Although I majored in Sequential Art (comics) in college, I also took acting classes as electives because—like many—it was a childhood dream. But what a professor said to me was a wake-up call.
Obviously, it wasn’t just one moment or individual that deterred me from pursuing acting. It ultimately wasn't my calling—comics were. But I highlight this moment because it's a symptom of how Asians are viewed and portrayed on a larger societal and institutional level.
SCAD was majority-white, so there were few Asians and other POC on campus. I remember being shocked seeing a Filipino guy perform in the play HAIR, and at the time, a lot of Hollywood productions were being filmed in Savannah. So this environment inspired me to try out acting.
For the most part, I realized breaking in required two things: knowing martial arts, and serving up Asianness for laughs. This isn't to knock martial arts because it's part of our culture and we should be proud of it. The problem is Asians are rarely depicted as full human beings.
In every kind of media, Asians have been and continue to be used as props for a non-Asian gaze, restricted from the full spectrum of the human experience. For Asian men, this means kung fu masters, nameless goons, or Ken Jeong-types whose sole purpose is to self-denigrate.
It says a lot that to this day, 42% of Americans can’t name a single famous Asian American. When asked to name one, the top response was “don’t know,” followed by actor Jackie Chan in 2nd—who is not a U.S. citizen—and deceased actor Bruce Lee in 3rd.
The worst part is Asians are blamed for our own oppression. We're fed myths about how we lack personalities, marketability, good looks, etc. Usually, Asians are perceived as likeable only if there's white heritage—which is why half-white Asians tend to get more opportunities.
Although I entered the comic book industry as a writer and artist, I ended up in Hollywood spaces anyway via the TV/film adaptation process. From there I learned it doesn’t matter if Asians are in front of or behind the camera—the stereotypes hold us back no matter where we are.
This is why Asians need to be in control of our own stories, and we need Asian creators who don't cater to a non-Asian gaze. For more of my thoughts on this subject: https://twitter.com/Joshua_Luna/status/1305941251393544193
(Please don’t repost or edit my art. Reblogs are always appreciated.)If you enjoy my comics, please pledge to my Patreon or donate to my Paypal. I lost my publisher for trying to publish these strips, so your support keeps me going until I can find a new publisher/lit agenthttps://twitter.com/Joshua_Luna/status/1134522555744866304
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