Archive for December 11, 2015
Asian American Mentor Program (AAMP) presents Media is Not a Mirror (Third Blog Post – Edmund Pacleb)
I attended an event on campus called, “Media is Not a Mirror,” hosted by the Asian American Mentor Program (AAMP) at Pomona College. The event looked to address the questions: How has the representation of Asian Americans changed throughout history? Who is and isn’t being represented? How has the rise in popularity of Youtube and other forms of independent media influenced this? With the Asian American Film Festival just weeks ago, I thought it would be interesting to write my blog post about about an on campus event that centered on Asian Americans in media and the same types of themes that our own class was trying to address.Additionally, I thought it would be interesting to look at the success of their programming, as I know that was something that we struggled with throughout planning our own event, despite the differences in our audience and content.
Media is Not a Mirror allowed the audience to see a string a films and YouTube videos that showed just how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are portrayed in different forms of media. The event covered many of the themes that we have studied throughout this past semester. For example, they had reels of videos focusing on stereotypes such as the hypersexualized Asian female, the nerdy Asian male, and the martial arts master. It was interesting to see many of the things we talked about throughout the course of the semester and the wide variety of films these stereotypes are replicated in. It was even more interesting to hear about the wide variety of responses individuals had to these pervasive stereotypes. Responses ranged from anger to disgust to indifference. I believe that these difference of opinions stems from individuals’ different backgrounds and varying levels of politicization. Despite these differences, the audience clearly knew that these methods of representation if the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are problematic and that something needs to be done in order to create a more diverse and accurate representation. It was amazing to see so many individuals interested in learning about API issues and how the media perpetuates certain stereotypes.
In addition to the clips of films screened, perhaps my favorite component of this event was the photo campaign that went alongside the actual event. In the photo campaign, the organizers created posters of Asian and Pacific Islander actors with quotes about their experiences with race and the media. The photo campaign was quite powerful due to its widespread visibility on campus and the quality of the quotes that the organizers picked for each actor. For example, one poster of Dante Basco, an actor in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Hook, displayed his quote, “It’s illegal to hire or fire anybody because of their race, appearance, or sexual orientation, but in Hollywood…it’s the reason people will hire or not hire you… If I had to wait for a Filipino role to come out to get work, I wouldn’t eat. There are barely any roles out there.” Another poster of actor Kunal Nayyar reads, “Why can’t I play a David? Because my skin is brown, I have to play Raj? Why can’t I be the high school quarterback or the lawyer, rather than the geek or the doctor?” Release of the photos really helped bring to light many of the real life issues that Asian Pacific Islander actors face, and also generated interest and discussion prior to the event. It was so eye opening to see how actors are trying to change the way Asian Americans are represented in media, but also how limiting it is, as their livelihood is tied to their ability to receive roles, which is further tied to their ability to work under the current (although racist) system. Reading these quotes from Asian American and Pacific Islander actors really showed me how little the film industry has changed in the past 50 years. Yes, there may be more roles for API actors than there were 50 years ago, however the same racial undertones exist, thereby perpetuating the same racial stereotypes.
In terms of programming, the “Media is Not a Mirror,” event was extremely successful. I would say about 60-70 people came within the span of an hour and a half, which by Claremont College standards is extremely successful. The event organizers provided lunch for everyone who came, and thereby utilized the time when the majority of people eat lunch. I believe that this was a strategic move, in that people could simultaneously eat their food and attend the event, thereby allowing more people to attend. Additionally, by packing the event into a very short amount of time, there was very little time commitment for anyone who wanted to come. Finally, the added advertising of the photo campaign must have caught the attention of all the individuals who came through. While this program is very different from the film festival we produce in this class, I believe that in the future, we can utilize some of these aspects in order to create a more successful film festival. All in all, it was very great to see the issue of Asian Americans in media and further discussion media brought to light in the Claremont Colleges community.