The People’s Response to Hess’ “Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored.”

Amanda Hess discusses in her NY Times article from May 2016, about how Asian actors in Hollywood are finally speaking up against the industry in “Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored.” This article gained a total of 656 comments from the readers who mainly thought that most roles for Asians are stereotypes, how Asians won’t make money at the box office, and how they should start making their own movies for themselves.

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Randall Park as Kim Jong-Un in The Interview; Photo Courtesy: IMDb

The most common type of comment I found noted how most roles Asian actors are given are stereotypical and typically with an accent. JS commented that “the majority of roles in Hollywood today are still that of minor, stereotypical roles—usually involving the use of an ‘Asian’ accent.” This reader is making the point of how proper roles aren’t given to these actors and they are expected to put on an accent they don’t actually have. Hollywood expects all Asians to be bilingual or heavily accented, casting them for that reason alone, but that isn’t the case with many Asian-Americans today and it’s insulting to ask them to put one on for the sake of humorless jokes. Tammy, an Asian-American actress, says that she often finds roles that require her to play Asian by putting on an accent since she’s actually “representing the the writer’s stereotype of that immigrant [which is] generally not as fleshed out as the other characters”. Other times, the accent could be used for more dramatic effect. Bronx Girl brings up Sandra Oh’s character in Double Happiness having to “make herself more Asian by speaking Chinglish” and recalling how it was an unforgettable “quiet, true, knife-edged scene”.

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Sandra Oh in Double Happiness; Photo Courtesy: Mubi

Other comments were about how Asians can’t possibly bring enough revenue for a movie or show to succeed. User, mt, commented “It’s a business model. You can fill movies with non white actors but it will not draw the same audience.” This user states that studios are doing what’s best for themselves and can’t be bothered to add diversity because it won’t bring in as much money as they’d like. It’s insulting to undermine the talent of these actors, yet this is the kind of mindset that drives the studios.

Benedict says, “As soon as films/tv shows starring Asians and Asian-Americans start making substantial amounts of money, we’ll see more of those populations depicted in them.” He doesn’t realize that the problem is getting Asians to be featured onscreen. They’re never given the opportunity to showcase their abilities due to the fact that studios are worried that films and shows with Asians won’t do well. This cycle won’t even allow these actors to get a foot in the door, because no one wants them as they are. In response to Benedict, we will never know if they are capable of making more money until studios allow creators to make shows with a more diverse cast.

The last common comment I saw questioned why Asians aren’t going out and making their own content that features themselves. User, cb, suggests that “each distinct ethnic/racial group culture needs to create their own film platform” and then cites Bollywood as an example. The problem with this mindset is that it divides races against each other, which isn’t a good idea because we are in the melting pot that is America. This kind of thinking shows that this user doesn’t see Asian-Americans as “real” Americans, but as a different group that immigrated here and doesn’t truly belong in their own country and isn’t a part of America’s culture.

Another user, karystrance, comments that “nobody is stopping them from making their own movies”, which is the same kind of thinking that alienates Asian-Americans from the “real” people who belong in this country. Pitting two groups in an In (“real” Americans) versus Out (Asian-Americans) group separates the people who live in this country and call it home. Both these users are missing the point about how minorities deserve the same opportunities as everyone else who lives here.

Although many commenters had opposing opinions from the article, there were plenty of commenters who agreed with the author’s point about the lack of Asian-American visibility in media. Overall, there’s a pretty even divide amongst the readers and they either think that the problem exists or that it isn’t one at all.

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