Comics as Academic: Success or Failure

Shattered, The Asian American Comics Anthology by Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma exposes hidden and obvious issues and history about Asian Americans. As stated in the introduction of the book, “Shattered seek to reimagine one of five archetypes frequently associated with Asians in media and popular culture: The Brute, the Brain, the temptress, the Alien and the Manipulator”. The works are divided into five chapters that correspond with these identified stereotypes. Shattered is effective at changing the narrative that dictates the hegemonic image of Asian Americans, because it allows the reader to arrive at his/her conclusion of the meaning of the work. Because the book is a comic it allows for the issues that they are addressing to be easily consumed and contemplated on by their audience. Comics are seen as lighthearted, so by addressing these issues in that form it becomes not too threatening versus if it was an academic article. The Comics allows for the reader to derive his or her own conclusion about the meaning of the work, which allows for a boarder understanding which some, might consider a negative.

The book doesn’t attempt to offer a big statement about race, but instead allows the reader the opportunity to be confronted by the different themes in the book. This is positive because it forces the reader to take an active role in figuring out his or her own meaning of the images presented to them. The reader can either read/see what’s on the surface, or choose to obtain a deeper understanding and allow the images to tell a story. If he/she choose to do the latter he/she could interpret it how the author intended the comic to be read, or the person might just gain a whole different perceptive that the authors didn’t anticipated. The perception of the comic will differ based on the individual and factors surrounding that individual such as, their ethnicity i.e. Asian American. If that person were Asian American they would be used to people viewing him/her through the dominant lens of a century’s worth of stereotypes. This would allow that person to identify some the themes more easily.

I will admit that while reading some of the individual comics I wasn’t able to grasp the big picture and identify what issues the authors were addressing. What I thought the comic was about was probably the opposite of what the author’s intention was. This can be seen as negative to some, because I was oblivious to the message. To the contrary I think it’s the opposite, because that is what make art so great the multiple interpretations that it possible. To give credit to the book it provides infinity element, by offering a range of representations that extended beyond a totalized “Asian/American-ness”. The comic The Regrets We Talk About on page 59 presents a theme that is universal to individuals which is regret. I believe that most if not everyone can recall a scenario that they regret not doing or saying something differently. The comic is about boy/man having a flashback to a particular night he was at a party. He met Emily and they seemed to hit it off. The night progressed until they ended up at the roof where he then attempted to kiss her. It is at that moment she decided to tell him that she has a boyfriend. In retrospect he wished that he said, “What your man got to do with me?” instead he said, “oh, okay. Um, that’s cool”. He realizes that he regretted not saying what he really wanted because it could have changed the outcome. Besides this obvious theme of regret the author also addresses the image of Asian American men as undesirable by the opposite sex.By doing this it shows that the reason the guy was rejected wasn’t because he was Asian ,but because just like anyone else he choose to do the opposite of what he wanted to.

GBTran5_color1  Shattered did an excellent job addressing issues and stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans. The book performs multiple functions such as art for the mass culture and a form of academic. This was a smart way to address these issues because I found myself contemplating on the issues the authors addressed unconsciously, because I was making preference back to comic and the graphics.

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