1882 – Chinese Exclusion Act
The Chinese Exclusion Act was intended to keep Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Americans were worried that the Chinese were taking jobs and taking white women. This initiated a barrier where Asian men are considered to be inferior since they excluded from coming to America and they have limited access to women. This act further perpetuated discrimination against Asians and remains a factor in today’s media portrayal of Asians.
1886 – Yellow Peril
The Yellow Peril stereotype became prominent in the late 19th century. It is a term used to describe the fear of Americans that Asians will infiltrate the Western world. Westerners feared that Asians will steal jobs and destroy Western ideals.
1930s to 1940s – Charlie Chan
Charlie Chan was a fictional character played by three White actors during the 1930s to the 1940s. Charlie Chan was a detective that had intelligence and wit which shed a good light on Asian-Americans. The bad attributes were slanted eyes, broken English, and Asian mannerisms. Charlie Chan was considered the “good” archetype of East Asians in the media. The white actors added make up to their skin to make it more Asian and added an accent. Charlie Chan’s emasculated and unassertive character made him a non-threatening figure.
1970s – Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee appeared in mainstream American media and redefined how Asians were seen. He was strong, good-looking, and beating up White characters in his movies. His kung fu made him exotic, dangerous, and menacing. He is one of the most influential martial artists in mainstream media and is a pop culture icon. Many Americans admired his abilities and heralded him as a star.
1970 – Visual Communications
Visual Communications is a Los-Angeles-based non-profit organization that provides media services to Asian-Pacific Americans on the West Coast. Rooted in the efforts of a group of film and media artists, VC promotes intercultural understanding through creation, presentation, and preservation of media works by and about Asian-Pacific Americans, representing more than 25 ethnic communities that speak over 30 different languages.
1972 – Jackie Chan
Jackie began his film career in 1972 in Bruce Lee’s films, Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. As a cultural icon, he has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jackie’s comical antics in his films has elevated him to be a lovable character in American media. Although he is not an Asian-American, he has had an enormous influence on the portrayals of Asian-Americans in the media.
1977 – Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Enacted
In 1977, the U.S. Congress designated May as a month to celebrate Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
1980 – Center for Asian American Media
Founded in 1980 in the San Francisco. CAAM has grown into the largest organization dedicated to the advancement of Asian Americans in independent media. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible.
1993 – The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club was notable for its cast of primarily Asian-American women. The film was well-received by the audience and praised by critics. Some critics, however, did not like the portrayal of Asian men in the movie. Only one of the Asian women had a relationship with an Asian man. It further perpetuated the stereotype of Asian males being emasculated and unable to be good partners in a relationship.
2012 – Ang Lee
Ang Lee is a Taiwanese-born American that is the first Asian to win the Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Director. He won the Like many Asian-Americans in the media industry, Ang struggled early in his career to gain acceptance. He has won the Academy Award for Best Director twice. First for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and most recently for Life of Pi (2012). Ang has proven that Asian-Americans can have a career in media through hard work in order to produce quality material for people to recognize.