Anime and K-pop are all extremely popular Asian Medias that have broken into the hearts of American culture. However, as easy as we wished it to be, these medias are terrible representations of Japan and Korea. They have caused massive generalizations and assumptions to be formed. However, if you think I’m only referring to America generalizing Asia, I’m also saying that Asia generalizes America. In this blog, I will be going over the details of the relationship between AsianxAmerican Media, how they encourage generalizations, and how we (as the audience) can combat those generalizations.
Anime and Korean pop music have been in the entertainment industry for a long time. However, they never really appealed to the American mass media until around the 2000’s. In 1999, Pokemon came out and every kid had to have a gameboy and watch the tv series on Saturday. In 2012, Gangnam Style made its claim as the most viewed youtube video of all time. However, what made these medias suddenly popular? Well, it’s difficult to explain why people started liking them, but they grabbed so much attention from the general public that the American entertainment industry couldn’t possibly ignore their popularity anymore. Although, it’s more important to understand what has come from the popularity, because that’s where things start to get ugly.
When I was younger, I used to watch a lot of anime. But when I entered high school, I slowly found the genre less appealing. One of the reasons why I started to dislike anime was because of the numerous people going up to me eating with chopsticks, saying “konichiwa,” or showing me their recently purchased yukata (which they called a Kimono…). The problems I had with those situations: not only was I being considered Japanese because I was Asian, but I was also seeing people get Japanese culture wrong.
As my disdain towards Anime and the culture it was beginning to form grew, I began moving my interests towards K-pop. Korean pop music has always been extremely popular in Asia, and it even had its own niche in America. But it wasn’t until Gangnam Style came out that everyone started to talk about it. However, the issues that began to form from K-pop were not similar to the ones that formed from anime. Rather than seeing Americans generalizing Korean culture, I was noticing a generalization of American culture. This is where I remembered that racism can go both ways.
There has been a lot of focus on how Anime and K-pop encourages Orientalism. But we don’t really notice how other countries view America until we see them trying to enter the mainstream. For example, in Anime, you have Johnny McBeal, Pat, and America.
All of these characters are American, which you can obviously tell from the blue eyes and blonde hair. Their characteristics also usually involve being very loud and threatening to sue someone when they are insulted. Finally, if they speak Japanese, they usually learned it from watching anime and reading manga ( obviously Americans aren’t the only ones appropriating different cultures).
As for K-pop, a good example would be 2ne1’s and WilliAM’s collaborated song. There is a lot of auto-tune, the song is basically 2 minutes but is repeated again to make it 4 minutes, and the lyrics are very empty and allude to sex (which isn’t the type of songs 2ne1 sings). Compared to their more popular hits, Take the World did not appeal to any of their American fans (even though it was intended for an American audience).
So the real question now is, how can we address these popular generalizations and ultimately bring an end to them? The answer is, we really can’t. Anime, K-pop, and Bollywood are made for consumption. If people support these generalizations, then they’ll continue to base their medias off of them. Additionally, there are not a lot of artistic intentions behind these media; their ultimate goal is more consumerism and more money. Therefore, Anime has a lot of fan service (a.k.a. erotic situations) and new K-pop bands are constantly being created every month.
While we can’t do much about these medias and their creators causing generalizations, we (as the audience) can prevent the continuations of those generalizations. Firstly, it’s important to understand that nothing from these medias are 100% perfect representations of their respective cultures. Secondly, it’s okay to be fascinated by these cultures because you enjoy their popular culture, but don’t base your knowledge and research off of their popular culture. Finally, enjoy it. Anime, K-pop, and Bollywood were forms of entertainment that were almost impossible to find in America. My cousin used to read translated scripts of anime episodes off the internet in order to know what happened in the latest Dragon Ball episode. I remember having to dig deep into blogs and forums in order to find the newest Korean pop albums. Now, I can find all of these things easily on youtube. They may not be great representations of Asian culture, but comedy and drama are universal. Anyone can like it and they still act as great ways of opening up an audience to Asian media.