Do you know kung-fu? -Racial Stereotypes

Being Chinese I recognize a lot of racial stereotypes the Western world have about Asian culture and their people.

As a child i’d often get the question “do you know kung fu?” This racial stereotype is an older portray of the Chinese but it is still very much around in media and advertisers to this to their advantage. The image created by the Kung Fu Asian is that of a crazy, angry and senseless, often brutal and violent Easterner. I guess this feds into the myth of the other and how there are good people and there are bad people in the world, and most often than not it is always the other that are bad, they are less civilized, less human. This is seen in Chinese culture also; in old war film the Westerners are portrayed as brutal animals that take what isn’t theirs, eg. a wealthy family’s beautiful daughter.

I would say that all cultures use racial stereotypes to create the ‘us’ and the ‘other.’ The consequences that come with these portrayal of other cultures is the impression that the people in the other culture are ALL like that, and if the racial stereotype is considered negative then the effects how we read and understand the ‘other’ when we see one. These racial stereotypes feed into what we are used to and effect what connotations or assumptions we have about someone.

So these are the racial stereotypes I can list at off the top of my head about Asian people. I probably noticed them because I am Chinese and grew up in Western culture so am able to see the contrast and stupidity of some of the stereotypes, but I personally think (having spoken to a lot of my non-asian friends about this) that if you weren’t a Chinese, you wouldn’t recognize these portrayals of race as a bit exaggerated or in some cases totally arbitrary, because it’s hard. Without experiencing the other culture first hand, its hard to know what stereotypes have some truth.

So here is the list:

Asians speak very poor English – connotations of stupidity are created here.

Asians have glasses and sit in front of the computer, study all day, and are really nerdy.

Asian women don’t have much sexuality. (And there are rarely many beautiful Asian women that are in lead roles in TV shows such as Gossip girl, 90210 etc)

Asians are loud and crazy.

and at the other end of the spectrum we have:

Asians are really good at kungfu and are very stern, cold blooded people- (the mean main child actor in the modern karate kid springs to mind)

Where are all the good looking, normal Asian people in film?? Also there are very little Asian men who are portrayed in a ‘manly’ way. You wouldn’t see an Asian man in an advertisement for the Marlborough man.

Also I remember having a discussion with my mum a few years back about the parts of China they used to film when talking about China in the news. Even though a particular news story had nothing to do with poverty or rural life (it was about pollution, I think this was around the time of the Beijing Olympics) they shot a very old man with two teeth left, sitting on a step outside what looked like the local food market. Even though Beijing is one of the most developed cities in China, they chose THAT scene, with that man. Not saying anything is wrong with the man, but back then, when China was still a rising country not quite on the world stage yet, I remember complaining that 3 News too often gave the wrong image of China, filming the poor parts and the older generation, which gave the impression that China was still an old country, undeveloped and poor, when in reality it was thriving and on its way to power.



  1. Pingback: Top 10 stereotypical things we hear at least more then once | mimitaboo
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