The math nerd, the sex-less science dork and the spelling bee winner all permit Asian-American men to find success in fields that benefit corporate America without encroaching on the ideal male prototype that is closely protected by white Americans. Think Ned Leeds, but never Spider-Man.
As Asian representation expands in the United States, from the decorated class commentary of Parasite, to the rising popularity of Asian-American music label 88rising, I want to take a critical look at what popular portrayals reveal about Asian-American-ness today. Modern depictions of Asian people in the media mostly aim to dismantle the “yellow peril” and “model minority” stereotypes that have defined Asian characters for so long – but how well do they succeed? Historically, the “yellow peril” framework paints Asians as unassimilable foreigners whose presence in America spells doom for the whole country. We’ve seen yellow peril make something of a comeback in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic — as actor John Cho so eloquently stated, “Coronavirus reminds Asians-Americans … that our belonging is conditional.”
On the flip side, Asian people that assimilate too well are deemed model minorities. White people use them as ammunition to blame other minorities for their race-centric problems, as if to say “if they can do it, why can’t you?”
In 1922, a Japanese man named Takao Ozawa, who was ineligible for U.S. citizenship by naturalization, tried to convince the Supreme Court that he should be classified as a “free white person” on account of his American upbringing, language, religion and cultural practices.
Honestly, it is a bit strange to me that my prototype of a human being looks nothing like me. This realization becomes even stranger when you consider that, according to population research conducted by The National Geographic, the world’s most typical human being is a Han Chinese man. It turns out that Simu Liu was onto something: Asians belong in stock photos, too. In fact, maybe we should start calling One Direction the “white BTS” … just a thought.
The date itself was great. As recent Ivy grads living in New York do, we met on Hinge, the millennial’s go-to catalog of both eligible and ineligible singles. The digital prelude consisted of playful digs atCornell and Columbia’s sports programs, obligatory “Fuck Trump” talk and our shared affection for the filmography of Marty Scorcese. After a few days of feigned interest in her gap year in Italy (“ugh im soo jealous – ive always heard naples is beautiful”) and mutual social media vetting, we agreed to meet at a ramen joint in the East Village.
She happened to live a few blocks away (what a convenient coincidence), so we went back to her place to smoke some medicinal reefer. And after a joint and nine minutes of Scorcese’s criminally underappreciated 2011 masterpiece Hugo, we found our way to her bedroom where, without too much detail (basically – me on top, her on top, me on top, sideways, me from the back, concluding with an unironic congratulatory high-five) and with the clarity of hindsight, I can confidently say we enjoyed one of the three greatest sexual experiences of my life.
Sweaty and spread-eagled on her bed, we passed each other a Menthol Juul, listening to Daniel Caesar’s romantic banalities humming in the background.
When Jin Kim and Jeesoo Lee opened Masita this past winter, they (like the rest of us) had no way of knowing what was right around the corner. The coronavirus hit restaurant owners incredibly hard, and many Ithaca businesses were forced to close their doors and regroup. Kim and Lee, having only been open for a month, were at a major disadvantage, as they lacked the dedicated fanbase of other established restaurants. Fortunately, Masita was not their first rodeo. Back in South Korea, the two women were longtime business partners and owned multiple successful restaurants together.
On Tuesday Oct. 1, Judge Burroughs ruled in favor of Harvard’s position in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College lawsuit, a ruling which has allowed Cornell’s Admission Officers to breathe easy for now.
Hakacha is an Asian fusion restaurant that has recently opened on 311 Third Street, near the DMV and across from Aldi. When I read ‘fusion’ online, I audibly groaned. When a casual dining restaurant claims to provide fusion cuisine, I’ve come to expect nonsensical combinations of foods from various regions, haphazardly slapped together on a board with little to no regard for actual gastronomical composition. Therefore, most of the time, ‘fusion’ food falls short of any claims to innovation. Nevertheless, my dedication to my fellow foodies is the reason why I decided to visit this place anyways.
When I was in elementary school, my mom tried to pack me Korean food for lunch. The ensuing judgemental glances and whispers about my “stinky food” in the cafeteria prompted me to march home and shut that down. From then on, I brought white lunches to school and ate Korean dinners at home. Growing up Asian in a primarily white town, I was surrounded by people whose understanding of my culture was limited to math, tiger parents and Kim Jong-il. In order to fit in, I suppressed the parts of my identity that made me different and I never really gave it much thought until joining a Facebook group called Subtle Asian Traits.