Asian Americans only make up a small percent of the American population. Even more significant is that this percentage live mostly on the west and east coasts of mainland United States and Hawaii; leaving the rest of the American population to most likely get their exposures to Asians through television and movies. However the exposure they have receive throughout the history of cinematography has been hardly flattering. Throughout the course of history Asians in film have been portrayed as evil or the “yellow peril” as described by others.
If Asians are not being classified as evil in this picture then they are most likely the comic relief, with their lack of coordination or grasp of the English language. With these common stereotypes in place, it gives a white American viewer a sense or need to destroy this Asian villain or superiority over the comedic character portrayed in the film. In the film Gung Ho filmed in the year 1986, the story is told of the plight of the people working in the region known as the Rust Belt.
The group that is the focal point of this story is the relation between Asian men in an American town and the differences they share are played out in this movie. The stereotypes enlisted in this movie are both that of a villainous nature and a comedic relief with some of the characters. Throughout the film it is how the clever, white working class people of this hard working town have to overcome the maniacal working environment these Asian men have.
Common stereotypes of the Asian man lay throughout the entire course of the movie, stereotypes that have been portrayed by the film industry of Asian men since its inception.
The main stereotype in this movie is that Asian men only care about their jobs and their careers and little else. That the Asian man will go through great sacrifice to get to the top of the business that they work for. From beginning to end, many white families are portrayed in the movie showing that the American people have family values. Yet absent through the whole course of the picture is any Asian man with his family. This signifies that the Asian group does not have time, nor wants to make time to have a family life because they are trying to succeed in business.
The Asian boss in the film wanted the results to his liking and little else, whether time with the family was missed or not. Hardly a glimpse of an Asian woman is seen during the movie while the American, and predominantly, white working community always spends time with the family and it is a valued part of their lives. Any slight mention of the Asian characters family was done in conversation without an on-screen appearance by the wife or children. Another stereotype depicted in the film was that every Asian character spoke flawed English.
Not one single person through the film had a perfect grasp of the English language. This provides the comical relief in the film as any Asian man at any time could pronounce a word wrong or use the wrong word to the bemusement of the film watchers. The broken English that is used by the Asian characters in this film seem to heighten or display the fact that the Asian characters have visible flaws. The Americans never have to display such flaws, in fact the only part of the movie where an American attempts to spoke Japanese it is completely flawless, without hesitation or pause.
A further stereotype that is used in this film is that Asian people make good managers, but are never good leaders. What this tells use is that while a person of Asian descent might know the best possible way to accomplish a goal they will never have the force or strong enough personality to get others to get the goal accomplished. The film has Asian men taking over an American plant and trying to incorporate work ethics that are highly successful over in Japan. Yet the white, working class person refused to adhere to such a strict regime and basically revolts to the ideas.
This ultimately leads to the failure and disgrace of the Japanese workers who are unsuccessful in making the plant completely efficient. In the end it takes the will of one of the white workers to bring everyone together and incorporate a meld between the two cultures in order to get the job done and everything to turn out successful. Asian men are depicted as not being strong enough to take control of a situation, where as white American has the ability and will constantly use it to save the day for everyone involved in the situation.
One finally stereotype that the film has is the simple fact that all people of Asian descent have some knowledge of the martial arts. Scenes in which martial arts were used were placed in the film seemingly at random, and just for the sole purpose of showing that the Asian character knew a form of martial arts. The film did not need to have any martial arts in it, as it was not the main focal point, or even any kind of focal point, in the film. Yet the makers of the film deemed it necessary to show, in fact, these Asian characters do know how to use martial arts to their advantage.
The film portrays the Asian men in a negative light by showing that they do not have the will or the ability to take charge in a situation. This is completely different from the image of the American man who can take charge at any time, whether it is revolting against the Asian ideas or saving the day at the end of the film. The white American voice has no problem being heard and enforced, and its strong will might “rub off” on others in the end. They are portrayed almost as a type of savage or once again as the yellow peril as they were depicted years earlier.
The seven-day work schedules and mandatory free overtime seems barbaric to the American workers, as well as the little amount of time spent with the families. Overall, the Asian men in this film seem to be a harsh taskmaster over their American working force. One of the consequences of this film is that it keeps up the stereotype of Asian Americans being the model minority. The Asian Americans have had this definition of themselves because of their strong cultural background, including strong work ethic, keeping them from becoming a problem minority, which many Americans saw the African American community as a problem.
Asian American’s docile approach and lacking of any traits of masculinity were seen as positive traits and were widely regarded as no being a threat to the standards and norms White America had created for themselves. All this movie does is further portray that stereotype, as none of the Asian men in this film have any strong masculine qualities. They cannot take charge, they are easily intimidated, and they are never assertive with their beliefs and restrictions giving the impression to the movie viewers that Asian Americans are docile beings and Asian Americans are obstacles easily overcame.
Overall, the object of this movie is to entertain the audience sitting at home watching it, laughing at the mishaps and situations that happen along the way. The question is, however, at who’s expense does the laughter come? Perpetuating this stereotype only goes to further damage the way Asian Americans are seen by the American public. Also during the time the movie was being made, the yen and the dollar were in competition over which had more value.
This movie in a subtle way suggests that American workers can overcome any adversity, while the Asian cast is lucky to have such determined Americans to help them out of their problems. The movie serves to inspire Americans by relying on a stereotype of Asians to show that Asian are weak and Americans are strong, and that they can overcome any challenge they rally behind.
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