I’m going to talk about an uncomfortable topic that has been bugging me about our society, Western society to be exact. Having been born and raised Seoul, South Korea until I was seven, I grew up watching and idolizing protagonists in films produced mostly by Korean production companies. Perhaps this is what made me more perceptive to this blatant marginalization. I’m talking about the marginalization of male actors of Asian racial background in western pop-culture.
In western media, Asian actors are marginalized to playing roles where they are portrayed as some type of martial arts fighter incapable of having emotional/sexual desires, an antagonist/side-kick, or as an emasculated, geeky, dismissive male. Through the marginalization of Asian actors in western media, white filmmakers and producers and ‘yellow-faced‘ performers are permitted to determine what it means to be Asian.
Korean Movie Industry
It is rare to see Asian male actors in a protagonist role unless you’re outside western media. It’s a destructive, biased representation that perpetuates Asian stereotypes in western society.
Mako Iwamatsu, who is mostly-known for his Academy and Golden Globe award nominated role in the movie The Sand Pebbles, recalls a studio executive’s reaction when asked about featuring a non-Asian in the lead of “Kung Fu,” the classic 1970s TV show: “I remember one of the vice presidents — in charge of production, I suppose — who said, ‘If we put a yellow man up on the tube, the audience will turn the switch off in less than five minutes.’ ” Continue reading