I definitely agree with JIMMY O.YANG on this. It is important to have Asian representation on screen, particularly in Hollywood, but we need all types of Asian representation, not just hunky Asians, but all types of Asians. We always see white people represented in all areas from hunks to non hunks, and this is why I agree with O.Yang’s sentiments that as Asians we also need the same diversity in representation. O.Yang mentioned this point in an interview he did with Huffington Post, citing his role in Silicon Valley as a heavy accented and awkward character Jian- Yang in comedy Silicon Valley as well as his new book titled “How To American”.
I wanted to get into the character of Jian-Yang. In the Asian-American community, he is divisive. Some, including one media watchdog, have labeled him a trope or a collection of stereotypes. Do you feel there’s any truth to that? Or do you think there’s much more to Jian-Yang?
Jian-Yang at the end of the day is a foreign guy like I was. First of all, I play the accent really real. A lot is taken from my mother, and a lot is taken from my uncles and relatives back home in Shanghai. It’s not just a shitty impression of a Cantonese Bruce Lee accent, it’s a very specific Mandarin accent. And then the character itself, maybe in the beginning when he only had a few words, few lines, [he was a trope], but I never tried to play him as a stereotype at all. This is me ― a lot of stuff was a parallel to my own life. Like on the first day of school, when I heard the pledge of allegiance and I just followed along because I didn’t know what was going on. Jian-Yang does that quite a bit … you’ve got to find the right motivation, the right parallels.
I think as the character develops, he becomes a much more three-dimensional character. Beyond just the accent, he’s just kinda an asshole now and he’s funny. … I get where [the criticism’s] coming from but is it warranted? I don’t know. For me, I always play these characters as if they’re just a version of myself 15 years ago.
Look, to be honest, when certain movies like “Ninja Assassin” came out, that had a sexy, sexy Asian man with a six-pack, that made some people think, “Maybe I should go out there and date an Asian dude.” And that did pretty good for us in a way of representation. But if you look at it, any TV show, let’s just talk about white people ― there’s a whole gamut of white people. … They’re all different people but when Thomas [Middleditch] is playing a nerdy character, does he take shit for it? No, because there are a million other white people who play good-looking characters or whatever.
I think people get sensitive, and I get it because there’s just not enough representation. So I somehow carry a lot of weight. I’m not a good-looking guy in general. What are you going to tell me? Don’t represent me on TV because I don’t look like Chow Young Fat? Like fuck you, dude! I’m just a quirky, funny dude. Are you saying a fat, geeky Asian dude can’t represent you on TV? Fuck you, that’s who he is, and he could be a good actor.
Really at the end of the day, certain movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” ― I think that’s gonna be huge because that’s the one movie that shows a whole gamut of people. Me and Ken [Jeong] are both in that movie and we’re really comfortable just being the funny guys. Then you have other people who play the good-looking guys. And you have tall, short, fat, whatever. We can just be ourselves.
I’d like to touch on masculinity. There’s a debate in the Asian-American community over whether Asian-American feminists are supporting Asian men enough? Do you think they are? Do you think that should even be part of their responsibility?
Go fuck whoever you want! I think everyone should support Asian men and men of all kinds. But is your preference white dudes because you grew up watching Brad Pitt? I can’t blame you, I grew up watching Jennifer Aniston, too.
Look, I think representation is extremely important but people have their preferences. You can’t tell someone, “You need to go date an Asian guy!!!” Go ahead, date whoever you want. At the end of the day, representation forms people’s opinions a lot of the time.
Girls had the pickings out there for Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Mark Wahlberg ― those guys spoke to them in their teenage years. We just don’t have that many choices for Asians. There just aren’t that many of us out there. Hopefully we can all kinda be part of that mainstream society and be part of people’s psyche coming up in the future.
In your time as an actor, has there been a shift in how people have seen Asian men?
Let’s talk about my life in general ― I swear ever since “Ninja Assassin” came out, I got laid a little more [laughs]. Seriously! That’s why i’m saying [representation] is super important. But I’m sorry if I’m not super fucking good looking!
Maybe kids growing up now, after they watch “Crazy Rich Asians”, they can say what I said ― I got laid so much more after “Crazy Rich Asians”! Or K-pop! These things that make Asians look good.
… At the end of the day, Ken Jeong, Bobby Lee, myself, we might not be the hunky dudes but I’d like to think that we help in that equation too by helping Asians be more normal on your TV screen and be funny. Once again, I apologize I’m not good looking. I apologize I look like a geek with glasses in real life. And I apologize to the people who say I’m making Asians look bad. But also, fuck ’em.
My 2 cents worth, there are things in the interview I agree with and things which I don’t. I agree that there is a negative representation of Asian masculinity within Hollywood and the Western media and a lot of it is emasculating Asian men. But O.Yang has a point in that it is awesome to see muscled up and hot Asian men, but it is also important to have all different types of Asian men. We as the Asian diaspora do not need to prove anything to anyone and we should have all different type of representations, not just of the hunks.
Images via Huffington Post
To read the original article, please click on: Jimmy O. Yang Of ‘Silicon Valley’: Asians Who Aren’t Hunks Need Screen Time, Too!