No Shame(less)

 

 

Drugs, sex in the kitchen in front of the kids, 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor strewn across the house.

 

And don’t even get me started on the house…Broken tiles, a dilapidated porch that has been jerry-rigged back together with old two-by-fours, a fridge a that has a broken door, a leaking roof… This house isn’t the type of house you see in most American Television shows featuring a family. And the family in that house isn’t like most that you might see in an American Television show.

 

Shameless is a misnomer. The show centers around a dirt-poor, white family that lives in the Southside of Chicago. The family is composed of six children, a morbidly alcoholic father, and a drug-addict mother who is everything but present throughout the show. It is for lack of better terms, a broken home. And that is what makes the show so special.

 

What makes this show so much more different than most television shows that have a family as the main cast of characters? This family is dirty, poor, criminal, questionably unethical in many regards, and completely honest with each other. It’s an adventure.

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Throughout the series, we see the simple yet real struggles that the children deal with in order to survive in low class, urban America. Unlike television shows in the past like Leave it to Beaver (which showed the ideal upper middle class family that Americans should supposedly strive to be), Shameless shows the harsh realities and truths that face many Americans who live in poor communities.

Thesis

In my mind, Shameless creates an antithesis of the happy, white-picket fence family living in America. Shameless shows the everyday struggles of people in poor communities via the Gallagher family and thus paints a picture of the socioeconomic divide in America.

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Shameless doesn’t just create an artistic commentary about the socioeconomic divide in America. It more generally portrays the cultural differences between the rich and the poor. One example of this is how people in the Southside of Chicago react to finding out that Ian Gallagher is gay. When the father of Ian Gallagher’s partner discovers the homosexual relationship that his son and Ian Gallagher have, he beats the shit of Ian and his partner.

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Throughout the show, it is not uncommon for characters to make extremely offensive remarks towards Ian. Whether the remarks are said in jest or in an insulting manner, there is one thing for sure…there are a lot of homophobic remarks made. Like more than usual…even for a television show.

 

In my mind, the creators of this show are trying to accentuate the difference in the way that gays are treated, depending on the socioeconomic background of the community in which they are in.

 

 

There are a lot of differences in lives of people who live in wealthy, middle-class, poor, and poverty stricken communities in the United States. While Shameless goes about showing the development of different characters in the Gallagher family, it also shows the character development through situations that are specific to the contextual setting of the show: the poor side of Chicago.

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Teenage pregnancy, drug dealing to pay rent, DIY pornography, and employment at the local strip club are just a few of the many situations that different characters in the Gallagher family face. While many of the scenarios are dramatized (this is a TV series after all), there is a sense of realism in the show. Whenever I watch the show and witness all the craziness that takes place within the Gallagher household I thing to myself, “There are definitely families out there that are just like this one.” I don’t get that often from watching TV. This ain’t no leave it to beaver, and I love it.

 

Key Terms To Be Used

-Political Economy

-Signification/Semiology

-Cultural Pedagogy (In the context of lower income areas)

Methods

-Content Analysis of other Television Shows featuring a family as the main set of characters.

-Content Analysis of Shameless family

 

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Race and Pop Culture in American Film

 

 

“Dad’s outside passed out in the front yard again” Debbie chided nonchalantly. “Oh my God!” Fiona sighed, “Doesn’t he know that he can just crawl through the doggie door if the door is locked? Fucking alcoholic…”.

The Television Series Shameless is a special one. Traditionally, most Television shows that feature white families follow the American dream mentality.  The family works together and through a series of events, always seem to be progressing towards bigger and better things. High school graduations, College degrees, job opportunities, steady relationships…These are some of the common accomplishments we seen within American Television where a white family is featured. From American film, the white family is known to be a close knit, middle class family with the nice house and the white picket fence. Their struggles that they encounter in each episode seem to be “3rd world problems” or problems that are somewhat ephemeral. The Television Series known as Shameless tears down this common conception. A newer, more devilish and perhaps more realistic picture of the white, urban family is painted.

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Shameless is about a broken family in a poor, urban area in the Southside of Chicago. The shows is a drama as well as a comedy. While the show is littered with graphic violence and sexual promiscuity, these scenes often exist to paint a picture of the grittiness of life in the streets of Chicago. While the Television Series started airing back in 2011, it has since become extremely popular due to the featuring of its first 6 seasons on Netflix. Since the series has become available on Netflix it has quickly become one of the more popularly streamed television shows, and for good reason. This show is different. More than anything we see an unfamiliar family dynamic that is usually not portrayed in the media. The Gallagher is unlike almost any family that has been portrayed in American Television, and that in itself is an accomplishment. But more than being different, Shameless brings to light many of the unspoken situations that many Americans experience, especially in poorer, urban areas. To the modern middle class socialite, Shameless is an escape from the hum drum 9-5 struggle, showing the lives of those whom they probably only make contact with on the bus via nervous eye contact.

 

The Gallagher’s residence stands close to a railroad. The house is a dilapidated shack of sorts in the Southside of Chicago. Surrounded by a torn and tattered chain link fence which encloses a front yard littered with old toys and beer bottles, the scene is for lack of better terms, ghetto. The family is poor. The father is an alcoholic and the mother is a drug addict who is constantly gone from the house. One of the kids sells drugs to make money to pay rent. Let me remind you that this is a white family. In the past, media has been a bit stereotypical in the way that they display families according to their ethnic background.

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White families are often portrayed as being wealthier, and black families are often portrayed as being poor. Shameless goes against this narrative. Throughout the series, the audience is brought into every corner of the Gallagher household. Within the Gallagher house, each family member has different struggles that they face throughout the show. Many of these struggles go back to the fact that the Gallaghers are strapped for cash. Ian Gallagher becomes a stripper at a gay night club, Carl deals dope at the age of 14, Frank tries to collect government checks by staging injuries, and Fiona really just tries to find any honest way to make a dollar or two while acting as the matriarch of the bustling Gallagher household.

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In media studies, there has always been the discourse between whether the media affects the culture, or the culture affects the media. In the scope of income across different demographics, this is an interesting topic. As has been said before, black families in the media have more often been shown as financially unstable in comparison to white families. Is this because there is a higher percentage of financially strapped black families within the black community? Is this a true statistic? Or is this simply a narrative that is encouraged through the media. If it is, Shameless definitely goes against the flow of stereotypical portrayals of white families, as well as black families.

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The neighborhood that the Gallaghers live in is quite poor, as well as urban. Stereotypically, the media usually shows minorities of color in poor, urban areas. In Shameless we see that a huge majorities of the people within the Gallaghers neighborhood are actually white. In this case, we see an example of the intersectionality of race, income, and culture which effects the Gallaghers.

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Another subtle yet powerful idea that Shameless brings up is the role that heritage plays in the generational financial struggles that effect families across different demographics. Specifically, for the Gallaghers, Frank Gallagher, who is the father of the whole Gallagher family, brings up brief memories and anecdotes from his childhood. Many of these memories include physical abuse from his father, alcoholism at a young age, and rampant sexual deviancy. Much of the time he ties this back to his Irish heritage. In my mind, this is an example of using racial culture to influence one’s behavior. We have all heard stereotypes about Irish people being thrown around. They are commonly associated with wild, brash behavior, alcoholism, and a religious affinity for having large amounts of children due to their Catholic background. While Frank Gallagher definitely lines up with this list of stereotypes, we see some of the negative outcomes this has for him, and for other in the show. From my experience, there are many movies and television shows that center around the idea of showing the strife and struggles that societally affect a black man in a black community. Shameless seems to take a different scope, focusing on the various societal struggles that poor white communities face, especially in urban areas.

Method

Within Shameless, I am interested in looking at the different ways in which sexuality, gender, race, and class are portrayed. More specifically, I am interested in looking at ways in which Shameless goes against the normative views that many of us often see portrayed in American Television in terms of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

 

Positionally

I am David Gapp. I am a 22 year old, heterosexual male studying Journalism at the University of Minnesota. I was born and raised in Minnesota and have lived in Minnesota my whole life. I grew up in a southern suburb of Minneapolis called Burnsville. While growing up in Burnsville, I attended Trinity School at River Ridge. At Trinity I was taught in a classical curriculum setting. Philosophy, the humanities, and the study of the Latin language were a few of the regimens I experienced during high school that changed the way that I thought. While I can say that the studying was difficult, it was good for me and it expanded my perspective.

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As a student in Journalism, perspective is an especially important aspect of communication. Not only writing from different perspectives, but also taking others experiences into account when I am gaining information is part of what makes a Journalist a professional. As a student in Journalism, I take pride in trying to understand people from all demographics and backgrounds, no matter how different they may be from mine. I understand that much of who I am today comes down to where I was raised, who raised me, when I was raised, what I was taught, and why I was taught certain things. Us humans are so malleable in the way that we form who we are and it is often easy for us to forget that. It is especially important to keep this in mind when we encounter others who have experiences and thus ideas that are different from our own.

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I chose the television show Shameless for a variety of reasons. First of all, the direct narrative of the story is exceptionally interesting. Essentially a family is trying to function while the parents of the family are simply biological and have little to no responsibilities involving the wellbeing of their offspring. Secondly while watching the Television show myself, I realized just how non-stereotypical the portrayals of a wide variety of characters across different demographics actually were. When I find a media outlet that puts out original content that is interesting and well put together, I will become an audience member. Shameless is no exception to this. Finally, the amount of potential conversations involving the intersectionality or race, gender, sex, and class in this show are enormous.

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Beamer, Benz or Bentley…my pockets always empty.

 

“Ummmm, no. I don’t drive BMW’s. Those are for over pretentious, wannabes. Get me an Audi or something”, the Brazilian businessman told me. I grinned. I heard comments like this at work all the time. I work at Enterprise, a car rental company. Since I work at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport branch, I have dealt with literally thousands of customers, all from different places, and professions. When it comes to products, especially cars, brand perception plays a huge role.

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Cars, like many other products being sold in society have a social currency. If you own a certain product, it says something about you as a person whether you like it to or not. You get stereotyped based on the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and even the type of phone you have. In a sense, products now a days have immense power. But they have immense power because we let them. It all comes down to advertising.

After World War I, the United States experienced a state of exponential economic growth. The war had created an efficient, industrial production scene that America had never experienced before. Because of this, there was a sudden ability to produce an exorbitant number of goods from raw material.

 

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Since so many goods were being created, there was an excess which lead to the need to try to sell the products and “get them off the shelf.” Products needed to be shown as not only having a use and a purpose, but as having a way of fulfilling one’s life emotionally. There was a push towards the idea that products make you happy. Because who doesn’t want happiness?71ff14e015394c33f54ad891890de2ef

Because of the field I work in, which is cars, I found that the auto industry carries an immense amount of social currency. As said before, social currency is the amount of value that a product gives you in terms of raising your perceived social class. Because of this, we see them advertised about often, and in a variety of different ways.

 

We all want happiness. And we all want that shiny new Mercedes. We don’t want the Mercedes just because it’s a nice car, but because of the things that that Mercedes will bring to us. For men, car ads often feature supermodels paying attention to men driving by in nice cars. Or the woman is in the car with the man while he is driving it, implying that she is his girlfriend, wife or partner.

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Having a nice car is a way of showing yourself as being powerful in the stereotypical western masculine context. If you’ve got a nice car, you make good money. If you make good money you are good at your job. You are good at your job because you are confident in your abilities. Your confidence carries over to your ability to charm beautiful women. YOU ARE A MAN. Or something like that. I mean just look at the face on the dude below…He’s living the life….right?

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While some ads simply hint at the sexual promises and attention you will get because of your car, other directly make it a claim. One Mercedes Benz advertisement campaign that aired in the 2013 Super bowl made this claim. The link is below. It features the guy in the picture above that is LIVING THE LIFE.

 

Well….if you watched the video above then I guess you solved the world’s most sought after question: what makes you happy. Apparently if you have a Mercedes Benz, your greatest hopes and desires will be reached. One of the most common goals that car commercials show is how a man reaches his potential. Attaining beautiful women is often a shown as the apex of living the good life.download-5But women aren’t always used as the prize to gain from buying a car. Oftentimes cars are anthropomorphized as women, like in this Fiat commercial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrdKr-p3fWc

Irregardless of your viewpoint on luxury items, luxury products are all built into the idea of class. If someone were to receive a promotion at work, they might feel tempted to get that Rolex watch, that Audi car, that Louis Vuitton purse, wallet ect. It’s a way of raising our perceived social class. We perceive social classes largely because of the brands and the way they promote themselves. Luxury brands create a perceived social class largely because of the way they have marketed and branded themselves.

Journalism: The Great Divide

“Oh boy….remember the good ol’ days when George Bush was president?”. You’ve probably haven’t ever heard that thought spoken and I don’t blame you. I mean, George Bush was….George Bush. But with our current political situation, you might just hear someone say that very phrase. You may even hear them talk about “fake news”. Oh fake news, you little wretch….poking your way into every conversation these days that even has a hint of a political context to it….fuck you, fake news. Fuck. You.

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No but really, what is this fake news that we have all been hearing so much about. It seems like its almost a buzzword that mostly conservatives use to try to discount any statement of facts that reflect negatively on their political party. Just imagine if they could have used the “fake news excuse” when they were children.

Mother- “Johnney! Your principal called and told me you cheated on your math test!”

Johnney-“Mom, its just fake news.”

Mother- **eyebrow raise

Johnney- “He’s a Democrat.”

Mother- “OHHH, okay. So that means that everything he is saying should be discounted as over sensitive, non-logical hogwash since it doesn’t apply directly to western/christian thought!!”

Okay, so maybe that was a little over the edge…. but still, you get the point. At this point in time in American society and politics, things are getting pretty dicey in terms of political division. If a Democrat and a Republican end up having an attempt at a political dialogue it usually ends up with the two making equally valid points which then frustrate the other. This then leads to the Democrat calling the Republican a bigot or a homophobe and the Republican telling the Democrat that his or her logic is based off of fake news.

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Both are usually wrong. The majority of people aren’t bigoted or homophobic. And the majority of news sources that are mass mediated throughout the United States are not fake. While news sources like Fox News and MSNBC tend to slant stories to the right and the left of the political spectrum respectively, they don’t provide fake information. And while they both may feature certain types of stories more often to create social chatter about a topic, that doesn’t change the fact that they are still telling a story that was authored by a professional journalist. Its not fake.

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Its when news sources involve non professional journalist sources when you start to get into the fake news sectors. The integrity of a Journalist is debatably their most important professional quality. A large part of integrity includes credibility.

 

Currently, there has been a growth in the amount of different news sources. While the top news sources remain, there are more options. This is due to the fact that anyone with a computer and an internet connection can spread their thoughts to the rest of the world. We now live in a day where news and journalism is changing. And perhaps for the worse. Satire, trolling, and name-calling have become an integral part of some news sources from the alt-left and alt-right. Thousands of fake news sites exist but many aren’t too popular. While many fake news sites are recognized as being illegitimate, its sometimes more important just to know from the get-go which websites have been a source of fake news. Here is a list of sites that have been accused of

Buzzfeed is largely watched by people of the left whereas Breitbart is largely watched by those of the right. What especially strikes me as interesting is just how much Buzzfeed has increased its political content in the past year or so. Because of this, they have become much more of a “news” website to people of the alt-left. This is dangerous since Buzzfeed is a company that isn’t based on journalism but is more towards entertainment. People are entertained when they hear what they want to hear. Unfortunately, people don’t always want to hear the truth.buzzfeed-logo

 

When it comes to my own political decisions, I try to maintain both sides of the argument (The Liberal side and the Conservative side) in order to convene at a midpoint.  I believe a moderate approach is the best way at reaching a truthful solution. Unfortunately, going to extremes can be easy. It’s easy to engage in a group think mentality and surround yourself with other people who have similar thoughts or belief systems. We see this coming to fruition with the lately rabid following of Milo Yiannopoulis by the conservative side and the Liberal-biased new sources such as Buzzfeed that is lauded as true and valid news by many a leftist. Nevertheless unchallenged belief is weak belief. That is why discourse and dialogue are so crucial to reaching a solid understanding of any topic. The ancient greek philosopher Aristotle brings up this idea multiple times. Discourse is part of politics and is crucial to democracy. Politics should be about a negotiation between people from different views and beliefs to reach the decision that is best for everyone in society

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When it comes down to it, I see the news media as being a reflection of reality. It is not a reality in itself. News media takes stories that are salient and relevant at the time and frames them in a way that will gain approval.

Currently in America, the divide between Republicans and Democrats feels greater than it ever has before. Accordingly, news media has reflected this. While Fox News spreads coverage about President Donald Trump and all the work he is accomplishing, CNN insinuates his impeachment. Even our main sources of news have ended up being more extreme in their political bias. With the amount of fake news that is available and being created by any Tom, Dick, or Harry, our system of communication in the United States has become all the more murky.

Regardless of political party, there will be bias involved in communication. There will be dishonesty involved in communication. Mass Media is no exception to this .

The Yellow Sheep in Hollywood

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“And what qualifies you for this position?” asked the interviewer. I responded. “Well, I have a few talents. Big team player, great communicator…but I am just really good at watching Netflix. I’m so good at things.”

Joking…..I know that watching Netflix doesn’t involve skills but whatever…I like to think that when I have finished binge watching 5 episodes of Shameless in a row and am trying to justify my lack of productivity.

No matter how long I watch a show, I can always seem to find a way to justify it. I either had a long day at work, am feeling tired or sick, or I just finished a test that I had studied hard for….I can easily make up excuses for my excessive Netflix habit. But theres one thing that I can’t make an excuse for…and thats the passive racism contained in almost every TV show series or movie that I watch.

 

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Ok, so maybe I need to take a step back and explain myself. The statement, “Theres racism in Hollywood” seems a bit strange, right? Isn’t Hollywood one of the most progressively minded areas in the United States? On paper, yes.  But if you take a deeper looking into the film industry, this is simply not the case. Just look at any major television show or movie that comes out of Hollywood. The main character is almost always the same. The main character is white.

Finding the truth

As a student studying Journalism, I am extremely interested in finding the truth. I want to make ideas heard. As a white male myself, I never really noticed how the majority of main characters are….. well….white males, just like me! Additionally, I think that the fact that white males and white people in general have dominated the film industry in the United States has conditioned many people to believe that it is the norm. It shouldn’t be.

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Movies aren’t real, right?

We all remember being little kids and watching our first horror movie only to run to the mom-jean clad legs of our mothers and hear from them that “movies aren’t real”. Indeed they aren’t. Movies do not reflect reality, and the representation of race is no exception.

The last 3 films I have watched were on Netflix. They were the television shows “Shameless”, “New Girl”, and the movie “Bad Boys 2”. None had Asian characters.

 

While Bad Boys 2 has two main characters played by black actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and New Girl has a black side-character…none of them even have a person of Asian decent in the movie. Like…there aren’t ANY characters that are Asian. Its just weird and strange.

And if there are Asians in a given movie, its nothing exciting or new. They’re either a nerd, a boring extra, or they’re an old businessman from Japan. They are just a stereotype thrown into a production for the audiences’ entertainment.

 

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When I can actually think of movies where there is an Asian as the main character, the only movies that I can think of are the Jackie Chan series…and all these movies are tied closely to martial arts. Its almost as if Asian culture is valued solely for its fighting.

Because Asian characters are so often just used as props for martial arts, they usually have little to no character development.There is no sense of depth to the character. Again, simply look at a movie with Jackie Chan in it. Sure he might play different roles in various movies, but he is more or less the same character. His personality is not shown.

 

nerd

The Cultural Effect

The effects of seeing Asian actors in stereotypical roles with little to no character development undoubtedly causes American society to view Asians in a very shallow way. They are seen as quiet, distant, and kinda awkward. I wouldn’t be surprised if this may have negative effects on how Asian Americans view themselves in the scope of their ethnicity. When they were growing up, why did none of the superheroes look like them? Why were they always wearing glasses? Why were the only athletic Asian characters explicitly martial arts gurus?

 

The list could go on…I will leave it at that…For now.

 

 

The Yellow Sheep in Hollywood

binge

“And what qualifies you for this position?” asked the interviewer. I responded. “Well, I have a few talents. Big team player, great communicator…but I am just really good at watching Netflix. I’m so good at things.”

Joking…..I know that watching Netflix doesn’t involve skills but whatever…I like to think that when I have finished binge watching 5 episodes of Shameless in a row and am trying to justify my lack of productivity.

No matter how long I watch a show, I can always seem to find a way to justify it. I either had a long day at work, am feeling tired or sick, or I just finished a test that I had studied hard for….I can easily make up excuses for my excessive Netflix habit. But theres one thing that I can’t make an excuse for…and thats the passive racism contained in almost every TV show series or movie that I watch.

 

actors-who-make-good-movies-u1

 

Ok, so maybe I need to take a step back and explain myself. The statement, “Theres racism in Hollywood” seems a bit strange, right? Isn’t Hollywood one of the most progressively minded areas in the United States? On paper, yes.  But if you take a deeper looking into the film industry, this is simply not the case. Just look at any major television show or movie that comes out of Hollywood. The main character is almost always the same. The main character is white.

Finding the truth

As a student studying Journalism, I am extremely interested in finding the truth. I want to make ideas heard. As a white male myself, I never really noticed how the majority of main characters are….. well….white males, just like me! Additionally, I think that the fact that white males and white people in general have dominated the film industry in the United States has conditioned many people to believe that it is the norm. It shouldn’t be.

actors-drunk-at-work-emgn-3

 

Movies aren’t real, right?

We all remember being little kids and watching our first horror movie only to run to the mom-jean clad legs of our mothers and hear from them that “movies aren’t real”. Indeed they aren’t. Movies do not reflect reality, and the representation of race is no exception.

The last 3 films I have watched were on Netflix. They were the television shows “Shameless”, “New Girl”, and the movie “Bad Boys 2”. None had Asian characters.

 

While Bad Boys 2 has two main characters played by black actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and New Girl has a black side-character…none of them even have a person of Asian decent in the movie. Like…there aren’t ANY characters that are Asian. Its just weird and strange.

And if there are Asians in a given movie, its nothing exciting or new. They’re either a nerd, a boring extra, or they’re an old businessman from Japan. They are just a stereotype thrown into a production for the audiences’ entertainment.

 

hqdefault

 

When I can actually think of movies where there is an Asian as the main character, the only movies that I can think of are the Jackie Chan series…and all these movies are tied closely to martial arts. Its almost as if Asian culture is valued solely for its fighting.

Because Asian characters are so often just used as props for martial arts, they usually have little to no character development.There is no sense of depth to the character. Again, simply look at a movie with Jackie Chan in it. Sure he might play different roles in various movies, but he is more or less the same character. His personality is not shown.

 

nerd

The Cultural Effect

The effects of seeing Asian actors in stereotypical roles with little to no character development undoubtedly causes American society to view Asians in a very shallow way. They are seen as quiet, distant, and kinda awkward. I wouldn’t be surprised if this may have negative effects on how Asian Americans view themselves in the scope of their ethnicity. When they were growing up, why did none of the superheroes look like them? Why were they always wearing glasses? Why were the only athletic Asian characters explicitly martial arts gurus?

 

The list could go on…I will leave it at that…For now.