“Racism against Asians is often 'unawares'—a form of racism that flies under the radar due to its widespread acceptance as the norm. Its interactive dynamic resembles that of an unwritten social contract..... Although stereotypes are virtually unavoidable in any form of storytelling, the crux of the problem is not that Asian stereotypes are used or that they frequently occur, but that negative Asian stereotypes are essentially the only Asian themes ever used in Hollywood and other media.”
At Kulture, we describe media offenses as falling into one of three main categories: Denigration, Self-Aggrandizement, and Gender. They can be summarized as: portraying Asians in a negative light, depicting whites in a flattering manner, and making implications about the worth of Asian men & women and white men & women. TV programs or movies often contain more than one kind of offensive theme; we typically apply the most prominent one.
Per category, there are a set of sub-categories which are more specific characterizations of the offense. Below we describe what these Categories of offenses mean.
Today, racism rarely takes the form of overt abuse. Instead, it is understated. It is laundered through "humor", it is read between the lines. It is accumulative; each offense in isolation appears trivial. Cumulatively however, it entirely distorts how we see whole classes of people. Hollywood and Madison Avenues are practitioners of this dark art -- and Asian-Americans are the subject of their most sophisticated disparagement. Denigration comes in many forms -- ranging from characterizing all Asians as somehow foreign and un-American to depicting interpersonal dynamics that subtly imply Asians warrant less importance in social interactions.
Below are the key Denigration sub-categories.
The challenge when you have power is to use it responsibly. Former President John Adams said, "Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases." Instead Hollywood and Madison Avenue have abused their power towards self-glorification, to show themselves as righteous, powerful, and in charge.
In Hollywood productions, whites are right even when they're wrong (witness Robert Downey's Iron-Man in the movie Avengers whose decisions jeopardized the world through carelessness/power-seeking and yet is let off the hook for his surface 'good intentions'). Occasionally, a movie will be made like "The Butler" which atones for sins committed generations ago but there is zero recognition of the racial/social inequities today. Generally, the decision-makers of our culture are self-congratulatory and preserve their image and higher status at all costs.
Below are Self-Aggrandizement sub-categories.
There's a part of us that wants to believe that romantic love is something that cannot be explained - that it is pure, that it is destiny, that the fusion of two people and their fate was written in the stars. But love also stems from attraction and both sides seeing the other as the ideal mate. We may want what we want, but the question is why do we want what we want. It is not as though our preference is some opinion that arrives from nowhere. Studes have revealed people's sexual neuroplasticity - that our mate-selection preferences as human beings, more than any other species, are highly malleable and shaped by outside forces.
According to "The Brain that Changes Itself", many tastes we think “natural” are acquired by way of conditioning. We are unable to distinguish our “second nature” from our “original nature” because our neuroplastic brains, once rewired, develop a new nature, every bit as biological as our original. Hollywood storytelling may be entertainment but it also functions as advanced conditioning, creating emotional highs and anchoring them to certain associations, or certain kinds of people. Ultimately, our preferences going in may not be the same going out; and will certainly differ after years of exposure. So the question is how exactly are we conditioned?
Hollywood has a long history of depicting Asian men as sexually undesirable and Asian women as sexual prey, typically of white men. Often it is shown that an Asian woman leaves her Asian male partner because he is abusive or uncaring; she ends up in the arms of a "better" white male. Or maybe they're like Raj in Big Bang Theory, characterized by awkwardness and virgin-dom - and no woman's sexual ideal. It has become typical to show Asian women pining over white men -- so common, it rarely draws scrutiny anymore. In contrast, the Asian male usually doesn't consummate any relationship, even when he's the leading man. Asian men are depicted as feminine and conflict-averse (when they're not shown as very 'foreign'-seeming martial arts experts). White men are shown to be bold and masculine. Asian women are depicted in extremes - either aggressive with voracious sexual appetites (ie: Kalinda on "The Good Wife") or meekly submissive to a white man's charm and depicted dominance.
When we think about how our mind and mate preferences are shaped by the larger culture, and we observe such inequitable treatment of whites and Asians in Hollywood entertainment products, we begin to understand the real-world consequences of this manipulation.
Below we list the Gender offense sub-categories.