You know why the Asian American community — or any “othered” community for that matter — makes a big deal when they are seen themselves represented on film, TV or media? Because it does exactly that: it makes them feel seen. It makes them feel not invisible.
The AAPI community has been striving for authentic representation in film and TV before we even knew we needed representation and although there have been major strides with films like Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming Shang Chi, America seems to still see us as invisible — 42% of Americans to be specific.
The new non-profit Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) found in a recent survey that Asian Americans remain largely invisible: when asked to name a well-known, contemporary Asian American:
- 42% said “None/I Don’t Know”
- 11% said “Jackie Chan”
- 9% said “Bruce Lee”
- 5% said the top female was “Lucy Liu”
It should be noted that Jackie Chan is not even Asian American.
In addition, the study found that in movies and on TV, respondents see Asian American actors six times more often in supporting or background roles compared to lead roles and only 14% of Americans said they saw Asian Americans in lead roles. Roles remain stereotypical for both male and female actors. This means we see many Asian actors in roles that primarily include martial arts expert, doctor, gangster, sex worker or maid. On top of that, over 75% of Americans say they are familiar with food from Asian countries, but significantly fewer are familiar with customs (44%) and music/arts (37%).
None of this is a surprise and there is no better way than to make people aware of these disappointing figures on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
In any matter, this is why representation matters and why the hashtag #RepresentationMatters isn’t going anywhere any time soon. LAAUNCH has partnered with Gold House and been raising awareness and garnering solidarity through various ambassadors in film & entertainment including Daniel Dae Kim, among others.