Comedy and Asian Identity 5
Comedyand Asian IdentityNameCourseTutorUniversityDepartmentDate
Toperfect the art, the comedians and filmmakers have identified theprimary features of the Asian cultures necessary to make their actsrelevant to the Asian communities in the countries. The comedians andactors have to be innovative as much as possible to capture theaspects of culture that truly reflect the original intent oftradition or customs to connect with the audience. The comedians,movie writers, and actors have to engage in continuous research toidentify the trends among the Asian communities at home and abroad tokeep in touch and hence communicate effectively with the Asiancommunities (Shingler, 2014, p. 68).
Itis significant to point out that to represent an identity of ademographic group one must address cultural questions of the groupunder consideration. Therefore, the status of any society orcommunity is largely dependent on its culture. The USA/UK comedy TVshows and movies have perfected the art of representing the Asianidentity to capture the market of the large numbers that exists inboth countries (Harrod, Liz, and Timoshkina, 2014, p. 45). Both theUK and the USA have made movies that address the entertainment needsof the Asian communities in the countries.
Theacts selected have to be truly identified with the Asian communitiesfor it to capture the intended effect among the audience and theviewers. This essay delves into how the USA/UK comedy TV shows andmovies represent the Asian identity with an aim to achieving a moreinformed position on the topic. The essay also makes a criticalanalysis of the stereotypes depicted in the USA/UK comedy TV showsand movies to enhance the understanding of the issue. The articlealso explores some of the case studies of TV comedy shows and moviesin the USA/UK to determine the scope of the Asian identity achieved(Shingler, 2014, p. 86).
Tomeet their objectives the drama TV shows and movies in the USA/UKhave perfected their art by representing the characteristics of thetraditional Asian family. The comedies in the two countries recognizethe significant role played by the average Asian family and hencemake every endeavor depict the unit. In most of the comic TV showsand movies, the typical Asian family has a hierarchical structurewith men and the older persons occupying higher positions within thefamily (Örnek, 2007, p. 26). The higher status enjoyed by the maleand the older individuals is informed by the religious principles aswell as the customs of the indigenous Asian communities in China,India, and Japan among other major origins of the Asian communities.
Thehigher family status accorded to the males and the older personsimplies that they are more respectable than other family members andalso make more contributions regarding decisions and economic issues.The comedies and other TV shows are designed in such a way that themen and the older persons are accorded their higher positions so thatthe comics and the movies are not in conflict with the reality asthey hit the market. The males and the older persons have the finalsay on religious matters and primarily dictate the rules ofengagements at the family level so that the chain of communication isevident. Several movies in the USA/UK provide the structure for anaverage Asian family with men as the head of the household, then thewomen and the children. Of course, age is a significant factor in thedetermination of the status of an individual as an older woman islikely to have more influence that a young man (Shingler, 2014, p.188).
Inmost of the movies and the comedies, the gender difference betweenthe Asian male and female is evident. The movies and the TV showsdepict the men as more valued than the females just like it is thecase in the traditional Asian cultures. The primary objective torepresent that state of affairs among the Asians is to ensure thatthe comedies and the shows have a firm connection with the Asiancommunities in the USA/UK. Due to the high value attached to themales, the comics, and TV shows depict Asian families that areobsessed with boys/sons as they are considered essential in carryingout the lineage/family name. Couples prefer sons to daughters due tothe enormous responsibilities that the males are entrusted, withinthe family unit.
Thecomedies depict the men as the source of protection and also theproviders of the families and hence what almost looks likediscrimination of the females. The TV shows and the movies are keento represent that aspect of the Indian identity to capture theattention and hence the relevance of the Asian audience. The femalesare less valued and hence play less significant roles at the familylevel. Most of the movies depict women as passive individuals whoadhere to the rules of engagement in the husband`s family. Theirprimary role is to bear children and take care of the domestic chores(Sternberg, 2010, p. 35). Most of the current shows and comediesarticulate that fact in an endeavor to be representative of thereality of the Asians’ ways of life. In the movies and thecomedies, the women are deemed as the domestic managers to manage andorganize the house, and take care of the husband and the children.
Theseare facts that the comedy shows and movies in the USA/UK have beenkeen to highlight as it would be hard to win the confidence of theAsian communities without the level of clarity. The males and thefemales, therefore, have very distinct roles and no movie or showwould identify with the Asian communities if that clarity is missing.The primary duty of the male is hence to be a good son for the familywhile being a good father and husband comes second in the order ofthe obligation. Of course, the roles of the males and the femalescould be reversed to depict irony or sarcasm depending on thecontexts of the movies, comedies or shows. In such ironies, the womenare portrayed to dominate the males, especially in marriage whichprovides the intended comical effect in the movie or shows.
Themovies and the comedies depict a clear patriarchal husband- wiferelationship where the husband is the head of the family and thewoman the assistant and the helper (Shingler, 2014, p. 40). Theduties are clearly defined, with the husband being the breadwinnerwhile the wife provides the supportive role to ensure that theyfunction well as a system. The comedies and the movies in the USA/UKare written and performed with that fact in mind, for that is theonly way they could identify with the Asian communities. Despite theintrigues, suspense and other stylistic structures in the movies andthe comedy shows the flow of the masterpieces are made inconsideration of an audience who have that background information.
Therespect for the elderly and the ancestors is not negotiable among theAsian communities, and the movies and comedies are keen to capturethat fact at the formulation stage. The old are deemed to be theconnection between the living and the dead among most of the Asiancommunities and hence the higher status. Show or comedy that iscontrary to that norm can only be meant for entertainment purposes(Dulok, 2012, p. 86). Even when it is as entertaining, the Asianpeople can easily identify with the reality. Movies and comedy showsare pieces of art meant to convey particular messages and hence,however, twisted words are they cannot ignore some fundamentalrealities of the Asians way of life. It is also pivotal to point outthe fact that the respect accorded to the elders and the ancestors ofthe Asian communities is not negotiable, and hence, the artists inboth the USA and the UK could create pieces that are entertainingwith that in mind.
Comediesand movies only become entertaining if the prose and flow are notstraightforward, but one thing is sure that they depict the Asians asgenuine and committed to their traditional roles andresponsibilities. The American and British comedians and actors maynot have experienced the Asian culture and way of life, but theyconduct research and also engage people of Asian origins to ensurethat their entertainment pieces are as representative as possible(Göktürk, 2002, p. 96).
TheTV comedy shows and movies depict the Asians as people who are loyalto authority figures. The Asian communities have a deep-rooted beliefthat loyalty to authority is not debatable and hence the seriousmanner they adhere to the principle. On matters of power andsuperiors, the Asians practice a one-way communication (Rahman, 2005,p. 198). For example, one-way communication is practiced as theadults speak to the children, which is one of the major aspects thatmovies and comedy TV shows in the USA /UK endeavor to highlight atall times. The children are supposed to obey without question whatthe elders say or order. Although the western culture may have playedits role to alter the status quo slightly, the children in the Asiancommunities subscribe to the unwritten rule religiously withoutquestion.
Thesame applies to one`s superiors particularly in the workplace thoughthat could be subject to other organizational principles. Whereasmovies have to put the factors into account as they entertain, thewriters of the comedies adjust the context to give out the intendedeffect among the targeted audience. The USA /UK have scores of Asianpopulations and no serious movie maker, or comedian would do theirart without the segment of the population in mind. The movies andcomedy demonstrate the collectivism of the Asian communities(Shingler, 2014, p. 23). The Asian communities are depicted to have ahigh level of family and group focus in all the aspects of theirlives, The communities are therefore interdependent in all theirundertakings through recognition of the individual effort for thecommon good of the family or group.
Innovationsin the movie and comedies would, however, depict an Asian personalitywho is a lone ranger based on the kind of entertainment intended inthe case of comics (Fazal, S., 2008). Among the Asian communities,children learn early enough that the family is central and that it isthe primary unit that provides the foundation of an individual. Thechildren are taught from quite an early age that the behavior of aperson is a reflection of their entire family. This perception isalways well articulated in the films and comedies and hugelyidentifies with the Asian communities (Huq, 2003, p. 38). It is hardto see movies and comics associated with the Asians in the USA/UKthat do not recognize this fact. Connected to behavior is the fact toinstill discipline, shame, and guilt as the preferred mechanisms tocontrol and train the minors. Bad behavior is highly condemned at thefamily level compelling the children to opt for good practices. Goodbehavior is considered as loyalty and honor to the family as nofamily likes to be associated with criminality and deviant behaviorsby any of its members. Good behavior is seen as a way to avoid shameand hence, prevent any embarrassment to the family (Shingler, 2014,p. 59).
Thisis part of behavior that children are directed at quite an early age(Huq, 2003, p. 48). Movies and comedy TV shows are a reflection ofthe societies which explains why the USA/UK movies are keen to injectthe practices in any episodes, aimed at capturing the Asian identity.The family problems of the Asian communities are hidden from thepublic and only handled within the family level to avoid exposing theweaknesses of families. Any outstanding performance by any member ofthe household is seen as a source of great pride for the entirefamily. Several comedies and movies have captured this aspect of theAsian culture in predominant styles (Shingler, 2014, p. 90). Childrenwho excel in sports and the academics are acknowledged and rewardedfor the exemplary performance. Such children are praised andencouraged to perform even better, an aspect that is captured byUSA/UK movies and comedy shows. Whereas gifted children are a sourceof pride to the family, those with mental illnesses are a disgraceand shame which are seen as a family failure. Mentally retardedindividuals are locked up to avoid the shame that comes with theirvery existence.
Thistendency is a reality that any serious movie director or comedian inthe USA/UK cannot fail, to capture the attention of the Asiancommunities. There is less display of emotions which is seen as asign of maturity and self-control. Movies targeting the Asiancommunities depict a lot of this aspect of the culture, althoughcomedies could be manipulated to capture the intended humor and inthe defined context (Upstone, S., 2010, p. 84). The members of thefamily show care and concern by supplying the physical needs of thosein the family who need them. The provision aspect is appreciated morethan emotional expression by the household members. In the familysetup, the father is authoritative and distant in his interactionswith the children and wife in the presence of others. He is explicitto provide for the welfare of the family.
Themother is more emotional than the father and acts as the intermediarybetween the children and the father. She employs corporal punishmentto discipline the children as any bad behavior is attributed to herfailure. On dating and marriage, the parents play a vital role whileinterracial marriages are highly discouraged as they are viewed as afamily failure and leading to the end of a lineage. The dating sceneis one of the areas that the comedy shows and movies focus much on intheir depiction of the Asian communities and their way of life(Dodds, 2008, p. 145).
Inmost of the movies and comics, there are major stereotypes about thedepiction of Asians that are dominant. The Asians are depicted as thesame or as people from one region, country or area. However, thisassertion is far from the truth. For example, the Asian- Americansare composed of people of diverse backgrounds with national, culturaland religious differences. They comprise of more than fiftysubgroups, each of which has a distinct language, religion,traditions, and values. It is therefore not right to depict theAsians as people from one area, with the same culture or religion astheir differences could be comparable to the different nations inEurope and America. For example, there are four major groups in theEast Asia, mainly Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and the PacificIslanders. Classifying these people in the same categories would,therefore, be naivety of the highest magnitude (Lewis, 2009, p. 55).
TheVietnamese and the Thai are in the southeastern Asians, while theIndians and Pakistanis are from South Asia. Certainly all these aredistinct groups, each with unique customs and cultures and hence itwould be naïve for the movie directors and comedians to classifythem in one category. In the creation of the movies and comedies, theauthors should endeavor to distinguish between the various Asiancommunities as any generalizations only demonstrate ignorance. (Shaw,2013, p. 293) For example, those who intend to portray a particularaccent cannot purport that Asians have an Indian accent. The Japaneseand Chinese, for example, have accents that are quite different fromthe Indians and any failure to point out the differences only acts tofuel confusion.
Itis crucial for the authors of the movies and comedies to understandthe history, immigration and the refugee history of each of the Asiancommunities before they are portrayed in the movies and comedy TVshows, as anything to the contrary only feigns ignorance of thehigher levels. Although there are minor similarities among thecommunities of the Asian background, it is important for thecomedians and movie directors to avoid generalizations as they makean effort to capture the identity of the groups in their films.
Thereis also the perception that individuals of the Asian origin areintelligent, disciplined and hardworking. They are said to beeconomical, social, and educationally successful, yet not all themembers of the Asian communities share the success story. Some Asiansperform poorer in school, and they are of low economic status thanmany Americans or the Britons, and hence it is pivotal for the moviemakers and comedians make the distinction as they endeavor torepresent the Asian identity in their works (Mackin, 2005, p. 288).
Someof the students of Asian backgrounds lack motivation and havelearning problems which are coupled with poor mastery of the Englishlanguage. Some do not understand the American culture and even lackthe required finances to cater for their education (Tonnaer, 2015).It is, therefore, crucial or the movie maker and TV programcoordinators to understand people of Asian backgrounds as individualsrather than perpetuating the stereotypes that for long have beenembraced as the reality.
Thestereotypical images of the Asians in the media are sometimesdisturbing, but it is the ways in which the depictions the communityinfluences viewers in real world perspectives that are more crucial(Denzin, 1994, p. 188). The messages on the TV determine nationalperspectives from young ages, mostly when the interracial interactionis less. The fact that most American and the Britons have littleinterpersonal interaction with the Asian communities imply that theimpact of the television is likely to be significant.
Accordingto cultivation theory, continued exposure to the TV messages has longlasting impacts on the audiences. The method was essentially studiedin the context of media violence to comprehend how intense TVexposure affects perceptions in real life. A recent study revealsthat viewers of comedies and movies who are exposed to specificcontents on the TV are affected more than they would be by overall TVexposure. Therefore, the viewers who consider the portrayals on theTV as valid and realistically are likely to internalize stereotypicalmessages and accept it as real.
Representationsin the comedies and movies that are internalized become acutelyaccessible from memory and make judgments based on stereotypeactivation and endorsement (Hernández-Pozo, and Fernández Rius,2013, p. 245). Stereotypes on the films and comedies are available tomany viewers at the level of the subconscious, but not allconsciously endorse the stereotypes at the specific level. Repeatedassociations with the stereotypes make them an integral part of theaudience`s mental images such that subtle cues lead to an entirenetwork of related thoughts and perceptions from the long-termmemory.
Anothertheory informs us that the need for confidence and esteem motivatespeople to show up in team favoritism, while performing inter-groupcomparisons (Hamamoto, 2000, p. 45). From this approach out teammembers seen as the most familiar and least threatening to a dominantculture, are acknowledged while others are condoned. Research in thepast, on comedy TV, shows that viewers are more lenient towardAfrican-Americans with lighter skins. However, the Asians arecompelled to act white through changing all the aspects of theircultures, eating habits and clothing to fit into the white societiesto overcome the stereotypes. In the context of portrayals on thecomedies and movies, Asian characteristics which act like Asians areportrayed in negative aspects compared to those who are considered"more white." The underlying message in the context is thewhite superiority. For instance, David Carradine played the leadingrole in "kung fu" while a famous martial artist was deniedthe part because he was "too Asian."
Comedyand movie stereotypes emphasize the group difference in styles thattypically increase the importance of the Asian identity while stillmaintains the power differences. The stereotypes portray whiteness asthe standard, while other racial/ethnic groups are considered "goodminorities" and others as "bad minorities." Accordingto the approach, the "real minority" presents AsiansAmericans or Asian Britons as non-threatening passive subordinatesthat are assimilated into the white culture. On the other hand, the"bad minority" represents more vocal minorities such as theAfricans who unjustifiably challenge the white power in the comediesand the movies (Shingler, 2014, p. 415).
Inthe last decades, movies and comedies have opened up so much leadingto arguments that TV is more flexible than ever before (Park,Gabbadon and Chernin, 2006, p. 145) .However, Asian movies andcomics are still absent in Britain and the USA. The Asian movies andcomedies have not been the subject of a sitcom since "allAmerican girls" was rejected after chaotic reviews more thantwenty years ago. However, there is hope for the future of Asiancomedies and movies in the USA and the UK. For example, Chef EddieHuang`s show in the USA is expected to go a long way in representingthe Asian Americans who are almost not depicted in the mainstreammedia. It, however, remains to be seen if the movie will turn out tobe sensational as many would hope (McDonald, 2009). It is significantto point out that the film is already being criticized for its title,which is considered offensive to the Asian immigrants.
Thestruggle in the Asian-American representation on the comedies and themovies, however, doesn`t mean that it is hard to capture the Asianmovies and comedies (Weissmann, 2012, p. 45). The British, indiemovie, “Lilting” covers the Asian migration reality in a way thatshould both resonate with the Asians in the USA and Britain. It isclear that Asian movies and comedies are not as many as those of theblacks and the Latinos and to date "All American Girl" isthe most notable attempt to represent family life on the TV. However,it was deemed to have failed completely compared with other moviesand comedies in the USA.
Itwas canceled after only one season, and the entire team had beensacked by the time the finale was televised. In fact, the producersof the show asked the main character, Margaret Cho to act "moreAsian" and even went ahead to bring Asian experts in trainingher. In most of the comedies and movies in the USA and Britain, theAsian characters find their identity and are given little attentionor even ignored altogether. There is clearly no middle ground(Shingler, 2014, p. 45). Shows such as "Selfie" or "MindyProject" are blind racially-speaking it`s only that thecharacters of Asian descent live and socialize in complete whiteworlds. It has however been pointed out in the past that taking outAsian American or Asian Briton in the movies and the comedies, doesnot make them more American or British.
Thereis also the approach where shows use racism to create humor. Forexample, CBS`s "2 Broke Girls" makes it sound funny onlybecause broken English is used in the comedy implying that if fluentEnglish were used, it would not be funny at all. In the movies, theAsians don’t appear much in the USA and UK TVs. The movies haveinvariably period dramas in China and Japan, which are totallydisconnected from the real and present day experiences. However,"Lilting" manages to be a film about the modern first orsecond Asian immigrant experiences as they encounter life in thewest. The movie represents the majority of the Asian Britons andAsian Americans who are majorly first and second generationimmigrants, the two groups that make up the majority in the USA andthe UK. The movie is dominated by the Asians in the cast anddirection, with a writer-director, Hong Khaou, who hasCambodian-Chinese`s roots whose family left Asia when he was still aboy. The movie depicts Richard (Ben Whishaw), a young British man,and Junn who is an older immigrant of Chinese descent, as they clashand grief over the death of Kai, who is Richards`s partner and Junn`sson.
Thematter is complicated by the fact that Richard and Junn do not talkthe same language, making the film float elegantly between Englishand the Chinese languages. There are scattered subtitles as the tworely on a translator to effective communication (Williams-León andNakashima, 2001). The film presents an identity as experienced by theAsians in America and Britain, which is something they carry in theirevery moment which influences their thoughts, reactions, andfeelings. Junn struggles to adapt to English society and rejectsRichard`s endeavor to assist her as she mourns her son. She isdepicted as a thoroughly complicated lady whose pain and hostilityare caused mainly by her immigrant background, although not definedby it.
Themovie, however, depicts the Asian culture in a realistic way and evengoes further to show how it affects each of the characters in thefilm. Kai speaks Chinese with a slight English accent, with hismother, affectionately correcting his pronunciation once in a while.Richard, who had been exposed to the East Asian culture due tointeraction with Kai, cooks meat with chopsticks and says it is theonly method in which it could be done (Ludhra and Jones, 2009, p.75). The brief moments highlight the funny small ways that culturespreads and evolves which is common among immigrants who have beenassimilated and blended with those ones in the adopted countries. Theimportance placed on capturing the authentic immigrant experience isdemonstrated by the fact that the director of the film chose both theChinese and the English languages (Dudrah, 2002, p. 45). He wouldhave probably decided to have Junn speak English or to depend onsubtitles to deliver her thoughts which would have been easier towrite than complicating the scenery through translation. Theintroduction of translation in the movie makes the viewers experiencethe everyday communication barrier that immigrant families encounter(Huat, 2004, p. 175). Many Asians in America and Britain speak totheir parents in a combined English and indigenous Asian dialects,which is highly represented in the movie.
Translationis, therefore, the way of life of the Asians in America as parentsrely on the children to communicate with their new world while inturn they impart their heritage to the children through the nativedialects. “Lilting” depicts the people as they are but whoseidentity keep on shifting and changing. The movie clearly understandsthe racial identity, with its characters consisting real people whoare complex and changing, ones who could belong to any groupregarding race, religion or even sexuality (Shingler, 2014, p. 177).That aspect of the movies and comedies attract diversified audienceand also affect the way people perceive each other in the real world.No group of people should be stereotyped, and this is the moment thatwas reflected in the comedies and movies in the USA/UK.
TheUSA/UK comedy TV shows and movies have portrayed the Asian identityto reflect the diverse aspects of the Asian culture. The media hasalso played its role in representing the Asian identity. However,much still needs to be done, especially in overcoming the stereotypesthat continue to depict the Asian communities in bad light. Theprofessionals in the film industry have an excellent opportunity toreverse the perception through movies and comedies that identify theAsian communities with the mainstream communities in the USA/UK.
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