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Fri Apr 16, 2021, 05:30 PM

Samantha Bee: Sam's Love Letter to Chinatown; The History of Asian Stereotypes in Pop Culture

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Reply Samantha Bee: Sam's Love Letter to Chinatown; The History of Asian Stereotypes in Pop Culture (Original post)
betsuni Apr 16 OP
Casady1 Apr 16 #1

Response to betsuni (Original post)

Fri Apr 16, 2021, 05:49 PM

1. this is the best article on this I have ever read. I am Chinese

The First Asian Man: The Story Behind the Jeremy Lin
March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized by The China Beat
By Yong Chen
There are good reasons why Jeremy Lin deserves the extensive news coverage he has received
recently: a Harvard grad playing in the NBA, he had an indispensible role in the Knicks’ 9-2 run
before losing to Miami on February 23, averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists in 11 games. Yet
the extraordinary “Linsanity” displayed by the mass media seems to suggest that what makes
Lin’s story so notable is what it says about perceptions of Asian masculinity. In Lin, the media
has finally found an Asian man.
This is not an entirely incredible read of the overwhelming public reaction to Jeremy Lin. For
decades, American society has refused to see Asian men in masculine terms. This is in spite of
the fact that there have been many Asian men in America since the Gold Rush, when Chinese
49’ers established the first extensive Asian communities in the New World. In fact, for a long
time the Chinese population in this country was predominantly male, as the Chinese Exclusion
Acts made it difficult for men but nearly impossible for women to come to the United States
from China between 1882 and 1943. Anti-Chinese prejudice has also historically made the
presence of Chinese men invisible in American society. They have been feminized and relegated
to jobs that were deemed fit only for women, such as in restaurants and laundry shops. The
message was clear: Chinese men were not man enough for other kinds of jobs.
In reality, however, the Chinese had performed “masculine” jobs in areas like mining,
manufacturing, and building the railroads before being driven into the service sector. But for
many years, this fact was erased from American history books and the collective memory. For
example, Chinese workers, a major force in building the first transcontinental railroad, were
present at the celebration of its completion in 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah. But looking at
arguably the most famous photograph of the event by A. J. Russell, as generations of Americans
have done, you will not find a single Chinese face.
In its portrayals of Chinese men, the media has persistently focused on their roles as laundrymen
and waiters. Therefore, the expression “no tickee no washee” (and its variations) had become a
popular slur by the early 1930s and is listed in Archer Taylor’s The Proverbs of 1931 (p. 31).
Nineteenth-century audiences watching performances of Bret Harte’s Two Men of Sandy Bar
heard lines of pidgin English like this from a Chinese laundry man named Hop Sing: “Me
plentee washee shirtee” (Act 2, Scene 2).
While the hand laundry business has disappeared, association of Chinese men with Chinese food
has remained ever-present, as we can see in films like Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power (click
the link to the clip “Movie Stereotype of Asian Male”). And it has developed into such a
folkloric experience of many Chinese Americans that it becomes material for comedians like Byron Yee, who told a joke about being mistaken by the father of his white date for a Chinese
food delivery boy in his native Oklahoma City.
In Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel China Men, the character of Tang Ao dramatized and
symbolized the feminization of Chinese immigrant men: He was fed women’s food, and his
cheeks and lips were painted red (China Men, 4-5). Such feminization is an experience that
others have dubbed as the emasculation of Asian men that can be clearly seen in Hollywood
For some, like Bret Harte, who was more sympathetic to the Chinese than most of his
contemporaries, these stereotypes were intended primarily as entertainment. Chinese Americans
are seriously concerned about stereotypes not because they cannot take jokes but because they
understand the harm and hostility negative images bring.
Over the years, I have asked students to identify the famous Chinese men they can think of.
Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee were usually the first and only names that came up. This is because
in American consciousness and history textbooks, Chinese men are still largely banished to
obscurity or even non-existence. In documents from the past, the waiters and laundrymen are
invariably either nameless or have generic names like John Chinaman. When they do have a
particular name, it is usually something like Dr. Fu Manchu or the Mysterious Mr. Wong, which
symbolized sexual deviance or evil in Hollywood films. And ignored by Hollywood until the late
twentieth century, Asian men did not even get to play such Asian roles. Indeed, after Sessue
Hayakawa, no Asian men played leadings roles in Hollywood films for a long time.
Largely because of such stereotypes, Asian men have long struggled to be accepted in American
society. In spite of the tremendous progress that has been made in social equality, especially in
the post-Civil Rights Movement decades, Asian men have remained one of the least desirable
groups, romantically speaking. Long after the end of anti-miscegenation laws and the 1922 Cable
Act, under which a white woman would lose her citizenship upon marriage to an Asian
immigrant man, it remained taboo for white women to have romantic relationships with Asian
men. As Eugene Wong notes in his 1978 book, the American film industry allowed interracial
relationships between Asian women and white men but not between white women and Asian
men. This preference of Asian women over Asian men is also found in the selection of anchors
by many TV stations across the nation. Asian men are often not the preferred partners for Asian
American women, which is because, as Steven Okazaki, producer of the documentary American
Sons, notes, while “Asian women are sexualized; men are desexualized and neutered.” In an
article published in Asian Week in 2000, Joyce Nishioka reported that “The most recent statistics
from the 1990 Census show that Asian American women are almost twice as likely to outmarry
than Asian American men. In California, 7.7 percent of the males were married to whites,
compared to 16.2 percent of the women.” In a 2009 study based on a sample of 5,810 Yahoo!
heterosexual internet dating profiles, Carol L. Glasser and her co-authors find that
“desexualized” Asian men feel “less desired” than their non-Asian counterparts. Besides
romantic relationships, people have also reported difficulties that Asian men encounter in other
areas: workplace, college admissions, the military, etc. All these suggest that as far as public
perceptions are concerned, there have been Asian males, but there is no real or worthy “man”
among them.For all of these reasons, sports is the last place where we would expect an Asian man to rise to
enormous success and recognition. It just does not fit the feminized and weak image of Asian
men. Quite often, in ways not entirely dissimilar to how it has erased memories of Chinese
railroad workers, society tends to forget the presence of pioneer Asian America men like Wat
Misaka, the first Asian and non-white man to play in what is now the National Basketball
Association, and Dat Nguyen, a former star of the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly, if Jeremy Lin’s
achievements announce the arrival of a real Asian man in American consciousness and in mass
media, he did not do it alone but as a team player together with other Asian men, such as
Michael Chang, who became the youngest tennis player to win a Grand Slam title at the French
Open in 1989 at the age of 17. What helps to make Lin’s story so unforgettable—at least for the
time being—is that he plays an “all-American” sport at a time when such sports have become an
enormously important part of American life. It is also a time when being Asian or Chinese is no
longer associated with backwardness, weakness, and inferiority.
Still, old stereotypes of desexualized Asian men linger in comments made by people like the
sports journalist Jason Whitlock, whose sophomoric and unfunny remarks following Lin’s 38-
points, 7-assists, 4-rebounds and 2-steals performance against the Lakers on February 10 do not
even match the level of decency of a two-year-old. But I see the media attention, in either good
or not-so-good taste, as a positive sign that the media and the society at large appear to be ready
for a masculine Asian man. This probably explains why many major news outlets pounced on the
story that Kim Kardashian, the beautiful and famous reality television personality and model,
had expressed a desire to date Jeremy Lin. What a difference a few hoops make! Is this the end

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