Asian actors are more than caricatures

The white-washing of Asian-American actors is an issue in Hollywood that has begun to gain attention as more people speak out about it.

“Master of None” writer Alan Yang put the issue on blast after winning an award for Best Writing in a Comedy Series during the 68th Emmy Awards Sept. 18.

“There’s 17 million Asian-Americans in this country,” Yang said during his speech. “And 17 million Italian-Americans. They have ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Sopranos.’ We’ve got Long Duk Dong.”

Yang made this inspiring comparison to encourage Asian-Americans to fight for representation in American media, while offering a somber reminder of Hollywood’s stereotypes and lack of inclusivity.

Although the Emmys marked a successful night for diversity in all aspects, Yang reminded his audience of how much more people of color, Asian-Americans specifically, need to push for broader roles.

However, this is not the first time Asian-American visibility has been brought to light.

According to the New York Times’ May 25 article “Asian-American actors are fighting for visibility. They will not be ignored,” actress Constance Wu discussed the importance of her character on the ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat.”

“I wasn’t really conscious of it until I booked the role,” said Wu. “I was focused on the task at hand, which was paying my rent.”

Before “Fresh Off the Boat,” it had been 20 years since any show featured a predominantly Asian-American cast on television. ABC’s previous show, the 1994 Margaret Cho vehicle “All-American Girl,” was canceled after one season.

We have reached a point in our society where Asian-Americans need to be represented in Hollywood – as other ethnic minorities have begun to be better represented. It is no longer acceptable to devalue Asian-Americans by reinforcing the stereotype that they are passive, or lack leadership qualities, or otherwise will not do well in the industry.

Hollywood needs to continue to improve at embracing the diverse voices and faces of our society. Asian-Americans bring much more to the table than just being good at school.

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