When Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari got up onto the stage to receive the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for their show Master of None, it was not only a win for them but a win for Asian-Americans who have been waiting to see themselves represented on-screen. In a time when a majority of films and television shows still feature all-white casts, Master of None‘s Emmy win feels like a huge step forward. But before Hollywood could give itself a pat on the back for celebrating one Asian-American show, Yang reminded us that this Emmy was really only a small step in the right direction. “We have a long way to go. But I know we can get there. I believe in us. It’s just gonna take a lot of hard work,” Yang said after noting that the greatest example of Asian characters in pop culture history is Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles (well-known as one of the more racist depictions of Asians in Hollywood).
Yang’s call for greater representation of Asians and Asian-Americans in Hollywood ring true for many. Despite the great strides made in television regarding Asian representation, Asians and Asian-Americans are oftentimes forgotten in the world of Hollywood film. Asians tend to be the forgotten minority in Hollywood, a result no doubt of many factors, including the model minority myth and the idea that Asians are somehow not American but foreign, unlike, for example, African-Americans. Racism against Asians, specifically in pop culture, is normalized by the whitewashing of Asian roles — like the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the Japanese anime adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. Not to mention the fact that Asian actors are oftentimes relegated to stereotypical roles, like the Asian nerd or the foreigner or the terrorist. And yet we don’t hear Asians being included in conversations about diversity in Hollywood — conversations like those surrounding #OscarsSoWhite, in which the fact that only a couple of Asian actors have been nominated for an Oscar in the past 20 years was completely ignored.
We need more Asians and more Asian-American stories to be told in Hollywood, and since many Asian-American stories are often swept under the rug or forgotten, here are a few true stories that would make perfect movie subjects.