“That is what they do in Korea. They yell at people’s butts.” (I am also at a loss on why K-pop rap stars scream at a woman’s butts in music videos.) That is what I overheard from a a gaggle of elementary schoolers the other day. With all the hullabaloo surrounding the viral hit sensation that is South Korean rapper, Psy, and his invisible horse dance (yeah, Asians love to act cheesy) to enduring legacy of the martial arts legend Bruce Lee (may he rest in peace) and his ability to take down fifty attackers in a matter of minutes (yeah, Asians innately unleash “fists of fury” in the face of adversity), many Asian stereotypical roles are still being perpetuated in the entertainment industry and media. Let’s further explore how others view the Far East, shall we?
(If you have not guessed by now, I am full on Asian with some Chinese thrown in for good measure and encountered these myths during my somewhat normal childhood.)
•Asians are generally perceived as nerds: bespectacled, soft spoken geniuses with Ivy League degrees thus socially awkward but highly exceptional in the areas of math and science, technically savvy, violin and piano prodigies, respectful and obedient automatons in respect to elders in families (and consumers of copious amounts of white rice.) With these external pressures and expectations, we are also highly mentally dysfunctional and damaged. Yes, I am relatively good at math (but algebra-trigonometry was beyond my capabilities), loved chemistry, and studied psychology and biology in college. But does that make me some super duper intellectual?! My Asian friends are all similar lifestyle wise: love our mothers and fathers, live relatively comfortable lives complete with significant others, husbands, wives and report daily to normal office jobs not related to science. And we are all slightly dysfunctional, but; our culture does not have the market cornered on mental anguish; everyone on this planet is tainted in some way. (Okay, okay, I will concede to the white rice consumption. We all eat bowls of it on a daily basis. There, I said it!)
•Martial arts expertise is genetically programmed into our DNA. As much as I enthusiastically watched Kung Fu theatre on weekend afternoons as a child (honestly, i thoroughly relished watching two grown men battling it out and tearing out of each others long braids), Asians do not all possess an innate ability to execute a precise fatal, flying roundhouse kick to the head or any part of the body or block opponents’ blows with our seemingly indestructible forearms. We do not fend off dozens of attackers coming from all sides while dressed in traditional, elaborate, silk robes, cheongsams and keikogis. And we certainly do not take a pair of chopsticks and try to capture a fly straight out of the air like in the Karate Kid. For pete’s sake, a martial arts skill is something I could have used in elementary and junior high school against bullies (or at least have a badass defender/mentor like the unassuming Mr. Miyagi teaching me to “wax on, wax off”. And no, not all elderly Asian men are outwardly benevolent but deadly martial artists. By the way, I did take a martial arts course in college to fulfill the physical eduction requirement. It was very cool since my sensei trained the local Navy Seals and Steven Seagal is afraid to take challenge him. But, I did not turn out to be a ‘crouching tiger’ nor a ‘hidden dragon’.)
•Asian women are exotic, sex slaves catering to erotic whims of men. The media represents them as delicate creatures who perform willingly any task then wait patiently to be tossed away like a soiled tissue all the while smiling. We are china dolls and geishas (remember the Gangnam Style video with the female performers with their fragile frames and super pale complexions). This submissive minority female portrayal is an outright slap in the face. We are neither soft spoken, obedient or delicate. We are intelligent, opinionated, outspoken and well spoken and do not need a man to take care of us. And that is that!
•Asian parents are strict, overbearing, unfeeling with unbelievably high academic expectations of their offspring. Ok, this stereotype is somewhat true and I don’t want to get started on this. If you grew up in this kind of environment, you and only you can tell if it has affected your mental state and how you live your life today. I would like to think they (all the Asian parents out there) have our best interests at heart.
In actuality, all the aforementioned perceptions are disguised positives: we have a strong work ethic, can help others with math homework, fix computers, whip up awesome fried rice, poke fun at ourselves and garner millions of YouTube viewers, and maybe, just maybe we (even the unassuming fragile or elderly) may execute some pretty snazzy high kicks, too.