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Discussions with Damaris

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  • Damaris Chanza

Asians and Pacific Islanders in Media

Updated: May 27, 2022

May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, making it the best time to learn more about Asian and Pacific Islander representation in media.

Unfortunately, I don't know many people of Asian or Pacific Island descent. Just because I don't personally know anyone doesn't mean I can't learn more about their culture, heritage, and contributions to media. In celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I want to share some resources I use to educate myself.

I want to acknowledge that I am not an expert; I'm barely a novice in this community. I don't want to speak for any other race or culture and have no intention of offending anyone. I aim to find resources to educate myself and others to spread understanding and acceptance for the community. I believe that through education, representation, and acceptance of different people and communities, we can stop hate and spread love.

With the rise of the pandemic, Asian Americans were experiencing a substantial amount of hate. Admittedly, I was initially somewhat ignorant of the level of hatred they were experiencing until I read about the attacks in New York. I was beginning to understand the gravity of the situation but attributed it to widespread, not targeted, racism. Eugene Lee Yang of the Try Guys released a video entitled 'We Need to Talk about Anti-Asian Hate' on YouTube, which I found very helpful and informational. I highly suggest everyone watch it and listen closely to everything Eugene and his friends say.

I dislike trauma porn because I feel reducing an entire community down to their struggles for acceptance erases all the beautiful things their people and culture have to offer. Because of this, I want to highlight some accomplishments and overall interesting things completed by Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Xian Jay Zhao

Xian penned the book Iron Widow which I am yet to read. I mainly know her as a YouTuber who uses her platform to present media analysis of Asian representation and educate her audience on Chinese history. She does this with fun and comedic commentary while still being very informative. One of her most significant projects on YouTube has been an in-depth analysis of Disney's Raya and The Last Dragon, including fellow creators from different perspectives.

Ted Ngoy

Better known as "Uncle Ted" or The Donut King, Ted was a Cambodian refugee who found success in America by creating a chain of donut shops in California so plentiful that it halted Dunkin Donuts' plans of entering that market. He did this while helping other refugees find success in America. Learn more about Ted Ngoy by streaming The Donut King on Hulu.

Dwayne' The Rock' Johnson

Dwayne has been in the spotlight for many years as a football player, wrestler, and actor. One of his most recent projects is a TV show playing on NBC and streaming on Hulu named Young Rock.

Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia first reached mainstream stardom as a lead actress in the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark. Now, she is best known for her debut album Sour, with its hit single Driver’s License topping the Billboard Top 100 list. Olivia continues to work with Disney on the Disney+ original show High School Musical: The Musical.

Sandra Oh

Sandra has had minor roles in The Princess Diaries, The Proud Family, American Dragon: Jake Long, etc. However, she is best known for her role as Cristina Yang in Grey's Anatomy. After exiting Grey's Anatomy, she starred in Killing Eve as Eve Polastri. She also hosted the Golden Globes in 2018.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy is an actress, director, producer, writer, and comedian. She first gained recognition for her role as Kelly in The Office. She created, wrote, produced, and starred in shows like The Mindy Project, Champions, and Never Have I Ever.

Domee Shi

Domee started at Pixar as a storyboard artist, working on films like Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Toy Story 4. While working on Inside Out, she developed the screenplay for Bao and soon became Pixar's first woman to direct a short film. Later she wrote and directed Turning Red which is available to stream on Disney+.

Many more Asians and Pacific Islanders have accomplished so much in media. These are only some of the people I am familiar with and want to highlight.

If you have any suggestions for resources to educate me and others further or any examples of movies, tv shows, music, or books with excellent representation, please feel free to share them in the comments.

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