H*28: Problematic Asian American Youtube Stars (feat. Lucy)
This week for H*28, Chuks and Kari are joined by ragstoreverie (Lucy) to discuss Asian-American Media. In the last few years, especially the rise of YouTube stars, Asian American media has boomed with Wong Fu Productions, Fung Brothers, KevJumba, JK Films/David So, Jabbawockeez, and many more. They play an important role in the community—needed representation and control of production, for example—but they are not without their problems. For asks this week, we answer an ask from Sarah about access to social justice movement, butchrobot about developed/developing nation terminology, and 2goldensnitches about fighting with family members over the Gaza-Israel conflict.
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This was a great discussion y’all.
In addition to Wong Fu and others’ reproduction of anti-black and misogynist stereotypes, what also really bothers me about these videos is how they reinforce white supremacist ideas about what an “Asian person” is supposed to “look like” and how they are supposed to behave. As someone who identifies as Lao American and Southeast Asian American, I always end up rolling my eyes while watching their videos and/or when someone tells me they represent the Asian American community. What they actually represent is a version of a community dominated by wealthy and college educated East Asian American men.
I also remember watching the “Yellow Fever” video by Wong Fu when I was in high school. There is this part when one of the guys is speaking to their Indian/American classmate. What I noticed is how the East Asian guy makes a separation between himself as an “Asian” person, and his friend as an “Indian” person. His point to separate “Asian” from “Indian” is a reproduction of the American racialized ideas of Asian people as only being of East Asian descent. It is not explicit in the video why he makes this distinction, but I can guess that the Wong Fu guys buy into the idea that “Asian” is an actual “race” with it’s own phenotypical/biological and cultural characteristics, rather than a socio-political concept. NO. Asian, like any other “races” is a social construct. Way to totally buy into the idea that “Asians all look the same” dude. It is so ironic that these guys complain about the “all look the same” stereotype when they ended up reinforcing it by excluding Indians/South Asians from Asian-ness.
And by excluding Indians/South Asians from being Asian, they are also excluding Southeast Asian Americans and Filipino Americans. If y’all don’t already know, the culture and religion of many Asian Americans of Southeast Asian descent (Cambodian, Thai, Cham, and Lao) was heavily influenced by the Hindu/Buddhist and Muslim Indians who travelled all around Southeast Asia for trading purposes. So it always makes me feel really uncomfortable when people argue that Indians are not “really” Asian because their culture, religions, and how they physically look are different from East Asians. So by that logic, does that make me less “Asian” because of the Indian influences on my own culture and how many Southeast Asians don’t “look asian” by East asian standards?