Asian American Characters and Stereotypes

In one of our readings for this week by Gardner about Asian American graphic narratives, he said that Asian American characters have often been non-existent in the writing and drawing of mainstream superhero comics (Gardner). Which triggered a question: “Can Asian American characters be main characters in American comics or any other type of media?” The answer is an easy yes as we’ve seen Asian American characters in American media such as the movie Better Luck Tomorrow and in a lot of comic chapters in our primary reading for this week: SHATTERED: The Asian American Comics Anthology. However, Asian American characters in various media is almost always attached with the usual Asian stereotypes even though they are portrayed with diverse personalities plenty of times. Among other Asian stereotypes, Asian Americans are often portrayed as scientists or doctors to attach them with the stereotype of Asian Americans being good at math and sciences, or being a master of martial arts that attaches them to the “Kung-Fu” Asian stereotype. Therefore, a better question popped in my head: “Can Asian American characters be main characters in comics without having the usual Asian stereotypes attached to them?” After reading our primary text for this week, I believe that Asian American characters are capable of being the main characters in comics and other media without the Asian stereotypes attached to them.

One of the evidences that made me to believe that Asian American characters can thrive in media without Asian American stereotypes is a comic story in our primary text for this week titled A Dream of Flying. The story is about two friends, who lives in a world where superpowers are normal, coincidentally reuniting and revisiting great past memories. The story features various genres. It contained romance between the two main characters who might have feelings for each other but are not telling each other of what they really feel which might be because of a fear of losing each other as friends. Despite this, the story ended with both Corey and Elston holding hands signifying their romance and Elston saying: “Flying’s overrated” which signified that he’s over Corey’s sister, Hart (SHATTERED, 148). It also has the superhero world vibe to it as Corey and her sister Hart have super powers which seemed to be normal in their world. I enjoyed reading the story despite not having any of the usual Asian stereotypes attached to one of the main characters. In fact, it even goes against the model minority as Elston’s father is an alcoholic and he himself apparently hates how his life is going as he calls it “dumb life”(SHATTERED, 148). The only way I could tell the characters are of Asian American is the somewhat squinty eyes of both main characters and the pointy hair of Elston.

Perhaps my favorite comic in the collection of comics, SHATTERED, is titled “Showtime” by Bernard Chang. It is about a guy playing basketball with his friends where they countered a “boneheaded” guy who can grow spikes out of his body in which he uses it to take advantage of the competition but, on a turn of events, “Showtime” reveals his seemingly lightning speed power at the end of the story to challenge “Switchblade” for one more game. As a big fan of Basketball and also someone who played the sport for years, I enjoyed this entry the most out of all the comics in the collection. Unlike my previous example, you can easily tell that the main character is Asian as “Switchblade” calls the main character “Chinatown” and the comic even referenced the NBA player Jeremy Lin. However, none of the Asian stereotypes are manifested in this story (SHATTERED, 29). It even goes against the Asian stereotype of Asians are not good at basketball compared to Americans. As someone who used to play a lot of Basketball and often getting picked last in pick-up games mostly because I’m Asian, I think this comic is a great example of how Asian American characters can be portrayed in mainstream comics.

Having Asian Americans in not only comics but in other forms of mainstream media is probably one of the best ways to get rid of Asian stereotypes and the model minority myth that plagued Asian American characters in media for decades. I believe that comics is a great initial medium for it as it is easier to publish comics than a TV show or a movie. I believe that once people start seeing Asian American characters in media without the usual Asian stereotypes attached to them, they will also see real Asian Americans without these stereotypes.

Works Cited:

Ma, Jerry, Jeff Yang, Keith Chow, and Parry Shen. Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology: A Secret Identities Book. Print.

Gardner, Jared. Same Difference: Graphic Alterity in the Work of Gene Luen Yang, Adrian Tomine, and Derek Kirk Kim. Print.

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