Slaying the Dragon: From the POV of a Latin-Asian Girl

Despite the lack of Asian American representation in the United States, the advances in video streams — *cough* file-sharing *cough* — and the recent Hallyu Explosion [1] have provided a HUGE array of options for those looking for content. And though I’m not really that familiar with Korean dramas, which have become hugely popular not only with young people accustomed to new technology but also older women who would flock to get the latest subtitled DVDs.


I’m a little more partial to Japanese dramas, as I showed with my Banana Guide to Asian Entertainment Part II and Part III, but the content options are as broad whichever country you pick from. It can be a romantic comedy where the female lead is a little more well-rounded non-stereotypical Asian, and Asian men get to play romantic leads because… well, Asians aren’t minorities in Asia, duh! They get to play kings and queens in period pieces, good and bad cops, killers and victims, warriors and hostages. So isn’t the representation problem reversed in Asian media?


As much as I cheered in my Rocky moment on Ip Man 2, isn’t the evil white boxer a negative representation too?

In the end, minorities will be minorities wherever they may be from, wherever they may have settled in. As a Latin-Asian, I’m a minority within a minority that gets even less representation. All I got is Harry Shum Jr.


Harry Shum Jr. was actually born in Costa Rica.

I feel I have the best of so many worlds. I speak Chinese and Spanish. Spanish is actually my first language before I learned Chinese and English.

Now, how I wished they had made him speak Spanish in that Glee episode Gwyneth starred in. They didn’t even need to make him Latin-Asian, I would have settled for a very smart Asian kid.

All of you mixed-race kids put your hands in the air!


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

3 Responses

  1. aww yeah us mixed-race kids and Latinasians. I didn’t know Harry Shum, Jr. was from Costa Rica and spoke Spanish!

    I overhear the Walking Dead while my family watches it, and there was a part where one character clarified that Glenn is Korean, not Chinese.

    There was some praise for changing Bingley to Bing Lee (romantic hero!) and Charlotte Lucas to Charlotte Lu in the Pride and Prejudice 2012 webseries adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Yet as fan dissatisfaction with the series’ general writing arose with many of the episodes aired in 2013, there were also cries of “racism” regarding Bing’s possessive overachiever sister Caroline, and that the show having an Asian-American co-creator doesn’t make it exempt from such charges.
    I was sort of in the middle, thinking that it was a bit shady that the “positive” minorities were the ones supportive of the main white characters, but I thought her last episode didn’t make Caroline an outright villain but actually more understandable and human than other (white) adaptations of the Caroline character. Then again, she was played by the fabulous fellow Filipina Jessica Jade Andres, so I might have been just glad to see any representation. Filipinos just became the largest Asian ethnic group in California, but we don’t have the more well-known immigration history or cultural presence of other Asian groups in the US. So when we appear on screen, it’s usually in background roles or playing other ethnicities. So the Filipino-American news here gets excited when even a one-fourth Filipino actor (like Hailee Steinfield) gets a role in a major film or TV show. We’re so mixed anyway, so we grab pride whenever we can.
    That’s why I try and go to another room to watch Elementary- after Lucy Liu’s talk-show slip-up of saying she runs indoors because she “doesn’t want to look Filipino or Mexican,” I know my mom would have remarks about her if she saw Liu on TV.

    That reminds me – East Asians can get so crudely stereotyped in Filipino mainland programs it’s digusting. Slanting the eyes and awful accents and all. South Asians stereotypes appear less but are similarly offensive. but then Filipinos give an enthusiastic welcome to East Asians (pretty much any foreigner, to be honest) working in the Philippine entertainment industry. especially Koreans like Sandara Park (who was so cute in a bunch of movies there before joining 2NE1) and more recently Ryan Bang (who had a hit song “I Leally Leally Like It.” yeah. spelled as pronounced. Then again fans kept him on one entertainment show long after he was originally supposed to exit.). K-pop and K-dramas are hugely popular in the Philippines too.
    Filipinos don’t hold modern Japanese accountable for what happened in WWII, so they get a similar treatment to Koreans and Southeast Asians. Thai actor Mario Maurer got a huge promotional blitz for appearing in one movie. The Philippines is thirsty for any type of positive recognition from abroad, and I think it stems from the Spanish and American colonial rule. Especially when those foreigners are lighter-skinned and/or from the Americas or the UK, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

    They do try to celebrate Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino) culture with things like the Mano Po series and Chinese New Year celebrations and half of the projects of actors like Kim Chiu and Xian Lim, but there are also stereotypes about “how they smell” and “how they keep all the money” (many of the top rich people in the Philippines are of Chinese descent).
    wow, representation always gets me rambling.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, wait. Hold it. Hailee Steinfield is a shade of Filipino? xD I didn’t know that! No wonder she does look a little bit Asian. I once grabbed a tweet that said that she looked a little bit like Aoi Yu! LOL

      I’ve also heard that Asians aren’t well represented on screen because there are fewer taking entertainment jobs, unlike scientific positions. I think there’s tons of Asians in Doctors, PhDs, research, etc. It doesn’t help when Hollywood releases a race-specific casting call – see: Minorities actors on the site.

      On the one side, it’s good that newer generations aren’t so hang up on the horrible Japanese actions in WWII because it lets the hatred dissipate. But then you think about how young people are actually unaware of ti all, and that is why they’re not hang up on it. It’s a double age sword. It’s a delicate issue in China too. A lot of Jdrama and J-idols are popular there, but there’s also a huge chunk that are very hardcore anti-Japan.

      What saddens me as a Peruvian-Chinese is that we’ve been reduced to Chinese food and Jackie Chan. When we celebrate Chinese Cultural Week, we eat Chinese food and they do Feng Shui lectures. That’s about it. Which I guess comes with the territory. Japan is reduced to Anime, Samurai, and Weird Japan.

  2. Hailee Steinfield is a mix of Euro-American and Filipina. Let me check what her official ancestry is…Jewish father and a Filipino grandfather on her mother’s side.

    Entertainment is not a financially stable industry, and while not always as strict as the stereotypes suggest, one could say that many Asian and other first-generation immigrant parents probably want their kids to have a reliable job to spare them some from some of the struggles the parents faced. This is an extreme generalization, of course, and the trend probably decreases with more generations.
    Yeah, those casting calls can be really restrictive, although sometimes some mixed faces slip through. They can also be categorized by whom the production think are “believable” in the role.

    The generation that lived during WWII in the Philippines varied in their opinions. I know some Filipino J-rock fans would get in trouble with their grandparents for liking Japanese things. My grandma was 12 during “the Japanese time” and she told me how they took over the town and forced everyone to live in the school. She snuck with her cousin to get better food for the seniors, which was dangerous because the soldiers, in her words, “would bayonet you in the streets!” but she didn’t hate any Japanese people after that. She said they’re different, “taller.” I think they do keep up the knowledge of history, though, with MacArthur’s “I shall return” and historical tourist spots. The biggest issue remaining from that era is that Filipino veterans of WWII are STILL trying to get the same amount of benefits that other WWII veterans received.

    The area in California I grew up in was so diverse and heavily Asian that everything got celebrated. So I’m really not sure how about Asian celebrations in the rest of the US.

    I just remembered an episode of Pushing Daisies had a Chinese-American character from the USA’s “Old South,” complete with a general Southern accent, though I can’t recall if he was part of the small but notable Chinese Cajun community.

    Aha I know where Filipinos are heavily represented on English-language TV- singing and dancing talent shows! Jessica Sanchez (Filipina/Mexican-American) and others get far in shows such as American idol. When I watched America’s Best Dance Crew, pretty much every winning team had at least one Filipino member. And then there’s also Charisse Pempengco, who got roles after her big breaks singing on Ellen and Oprah. I think Sanchez will appear on Glee, where Pempengco also had a recurring role.

    In your older post you mentioned Justin Lin saying something about how they couldn’t find an Asian-American for the lead. I was part of the camera crew for an interview he and actor Roger Fan did at our school, and Lin pretty much said that he goes with what the studios say for their projects so that they can have the funding and connections to try and get personal projects made.

    Jon Chu (the G.I. Joe and Step Up director) also did the odd dancing sci-fi fantasy Hulu series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, on which Harry Shum, Jr. apppeared. That show had some white leads but tended to cast a diverse cast based on dancing skills (rather than, ahem, acting ability). Yet aside from Byung-hun Lee playing Japanese, the G.I. Joe movie follows the the G.I. Joe franchise and others in casting so many white male ninja. I don’t know how much directors can say about casting calls in any particular movie.

    Please tell me I’m not the only one who grew up watching those white kid ninja movies like Surf Ninjas.
    oh gosh I am ending a comment with Surf Ninjas.

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