Too many times Asians are grouped together under one category and all too often in movies and tv shows, they are interchangeable. A Chinese can play a Korean, a Korean can play a Japanese.
Where else can you find leading Asian men who are not defined or stereotyped by their ethnicity? Where they can play the heroic, suave, strong romantic interest but they can also play a villain without ethnic prejudice?
For me, Korean dramas and all other Asian dramas fill this void of shows without leading desirable Asian men. Thank god for the internet and free streaming!
Asian women are the most sought after group on dating apps, where as Asian men are the least desirable.
Why is this the case
Reverse racism is a phenomenon in which discrimination, sometimes officially sanctioned, against a dominant or formerly dominant racial or other group representative of the majority in a particular society takes place, for a variety of reasons, often initially as an attempt at redressing past wrongs.
Has racism dissipated completely from our society, our screens, our countries that we can now focus so much on reverse racism? Or is it just white people crying out about the so called “discrimination” and “injustice” that they face?
The fact that there is still ongoing racism in every single industry sector begs the question- What is reverse racism?? How can there be reverse racism when the entire cast of a movie is white? How can there be reverse racism when innocent black people are being killed by police? How can there be reverse racism when we have yet to call racism a “past wrong”?
Jon Prasida is an up and coming Asian Australian actor who was born and raised in Sydney after his parents immigrated from Indonesia. He has been making great strides at both a local and international level and he will be continue to frequent Australian screens. If Jon has caught your attention and you would like to know more about him, below is a one-on-one interview with the talented actor.
What acting gigs have you had or any projects you are currently working on?
My first gig was a guest role on an ABC show called Hiding in 2015. Then my first main role was soon after, for ABC3’s Tomorrow When The War Began in 2016. Soon after that I was another main role in the film Emo the Musical which was released for the Melbourne International Film Festival and should be in cinemas to view by the start of 2017.
At what age did you decide to pursue an acting career?
When I was seventeen, I didn’t like the idea of academic study and didn’t know what to do. But luckily I was then asked to do an audition for a play and I got the role. I have loved it ever since!
What attracted you to the acting industry?
I think the ability to explore internally was a major part. Not to sound corny but I think empathy is one of the keys attributes towards peace and by being able to get inside the mind of someone and figure out why they do what they do, is exciting. It allows me to understand where they’re coming from and then to perform my rendition of that. That’s enjoyable to me.
Did your friends and family support your decision?
My sister became a DJ when she was 18. Mum and Dad weren’t too impressed but they supported her and rolled with it. So when I broke the news to them, they were already ready for the news that her son wanted to throw his life away. Jks, she’s cool with it but yeah I’m pretty sure she’s proud of it.
Have there been any obstacles and setbacks you have encountered during your experience?
Definitely! You will get people saying you can’t do something or like scoff in normal conversation when asking about “what do you do?”. They might not be blatantly rude but there’s a negative undertone. I’ve been fortunate not to come across many people like that and if I have they don’t stick around for long. There’s been a couple of cases within the actual industry but nothing noteworthy. Stuff that all actors go through.
Did you feel any of these obstacles and issues relate to racial or sexual discrimination?
I wouldn’t say they would. I think I have been fortunate not to experience any of that within the industry. I have heard of horror stories but everything I’ve experiences within the Australian industry in regards to professionalism and opportunity has been great, although it might be different for some other cases or maybe the older generation.
Which areas of the Australian acting industry do you think needs to be improved?
Having shows that represent the current times. Barring periodical pieces. I want to see shows with diversity. Shows that people from all sorts of different backgrounds can look up to and say “wow that person is interesting”. TV and film have a bigger impact on society than we care to think. What I love about the character lee in Tomorrow When The War Began is that he is from a Thai background and the invaders are a little ambiguous in country, but allude to them being somewhere from Asia. Kids who watch the show can easily see one of their heroes Lee, may look somewhat similar to the baddies but he’s one of us. This subtly teaches and ingrains in them that it doesn’t matter what colour you are or what you look like. For example in The Walking Dead, there is a diverse range of people to represent a ‘smaller version’ of America and the beauty of it is that their backgrounds are never the main point of their character. However, shows like Fresh of the Boat, The Family Law,or Here Comes The Habibs, I guess it is away to help tell the stories of those families to educate and shed some light in the lives of people of colour but also to say to another part of the audience that they are not alone.
What advice can you give young Australian actors that want to enter the acting industry?
Understand why you want to do it, cause it isn’t easy. Hard work does not necessarily pay off in this industry. Surround yourself with people who support you and those who want to criticise, understand where they may be coming from. If it doesn’t come from a space of love and growth then they are not going to be any use to you.
When we turn our TV on what do we see? Is it an accurate representation of the society we live in?
High chances that it is not.
Despite Asians making up nearly 8% of the population in Australia, this is not depicted on our screens, not through lack of talent but the under-representation of this community. The poor representation of the Asian community means they are omitting a large part of Australian history and society.
Even when they are portrayed, they are often cast in a negative light or to fill the diversity quota needed. This is quite common for Asian men to be stereotyped negatively from being cast as the nerd, the foreigner, the comedic relief, they are close to never portrayed as desirable particularly in the Australian Film Industry.
Even when they are portrayed in a normal or positive role, they no longer represent an Asian person. For example, Jordan Rodrigues of Malaysian decent, played Jai Fernandez on Home and Away as well as Christian Reed in Dance Academy. Both of these characters were not depicted as Asian. It is great seeing Asian faces on our screens but it is high time for the Australian audiences to see Asian men- their looks, personalities, culture as desirable.
Successful Asian actors in the film industry often have physical attributes deemed attractive in the western media such as a strong jaw line, double eyelids and tanned skin. By having more traditional looking Asian men the Australian audience are open to viewing Asian men as desirable.
Both Hollywood and the Australian Film Industry are fighting for the same cause; to increase the representation of people of colour in film. Australians and Americans are also pushing for a greater representation of Asian men portrayed as desirable. However, it looks like America is making greater strides in this cause than in Australia.
There are many more TV shows and movies that have leading Asians in America than in Australia. In more recent times, Asian visibility has been high in America with shows such as Fresh Off the Boat starring Constance Wu and Randall Park, The Mindy Project starring Mindy Kaling and Master of None starring Aziz Ansari, in which they both play the lead protagonist. However, what is most notable, is the increase of Asian men cast in romantic roles such as John Cho in Selfie and Ki Hong Lee in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Although John Cho and Ki Hong Lee have been successfully cast in their own right as leads in Harold and Kumar and Maze Runner, this is the first in which they are undeniably cast as the romantic interest. Not only do they get a girl in the show, they get THE girl.
Now when we take a look at the Australian Film Industry, there have not been as much awareness and opportunity of Asian men to stand out. However, this year The Family Law, an Australian comedy television series created by Benjamin Law has been released and tells the story of a real Asian family living in Australia providing the Australian audiences a small insight into what it is like to grow up Asian in Australia, something that has rarely been done on Australian TV. Although the show does not portray the character as desirable, by providing their story this opens up new avenues for other Asian Australians to enter the acting industry.
Ever since the gold rush, Chinese people were met with animosity and opposition due to anti-Chinese sentiment, which led to the formation of the White Australia policy. Now, if you came here just to look at photos of sexy Asian boys and you think this topic is too heavy to be discussing, think again, for the sake of more desirable Asian boys in Australian film.
If you look at the current soaps and dramas on our televisions such as Neighbours and Home and Away, you can see a blatant omission of Asians, let along desirable Asian men. This is also reflected in the movies we produce as well as the movies we watch. By under representing or just plain omitting Asians from Australian productions, in turn changes our history. These shows are a reflection of our society and by white washing our neighbours, shops, culture, we are omitting Asians from our history.
It is vital to have an accurate representation of Australian society to build a more inclusive and accepting society that not only invites differences but also celebrates it. By raising awareness, we are able to work towards this goal.
The blatant omission of desirable Asian actors in Australian film productions is an inextricable form of social discrimination.
Think about Crocodile Dundee, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Tomorrow When the War Began. Apart from being some of Australia’s top films, the underlying trend that can be observed in these movies is a white protagonist and a cast of predominantly white actors, in which all the leading male roles exhibit characteristics of manliness and desirability; strength, good looks, money and/ or personality. Although Australia is a multicultural nation, Australian films and television productions rarely depict this, and when Asian men are depicted in Australian films, the majority of these roles are secondary roles that have been negatively stereotyped, or portrayed as comedic and undesirable. Asian men who are born and bred in Australia have a dearth of positive Asian male role models to look up to in the media. With the lack of representation of desirable Asian men, audiences are given the impression that Asian men should be ashamed, and feel less worthy and less Australian than their white counterparts, who are inundated in the media. Throughout this campaign, we will be analysing Australian film and television productions to bring to light the omission of desirable Asian males in the Australian media sphere, introduce Asian actors that break the stereotypes that are perpetuated in these films and we welcome readers to share movies, tv shows and other film productions that perpetuate this or challenge this problem.