It’s a word that comes up alot to describe Asian Americans in the media. But I’ve never truly bought into the idea that Asian and Pacific Islander folks are “invisible” in this country. Unrepresented, sure but not invisible. After all, much of pop culture’s favourite things come from Asian cultures. Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, Batman, Daredevil, etc. However, my perspective was changed with the stunning results of a survey conducted by LAAUNCH: Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change.
“We asked Americans to name prominent Asian Americans that come to mind…the most commonly cited answer was “Don’t Know” (42%)”
Forty-two percent of Americans don’t know a prominent Asian American. The next most common answers to the survey were “Jackie Chan” at 11% and Bruce Lee at 9%. Jackie Chan is certainly one of the most famous people in the world but he is not American and hasn’t been in a high-profile film in years. Bruce Lee is still a household name but he passed away almost fifty years ago. It’s a sad commentary on Asian American representation in the media today.
Suddenly “invisible” seems to be the perfect word to describe the Asian American community. Sometimes a celebrity’s “Asian-ness” is invisible. Take Bruno Mars, a Filipino American Super Bowl performer, a musical mega star. How about Tiger Woods, one of the most famous athletes in the world, His mother was of Thai and Chinese descent. Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, is Black and Indian. To the 42%, their Asian heritage is invisible.
Sometimes, Asian Americans aren’t given ample opportunities to succeed. NBA player Jeremy Lin was on top of the world in New York City but couldn’t seem to get a fair shake after a brief meteoric rise. Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, stars on the CBS hit Hawaii Five-0, left the show after being offered less money than their white co-stars. Recently, former NFL player Eugene Chung was told he was “not the right minority” during a head coaching interview.
There are even times where white people snatch up opportunities that should be given to Asians, Asian American and Pacific Islander folks; particularly in popular culture. One of the most notable examples is the casting of the unimpressive Finn Jones’ in the Netflix show Iron Fist. The show — and comic book source — is a traditional white savior narrative that added insult to injury with Jones’s uninspiring performance and lack of martial arts prowess compared to his Asian co-stars. Yet that’s not even Marvel’s worst offense! Marvel’s current editor in chief, C.B. Cebulski, was found to have impersonated an Asian man named Akira Yoshida, in an attempt to write Asian inspired comics. Despite all that…HE’S STILL THE EDITOR IN CHIEF.
It can be disheartening for Asian Americans to see their cultures consumed without there are individuals in the industry working towards a solution; individuals like Peter Shiao.
Peter Shiao is a long time executive in the entertainment industry; working as a contact point between Hollywood and China. He and other Asian American executives founded Immortal Studios to create authentic, contemporary stories with Asian Americans both on and behind the scenes. Currently, they are working on publishing a shared comic book universe based on Wuxia, a concept that has influenced stories like Iron Fist and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Two properties famous for having white creators. Immortal Studios is a deliberate effort to bring Asian Americans to the forefront of their own stories. When asked about LAAUNCH’s survey Peter Shiao said this
“Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have long been invisible to the general public, and in the rare instances when they are included in mass media or entertainment, their identities are skewed, exoticized, or stereotyped. This survey points to a problem in American life that needs to be remedied through a systemic effort to include and reflect the diverse range of experiences and stories that are currently lacking, and not only for the benefit of members of the Immortal Studios is Ready to Amplify Asian American and Pacific Islander Voices community — but for the enrichment and completion of the American experience.”
Immortal Studios isn’t working alone. On May 26th, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Immortal is partnering with the LA Times, NextShark, and CAPE to host the Amplifying AAPI Representation in Entertainment & Media Summit. The free, virtual event will feature many prominent Asian Americans (the ones the 42% of Americans couldn’t name), people like film director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights), actor Kelly Hu (X-Men 2, Finding Ohana), and Californian Congressman Ted Lieu. The event is there to encourage and remind everyone that Asian Americans are active and prevalent behind the scenes. The Summit aims to fight for inclusion and representation and will look to dismantle white supremacy’s systemic stranglehold over Hollywood.
The Asian American experience is currently in the spotlight and it’s the perfect time to bring about true, positive change. Tune in to Immortal Studios’ Immortal Studios is Ready to Amplify Asian American and Pacific Islander VoicesSummit to join the conversation and become a part of the solution.
The Summit will take place on Wednesday May 26, 2021 from 9:30am to 3:00pm PST.
To attend, register at www.aapisummit.com
The most famous properties in the history of pop culture are inspired by Asian culture yet told by white voices; franchises like Star Wars, The Matrix, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Our stories are already at the summit of popularity. It’s already our mountain, it’s time we claimed it.
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.