Asian Americans in Social Media: From “KevJumba” to “RiceGum” – Hugo Anaya

November 23, 2019 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

In The Routledge Companion To Asian American Media chapter Asian American Gone Viral, author Lori Kido Lopez, examines the dichotomy of Asian American youtubers during the platform’s earlier stages and in more recent times. Lopez does so by looking at YouTube channels such as KevJumba and SuperBadFilm. In her analysis, the former, a Twainess Youtuber known for his comedic skits revolving around Asian stereotypes, used Youtube to focus on calling “attention to Asian Americans working in both mainstream and independent media” at a time when there were limited media outposts that Asian Americans could occupy. Whereas in the latter, Hmong Amercian college students, used their Youtube channel to express an enthusiastic emphasis on their Hmong identities and culture, a trait rarely done within mainstream Asian American media. As seen in her analysis, we are able to see a trajectory in the representation of Asian Americans in social media platforms.

After reading Lopez’s reading, I wanted to closely look at Asian American social media stars, more specifically the newer generation of Asian American YouTubers, to see how the foundation of the earlier stars in the platform has blazed a path that allow YouTubers, like RiceGum, to gain success. RiceGum, a YouTuber of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, is one of the platform’s biggest stars, amassing over 10 million subscribers on his channel where he does a variety of things from gaming, rapping, vlogging, and modeling. His success can be summed up by Pham, “because the bloggess are English speakers, they are familiarly and knowably Western. They are just racially exotic enough to have a wide market appeal – to Asian as well as to non-Asian English-speaking consumers and retailers – yet not so foregin that their racial difference disrupts the postracial fantasy of late capitalism”. From Pham’s analysis we can see that RiceGum’s success is due to his identity as an Asian American. He is racially ethnic enough to make stereotypically Asian jokes while also American enough to express those jokes in Western social media platforms like Vine and YouTube. In 2015, RiceGum “went viral” when he began a video series called These Kids Must Be Stopped. The video series’s success stemmed from poking fun at Asian American culture, RiceGum’s mom wanting him to become a doctor, and American culture, “ hitting the whip and nae nae” by traditionally uncoordinated dance groups. From here we are able to see that RiceGum’s ability to succeed in YouTube stems from past stars who open the gates for him. Channels like KevJumba created a space on the platform that brought light to the Asian Americans. Furthermore, channels like KevJumba fought for media representation so that channels like RiceGum wouldn’t need to focus on representational biasis, rather focus solely on his content. 

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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