Reinforcing Stereotypes to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance

Much of popular culture is reliant on visual content, which contributes to the growing demand for Korean pop stars in the United States. The music industry in Korea has demonstrated its efforts in successful marketing and strategic audience targeting by generating stereotypical roles of sexuality. In the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Eun-Young Jung describe two representations of Asian female sexuality, one being “the Dragon Lady kind of aggressive, hyper-sexualized, and evil woman, and the China Doll kind of submissive, docile, and feminine woman.” Gender-associated attributes become placed onto gendered bodies of color because of the heavy reliance on visual media. Jung goes on to explain that these visual stimulants are closely managed and reinforced by male management of the pop stars. Underneath the visual layout of the music videos and artists’ musical style, these racialized implications of aggressive or docile sexuality stem from seemingly unbreakable hegemonic perspectives of the Western world. As Asian and Asian American bodies continue to be seen as the “other” or foreigner, the music industry has shown success in tapping into stereotypes to garner the Asian entertainment industry acceptance into the culture of the Western world.

In the study of human cognition, researchers have determined that people tend to generate schemas in their mind to produce short cuts and quicken associations. People are known to hold certain schemas for specific ethnic groups and studies have shown that rather than changing or rearranging their schemas, people tend to look for reinforcing ideas and visuals that complement their fixed schemas. In the case of Asians and Asian Americans, many Americans have been exposed to the stereotypes associated with that ethnic group, which include the model minority myth and sexuality-related attributes. Jung analyzes the role of stereotypes on Asian bodies in the media by assessing the visual implications of two of Korea’s talents. One pop star who goes by the stagename BoA, has been capitalized to be a representation of two stereotypes associated with Asian female sexuality harboring the look of a submissive and docile lady while aggressively and sexually dancing to live out the “Dragon Lady” schema. While BoA’s style and dance abilities are reminiscent of many pop artists such as Ciara and Britney Spears, in the content of choreography, her look is raciallysexualized because of the underlying stereotypes associated with Asian female sexuality. She, based on the color of her skin and facial features, is seen as the “other” in the Western world, however, has gained acceptance in music and look by conforming to a likable representation of the “other,” which involves hyper sexuality to lure the people who view her as exotic.

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On the other hand, Jung also makes stereotypical connections within the Korean pop group known as the Wonder Girls. The members of this group have a pretty homogeneous look, which clearly resemble the “China Doll” stereotype. Their look is supposed to represent docility and submissiveness, which also contribute to the acceptance gained by Asians and Asian Americans in the Western world because instead of showing dominance to the natives of the Western world, Asian females who embody that stereotype are seen as nonthreatening and likeable because of their submissive attitudes and hyper sexuality. This stereotype, along with the Dragon Lady representation, contributes to the hegemonic social structure that leaves Asian and Asian Americans inside the box of foreignness forever. The role of these stereotypes prevent these bodies of color to be seen as anything more than just a representation of the Asian schema. The music industry, however, relies on successful marketing and meeting demand for profit, which is why it has maintained these stereotypically reinforced ideas of sexuality onto Asian pop stars. The industry has realized that people maintain these schemas and are not trying to change them, but rather watch something, such as Korean pop music videos, that strengthen their schemas of Asian bodies. With limited exposure to Asian bodies in Western media, the few that do puncture the entertainment barrier have a long way to go to puncture the bubble of stereotypes that Asian and Asian American entertainers are trapped in.

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