Growing up, there was nothing in mainstream Hollywood I could truly relate to. If I did happen to see an Asian actor on television, the only thing I could do was point and say, “Hey, they’re Asian!” That’s it. There was nothing else I could identify with.
But after watching the premiere of Fresh Off The Boat, I finally found Asian characters explored more in-depth. I laughed because I experienced the same thing poor Eddie Huang experienced by bringing “weird” lunch to school, and I absolutely hated when people asked me with a disgusted look on their face, “Uhh what is that?!” If only they understood…
In a recent video by FungBrosComedy, David and Andrew Fung address the age old question: Why aren’t there more Asians in Hollywood? They took to the streets of Los Angeles to ask passersby their opinions. Here is what they had to say:
So what did the Fung brothers discover? Many are unfamiliar with the newer generation of Asian American celebrities, but are able to name popular martial artists that have been featured in films for decades. Names such as Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan are often mentioned. Why? Because that is how Asians are stereotypically represented in Hollywood. The “school girl” or “karate chopper” are roles that are commonly associated with Asians.
But after watching this video, I’m more curious about what the Fung brothers think about Asians and their lack of representation in Hollywood. I had the opportunity to interview David Fung and he shared much more than his comedic personality. We delved into deeper issues that surround the Asian American identity and what the Fung brothers hope to achieve through their YouTube channel.
Audrey Magazine: In regards to your video, why do you think there aren’t more Asians in Hollywood?
David Fung: I think there are a variety of reasons. Asians are unaware that in America, we only make up less than 6% of the population, and of that 6%, we’re really fragmented among cultural and language lines. Another huge factor is that our involvement in the entertainment industry is pretty low. Asians are disproportionately represented in medical fields or in engineering. You have to understand, Hollywood is primarily sold to middle America. You have to appeal to a lot of demographics. Most Asians live in coastal cities, so our perspective on America is a little bit different. I’ve been traveling for a show and going to places where Asians are less than 1% of the population and the people have no idea about them. They’re still in a “Bruce Lee, ka-pow!” phase in terms of their understanding of Asians. I think it’s really difficult for Asians that have been on the west coast for many years to grasp that Hollywood has to derive its profits from middle America, and middle America doesn’t go beyond Bruce Lee and Jeremy Lin. That’s it.
AM: John Cho’s show Selfie premiered last fall but unfortunately, it is already cancelled. Now, Fresh Off The Boat is on and it seems to be gaining more popularity and a wider audience. Why do you think that is?
DF: I think if you look at Selfie, it wasn’t based on him being Asian. His Asian identity had no part in it. I think it goes both ways. I think there are some Asians that really would love for there to be an Asian leading male that doesn’t reference the Asian ethnicity. But I think there is a desire among some Asians to be represented as being just like everybody else. If you look at the content that’s really successful, it’s more about what represents identity. It’s what makes us unique, it’s what makes us special, so I think you see different methodology. There’s people that say, “Accept us like anybody else,” and there’s others that say, “Well, I know you’re not going to accept me like one of you, so let me explain to you what I’m all about.” I think Fresh Off The Boat is in that lane and Selfie was in the “I’m Asian but I’m still like everybody else.” If you ask me which is more effective, I think Fresh Off The Boat is more effective. I think for west coast Asians especially, there’s a desire to say that we’re like everybody else. But the rest of the country doesn’t understand that.
AM: Do you think there’s more diversity on YouTube? Or do you run into similar issues of underrepresentation?
DF: I think there’s a lot more acceptance on YouTube. I do think that even within YouTube, you look at each ethnicity and they have more of their own as well as a mixed fan base. I think the digital democracy of YouTube is free and anybody can post on it. It’s less marketed than Hollywood is. In Hollywood, there’s a lot of people that invest a lot of money and want to cater to the largest demographics to be successful.
AM: What goals or messages do you want to relay through your channel?
DF: Through FungBrosComedy, we want to help explain the Asian world and identity to people. Of course, in my perspective. I’m never going to say that other people are not free to think what they think, because everybody’s experiences are different and their truth is their truth. I’m just explaining my perspective, which, I hope, is very balanced, because I have taken multiple perspectives into consideration. When you grow up in America, nobody educates you on Asian American identity. You grow up on a lot of Western and European history. You get Martin Luther King Day, so they explain in school about the African American identity and struggle and history. But you never learn about Asian Americans except, maybe, a few sentences about building railroads and indentured servitude. “They just come to America for a better life.” That’s what they’re supposed to tell you. They came to America because Asia was worse and they came to a better country to make money. For some Asians, that’s what they understand about themselves, or their families and their own journey to America. What I want to do is make an appeasing, interesting way to talk about it because it goes much deeper than that. But a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, whether it’s uncomfortable or just never see it delivered in an entertaining way. And I think it’s just about making things entertaining. I think that’s why it’s so tough, because it lacks the sugar. That’s why medicine is sweet, you have to laugh at it to be able to swallow it.
Say it loud and say it proud! Although Asian Americans also have their own identities within their own communities, it’s about time Hollywood gives us some mainstream exposure to better understand our culture and experiences.