Representation of Asian Americans in Cinema

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Representation of Asian Americans in Cinema

(1)        The Hangover II is an American comedy sequel to Hangover I that revolves around the events that take place before Stu Price’s wedding. The same group of men consisting of Phil, Doug, Teddy, and Alan traveled to Thailand to celebrate their friend’s marriage to Lauren. What started out as a simple gathering by the fireside, ended in a dirty Bangkok hotel room alongside Leslie Chow. Chow apparently died due to a drug overdose and the trio had to dump his body in an icebox. Their search for Stu’s lost brother in law, Teddy, leads them to a police station where they are presented with an elderly Buddhist monk rather than Teddy. Consequently, they return the monk to his temple where they use meditation to recall the events of last night. Apparently, they had visited a strip club, started a riot, and stolen a monkey from a Russian mob. The pot further thickens after they learn that Teddy is being held hostage by another gangster, Kingsley who wants Chow in exchange for Stu’s brother in law. They also learn that Chow was not dead and recall that Teddy might have been stuck in the hotel elevator. The group then travel on a speedboat just in time for the wedding to happen as planned. The film is numerous locations within Thailand such as the monastery, back alleys and streets, the police station and low-budget hotels.

(2)        In The Hangover II, Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) is a tremendously fanatical, psychotic, discourteous, noisy, humorous, and flashy international criminal. In most of the scenes, Chow appears nude and violently attacking the famous trio in different locations. His first appearance was in Hangover I where they made acquaintances with Alan and even maintained communication ties with each other when Chow was incarcerated. Leslie Chow was also portrayed as a man who liked to attend parties especially with the “Wolfpack”. Between the four friends, Chow is considered a troublemaker since every time they were caught up in dangerous situations involving criminals.

(3)        The setting of the movie “The Hangover II” elicited mixed reactions from the audience. However, one sentiment was clear: the film blemished the meticulous reputation of Thailand. Previously perceived as the “Land of Smiles”, the film managed to depict Thailand and Bangkok as an amalgamation of gangster activity, uncontrolled public sex, brute hostility, and depravity. What evokes the most reaction was the role played by Leslie Chow in the two related movies. His first appearance was brief and intended to infuse an aspect of comedy into the film. However, his aggressive return in Hangover II as an outright sexual fiend with an insatiable appetite for drugs, partying and committing crimes. Chow was also the subject of extreme ridicule throughout the movie because of his antisocial tendencies of nakedness and aspects of femininity.

Ken Jeong’s role in Hangover I and II can easily be described as highly sexist, racist, and humiliating for any ordinary white actor. For several decades until the current one, Asian American actors have experienced unique difficulties in succeeding within the field. This is in stark contrast to their American counterparts. For one, Asian actors are largely restricted to specific roles that are renowned by people of their origin. For instance, Chinese and Japanese actors such as Bruce Li feature prominently in action movies. Similarly, Ken Jeong’s role in The Hangover II contained a large amount of violence and gang behavior. In the last decade, Asian actors would have gotten roles in films that depicted them as feminine, docile, and unmotivated. Even with the increased chances, wider acceptance of different races and growing excellence in acting skills among Asians, they still end up with characters that demean their stereotypes rather than acknowledging them objectively. Ken Jeong has been an excellent actor for many years after working on different project with renowned producers and scriptwriters. However, Hangover managed to belittle his achievements and present him as an Asia that was not fit for any greater role.

One of the effects of globalization and democracy has been the massive influx of Asian natives into the United States. In fact, a large number of Asian Americans are genuine citizens of America having been born there. Regardless of their heritage, these actors practically have to transform into their stereotypical selves when auditioning and acting in order to make progress in the industry. For instance, Ken Jeong is a legitimate American citizen by birth while his parents were also Americans. However, he (Ken) has always assumed a native Chinese actor in his films and other works. It is obvious that Asian-Americans such as Ken found it difficult to relate with images of a Korean martial arts expert or any other stereotype for that matter. The situation on the ground is that American studios prefer to seek fresh talent abroad rather than exploit the larger number of Asian actors. This is a clear indication that the contribution of Asian-Americans is disregarded by Hollywood. This blatant important of Asian talent from foreign states at the expense serves to diminish the strength of the Asian-American voice in the United States. The real issue is not economic or professional in nature. Rather, it involves a cultural clash between the American and Asian way of life. It is apparent that the country has failed to notice the wealth of issues such as identity crisis and other epiphany accounts that are teeming with the need to be discovered and exposed to the rest of the world particularly from the Asian-American perspective. The absence of a proper forum for Asian-American actors is a significant factor that has lowered the opportunities for such actors. This is why numerous famous actors, such as Ken Jeung struggle to find fitting men roles. It is without doubt that Ken is on the threshold of great films but he fails to fit into the category of what the industry perceives a male Asian actor should be. In such situations, Asian-American actors represent a complicated American identity that has little relevance in Hollywood. This is surprising given that people of Asian heritage reside in American and represents one of the largest growing ethnic groups. It would therefore make more sense to alter the content and characters of contemporary films to capture the new face of the Asia-American. However, nothing is further from the truth. The society and movie industry continues to treat Asians as aliens.

In conclusion, the American society has perpetuated the Asian stereotype for many decades. This unfair and unnecessary charade against one race has been entrenched in minds of the players in the movie industry. Americans have been conditioned to expect that images of Asian actors in television and DVDs are usually martial arts fighters or emasculated docile men. Conversely, Asian women are expected to illustrate aspects of sensuality, submission, and naïve. The American film industry is a manifestation of its society. Within most universities, students with an Asian heritage but born in America have experienced explicit opposition and poor acknowledgment from Caucasians. The main problem originated in the lack of information concerning Asians and their heritage. From this reaction, it is clear that most people in the United States posses a poor conception of Asian-Americans and regard them as aliens.

From the movie analysis, the following conclusions can be made about Ken Jeong and the Asian American situation within the United States’ film industry. It is imperative to acknowledge that Jeong usually assumes roles that depict unconstructive Asian stereotypes. His character is very shallow, while his accent is a scornful version of the Asian dialect. Jeong was to bring out the picture of an individual with little mastery of the English language, making him the laughing stock, a fact that amused the white characters. Jeong is also depicted with various feminine elements in a manner that is quite debasing given that Zack Galifianakis was similarly awarded feminine qualities but restricted to being a metro-sexual male. However, in the process of evaluating the way in which Asian-American actors are perceived within Hollywood, care should be taken to understand whether it might be a futile and unnecessary venture. Most Asian cultures are largely restrictive, conservative, and rigid in nature. Therefore, the behavior currently being exhibited by Asian-American may actually be an expression of the freedom to choose, to feel and to act.

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