Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Oh, dear.

Here it is the last day of Asian-American Heritage Month and I still don't have Jenn's present prepared. Sidetracked, once again.

Nevertheless, I do have some progress.

I went through the character list I requested and tried to eliminate all of the martial artists, "Oriental pulp villain" stereotypes, Yakuza bosses, scientists, and culturally specific/nationalist characters mentioned (Like anyone who's Japan's national hero or has a power like, I don't know, controlling a psychic dragon).

Not counting the characters I'd never heard of and haven't had a chance to research yet, I was left with Jubilee, Grace Choi, Nico Minoru, and three newcasters.



  1. Interesting that you would eliminate scientists. I would have missed that one, but it is clearly a bit over done. Given the number is well past the statistical norm you may want to eliminate the newscasters as well. Clearly another stereotype.

  2. I wish I had seen this before. Celsius of the Doom Patrol was from India, and I didn't see her among the suggestions.

  3. Funny - I've been thinking about doing a retrospective on British superheroes for a while, and this is pretty much the angle it comes from.

  4. Jubilee doesn't count as a power-stereotype? She's a CHINESE PERSON with FIREWORKS POWERS.

  5. I love Grace Choi. Grace Choi is awesome.

    Hey, Lian Harper hasn't had a chance to grow up into any of those sterotypes yet. You may have filed her under minor characters, but she does get mentioned in a number of titles! Of course, she's been branded for life by child sex slave traders, so she will at least fit in with the Women of Comics. (grr...)

  6. There's also Karma of the New Mutants, who was Vietnamese. (She's also now a lesbian. Or possibly bisexual, I haven't read her recent appearances.) She was fairly smart, dedicated to finding her siblings (who were stolen for reasons I now forget), and while her nationality was important to her, it wasn't the /only/ thing about her.

  7. What about Dr. Light (Kimyo Hoshi)?

  8. Brett -- it's a big one, falls under the "nerdy Asian" thing. I eliminated computer guys and Doctors under the "Scientist" heading too.

    Matthew -- Not a bad one.

    Martin -- I know, isn't it getting crazy? Why does nearly every foreign hero have to be a nationalist?

    Derek -- Chinese-American, but I actually didn't think of that until this morning. That's because Jubilee is just so damned American a character you associate the pyrotechnics with Fourth of July instead of ancient China. I still don't feel right cutting her, though. I'll put it up to a vote, though.

    Carrie -- Never been a Winick fan myself so I'vce avoided Outsiders, was he the one who did that to Lian?

    kate -- Hmm.. Cultural name, neutral powers.

    simon -- She was mentioned four times. She's a scientist.

  9. Jubilee is just so damned American a character you associate the pyrotechnics with Fourth of July instead of ancient China.

    Jubilee is Asian? Wow. You learn something every day.

  10. Ishido Maad from Young Justice, who was... I guess Japanese American and worked as a secret agent for the DEO or one of those organizations. I think he fits the criteria.

  11. Hm. So, what kind of character are you looking for, here? I mean, I'll grant a certain amount of sameness in a lot of the characters you're supposed to be able to identify as oriental at first glance, but put that way the reason seems rather obvious.

    If they were to introduce an oriental character whose ethnicity has nothing whatsoever to do with his costume or powers, then fans would be complaining about that.

    Let's take a look at Japanese manga and find some conspicuously American characters, and see what's what.

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  13. Daniel, I'm not trying to speak for Ragnell, but I think what she's examining here is specifically the way Asians are stereotyped in American comics.

    Sure Americans are stereotyped in manga, very much so, and that would be an interesting discussion as well, but that's not the point here. And saying "Well, they do it too" doesn't actually make it any better.

    Jubilee's notable because for all of her firework power, in attitude and culture she's very much an American, regardless of her ethnic heritage. I'm not Asian-American myself, so I might be off base, but from what I've seen of friends and acquaintances, Jubilee seems like a pretty common example of what Asian-American teens are like. Sure the Asian heritage is important, but when it comes down to it, they're still American young adults.

    However, she's the exception that proves the rule. Most other Asian characters have very little in common with the Asian-American people I've met, aside from a few cosmetic features.

    And no one's saying all characters should be like Jubilee, but the Asian characters should, ideally, reflect actual Asian people. They're not all cut from the same mold, they're not all the same. Therefore it's really annoying that 95% of the Asians in comics are: a) martial artists, b) scientists/doctors/academics c) foreign nationalists or d) newscasters. Jubilee, Grace and Ishido Maad should not be the only ones who don't fit this mold.

    Where are the teachers? The lawyers? The musicians? Where are the exchange students who *aren't* all good at math or science? Where are the kids who like shopping and hanging out more than playing on computers or homework? Where are the cops? The non-martial arts athletes?

    Where are the lotharios? The ladies' men? The popular fashion plates?

    I guarantee you if you go to China or Japan or Korea or any other Asian country, you'll see these people. If you look at Asian-Americans/Asian-Canadians here, or even among foreign immigrants, business people, or exchange students, you're gonna see a larger variety than what's in the comics.

    Besides, not all American superheroes run around in red, white, and blue. Not all of them have patriotic, nationalistic codenames or powers. (Batman, Flash, Green Lantern anyone?) Why should all Asians? (Or any other ethnicity/nationality/race for that matter?)

  14. (oh, and btw, i think newscasters should also be counted as a stereotype. and i agree on jubes, even though I <3 her so very much, so i think we're left with nico and grace)

  15. One question I think would be interesting to look at is how many popular manga characters this list would eliminate.

    Which I got to thinking about because this criteria eliminates Usagi Yojimbo, a comic written by an asian-american man.

    It's... actually a lot. Basically everybody in the entire shonen genre.

    Which in turn makes me kind of wonder how many American characters this list would eliminate if it was stripped of any cultural context.

    Specififcally, If we exclude the alter-egos of superheroes, how many people are doctors, scientists or other assorted nerds (or newscasters) in American comics, how many people are left?

    By which I mean, I think your methodology is sound, but that the results may well be exagerated by the nature of mainstream comics.

  16. Are you only counting superhero comics, or all American comics?

    If non-superhero counts, there's Angela Chang from Queen and Country. She's the CIA station chief for London. She's a spy but not a ninja-type spy; she's a bureaucrat.

  17. Well The Quiz from the Brotherhood of DaDa is a schizophrenic cleanfreak massmurderer who's power was that she could have "any power that you could not think of". So if theres a stereotype there, I've never heard of it.

  18. Chris -- Thanks, edited it!

    Everyone else -- Check here.

  19. So, Doctor Light was eliminated because she had been a scientist?

  20. Lis -- Yep, as fun a character as she is, she's still a stereotype.