’ based on their own personal preferences, yet it is such thinking that de-sexualizes Asian American males in American society, and further de-humanizes them as they are void of being compatible with any traits associated with heroism. Feeding the image that Asian American males are sidekicks at best, the muted roles of Asian American males in film and media further implement a de-sexualized ideal into the minds of Americans, which makes it more difficult for Asian American men to be perceived as manly as other races in society.

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