Back in action by Monica Chen

This is my second year in the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival class and as I was determining what to write for this blog post, I decided to look back on my first post from class last year. I did so in order to see if there are any changes to my perspective of this course and my experience with the film festival itself.

My first blog focused on Asian American representation in media, which is something I was, and continue, to be very passionate about. At the beginning of the 2016 spring semester, the #OscarsSoWhite was trending in response to the fact that none of the Oscar nominees that year were people of color. Even during the 2016 Oscars, however, when actresses and actors spoke up about the lack of diversity, Asian Americans were still the butt of the joke and Asian American representation was not addressed.

In my first post from last year, I talked about the “Bamboo Ceiling,” as Jane Hyun coined it, that limits Asian Americans in the professional sector and more recently in the media and Hollywood. This bamboo ceiling is still incredibly present, although we do see more and more Asian American actresses, actors, screenwriters, and producers actively defying it and speaking out against this discrimination. We can see some examples, such as Fresh Off the Boat, which was a popular topic last year and continues to make strides. Constance Wu, in particular, as a main actress in the show, is very vocal in interviews and on social media about the importance of not only Asian American representation in media, but also female representation, specifically for women of color. We also see actresses and actors like Karen Fukuhara, Ken Jeong, Steven Yeun, and Priyanka Chopra coming more into the spotlight and the public eye, as well as raising awareness about this lack of diversity and abundance of stereotypes and misrepresentations of cultures in Hollywood.

I continue to feel very strongly about Asian American representation in media, not only as someone who identifies as Asian American, specifically an Asian American woman, but also as a media consumer and someone who is interested in potentially becoming a media creator. As a writer, the importance of diversity of character and trueness to life is not lost on me. I think it is amazing for people to be able to read a book, watch a film, watch a TV show, or even just something as simple as see a commercial on TV or view an advertisement on a billboard and be able to see themselves represented. To see their cultures and heritages represented.

In my personal life, it is especially important as I think of my parents’ immigration history and my background being born and growing up in the United States that I can see myself and others who identify as Asian American to see ourselves in portrayals of what we look like or how we behave. As someone interested in entering the advertising and marketing fields, creating portrayals of individuals and groups that stray from stereotypes, as well as acknowledge and validate the lives and voices of many who have been silenced throughout history is extremely important to me.

This is why I am glad to have the opportunity to return to working with IPAAFF. It was a great success last year and I felt as though I learned a lot, not only about the historical context of Asians in America and how that has affected film and media portrayals, but also what steps can be taken on an individual, local, and even global level to start addressing these issues of representation. Being able to meet with writers, producers, and directors who are so outspoken in their advocacy and activism on this issue, as well as seeing work that speaks to a group often tossed aside by the model minority myth and boxed in by stereotypes and regulations was an incredible experience for me, and I look forward to what this semester holds.

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