Family, an animated series of an Asian American who uses martial arts to fight crime, and literally any movie with the involvement of Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour series, Drunken Master, etc.) The “symbolic stretching of social relations across time and distance”, or globalization of the “martial arts master” in popular media has influenced audiences to assume, or imagine details of a culture unbeknownst to them. Orchard’s definition of, “Imagination refers to the capacity to see in and think about something as that which it is not…to represent the absent as present, with all the thoughts and feelings it would bring if it were present.
This capacity is intimately intertwined with the act of representation: the capacity to imagine relies on a repertoire of symbolic resources (representations) available to be drawn upon’.
Popular media can only be understood if the audience can imagine themselves in relation to what is being said or if they can take a “cognitive leap” out of their own experiences.
Media makes it possible for myself to think about Asian American identities and how I may or may not relate to that culture and exemplifies its humane qualities. Being consistently surrounded with media depicting Asian American’s in this stereotypical way instead of being of Asian American descent or immersed in its realities, my imagination allows me to use my capacity to get out of my cognitive sphere of personal experiences. However, with these problematic stereotypes informing my world-view and only these problematic stereotypes informing my world-view, it can develop racist ideologies within myself individually, which then means these ideologies are perpetuated in society.
The telling of hegemonic masculinity in Western films is often categorized by physical strength and size; however, Asian males are excluded from this as they are categorized as “nerdy, feminine, and asexual unless there are martial arts involved”. One of the most prominent stereotypes of Asian men in Western media is the martial arts master and protégé. This stereotype can be found in almost any movie starring Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan and has found its way into children’s programming. American Dragon Jake Long is an animated series on Disney Channel about a young Chinese-American boy who is a descendant of dragons and fights crime to protect mythical creatures. His grandfather, Luong Lao Shi, similar to Mr. Miyagi from the live-action film Karate Kid or Master Shifu from the animated film series Kung Fu Panda, acts as his “old master” or trainer. The “old master” trope can also be found in Disney Channel’s Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior, which follows a Chinese-American female protagonist who must learn martial arts by a Chinese monk, Shen, to protect her family. Shen’s character, along with all other male Asian characters, has no depth or growth and is very one-dimensional.
These characters are used just to trick an audience into thinking that there is diversity on screen. Although a lot of these films and television series featured Asian actors, very few of these examples included Asian bodies behind screen and almost none of them were written or directed by Asian bodies. Asian American men on screen, unless martial arts are involved, are depicted as asexual, unattractive, goofy, less important than the protagonist, and often forgotten about. The stereotype of the goofy sidekick is very similar to the token Asian character. In The Hangover film series, Leslie Chow has an extremely over-emphasized foreign accent, funny one-liners such as, “So long, gay boys” and “Toodle-loo motherfuckers!”, goofy mannerisms, and small stature. Leslie Chow’s character serves purely as comic relief and does not have much depth—so does every character Ken Jeong plays.