Why "Not A Ninja"?
One evening, when I was about fifteen years old, I sat in my room journaling (as would any stereotypical teenage girl). The t.v. was on and I remember sincerely thinking to myself, "I want to be an actress." As I continued watching, I noticed that not a single character on screen looked like me. I tried to think of five famous Asian actors in the States who weren't action stars; but I could only think of two.
"I want to be an actress," I said to myself. Then, I had a very Mulan moment, caught my reflection in the mirror and thought again, "...but that's never going to happen because I'm not white or black and I don't do martial arts."
I know I’m not the only Asian kid growing up in the States that thought that to him or herself.
Fast forward, uh, a bunch of years later, and here I am living out my adolescent dreams of being an actor. At least I'm trying. I’ve gone through a lot of various actor phases in my life to get to this point. The I’m-only-doing-this-for-fun phase. The I’m-gonna-be-the-next-Lea-Salonga phase. The I’m-taking-stage-combat-because-I’m-Asian phase. Regardless of what phase I was in, I always found myself trying to fit into some niche that some other Asian actor before me already carved out. Every time I tried, I realized I didn’t really fit and when I didn’t, that nagging thought would come back into my head: “It’s never going to happen because I’m not white or black and I don’t do martial arts.”
"I realized that I am not the one who is lacking."
Photo by Human Being Productions
So I decided to be honest with myself and I realized a bunch of stuff. For instance, I love to sing, but I hate performing in musical theater productions! I hate auditioning for them, I'm terrible at learning musical theater choreography, I don't like practicing music and I can't spot. (So much for being the next Lea Salonga.) Also, I love stage combat and being active, but I don’t have the interest or dedication enough to train consistently as a martial artist or stunts woman. (So much for being the next Michelle Yeoh.) It finally hit me: I don’t fit into any of those pre-existing niches because they’re not me. What’s more, I realized that I am not the one who is lacking.
Hence, this blog. Now, I know that we've achieved a lot over the last few years, particularly in television. Hell, some of us have even won a few Emmys! But we’d all be lying if we said that the industry as a whole is ready to treat Asian artists with more respect and represent our communities with more dignity. If it was, then podcasts like They Call Us Bruce wouldn't exist and this whole blog is just me being extra.
There is still a shocking lack of Asian representation on television. When an Asian character does appear on t.v. or in a movie, that character tends to be stereotypical and, at times, incredibly degrading. And let’s not forget to mention that Asian actors are still paid much less than their white colleagues. It’s why respected actors like Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park choose to walk away from successful productions like CBS’s Hawaii Five-O.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly excited about what Asians in our industry have been accomplishing and I'm immensely proud of how far we've come. But it’s not going to keep me from pointing out that there is still a lot that needs to change. Oh don’t worry, I won't be the only one sharing her thoughts. I've asked other Asians and Asian-Americans to share their insights, experiences and feelings too, so you’ll get to hear a lot of us vent about our industry and the perception of Asian and Asian-American identities as a whole.
We’ll try to make our posts funny for you (keyword: try). No promises. But you can bet on one thing: It will all be sincere. And hopefully, by the end of a few posts, you’ll start to get why I am not a ninja.