“Gay or Asian?” spread in Details Magazine

December 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm 1 comment

By Rebecca Potts-Dupre

In April of 2004, Details Magazine had an article entitled “Gay or Asian?” This article compared the physical features and dress of an Asian male to gay and Asian stereotypes still prevalent in today’s time. The article caused quite an uproar among the Asian American community and while the magazine claims they meant it as satire, one cannot help but be a little disturbed by the blatant stereotypes and, in many ways, derogatory comments being made about an Asian American male.

Details is a magazine geared towards men’s fashion. The magazine has a broad readership and often covers provocative and risky topics. Unfortunately this article was a part of a series and it was not the first of “Gay or…” articles. They had already produced other articles entitled “Gay or Jesus?” and “Gay or Latino?.”

The Asian American community did not take lightly to what they believed to be a “racist” article. While petitions were being sent around the west coast by the UCLA Asia Institute, protests were being held in front of the building of Details Magazine and even on Harvard campus. In class we have discussed the portrayal of Asian Americans in the media and I remembered seeing this post a while back, so I wanted to take a second look at it through what I have learned from class.

The first thing one notices is the title, “Gay or Asian?” Immediately I felt as though the article had taken an unnecessarily provocative tone to the article. To make such a definite parallel between the gay community and the Asian American community seemed offensive. While I understand the importance of catchy titles and I think this title certainly caught my eye, it is simply too offensive when alongside the rest of the article. The article then proceeds to analyze the fashion and physical features of the Asian American male model they have photographed, using stereotypical commentary centered on the Asian American and gay community. But they did not just use the stereotypes of Asian American men; they also used stereotypes that are specific to Asian culture, food, religion, etc.

While the article itself interested me at the start, when I began to notice the numerous responses to “Gay or Asian” I found a positive thing that came from it. The Asian American community rallied around this issue and was able to create a united front. While the article to me is highly offensive and improper, seeing the activism that came from it was very exciting. Historically the Asian American community has struggled with their identity and to have the opportunity to so forcefully speak out against this gross misrepresentation could have sparked a new wave of interest in how Asian Americans are portrayed in the media, who is deciding on their identity, and made them realize the importance of taking back control of their identity.

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