Following an increase anti-Asian violence, Asian actors and scholars have begun a growing campaign to change improve their portrayal in movies and TV

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Following an increase anti-Asian violence, Asian actors and scholars have begun a growing campaign to change improve their portrayal in movies and TV.

Images from (from left) Madame Butterfly, Austin Powers, and The World of Suzie Wong are shown. Scholars say they are examples of negative representations of Asian women in the entertainment industry. (W. and D. Downey/Getty Images, New Line Cinema, Bert Cann/Paramount British Pictures)

 

Margaret Cho doesn’t go outside anymore.

While that sentence may seem unsurprising for life during a pandemic, Cho’s decision — and her fear — don’t stem from the virus. Or, at least, not directly.

“I don’t leave,” the longtime comedian and actor said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles. “I’m an older Asian-American woman. So this is like — all of the things that I’m seeing every day, it’s really us who are under attack.”

Cho was referring both to the recent shooting in Atlanta where eight people — including six Asian women — were killed, along with a recent surge of anti-Asian racism and violence. As a result, s says she weighs the risks of going out in public: asks herself if she’s willing to document any attack she might experience, whether she feels she would — or should — fight back.

“It’s a very real threat,” Cho said. “So it’s very strange to actually wonder, like, ‘Oh, it’s cloudy with a chance of racism.'”

 

 

After an increase of attacks on Asian people, there’s a growing campaign to change their portrayal in the media and more people in the entertainment industry are vocalizing frustrations about stereotypical depictions. 2:11Her fears aren’t isolated. In a recent Statistics Canada survey, Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian participants were the most likely groups to have experienced more incidents of harassment or attacks based on their race since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, an analysis by California State University’s Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism found hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose nearly 150 per cent in 2020, despite an overall decline in such crimes.

Indeed, all three women interviewed for this story expressed fear about going outside specifically because of rising attacks against Asian women. And all three pointed to a likely culprit.

“Invisibility is the problem,” Cho said.

She was referring to how Asian people, particularly Asian women, from pop culture. Instead, they are replaced with overly sexualized caricatures, she said.

 

Margaret Cho hosts the Closing Ceremony of WorldPride NYC 2019 at Times Square on June 30, 2019 in New York City. Cho says she no longer goes outside due to fears around rising anti-Asian violence. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

 

Cho says the lack of genuine depictions of Asian people in popular culture has contributed to the sexual objectification of Asian women, as for centuries “the characterization of Asian-ness has somehow been used as a form of dehumanization.”

That pattern, Cho and others have argued, has real-world implications. For example, the man accused of the shooting in Atlanta later told police the attack wasn’t a hate crime, but instead stemmed from his “sexual addiction.”

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