Asian artists secured scant nominations for the Grammy Awards held in 2021; Parasite was the first and only non-English film to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2019; Gangnam Style was the first K-pop song to enter the Billboard Top 10 (peaking at number #2) in as late as 2012, there is blatant scarcity/ misrepresentation of Asian people in popular media. Prejudice against people of colour manifests itself in various forms around us. One of the strongest flagbearers of that prejudice happens to be entertainment and media. Asian entertainment contents such as K-pop, Anime, Mangas, Korean/ Japanese/ Chinese T.V. series, and movies have been enjoying soaring global popularity in the recent few years, which signifies an era of globalisation, an era where people open their minds to foreign cultures. However, elements of racism and hate for Asian people are easy to spot.

Xenophobia in entertainment and media is an essential topic to address because entertainment is a preeminent source of exposure to people of other races. According to psychological research, it plays an influential role in forming ideas and concepts about people. Therefore, the media must depict people of colour in a manner that does not harm their culture or wrongly represents their language and traditions.

Even within the entertainment industry, you can identify xenophobic acts in ranged spaces. The most common way is through lack of P.O.C. (people of colour) representation in television and film content. Most renowned television series and movies do not have main characters who represent non-white communities. The simplest examples would be Friends, How I Met Your Mother and The Office; none of these widely popular shows includes characters in the main cast who were Asian, Latin, or even Black. Sure, they did go on to include black and Asian characters as supporting roles, but in a country like America where non-white communities form 43% of the population, and black people form 14% of the population, isn't it only logical that at the very least 1 of 5 of the main cast is a non-white character? Yes, there has been improvement in this area in recent times, however, this growth has maintained a disturbingly slow pace.

Another way is the whitewashing of characters in movies and T.V. series, where a white actor/ actress plays a role that represents a P.O.C. community. Strong examples would be Emma Stone playing a Native American-Chinese character in the film Aloha, Jake Gyllenhaal, a Swedish/ Jewish actor playing the lead in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, or Johnny Depp playing a Native-American Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Guy Aoki, a Japanese-American civil rights activist expressed his grief over the situation in an interview with The Guardian; 

"It was very hurtful," says Guy Aoki. "The upshot of that is you are basically telling the audience 'Don't take Asian people seriously.'”

There is a need for Asian actors to play Asian roles, it gives them the right to tell their own stories from their own experiences. Asian actors should be cast in strong leading roles to break the typecast tradition that is attached to them.

Even if an Asian character is cast in leading roles, misrepresentation is something that is an issue. It happens typically when Asian characters are shown to have extreme accents; they are made to dress in a specific way or comedic gags based on the premise that a particular character is Asian. Apu from The Simpsons is a classic example of such misrepresentation. Apu, first appearing in 1990, is supposed to be an Indian character in the cartoon show, whom an American voice actor played. The character was under fire for many years for harnessing racial stereotypes and consequent incorrect depiction of Indian people until the voice actor finally stepped down from the show in 2020.

Continuing on misrepresentation of Indian people on American T.V., there is the strong case of Raj Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory. The show went on from 2007 to 2019 and enjoyed vast popularity in America as well as worldwide. The problems with the character cannot be criticised enough. Raj manifests extremist racial stereotypes such as him being the only character who cannot talk to women, constant jokes about poverty and overpopulation in India, him 'hating' Indian food and culture, and him being ignorant about his Hindu religion. Raj hating Indian culture could be interpreted as a way for the writers of the show to avoid researching about his Indian heritage and therefore misrepresenting it.

The music industry is also no stranger to the knavery of Xenophobia. As Korean-pop and Japanese-pop continue to gain worldwide acclamation, social-media hate for it rises as well. Though more and more people have hopped on the Korean-wave bandwagon, people who criticise it seem to do so on racist, xenophobic, and sexist premises. Cyberbullies on Twitter often take to expressing dislike for K-pop for racist reasons like making inappropriate comments about pinched eyes or their language or reasons like K-pop male artists having feminine characteristics, wearing makeup, or wearing female clothing. However, the latter only seems to hamper Asian artists, as other white or American artists who wear makeup or feminine clothing are praised for breaking toxic masculine stereotypes. Therefore, a plausible question arises, do these Twitter bullies have a problem with men wearing makeup or Asian men wearing makeup?

One might argue that Hollywood is an American industry and why should they be responsible for Asian representation at all. The truth is, whether Hollywood likes it or not, it has become a major entertainment centre across the globe. It is viewed not only in America but all around the globe. Moreover, it is sometimes the only exposure one might have to P.O.C. communities. Therefore, it is of importance that they are represented appropriately in popular media.

Representation of P.O.C. people in movies might not seem as dire a problem in the face of Asian hate crime spreading across America. However, entertainment and media have the soft power to change people's ideologies and mindsets. And it is time that entertainers realise this power and take responsibility for it.

The American industry's relationship with Xenophobia is in an ugly state. However, it is improving. With people becoming more aware and Asian content gaining popular acceptance, Asian representation might see a few sunny days in the future. 

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