I applaud Jen for being vigilant in this matter. As she describes in her post, the consequences of this stereotype to hard-working, honest Asian American men is profound. We could be talking about scores of Asian men turned away by employers who require shirts be worn every day of the week — even Casual Friday! Thousands of Asian men might find themselves applying for jobs in fields where they won’t be unfairly penalized due to the anti-shirt stereotype. Do we really want our Asian brothers forced to work as strippers, cabana boys, and life guards?
Think about the self-hate and shame that will be invoked amongst decent, well-meaning Asian men when they hear phrases like, “Hey, dude, chill out! Keep your shirt on!” or “What are you, a nudist who lacks commitment?” Think of the pain Asian men will have to endure when they become targeted by new racial slurs, like “shirt-hater”, “Chippendale”, or “nipple-flasher”. And will Asian men who take their shirts off — even while performing reasonably no-shirt activities like swimming or taking a shower — be accused of being sellouts for perpetuating the shirt-hating stereotype?
But, I do disagree with Jen on one thing: let’s put the blame where it belongs. The “shirt allergy” stereotype against Asian men did not begin with Peter Le, Young Lee or Joe Cha. No, these boys are mere symptoms of an institutional stereotype that just hasn’t received sufficient media attention until now, when K-Town finally exposed the stereotype’s full impact on our Asian brothers. These poor souls are only acting as they think they’re supposed to, because the “Asian men hate shirts” stereotype has been so deeply internalized into their self-identity. In a way, these men are heroes, for bravely shedding light on a silent oppression.
Consider how many other innocent Asian men have fallen victim to this syndrome:
So, you ask — whom should we really be blaming?
Well, I think the answer is clear — the blame lies squarely on the man who first brought this dastardly stereotype to American audiences.
That’s right: Bruce. Effin’. Lee. That frickin’ nipple-flasher.
Act Now! I’m declaring August 1st to be National Asian Male Shirt Solidarity Day. Wear a shirt and show your support. Spread the word.
Now that we have moving images of these eight people, I think I was mostly right about the cast… except for Scarlet and Jasmine. I called Scarlet as the sane Girlfriend archetype with Jasmine as the Nympho, but I was totally wrong. Scarlet may have the role of The Nympho, while Jasmine may be the sanest one of the girls (a female version of The Class Clown?).
Other stuff we saw in the video: I totally called Steve as the normal nice guy (he must’ve been the one to get off at the wrong subway stop), Joey may be a little too pleasant to ‘roid rage (so, strictly tail-chasing?), Violet and Jennifer (I think) are already feuding (Violet’s a hair-puller at the end of the clip!), and could Jennifer have a drinking problem?
These are true Asian American heroes — bustin’ the model minority myth one shot of Grey Goose at a time.
Y’know what would really give the middle finger to that pesky stereotype that Asian Americans are goody-goody math nerds? Tyrese (aka Black Ty) has the answer: a Jersey Shore-style reality show following the booze-fueled antics of eight ridiculously good-looking Asian Americans being the trashy, promiscuous, melodramatic, and shallow people we’ve come to expect from MTV.
Damn. Why didn’t we think of it sooner?
ChannelAPA reports that filming of a pilot for the proposed series, tentatively titled “K Town”, took place this past weekend in L.A.’s Koreatown. Eight Asian American twenty-somethings — four male and four female — partied at several local establishments, taking part in stereotype-busting activities like binge-drinking, shirt-stripping, and karaoke.
And in the tradition of such high-brow fare as Real World and Jersey Shore, K Town looks to have chosen its cast based around the same 7-8 archetypes developed since the first fateful day when seven strangers were picked to live in a house and have their lives taped.
The All-American Jock This guy has incredible upper-body definition, and the classic Asian guy ‘do (fade around the sides, spikes up front). He’s gonna be the sorta shy “nice guy with the amazing body” that the girls will lust after, ‘cuz he doesn’t know his own pretty. Played this season by: Peter Le
The Class Clown
What he lacks in “good guy charm” he makes up for by being the entertainer — which involves shoving alcohol down the throats of all his castmates. Don’t worry, his flamboyance hides his secret insecurity and inner geekiness. Played this season by: Young Lee
The Playa What he lacks in muscle-rippling physique (and he would argue that’s all relative), he more than makes up for in game. When he’s not chasin’ tail to prove his manliness, he’s ‘roid ragin’… to prove his manliness. Played this season by: Joe Sugil Cha
The Playa Hatah Desperately trying to compete with the other larger-than-life personalities, this is the guy who thought he was jock-ish, clown-ish, or playa-ish enough to be on the show… until he met the rest of the cast. But he’s too sensitive, too funny, or generally too much of a real person to be on this show, so he’ll fade into the background by episode three (and only re-surface when he has something catty to say in the Confessional). Don’t worry, tho’ — the playa hatah is either completely forgotten, or ends up being the secret fan favourite. Played this season by:Steve Kim
This is the girly-girly chick that all the guys on the show — and all the show’s male fans — wish they could boink. She likes bikinis and shopping, spends half her on-screen camera time in the communal bathroom, and is possibly just a little bit whiny. The Playa Hatah or the Class Clown may have a crush on her, but she will probably end up hooking up with the All-American Jock by episode 6, followed by relationship angst for the rest of the season. Played this season by: Jennifer Field
The Sassy Drama-Queen
She stirs up drama like it’s her second job. Count on her to say the shit no one else would say about her castmates, and possibly to get into a screaming match with anybody who challenges her. Her arch-nemesis is usually The Princess. She could be a hair-puller, or even a biter. She might also be the one to dance on the bar by the end of the night. Played this season by: Violet Kim
The Nymphomaniac No season of reality TV is complete without a Tila Tequila-type girl who just loves having fun — with her castmates, with producers, with random people she meets in the club. The All-American Jock may try to save her from her hypersexualized ways with soulful conversation, but she’ll probably be too busy in the hot tub with the Playah to notice. Don’t worry though, her free spirit tendancies also make her the most fun castmember on the show. She’s possibly also a nudist. Played this season by: Jasmine Chang
The Girlfriend (With the Off-Camera Boyfriend) Often, this is the level-headed girl who seems to have gotten off at the wrong subway stop and found herself on the set with seven drunk morons. She’ll be the most rational and reasoned — which means that the camera will quickly forget about her. If she doesn’t have hormone-soaked drama involving cheating on her off-camera boyfriend with an on-camera roomie (which is what all the producers are hoping for), she’ll end up spending most of her time sneaking away with the Playah Hatah for a smoke on the patio to lament how she ended up in a house full of crazy people. If she does end up having monogamy issues, count on her to rack up the most time in the phone booth room having very long, awkward, tear-soaked conversations with a disembodied male voice. Played this season by: Scarlet Chan
So far, K Town is just a pilot shopping for a home. I’m sure we’re all waiting with bated breath to see if it gets picked up.
This post also appeared on Racialicious. This post was one that was lost to the ether during my domain migration, and I’m delighted to be able to restore it from Racialicious!
A little less than a month ago, a panel discussion was put together by The Asian Society focusing on Asian American male identity. The panel, consisting of three prominent Asian American men in pop culture today: The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, the single best Asian American writer of contemporary pop culture, Jeff Yang, and the ever so swoon-worthy Yul Kwon of Survivor: Cook Islands (whom this blog dubbed the real Super Asian Man back when his show was on the air). These three men chatted for a night on issues affecting Asian American men, and The Asia Society graciously put an edited “clip show” of the event on YouTube for us to view.