Asian Americans: What are We Doing to Break TV’s Bamboo Ceiling?

Daniel Wu of AMC's "Into the Badlands". (Photo Credit: AMC)
Daniel Wu of AMC’s “Into the Badlands”. (Photo Credit: AMC)

Guest Contributor: Miguel Santos, General Manager of Myx TV

It’s on Asian Americans to break the so-called bamboo ceiling.

George Takei and Margaret Cho have been making headlines recently for taking on issues like whitewashing in Hollywood.

Prior to shows like Fresh Off the Boat and The Mindy Project, Asian Americans in entertainment were virtually nonexistent with the exception of a handful of Lucy Lius. The landscape has improved, but if we want to truly elevate and celebrate Asian American stories, we have to start from the ground up. We must change the Asian mindset that a job in entertainment isn’t a viable career path, we must speak up to create a space for our people in the industry and we must lend a hand to pull other Asian Americans up.

There’s a stereotype that first generation Asian American kids are expected by parents to pursue a career in math or science. Creative fields are discouraged and shamed. We need to let go of the idea that creative careers like those in entertainment are inadequate. We must instead give our kids the blessing to pursue their passions, whether that’s performing arts, writing or directing. Diversity in entertainment must include people both on and off camera in order to tell stories that are truly inclusive. When we begin encouraging entertainment careers, we’ll have more Asian Americans involved in every layer of the stories we see on screen.

Last year, Fusion reported that of 800 main cast members on 100 network TV shows, just 6.6 percent were of Asian descent. Clearly, Asian Americans are underrepresented in entertainment. Other minorities have made themselves a part of the conversation by speaking up and creating spaces for themselves. Asian Americans need to step up and do the same. Part of the model minority stereotype is that Asian Americans don’t make a fuss. That has to change. When 25 Asian American members of the Academy, including George Takei, Ang Lee and Sandra Oh, stood up and wrote a critical open letter about racist tropes at the Oscars, they sent a clear message that we won’t stand for it and we demand to be heard. These declarations have to happen more often for meaningful progress to be made.

At Myx TV, diversity is in our DNA. We don’t just have it to check off boxes, it’s who we are. We hire diverse producers and some of the most inclusive casts on television because we know other networks won’t. We go to bat for our Asian American brothers and sisters with the hopes of helping them have a successful career in entertainment. We don’t have preconceived notions about what diversity looks like or what Asian American roles are, and other networks shouldn’t either. Our shows have broad appeal because people from a variety of backgrounds can watch and see themselves represented. We all have to work together to make this the case across the board.

So I urge you in the community to open your mind, stand up like George Takei and make your voice heard, and work together so that, united, we can break the bamboo ceiling.

Miguel Santos
Miguel Santos

Miguel Santos is the general manager of Myx TV, the only English language Asian American entertainment network in the U.S. Santos sets the overall strategy and direction of the network. He works to elevate and celebrate the unique stories of Asian Americans with diverse linear and digital programming that employs some of the most inclusive production teams and casts in television.

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