Before taking this class, I did not fully understand or comprehend the implications associated with being a minority. As a white individual, I have never been in a situation where my race dictated not only what others think of me, but also my place within a hegemonic society. Throughout the course of the class I have began to question society and to ask why certain societal structures centered around race exists. While looking over my blog posts, I identified a common theme of Asian Americans in relation to entertainment—specifically how Asian Americans are infiltrating the entertainment world. Historically, in the United States, Asian Americans have been both minoritized and objectified throughout popular culture movements revealing the hegemonic structure of our society.
The world of entertainment is something I am very familiar with. In my own ignorance I trusted that the entertainment/media realm was inclusive. Inclusive of both different races, and ethnicities, but also inclusive in terms of ideas being progressive, different, and thought provoking. While it is undeniable that minorities, in this case Asian Americans, historically have been excluded from the mainstream culture, there are in fact ways that minorities have broken down social barriers and found their own various niches within media and entertainment.
It is incorrect to say that Asian Americans formed an “authentic” culture, but what did emerge was a broader Asian American identity, which has transnational influence on American culture. Certain aspects of Asian culture—specifically Asian representation in media, Asian bloggers, and the increasing popularity of K-pop music, have slowly shaped a more concrete understanding of what being an “Asian American” means and how “Asians” are perceived within the global context of popular culture. Both from class discussions and analyzing the portrayal of Jin-Soon Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon on the hit television show “Lost,” exploring the emerging influence of Asian American food bloggers, and K-pop’s acceptance as a global phenomenon, display the ways in which entertainment has allowed for Asian culture to became popular by means of globalization, emerging industries as a result of technology, and n overall fascination with Asian culture. These three examples of Asian American cultural phenomenons have the potential to break down barriers in terms of both the political economy and cultural capital, and continuing to define an Asian American cultural identity.
The television show, “Lost” became a cultural phenomenon that captivated its viewers and transported them into the mysterious, crazy, and unpredictable magical island where survivors of Flight 815 were trapped after a horrible plane crash. Throughout the series 121 episodes and hundreds of characters on the show, there are only two Asian characters. Jin-Soon Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon undergo a major transformation from the beginning to the end of the show. When the audience first meets Jin and Sun, it is assumed that neither of them can speak any English. Flashbacks of their life in Korea reveal the unhealthy and quasi-abusive relationship between the married couple. The Confucian heritage in Korea “emphasizes values such as male dominance, filial piety, and collectivist goals over individualistic fulfillment” (Wen-Shan Yang and Pei-Chih Yen, 753). When Sun and Jin crash on the island, they are immediately branded as outcasts among the other survivors. Sun chooses to hide the fact that she knows how to speak English from everyone, including her husband. By doing so, Sun perpetuates the hegemonic structure and allows everyone to assume that as an Asian, she cannot speak English. Everyone on the island was hesitant to embrace Jin and Sun, as they saw them as “different” and foreigners. However, as the show progresses, Jin and Sun found their place within the community of the plane survivors. In fact, their unique skills such as knowing how to fish and knowledge of Eastern medicine made them invaluable to survival. It is very unfortunate that Asian Americans are not appropriately represented in television and movies, but “Lost” was successful in accurately and appropriately portraying some specific aspects of Korean society and how it can be difficult to infiltrate a community where an individual feels like an outcast. However, is “Lost,” just another example of the superficial gesture of including “just enough” Asian Americans on television?
In another vein, the emerging industry of blogging has become increasingly popular, allowing for Asian Americans to profit from cultural trends. There are numerous Asian Americans becoming part of the trend and because of social media, any person can gain a certain number of followers and therefore by accepted as an influencer and expert on the topic they are blogging about. In particular, there are numerous blogs run by Asian Americans are often used for “exploring transnational identity formations,” specifically for Asian American writers to explore their identity in relation to food. Food is a fundamental part of every culture, symbolizing family history through generation-old recipes and allowing for others to experience different sections of culture through specific types of cuisine. Thus, food becomes racialized within a specific culture where food bloggers give followers a glimpse into specific Asian cuisine. While the meaning of “authenticity” cannot be classified or defined, it “must be understood as a subjective quality that is socially constructed and relational, rather than an inherent quality of food, people, spaces, or media” (GAA, 155). Thus, no aspect of life can ever be categorized as either authentic or dis-authentic, because the definition lies within the author of the food blog and the readers, and their definition of what is appropriately representative, convincing, and credible. It is impossible to then classify a food blogger as authentic because there is no true definition. Instead, the growing popularity of Asian American food bloggers reveals the infiltration of Asian American culture on social media.
My third blog explores how K-pop has transformed into a subculture that not only attracts Asians but is now a staple part of the mainstream music world, revealing the possibility to break down the hegemonic structure which is enforced by marginalizing the minority. The adaption of K-pop, made possible because of the availability of the Internet and social media, depicts how transnationalism helps to perpetuate grassroots expressions through everyday uses of communication technology. K-pop, originally founded as a subculture of Korean music, has been able to outgrow these cultural limitations and become music appealing to everyone—Asian or not. K-pop’s infiltration reveal that “culture” is not static and there remains importance in having a culture with diversity and multiple representations. K-pop allows for new interactions of different languages, discourses, and ways of life, which can only have positive benefits on society as a whole.
Each of my blog posts explore different subject matters of Asian culture, specifically in the entertainment world, which have allowed for Asian Americans to contribute their unique cultural experiences in terms of the cultural capital of the world. It is important to analyze the blog together to form a more concrete understanding of neoliberalism within the larger hegemonic discourse. All three examples featured in my blog posts aim to reject the idea that Asians have a specified “authentic” culture and instead place Jin and Sun’s representation on “Lost,” the influx of Asian American food bloggers, and the growing popularity of K-pop in terms of transnational culture and how Americans and Asian Americans tend to appropriate cultural hierarchy of Asian grassroots culture. While unfortunately there are still hegemonic aspects of society that perpetuate a mass culture with uneven representation of Asians, and Asian Americans, slowly minority groups are able to break down barriers and create a global culture which features and celebrates all ethnicities and races.
ASIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCE, VOL. 39, NO. 6, SPECIAL FOCUS: DIVORCE IN ASIA (2011), PP. 751-775