In an age where diversity has become more prominent than ever, Western society has made an effort to break through antiquated stereotypes and accurately represent minorities in the media. Amidst the competitiveness of the entertainment industry, Asian American actors have been placed at a disadvantage since they’re often evaluated by their race, rather than their acting abilities. This issue has created a bad reputation for the arts within the Asian community.
Recently, it seems as if Western society has become more open to representing Asians and their culture in entertainment. Certain movies, such as “The Maze Runner” and “Big Hero 6,” present Asians in leading roles, as do television shows like “Fresh Off the Boat” and “The Mindy Project.” Unfortunately, these small signs of progress don’t indicate the true nature of the industry. The roles we normally see Asian actors portray are insignificant background characters, and even the rare leading role is normally based on their ethnicity rather than their acting talent. Having a token Asian in the cast makes a movie or television show seem more “diverse,” but there’s no point in adding an Asian (or any) character if they aren’t going to receive enough screentime to become relevant to the audience or the story.
This limited representation has often dissuaded members of the Asian community from exploring their passions, in favor of pursuing more traditional STEM careers. Asian culture often perpetuates that Asians are best fit for careers in medicine, law, or other high-paying professions. These professions are judged based on how much their salaries are worth, dating back to when the arts were seen as an unstable industry to work in. With fewer Asian Americans willing to pursue the arts, many generations have grown up with little representation of their community on television. Being raised under the implication that Asians don’t succeed in the arts is one that younger generations have become opposed to, and has cultivated into a struggle between tradition and new ideals. Whether millennials believe they’re suited for the arts is entirely up to them, but they shouldn’t feel as though they’ll never have a chance of success simply because society makes it seem that way.
The invisible restrictions we placed upon ourselves, and each other, are fading as more people begin making their own decisions. For Asian Americans hoping to pursue an arts career, it’s sure to be an uphill battle toward success, but with more people becoming aware of the issue, maybe there’s a chance we can fight against it. For an industry built on creativity and storytelling, this is one story that deserves to be brought to light.