When someone in America describes another person as ‘Asian’, they usually specifically mean East Asian, whereas in Britain, ‘Asian’ often refers to South Asian countries, due to the high numbers of post-colonial immigration. Yes, yes we know Asia is so beautiful and rich in culture, the people are exotic and spiritual, however, Asia is also a continent with many, in fact, 48 countries, which all have their own different cultures, customs, languages, beliefs, religions, and identities.
Something most Asian countries have in common is their struggle with how they are presented and how well they are represented in Western media. Let’s take Edward Zo, an East-Asian-American actor / influencer, who auditioned for Death Note two years ago. With the release date of the movie coming up this summer, his story resurfaced, because he was told not to bother auditioning for Death Note, seeing as they were not looking for Asian actors to play the main character Light Yagami. And consider that Death Note, the manga series, has been widely celebrated and known to be about a Japanese man. Now take white actor Nat Wolff, place him into a role of an Asian character, and change the Japanese last name ‘Yagami’ to something more relatable, how about ‘Turner’?
And then there’s Kelly Marie Tran who not only landed the first major Asian female role in the Star Wars universe; standing next to fellow Star Wars actors Oscar Isaac and John Boyega, she is also the first Asian woman who is featured on the Vanity Fair cover. Ever. Sure, Lucy Liu was technically part of the cover in 2004, but she only made it to the third foldout page, which is a sad and lonely example of the only other time an Asian woman came close to the front cover.
East Asians specifically tremendously lack representation in Western media. Most of the time, they are not even made into a one-dimensional stereotypical caricature, which is the next best thing you could hope for, right after being utterly and completely removed from their own stories and drowned in white-washing bleach.