AA Male Portrayal in Romantic Comedies – Katie Eu (1/4)

December 16, 2019 at 8:27 pm 1 comment

This is post 1 of 4 in a series of posts about Asian American male portrayal in popular media, specifically romantic comedies, for my final. 

Interracial heterosexual relationships between Asian American women and non-Asian American males have steadily increased. Although culturally controversial, Asian Americans have the highest interracial heterosexual marriage percentage of all recorded marriages in the United States (Washington). This series of blog posts will evaluate how the media perception of Asian American men has negatively impacted their intimate relationships by portraying them as less sexually desirable. Although subjective, the negative portrayal of Asian American men in the media has led to a rise of interracial relationships between Asian American women and men of other races. To understand how the rise of interracial relationships was brought about, we must first understand what the media has stereotyped Asian Americans.

Asian American men have often been portrayed as flat, two dimensional asexual characters in blockbuster movies and television shows alike. They are often side roles in romantic comedies and have rarely been shown with onscreen romantic interests. This lack of desirability perpetrated by Hollywood is called “racial castration” and specifically touches on the aspect of race and sexuality in Asian Americans (Eng). Coined by David L. Eng, a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, ‘racial castration’ refers to the subjectivity of male sexuality in terms of their race; in effect, Asian American males are ‘castrated’ from any sexual desirability due to their race (Eng, 150). When analysing data from a popular online dating site Match.com, Tsunokai, McGrath, and Kavanagh concluded that “race is a potent factor in the perceptions of sexual desirability and attractiveness” (Tsunokai et al). Media portrayal has damaged our perception of Asian American men to the point where interracial relationships and romantic interests between white males and Asian women have become statistically significant. The increase of stereotypical portrayal of Asian American men on popular television and in blockbuster movies has paralleled a sharp increase in romantic relationships between white males and Asian American females and a lack of romantic interest in Asian American males. Although more research is required, social scientists and media scholars have concluded that media portrayal shapes adolescent perception of romance, which influences dating preferences in later years (Bogt et al).

The following blog posts will analyse cultivation theory and the psychological effect of media on our perceptions, as well as looking into specific films and television shows where the detrimental Asian American male representation is present. I will mainly be focusing on heterosexual relationships, as there is little research about the impact of Asian American male portrayal in queer relationships. I acknowledge that because this blog post is focusing on heterosexual relationships, it assumes heteronormativity and the impact of Asian American male representation only affects the views of Asian American woman on Asian American men. However, this is untrue. Unfortunately there is a lack of research on Asian American queer relationships to make four complete blog posts about the subject.


Bogt, Tom F. M. Ter, et al. “‘Shake It Baby, Shake It’: Media Preferences, Sexual Attitudes and Gender Stereotypes Among Adolescents.” Sex Roles, vol. 63, no. 11-12, 27 Aug. 2010, pp. 844–859., doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9815-1.

Eng, David L. Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America. Duke University Press, 2007.

Tsunokai, Glenn T., et al. “Online Dating Preferences of Asian Americans.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, vol. 31, no. 6, 2013, pp. 796–814., doi:10.1177/0265407513505925.

Washington, Myra. “Interracial Intimacy: Hegemonic Construction of Asian American and Black Relationships on TV Medical Dramas.” Howard Journal of Communications, vol. 23, no. 3, 20 July 2012, pp. 253–271., doi:10.1080/10646175.2012.695637.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

White Washing– Broken Blossoms to Avatar the Last Airbender (Alissa Final) AA Male Portrayal in Romantic Comedies – Katie Eu (2/4)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. asianamericansinmedia  |  December 24, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Actually, there is research and scholarship on media representations of queer asian men. For example, consider the work on Richard Fung and Nguyen Tan Hoang, which were discussed in our class.

    That said, I do like the nuance in your introduction. It is too simplistic to attribute relationship and dating patterns of any racial group to media representation alone. However, I also agree with your points regarding the media representation of Asian American men, and encourage you to ask: which media?

    Eng’s theory of racial castration is an interesting one. Be mindful to not take the idea of castration literally—Eng himself worked through psychoanalytic theory, in which the threat of castration is more psychological and physical. Could the common complaints of “emasculation” and “asexuality” in media representations of Asian American men be reworked via feminism and queer theory into positions of sexuality and desirability in which phallocentric assumptions are challenged? In other words, castration be damned?!

    Prof Ma


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