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Portrayals of Asians in Film and Television


In chronological order. For series that have lasted several years, only the first season is linked.

In chronological order. For series that have lasted several years, only the first season is linked.

Always Be My Maybe: This 2019 Netflix film with co-writers Michael Golamco, Randall Park, and Ali Wong breaks away from typical Asian Hollywood stereotypes. Co-stars Ali Wong and Marcus Kim wrote the screenplay, and Wong produced the film. 

Anything Goes
For the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1954, this Cole Porter musical was presented. Korean-American actor Philip Ahn almost didn't get the part because his English was too good – but he quickly faked broken English and was cast. He was a servant and didn't get film credit.
Star Trek
Famously barrier-breaking for including an integrated cast, but Sulu's character was underdeveloped and sparcely utilized. 1966-69
All-American Girl
A series about a delightfully screwy Korean-American family only lasted one season. 1994-95
The Gilmore Girls
Although not the lead, the best friend, Lane Kim, is a conflicted, rebellious Korean American under intense parental pressure by her mom, Mrs. Kim. 2000-2007
The Wire
Korean-African American detective Shakima Greggs atypically has a full and complicated life at home and at work. 2002-2008
Battlestar Galactica
The show's diversely ethnic cast led the show to be called post-racial. The character Boomer in the original was played by an African-American man, but in the later series by a Korean-Canadian woman, and was no longer a side-kick. 2004-2009
Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim both emerged from the show as sex symbols. 2004-2010
Chinese-American Michaela Conlin plays a spirited and sexy scientist who isn't exotic. 2005-2015
Even though Lloyd Lee was a minor character, as played by Rex Lee, he emerged as what has been called "America's favorite Gaysian." 2005-2015
The character Vince Masuka is goofy, but very clever. Counter to the stereotype of the asexual Asian man, Masuka is oversexed. 2006-2013
Hiro is everyone's favorite cuddly, nerdy Asian superhero. 2006-2010
The Big Bang Theory
Highly intellectual geeks abound, but where are the East Asians among the regulars? 2007-
The Mentalist
Kimball Cho, as portrayed by Tim Kang was not quite the typical Asian sidekick character. 2008-2015
Praised for featuring a diverse cast playing mostly non-stereotypical characters. 2009-2015
Orange is the New Black
Even in the environment of a prison, the Asian characters don't assimilate well, although there is some development that way in later seasons. 2013-
Parks and Recreation
The character of Tom Haverford, played by Aziz Ansari, typifies an Indian American's attempt to assimilate. 2009-2015
The Walking Dead
The character of Glenn Rhee, Korean American, has been called the "heart of the show." 2010-
Jadyn Wong, as Happy Quinn, is no forgettable Asian sidekick.  2015-
Fresh Off the Boat
The first successful American television sitcom starring an Asian-American family. Based on Eddie Huang's memoir of the same name,  Huang contends the show, doesn't adhere to the stereoype-breaking family members portrayed in his book. 2015-

In this sci-fi series, wealthy guests can fulfill fantasies of a nostalgiac American west through interacting with their robot "hosts".  Felix (played by Leonardo Nam) is an Asian tech whiz, but is subordinate to the "engineers upstairs". He becomes compliant to the strong, black woman/robot, Maeve (Thandie Newton) once she becomes self-aware. 2016-

Documentary Film and Television

The Color of Honor
Experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II who served in the U.S. armed forces as translators and interpreters in military intelligence contrasted with Japanese Americans who were placed in concentration camps.
Hearts and Minds
Through its use of interviews with Vietnamese citizens and television footage, this anti-war documentary helped break down some racial stereotypes, but perpetuated others.
The Heat is On: The Making of Miss Saigon
A 1989 documentary tracing various aspects of the creation of the musical Miss Saigon up until it opened in London, including controversial casting decisions.
Hollywood Chinese
A 2007 documentary on the representation and involvement of the Chinese in American cinema from the silent era to the 21st century
Manufactured Landscapes
A 2006 film following a photographer as he travels through China. The film reveals the effects of the massive industrial revolution on Chinese life.
Slaying the Dragon
Two broadcasts, one from 1987 and the other from 2011, that describe racial and gender stereotyping of Asian women in U.S. motion pictures and other filmic media.

Slanted Screen "Explores the portrayals of Asian men in American cinema, chronicling the experiences of actors who have had to struggle against ethnic stereotyping and limiting roles. The film presents a critical examination of Hollywood's image-making machine, through a fascinating parade of 50 film clips spanning a century." 

Who is Albert Woo?
Explores the question of what it really means to be an Asian man living in the West today as the film examines the way identities are shaped by the media, history, and cultural legacy. 2001
Who killed Vincent Chin?
Documentary based on a Detroit murder that galvanized the Asian American community into a national campaign against racial injustice. 2004

Jennifer Richards

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Jenny Richards