If you have stumbled across this blog you are most likely:
- Really bored
- Researching Ken Jeong, The Hangover (1 and/or 2), or Community
- My professor grading my final project
Either way, I hope that this blog will:
- Excite and interest you
- Inform you about Ken Jeong’s role as an Asian American actor
- Show off all that I’ve learned in my Asian American Pop Culture class
So what exactly is this blog about? Well let me now give you a little introduction…drum-roll please!
Laaaadies and gentlemen. In the first corner we have Bradley Yamashita, a young Asian American actor on the rise. He’s working his way to stardom, but how much is he willing to sacrifice to get there? He claims he will not “lose his dignity” or “prostitute his soul” for the sake of landing an acting gig. How long can he hold out? Aaaaand in this corner we have Vincent Chen, an older Asian American actor who has the experience and recognition to back up his history of acting. He played many roles including racist ones because he believes that’s “the responsibility of an actor”. How much longer can he take the humiliation? Will he change his ways to overcome his younger, more racially conscious competitor?
Okay, so obviously Bradley and Vincent aren’t really boxers. They are the two main characters in Yankee Dawg You Die, a play written by Philip Kan Gotanda. The play follows the two Asian American actors’ friendship, from when they first meet to when they explicitly portray how their unique friendship has changed them in the end. The two delve into the controversial topic of stereotypical Asian American characters and how these roles foster delusions of Asian American people in general.
“See, you think every time you do one of those demeaning roles, the only thing lost is your dignity. That the only person who has to pay is you. Don’t you see that every time you do that millions of people in movie theaters will see it? Believe it. Every time you do any old stereotypic role just to pay the bills, someone has to pay for it—and it ain’t you. No . It’s some Asian kid innocently walking home. “Hey, it’s a Chinaman gook!” … You ask to be understood, forgiven, but you refuse to change. You have no sense of social responsibility.” (Bradley, Act 1, scene iii) 
“Social responsibility” – that sure is a lot of pressure to put on one person…but Bradley is right. Every time someone sees an Asian American performing a stereotypical role in the media (movie, television show, interview, etc.) that act reinforces the long-held typecast that Asian Americans have been fighting to dispel for years.
That’s great, but what does this have to do with the blog? (I know you’re thinking it!) Surprisingly it has everything to do with this blog. If in the 80s, people were worried about how Asians and Asian Americans are portrayed through Asian American performers, are we still worried about that now? Should we be worried about that now? Whew…that’s a lot to examine at in one little blog. So in order to make this blog more succinct and defined, I will only be looking at only one stereotypical portrayal of Asian Americans. Even more specifically, this blog will analyze if and how one particular Asian American actor enables the idea of the Asian American emasculated male figure.
Do modern Asian and Asian American actors perpetuate or challenge this notion of the emasculated Asian figure in today’s pop culture?
Now think about an Asian American actor that you consider “hot” or popular right now. I bet most of you are thinking about Ken Jeong (if not simply because his name is in big bold letters at the top of the page). Jeong’s more popular roles include Senor Chang in Community and Mr. Chow in The Hangover and The Hangover Part 2. Obviously, I can’t analyze every role Jeong has ever played, but I will analyze (what I consider) his most popular roles.
Does Ken Jeong perpetuate, or does he challenge, the emasculated Asian male figure in modern pop culture?