Last week, the YOMOMF Network’s YouTube video “How To Be More Asian” began doing the rounds on social media. In this video, we see two Caucasian entertainment managers attempting to persuade two Asian actors to act “more Asian”. Accompanied by a catchy tune, the Asian actors try to do so and in the process show their affection for Hello Kitty tattoos and eating sushi off naked bodies. At the end of the video, the Caucasians walk away fazed by such “bizarre” behaviour.
Yet another piece of media that showcases Asian stereotypes in a humourous manner.
Is the video racist?
Maybe. Maybe not. As PetiteFolle mentioned, “the harm in stereotypes occurs when people forget that they are just generalisations”, causing offence to a particular race. Judging from the YouTube comments it received, I’m sure some of us who watched the video laughed at it because 1) we know not all Asians conform to typical stereotypes and the video simply exaggerates characteristic Asian behaviour and 2) sometimes that is the rather ridiculous way some Asians behave. On the other hand, I’m sure some of us frowned at it because once again Asians are featured in the media within stereotypical capacities and are made the butt of jokes.
It’s heartening to see that the video draws attention to the fact that there are some ignorant people who don’t see Asians as anything more than fitting particular moulds. But like many other stereotypical portrayals of different races in the media, this karaoke-esque video makes a number of generalisations and narrow-minded associations about Asian cultures:
1) “Asian” is thrown about loosely in the song-and-dance video, in a sense functioning as an umbrella term to describe everyone who has dark hair and eyes and yellow skin. Specific Asian ethnicities (e.g. Chinese, Japanese etc.) are never really mentioned.
2) Indians are assumed to be Asian (see Indian dance scene the end). There has always been much confusion about whether Indians are indeed Asian. Some Indians see themselves as Asian, but other Indians don’t.
3) Being “Asian” is strongly entwined with pop-culture fads (e.g. Hello Kitty, cosplay, Gangnam Style). Asian history, traditions and values don’t get spoken about as often.
4) There is an air of innuendo throughout (e.g. sushi and semi-naked bodies). Why does the exotic have to almost always be accompanied by erotic and sinful vibes that don’t exactly supplement the whole point of what is being shown/talked about?
I don’t know about you, but a day after watching this video for the very first time, I wasn’t able to recall much about it off the top of my head. Maybe I’ve seen one too many videos about Asian stereotypes and all of them are so similar and a blur to me. Maybe stereotypical representations of Asians don’t resonate well with me.
Or maybe I’m just tired of looking and laughing at the same old, same old Asian stereotypes.