Does Asian America Need a Brand Makeover?

If you get annoyed by orientalist cover art on novels by Asian American writers, if you don’t like the predictable range of roles that Asian actors and actresses are allowed to play, if you think there should be more quality Asian American films (as well as a channel through which you can access a community of moviegoers to share opinions about such films), you might find Jeff Yang’s ideas in the San Francisco Chronicle interesting.

His piece starts out as a review of Hangover 2. Basically, Yang hated the movie (in spite of the fact he found the first one enjoyable) and goes through all the egregious stereotypes in case you missed them: “Thuggish gangsters. Wizened monks. Lascivious ladyboys. Not to mention whiz-kid pre-meds, infinitely forgiving lotus-blossom brides and the Father of All Tiger Dads.” I swear I think even Bradley Cooper was wincing at himself as he delivered the line, “Not big breasts on her but a solid rack for an Asian” (for which — not the sympathetic wincing, but the line – Kate Muir of The Times docked the film a star).

Why can’t talented people like Ken Jeong find work in better films? Yang brings up Ang Lee and Justin Lin as examples of directors who have made profitable Asian American films. But now they direct features geared towards more mainstream audiences. Why? According to certain insiders, the industry’s current situation is such that, from an financial vantage point, you would have to be “retarded” to be making Asian American films.

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