#OnlyOnePercent: Asian Representation in Entertainment
by Randhika Aturaliya
When I found out that Chris Rock was going to host the Oscars I was thrilled. I thought to myself 'He's going to throw some jabs at the lack of diversity and racism in the Oscars and it's going to be amazing!' But little did I expect that while he would satisfy some expectations but he would insult a whole other race.
Chris Rock brought out three kids of Asian descent introducing them as "Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz," the "most dedicated, accurate, and hard-working" accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm that tabulates the Oscar votes. He then added, "If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids."
This joke was offensive, unfunny and all around uncalled for but this reflects an issue in our community. We fail to address the issues and racism that Asians face in the entertainment industry.
The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is a hashtag created to address the intersectionality of the lack of diversity in the Hollywood industry but it has been diluted. It has been reduced to a mere black-white issue which isn’t the case at all. There are many shades of gray to this issue.
What we fail to realize is the lack of Asians represented in the media industry. Only 2 Asians have won Best Actor, 1 for best Supporting Actor, and 1 for Best Supporting Actress. The most recent win for Asians? 1984. Haith S. Ngor for her role in the movie The Killing Fields.
The statistics of the lack of Asians in the entertainment are staggering. According to the USC Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism, only 1 out of 20 speaking roles go to Asians. And only 1.3% of lead roles go to Asians.
For all of history, Asian Americans have been depicted as the 'model minority.' We are the community most akin to white people, we work hard and hold some of the most affluent jobs. But this 'model minority' connotation is not true whatsoever and proves to do a great deal of harm, not allowing for racism against us to be addressed.
This is why Twitter user Jaya Sundaresh (@jayaist) created the hashtag #OnlyOnePercent to showcase the disparities of Asians in the entertainment industry.
Even when we finally get roles they typically are as cliché, stereotypical roles. The common roles: the tiger mom, socially awkward foreign exchange student, martial arts master, subservient mistress or math nerd. We have Raj from The Big Bang Theory who does nothing but make Asians look bad. They depict him as a foreign Indian crippled by his inability to talk to women and the impending doom for an arranged marriage. Reinforcing these stereotypes are not empowering at all and they do nothing to improve our status off the screens.
We might even be completely excluded from movies, many roles that have been intended for Asians just went to white actors. The latest instance is from The Martian in which white actress Mackenzie Davis stars as Mindy Park, who’s was a Korean-American scientist in the book. There are countless others. In Cameron Crowe's Aloha, Emma Stone played a role meant for a half Hawaiian/Chinese Women. And Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's with that offensive blackface. By taking these role away from Asians, less and less Asians can get involved in the industry.
However, we cannot blame this invisibility on anyone. Blacks have a large voice in this fight but they worked long and hard for this exposure. We cannot use them as our instrument to get our views and problems across. We must fight for what we believe in and speak up. All of us who have been neglected by the media industry must rally for an end to this exclusion. Whether you are an Asian, African American, Middle Eastern, or Native American, your voice is important, do not let yourself sit in the sidelines waiting for someone to speak up for you.