Too-da-loo Motha****aaaaaaaa

So now what?

Ono and Pham claim that we use “yellow peril discourse requiring emasculation as a way to cover over anxiety over power relations” and that “Asian and Asian American men as desexualized, hence as less powerful than and inferior to all other men” [1]. This idea is evident in Ken Jeong’s performance as Mr. Chow in The Hangover and Hangover 2. In both movies Jeong is the one in power and control over the “wolfpack”. In The Hangover, Chow allegedly has Doug (the friend that the wolfpack is looking for). In The Hangover 2, Chow has the codes they need to get back Teddy (again the friend that the wolfpack is looking for). Yet he appears weaker and less important because of his emasculation. Why? Just because he’s asian?! Additionally, Mr. Chow is in power as an “international criminal” (what he calls himself in the second movie). He portrays Feng’s Fu Manchu figure, or the evil mastermind [2]. He’s always one step ahead of the people he’s dealing with. Although this evil mastermind figure is from a long time ago, it has persisted and will continue to persist as Feng predicts [2]. Although Mr. Chow is obviously a man of power, his power is weakened by his effeminate and emasculated character.

Furthermore, the feminization of Asian and Asian American males “limit and constrain representations” of Asian American male subjectivity [3]. Ken Jeong epitomizes Eng’s argument when he dresses like a woman for Halloween. Even Bradley from Yankee Dawg You Die understands the oppression created by playing effeminate roles.

“They fucking cut off our balls and make us all houseboys on the evening soaps. “Get your very own, neutered, oriental houseboy!” (Bradley, Act 1, scene iii) [4]

So what does Ken Jeong think about this? It’s actually kind of contradictory.

In an interview with Marissa Lee, Jeong states:

 “I’m very proud to be an Asian American working in this business, and very proud of the Asian community. I am very honored to be working, as an Asian actor.” [5]

He infers that he is aware of the impact his roles as an Asian American actor have on the Asian community. This is similar to Bradley’s position on Asian American actors.

However, Jeong state in a different interview with Jen Yamato:

“People look for role models in minorities where role models don’t exist. I remember an interview on NPR with Denzel Washington…where Terry Gross had asked Denzel Washington, ‘Do you look for roles that are role models for the community?’ And he said, and this is Denzel Washington talking, the icon, ‘No! If I’m following what other people want me to do, I wouldn’t be doing my job as an artist, as an actor. That would be so boring.’ I’m very inspired by that.” [6]

Thus he says that he does the role he’s given regardless of how it portrays him and the Asian American community. Interestingly, this stance is similar to Vincent’s opinion on Asian American actors.

So which is right? We’ve just seen how Ken Jeong’s performances in film and television perpetuate the emasculated Asian and Asian American male figure. This is particularly seen in his portrayal of Mr. Leslie Chow in The Hangover and Hangover 2 and Senor Chang in Community. Asian American actors, such as Jeong, need to face this stereotype head on by choosing less feminine roles and begin choosing roles that produce a masculine and “normal” representation of Asians.

“I turned it down. I just could not do it. Not this time. It feels … it feels good. Almost. I turned it down to be in Emily Sakoda’s new film… And my role, it’s wonderful… I mean, it’s so damn exciting, Bradley. I had forgotten what it feels like. What it is supposed to feel like. Do you know what I mean?” (Vincent, Act 2, scene iv) [5]

[1] Ono, Kent; Pham, Vincent. “Problematic Representations of Asian American Gender and             Sexuality,” Asian Americans and the Media. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2009.

[2] Feng, Peter. “Introduction,” Screening Asian Americans. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

[3] Eng, David L. Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America. Durham, NC: Duke    University Press, 2001.

[4] Gotanda, Philip Kan. Yankee Dawg You Die. New York, NY: Helen Merrill Ltd., 1989.

[5] Lee, Marrisa. “Racebending Chats with the Cast of Community.” Racebending.com: Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality. 18 May 2012. Web. 4 June 2012.

[6] Yamato, Jen. “Ken Jeong on Hangover Spin-Offs, Confronting Stereotypes, and Going Full Frontal (Again).” Movie Line. 24 May 2011. Web. 4 June 2012.

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2 comments
  1. Love your comment at the top of thte page. Was looking for Ken Jeong articles for racism in Hollywood as well. Totally get the emasculating part and it seems in general that Hollywood often assumes by defult that minorities are hilarious by virtue of them just being a minority. The whole idea making men seem more feminine because that is meant to stand for weaker is just as offensive and perpetuates a misogynistic attitude, of course you didn’t create that,
    but it is good to note.

  2. Love your comment at the top of the page. Was looking for Ken Jeong articles for racism in Hollywood as well. Totally get the emasculating part and it seems in general that Hollywood often assumes by defult that minorities are hilarious by virtue of them just being a minority. The whole idea making men seem more feminine because that is meant to stand for weaker is just as offensive and perpetuates a misogynistic attitude, of course you didn’t create that,
    but it is good to note.

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