Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Masi Oka talks about Asian American stereotypes

With Tavis Smiley (transcript included.) Thank goodness for a more probing, in-depth and thoughtful interview than the View one. He also talks about growing up with a single mother, and how his mom's his hero!

Tavis asks about the difficulty of finding a job as an Asian American actor, and the model minority stereotype:
Oka: You see, I'd rather kind of lower everyone's expectations. I'd rather be kind of dumb and exceed peoples' expectations rather than like raise the bar and not be able to meet it, which is like constantly my life.

Tavis: The flip side of that, though, I would think, Masi, is being burdened by the intellect. You ever feel burdened? That is to say, the expectation on you from your parents and others is so great because they know your IQ is high?

Oka: Yeah, my mom definitely had a very high expectation of me, and myself as well. I've learned through the years that it's much easier to live if you lower your expectations.

Tavis: Let me go back earlier to something you said, which was funny. You made a joke about it, but we moved right past it. Let me come back seriously and try to wrestle with this. This notion of Asians being smart. I mean, that is a stereotype and every race gets stereotyped in certain ways. I guess if you're going to be stereotyped, being smart ain't the worst way to be stereotyped, but how do you navigate being an Asian and being stereotyped as expected to be smart because you are Asian?

Tavis also asks if his mom pushed him into technology:

Tavis: Speaking of stereotypes, though, you fit in in every way. You're smart, your IQ is high -

Oka: - and I'm a bad driver too.

Tavis: (Laughter) You said it, not me. You're a bad driver. And you're in the technology field. How did you find your way into that? Did like your Asian family push you into technology?

Oka: It's interesting because I do fit the stereotypes. My mom - you know, I was raised by a single mother. That's not too common in Asian families where parents are divorced. We came to America, you know, to throw away everything that's conservative in Japan. She took a lot of risks. It is kind of different, but I totally forgot the question now.

Tavis: Never mind. It doesn't matter.

Oka: (Laughter) Sorry.

And Masi talks about his mom:

Tavis: Tell me about your single mother now. I'm fascinated by that now because, again speaking of stereotypes, in my community certainly, we rail all the time against the fact that, while a single mother obviously can be a good parent, a single mother can certainly raise an over-achieving kid whether he's Asian or Black. I don't want to slam single mothers.

But there's always this conversation about why there are so many single parent families inside of Black America and increasingly in America, period. But you're right. You don't often hear about Asian single mothers. Tell me about your mother.

Oka: My mother is a very strong and unique person. I love her to death. She pretty much gave up everything to come to America and provide a better life for myself and I owe her everything. She's my superhero. My parents got divorced when I was one month old, so I've actually never met my biological father.

Such a rich, and full interview. Watch it to see how much depth can be drawn out by a good interviewer, versus the View. I've become convinced that the women on the View are just very condescending to everyone. Masi's costar Hayden Panettiere, who plays Claire Bennett the cheerleader, goes on the View and Rosie totally babies her in a terrible fashion:

Rosie: You look so adorable in that little miniskirt. How old are you now?

Hayden: I'm eighteen.

Rosie: I will always think of you as a little kid.

The red headed comedian also says: "Well, you're very young to be considered so sexy. How does your family feel about it, cos you're a kid really. I hate to say it like that, but you're seventeen."

Hayden: "I, uh, I dunno. . . I, uh, I don't think my dad knows about it yet."

Rosie: "Now listen, you're 17, you're 18, I don't want you hanging out with those scary girls who drink too much and how their hoohoos. I really don't Hayden. . . take as a role model Natalie Portman, she went to an Ivy League college. she's very smart, very beautiful, a great actress, and she avoided all that Hollywood crap. Can you promise me that?"

Rosie, you're not her mother. Get over yourself.

PS: Had to edit title so it was spelled correctly. Perils of blogging when tired and all that.



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