Stereotypes of Asian in American TV Shows

free essayStereotypes are considered to be the inevitable parts of people’s everyday life. From country to country, they may vary according to the cultural norms, social impositions, religious implications, national and ethnical barriers and boundaries that are the understandable backgrounds of socialization. Stereotypes exist to help people respond to different experiences, as they create a pre-existing notion about something new. To some extent, they reflect the social values that are based on the historical determinants of social development throughout many decades.

In particular, racial stereotypes are the easiest way to learn about a different race. In society, a collection of such assumptions helps to classify people in categories. Racial stereotypes are created to give common characteristics to the group of individuals who share the same background. In such way they simplify the process of collecting information and making an impression about a group of people or one person. However, stereotypes often create a negative racial image.

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The role of media impact on the formation of racial stereotypes is considered to be highly important, especially when related to the Asians in America. In this regard, the actuality of this research is that this topic is still not covered concerning influence of the media on the cultural preferences. The racial prejudices are the important object of this study, as they reflect the social attitude towards the depiction of Asians and Asian Americans on TV. This research seeks to investigate the adverse effects of racial prejudices and stereotypes that often go along with the racial discrimination. Movies and TV shows are just one of the examples of the common reflections that exist in the American society towards people who have different ethnical and cultural backgrounds. The minimization of the rate of prejudices should be the way to diminish the level of social tension between members of different racial and cultural communities within the USA. In the frameworks of this study, it would be possible to address the research questions concerning the impact of mass media on the effects of stereotypes of the Asian American community and discovering the extent of this influence within the American social context.

Background

The role of media as communication channels that promote cultural values is highly important in the present-day United States of America. Internet, newspapers, radio and TV are the main sources, using which the audience may formulate their opinion on the high-developing processes in society. In this regard, the impact of media and their position on stereotypes and prejudices is a challenging background for this research. Mainly, those who watch TV regularly will presumably get an idea of Asians and Asian Americans based on the stereotypes about the feminine nature of Asian men, the myth of the threatening kung Fu master that is always ready to reveal his skills when having a good partner for fighting. However, it is modernity that included a so-called nerd stereotype to this bulk. For example, in the TV show Fresh off the Boat, a young boy Eddie is regarded as “nerd” in his new school, as he looks like that by his complexity. In addition Asian women are mostly regarded as “submissive”. This stereotype was formed during the colonial past, when Asian females were sexually exploited as prostitutes in the Eastern regions located near the military formations of the US. Popular mass media and Hollywood movies industry only supports this image for the mass culture (Sun et al. 297). Stereotypes of this kind are so much deep-rooted within the American society that they can be hardly mitigated or minimized for the other interpretation of the Asian culture. Mass media do not even try to reduce the prejudices. Instead, they keep on creating new TV that reflects the diminished image of Asians and Asian Americans who have no strong position in the American society.

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Mainly, the communities of Asians and Asian Americans are victimized within the US. In many cases, they can hardly find the positive ideas of socialization to be the equal parts of the growing and developing American society. In this regard, TV shows contain mostly negative images of the Asian communities that may live in the suburbs in poor districts of big American cities. Mostly, they are immigrants who are not always having necessary documents to live and work within the territory of the USA. This makes Asians too much differentiated from the mainstream of the social flow. For example, when Chinese people live in poor districts of New York (such as in ChinaTown), serving for some trade or manual labor there, they can hardly be treated positively by Americans. Furthermore, the latter are more likely to blame Asians for their criminal role in the life of the whole society. Being not skilled to do other work but taking care about someone’s kids or just working as salesmen, Asians are more likely to hold the lower position in society that does not take the proper care about them.

Consequently, when these settings are represented in the contemporary media, the image of Asians created in society falls short with the negative interpretation of their social roles that are mostly secondary and never major. Lee (2015) explains this in reference to the major impact of the popular culture on determination of the key values that are typical for the US society. In this situation, the representatives of the cultural and ethnic minorities tend to get their social role diminished that provides the huge effect on their psychological and social traits. On the one hand, it is the mass culture that promotes the stereotypical perception of Asian American communities, due to which they suffer from the prejudices based on their race. However, on the other hand, the popular mass media play the role that is justified for them by following the popular social trends. For example, if representatives of the American society got used to prejudices against other cultures, this trend can be popularly reflected in mass media as well. In this regard, mass media can be called “a social mirror” that reflects the on-going processes and traits of a typical white American in his or her relation to representatives of Asian communities. It would be risky to imply faults to one of the side of this problem – TV shows, – as they are designed for entertainment. However, the social trend of diminishing the role of other cultures in the diversified American society is threatening, as it plays the crucial role in determining the social position of each person who would watch the show.

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Methodology

This research is based on both primary and secondary sources that reflect the social trends of racial discrimination against Asian and Asian American communities. The primary source for this study is Fresh off the Boat, “a charming American sitcom” (Rotten Tomatoes, 2015) that won 91% of the approval rating, based on the Rotten Tomatoes web-resource data. The methodology includes the critical assessment of the main characters of the TV show Fresh off the Boat within the frameworks of this project.

The methodology used to build up the strategic approaches to the research that is based on the analysis of the primary source and other scholar, newspaper and internet-media resources to formulate a the fresh perspective towards the primary source, develop the critical approach to it and define the social and cultural context around it. The extensive literature review is provided to support the initial thesis statement. It should help in further incorporation of the relevant data in the study to back the initial hypothesis and develop the major alternative conceptions on the stereotypical interpretation of Asian and Asian American communities within the US. The documentary review was complemented by the visual observation after reviewing 11 episodes of Fresh off the Boat. The primary and secondary resources were analyzed qualitatively in order to figure out why Asian Americans are portrayed focusing on stereotypes. The present methodology is derived to reflect the initial goal of this research that is to show the historical reason behind the facial phenomenon based on the media resources and their critical assessment.

Under the review, the following theories of the data interpretation were used to address the research questions: critical reviews and exploratory analysis of sources. They were helpful in reaching the aim and confirming the thesis of this study. The sources were critically reviewed and evaluated in the process of imposing the analytical approach in this research.

How It Works

Discussion

The selected sources work together to support the logical argumentation of the role of stereotypes in inter-ethnical relations in the USA. The sources were selected based on the relevance of their findings and justification of the supportive argument concerning the development of the social interest towards the problem of discrimination. This problem and stereotyping were the key thematic criteria on selection of the sources. The role of stereotypes in interethnic relations between Asian American communities and white Americans within the United States is highly important. The supporting role of the media in distributing and reflecting the stereotypes is essential, and, in many cases, it is even critical, as a number of TV shows explicitly relate the members of Asian communities, to the lower level people who struggle for respect every day of their lives. The Asian American related stereotypes in the USA TV shows which are frequently used are the concepts of “weakness”, “being a nerd”, “submissiveness”, “poverty” to depict the Asian ethnic and cultural background. Throughout many years of repetition on TV in movies and shows, by now these stereotypes are of the major value in the social context. Media commonly perpetrate the reinforcement of Asian American stereotypes by means of silly jokes, funny plots, visual effects that become the transition phase between TV and social perception of Asians within the US.

For example, the TV show Fresh off the Boat explicates the high contrast between the life style of Asian American community and other Americans who are native to this country. Jessica and Louis, who are a married couple of the Taiwanese origin, have three children: Eddie, Emery, and Evan. This TV show talks about their struggles to fit a new life in Orlando and keep on bring up their children to help them get assimilated to the new social context in the new place of living. The story of a young boy Eddie Huang is the typical experience of a young boy who has been trying to get assimilated in the new school and make new friends in the new place of living. He was born in Chinatown in New York; however, his father is driven by the insights of making his American dream come true. He wants to open the cowboy-themed restaurant in Orlando, Florida, so he decides to relocate there with his family. However, they face with troubles in the new place of their living, for there are not many Asian Americans living in Orlando. This causes many troubles and misunderstandings in the family’s daily life. They experience the culture clash which makes it difficult for them to adapt to new relationships with people who are around them. They face with many differences between traditional American and their family, even related to upbringing children. Costigan and Koryzma (2011), however, suggests the viewpoint that “parenting efficacy beliefs, in turn, are important determinants of psychological adjustment and effective parenting for immigrant parents” (13). It is their culture that plays crucial role in the process of child upbringing. However, it is also true that it is “the lack of inclusivity Asian Americans have had in the nation’s cultural and entertainment dialogue” (Suh). For example, when Eddie attends the new school for the first time, he finds out that not many students of the Asian American background study there. It would be of much value for them to have their children to be educated in the inclusive schools, colleges and universities, although there is no special quota on learning.

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In the new place of living, Freddie faces with major prejudices against him and his family on the part of the predominantly white community of Florida. In this regard, it is rather difficult for the whole family to start the new life in the new place, although they try so hard to make their American dream come true. In addition to all these troubles, it is crucial for Eddie to embody the stereotype of a nerdy, studious, and quite Asian (Wang 2014). Certainly, he is ready to go to a new school; however, the educational process in it is not inclusive, so Eddie gets no friends during the first days of his learning. The teachers are also not welcoming him that much, not preparing the practical background for his inclusion into the class so that he can make new friends easier. Therefore, Eddie gets troubles in socialization with other American students who do not treat him equally but imply a significant rate of prejudices towards him as a student.

Based on the study by Lingling (2015), “individuals learn stereotypes from both mass media and direct experience with people from different groups” (p. 13). Therefore, the role of media is significant but not the only for the expanding stereotypes. The social cognitive and social contact theory should be studied beside the adequate explanation of the information-processing theory. In this regard, the justification of the main concepts on the role of mass-media should be related to the social interests of those who are different from the mass community. These are communication strategies that help to build the adequate communication between different social groups and justify their role in building the close relationships towards the social discourse.

Based on the other relevant studies, it turns clear that in most TV shows on American TV, Asian American actors have been boxed into a corner (Kawai 110). In most cases, their roles are secondary being restricted to distribution of the cultural values or propagating their negative explication and interpretation on the American TV. Their inclusion experience into the community, in this regard, is highly diminished (Mok 187). According to the statistical data prepared by Screen Actors Guild (2008), the ethnical background of actors labeled Asian Pacific Islander was only 3.8% of all TV and theatre roles (Zhang 22). In comparison, the number of actors of the Latin American origin was 6.4%; the number of representatives of the African Americans was 13.3%. Meanwhile, the rate of Caucasians was rest 72.5% of the overall number of actors in theatre and on TV (Zhang 23). This created the huge misbalance in the representation of Asians and Caucasians on TV and in theatre. This means that there are no equal opportunities for representatives of different ethnical and cultural backgrounds within the American society. The lack of the equal representation of the minor social groups on TV creates the effect of misinterpretation of their life style, religious and social norms.

However, there is no doubt that this situation should not happen in the US, the nation that is made up of ethnically-diverse communities. The fact is that the United States as the country of equal opportunities is based on the ethnical diversity, as it is supported by the American Government. However, with passing of time, this idea faded away by the development of modernistic viewpoints on the free media and journalism development in terms of their critical involvement into social processes to be the integral part of the today’s society. However, the impact of the so-called “freedom of media” and “freedom of press” as the major guarantees of the free society is related to propagating the negative stereotypical interpretation of representatives of the different cultural and national backgrounds. In this regard, ethnical and cultural conflicts in the American society tend to become more common than it was before, when mass media were not that much advanced or even could be called underdeveloped. For better or for worse, the social context and the role of media in the issue under consideration is highly recognizable based on the so-called “Asian experience” within the US. However, it is the negative stereotyping that is the major cause and the core reason of inter-ethnic conflicts. In this regard, media propose the misconception of differences between ethnicities and create the large gap between Asians and Caucasians (Lingling 2). For example, most commonly in Hollywood movies, Asian Americans are portrayed to be exotic, na?ve, “nerdy”, weak, so they work as house-servants. The dynamics of their on-screen representation is often related to other stereotypes that are more modern and socially attractive. In some cases, Asian Americans are portrayed as technically gifted individuals and geeks who know the technological advances perfectly and use them for their own purposes. This enables them to have the active life style and be dedicated to the technical innovative processes within the globalized world.

However, in most cases, the image of Asian Americans on TV is related to the impact of popular culture. Certainly, they are mostly thin, have narrow eyes, and have the black hair, so they are often treated as foreigners in the United States. The image of a “foreigner” is explicitly shown in the Hollywood movies: the plots are constructed the way they are treated as foreigners due to the differences in their appearance, but not rather by their education or achievements. This way of conduct is related to major social context full of prejudices that are typical for the American society.

However, the scope of this study is limited to the role of stereotypes in media in the United States and the impact of prejudices on life of the Asian American community in this country. Therefore, in the future research perspectives, it would be rational and logical to find out the critical ways and critical points of social reflections concerning portraying typical Asian representatives in communities of the other states. This would be a helpful aspect in developing the in-depth discussion, based on the different cultural and social backgrounds.

Implications

This project is important for drawing attention to the media that become a powerful tool that drives minds of society today. With a changing nature of political and social events, stereotypes cannot rely on the practical matters that are limited only to the media context. However, the communication strategies are much distributed in relevance to the key role of social context in determination of the conceptual advantage of inter-cultural development and cross-cultural analysis of values that are typical and close to all nationalities and ethnical backgrounds.

The contribution of this project lies beyond the set limits of the logical argumentation. The thesis statement was supported by the statistical evidence, critical assessment of other researches in this field and by analyzing the selected TV-show Fresh off the Boat. Based on this TV program, it was possible to trace the role of media in promoting the stereotypes and sharing them between members of different communities. For example, the role of Eddie from this TV show is that of a typical “nerd” who struggles to get assimilated among other students when he attends a new school in Orlando. His family also fights for the American dream to get the possible advantages from life in the US.

Based on the theoretical review and practical examples of the life story of changes that happened in one Asian American family taken from the TV show Fresh off the Boat, it turned possible to respond the research questions and support the thesis statement as there is high logical relation between stereotypes in media and inter-ethnic relations in the US. However, the role of media is not a crucial reason for discrimination, as the major contributor to this problem is the inability of most Western people to understand the true values of the Asian culture, which becomes the main reason of stereotyping and labeling Issues. This is a great misunderstanding between people who have the strong impact on developing new consideration of the interpretation of the positive heritage of the Asian culture.

The overall contribution of this project is that it highlights the differences between communities of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds within the USA. The huge role of media in supporting the stereotypical misunderstanding is specifically high on American TV, where Asians are represented on the secondary roles.

The future implications of this study can be related to the establishment and testing a stereotype-formation paradigm in the context of social and information-processing theory in the frameworks of the model of socialization. This model and paradigm can find the better determination based on the social context, in which they may be used in relation to the present background of this research.

Comprehensively, the implications of this research are relevant to the logical argumentation and explication of the role of the representatives of the Asian communities within the United States. Their experience is related to stereotypes formulated in mass media and among people. These are the contrasts between Asians and Americans that should be diminished based on the policy of diversification of nationalities supported by the US Government.

However, the scope of this research project is limited only to the “Asian experience” within the United States. Therefore, the implications of this study are not related to the practical examples of the life style of Asian communities abroad, in other countries outside the US. The adaptation of these groups to new cultural and social life is problematic, specifically when troubles are related to the process of upbringing kids according to the norms of specific culture and ethnical background.


The significance of this project provides the exteriorization of the Asian life style in the US according to all aspects of their well-being. In contrast to Americans, Asian people meet more prejudices in the US and are labeled with stereotypes more than other communities from different ethnical backgrounds. In spite of this fact, this research project undermines the popular theory of the pathogenic role of mass-media in delivering labels and negative stereotypes on individuals. The crucial implication of this project is that it delivers the theoretical background related to the viewpoint that people get stereotypes not only from news or TV shows but also from social contacts with members of the discriminated groups and their counterparts. In this regard, TV shows are considered to be the simple entertainment aimed to show the interrelation between members of different ethnical groups within the US and reveal the needs to overcome the barriers between Asian Americans and Americans.

The contribution of this project to the ongoing dialogue on the selected topic is in its discussion of the extensive theoretical base of scholarly sources. Moreover, the particular contribution is the analysis of the selected TV show Fresh off the Boat that is an interesting example, in which the perception of Asian American community is explicitly shown.

Conclusion

The thesis of this paper was the following: perpetration of Asian American stereotypes is detrimental to inter-ethnic relation in the US. This project provides the evidences related to the distribution of stereotypes about Asian Americans in the negative key roles, as they are displayed in a popular TV show Fresh off the Boat. This entertaining series explicates the life of an Asian American family and their approaches to upbringing kids, socialization and determination of the key values in life. This research provides the stereotypical interpretation of their life style and the needs they have on their way to attaining of the American dream. Asian Americans are dreamers, similar to the common Americans, so the study implicates on the social context of their dreams that are diminished by negative stereotypes placed on them within the American society. According to the overall background of this research, it is family experience in a new city that makes them standing apart from problems they have in interpersonal relations, when it is hard to make friends or even acquaintances in Orlando, where there are not that many Asians living in the city. However, this study provides the in-depth explication of the role of a single Asian family within the pop-cultural background of the American society, based on the Hollywood values of mistrust to Asians and negligence that other Americans have towards them. The troubles they have in socialization are just the part of the major problem of interpretation of the heritage of the Asian culture that people often misuse to draw the false conclusions. It was found out that media have the important role in sharing stereotypes on the Asian culture between Americans and they are ready to promote the values of both the positive and negative type. However, in spite of this, media mostly select the popular trends and promote their comical interpretation to be used for the propaganda of racial discrimination against Asian Americans. The use of the comic TV interpretation is the way to reflect the problems of socialization they face with in their everyday life in the USA.