Third Blog Post: AA Representation in Animation and TV Shows – Maddie Kwun

December 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

Recently over the break, I read an article my cousin wrote about typecasting in animation. She has starred in a few TV shows such as “Phineas and Ferb” and “Sofia the First.” She explained that in the past, she had auditioned for many parts but felt that because she is an Asian American she was at an automatic disadvantage, especially in the animation world. 

Many large production companies do not have diverse casts in their animation departments, for example, in her op-ed, she cites the Netflix Original “BoJack Horseman” cast Alison Brie as Diane Ngyuen, a Vietnamese writer. You often don’t see Asian Americans voicing the role of white characters in animation, but people of color are often voiced by white people, and no one says anything about it. 

Why has our society let this happen? I think this topic is relevant today because allowing for someone of another culture to voice a role that they can’t relate to doesn’t seem fair. 

After I started to think about the lack of Asian American representation in animated TV shows that I watched as a kid, I also understood that there were not many Asian American characters in the TV shows I watched growing up. When I was much younger, I watched “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “The Suite Life on Deck” because I saw Brenda Song, an Asian American, as one of the only role models I could look up to. She is one of the only characters in the show that “looked” like me. However, even though she was fighting for Asian American representation, her role as London Tipton negatively affected the Asian American community because her role shed such a negative light. 

I wanted to be like her because she was the only Asian American celebrity that all the kids in my class also knew. I encountered a rude awakening when my father started to notice how I was acting. I tried to mirror my mannerisms off of hers, I wanted to be sassy and play down my intelligence because it looked like she did that on the show.

In high school, I watched “Fresh off the Boat” a TV show about Taiwanese immigrants in Florida. I thought the TV show was so funny and my whole family enjoyed it because we related to it on another level. However, for the non-Asian audience watching the show, I quickly realized they are seeing these exaggerated stereotypes in the media. I wondered how this would affect the view of Asian Americans from outsiders watching the TV show. Not every Asian kid’s mom forces her child to play the violin or to study all the time. Growing up, I had a very different experience than what is portrayed in the TV show and I think that it is important to acknowledge that difference. 

I think TV programs have shown the importance of storytelling. It isn’t always appropriate to exaggerate a minority group’s stereotypes because it gives off the impression that it is okay to use them. I think the lack of Asian American representation in animation is a topic that is often overlooked because you can’t see the face of the person voicing the character. So why aren’t Asian Americans voicing more characters? Personally, I always assumed that characters were more accurately represented since Ming Na Wen voiced the role of Mulan in 1998.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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