The Universal Alien

Throughout media history, Asian Americans have been given a straightjacket stereotype, whether it is through their visuals, actions, or culture. Either way, much of how Asian Americans are portrayed are through how popular culture views them. In the eyes of popular culture, Asian Americans are seen as aliens: with their small eyes, short stature, foreign language, hardworking personality, and exceptional math and science skills. Asian Americans are not seen as individuals who would experience the situations as typical Americans would because American society perceives the Asian American cultural and physical differences as a barrier that prevents them from being accepted into society. However,  in the book Shattered: the Asian American Comics Anthology edited by Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow, and Jerry Ma, the authors show that like any individual, Asian Americans go through the same universal experiences and challenges throughout life.

In the book, there are telltale signs in many of the stories that show what popular culture would see the Asian Americans as. Whether it is through their fashion, their slanted eyes, or their skill of martial arts, the stereotype of Asian Americans is somehow incorporated into each story. Despite the majority of the stories portraying the Asian American stereotype, there are a few stories throughout the book that show Asian Americans going through similar experiences any other American would perceive themselves experiencing. In these stories, it is often difficult to recognize the main characters of the story as Asian American if the reader does not remember that this whole book consists of Asian Americans as their main characters. Through these stories, we can finally change the way Asian Americans are seen in the eyes of popular culture.

In the Regrets We Talk About, a short story from the book Shattered: the Asian American Comics Anthology, a typical young man encounters a cute girl that he falls for at a party. As they talk throughout the party, he thinks that they are able to form a flirtatious connection. However, as the story goes on, the young man tries to kiss the girl, only to be rejected. As we can see, this is one of the many experiences we go through in life; falling in love with someone, ultimately being rejected and falling into that one sided love while regretting the decisions we made. Would we have been able to tell that the main character was an Asian American young man if we had not known which book the story came from? From this story, the authors hope to fight the alien stereotype given to Asian Americans by popular culture. By doing so, the hegemonic ideology of Asian Americans can be brought to attention and Asian Americans can show that they are no different from any individual when it comes to life and its many experiences.

In the Power of Petunia, another short story, Petunia, the main character, experiences the loss of her brother on the night of her birthday. Her parents begin fighting, blaming each other for the death of their only son. Throughout the story, Petunia dreams of little kids who are also afraid of being lonely. At the end of the story, we see Petunia understanding the loneliness their parents are feeling and finally the reunion of the family. The family goes through a loss of a close loved one and are only able to reunite together again after they understand how lonely the others are feeling. Throughout the story, there are no telltale signs of the family being Asian American except for the fact that the story is situated in the book Shattered: the Asian American Comics Anthology. By showing that Asian Americans also go through issues that could tear a family apart, the authors are able to show that Asian Americans are not restricted to the stereotype that popular culture gives them.

Asian Americans are often portrayed as the typical quiet, small eyed, short, smart, and culturally different individual. Throughout history, Asian Americans were never accepted into American society due to their differences. Thus, they faced a lot of racism which they had to endure for years. By writing this comic book that portrays the different identities of Asian Americans, Yang, Shen, Chow and Ma were able to defy the Asian American stereotype and shed light on the racism Asian Americans have faced for decades. Without bringing attention to the racism Asian Americans have dealt with, the American society will never know the obstacles Asian Americans had to overcome in order to succeed. By seeing how the Asian American identity changed throughout the book Shattered: the Asian American Comic Anthology, we can finally hope to see the breakdown of the Asian American stereotype and Asian Americans finally being accepted as universal individuals in the American society.

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