The mass media is what Americans often turn to in order to find out new information about the world. Visual media is commonly what we, as Americans, think of when we hear about the term media. So news channels (such as CNN), films (movies), television-based talk shows (such as “Oprah”) – these are all examples of different forms of visual media. Stereotypes, or generic, widely-held, oversimplified views, are rife within mass media. But while they are mostly harmless and not necessarily false, sometimes they can present a problem of failure within a population to distinguish between a stereotype and the actual group that falls under that stereotype.1 This lack of ability to distinguish reality from media perception can cause a representation of a stereotype to become reality.
As we explore in our timeline of Asian and Asian-American male characters in films from the 1940s to 2000s and beyond, we show how these stereotypes can be propagated or initiated due to historical events. From the World War II propaganda-based cunning Japanese military characters to the modern Chinese/Japanese warrior/heroic characters, many are rooted with events and circumstances in relation to events that occur between Asians and Asian Americans and the United States. In essence, we will show that, despite minor improvements and the cease of antagonistic, dividing stereotypes from the 1940s, the portrayal and stereotypes of Asian and Asian-American males in Hollywood is still negative.
To begin, start by clicking the 1940s on the timeline, and explore the decades!
Over the decades, there seems to have been an increase in the number of films that include Asian American and Asian actors in the cast. Over time, the roles and film genres Asian American actors were cast in have also expanded, and the film industry seems to be becoming more inclusive although Asian American actors are still quite underrepresented in the film and television industries.
The 70s produced the martial arts film genre, and many stereotypes to go along with it. These stereotypes still exist today, and are still detrimental. More recently, Asian American actors are being cast as leads and roles in films that don’t portray them solely as Asian immigrants, but as Asian Americans, although they still don’t stray too far from the continued perpetuation of negative stereotypes.
Steven Yuen gives his opinion on modern and changing roles for Asian Americans in television and film:
The organization of our footnotes and bibliography are as follows: