Asian Stereotypes

My chosen trope for this assignment, Asian stereotypes, has been very present in media for many years. Because this can date back to the time of the Chinese Exclusion act in 1882, if not much earlier, the earliest forms came in political cartoons. In present day media, we can see many memes involving the common things associated with Asians such as technical skills & talents, appearance, high standards, and specific sports. There are also several stock characters in film that encompass the general Asian stereotypes described above. Three specific instances of Asian stereotypes will be discussed.

Those Asian-American Whiz Kids, Ted Thai for TIME Magazine, 31 August 1987, found on

In the first example of TIME magazine’s August 1987 edition, Asians are being described as “whiz kids” and shown to be very studious in appearance. In the image, symbols of intellect are being used quite frequently. Two of the children are clutching textbooks, one can be seen carrying his backpack over his shoulder, and another had glasses and looks productive in front of a computer. These characteristics are generally associated with doing work and studying, so the magazine cover is portraying Asians as smart and hard-workers. Although these are seen as positive characteristics to some, the fact that these are very commonly associated with Asian people is unfair. This is the quintessential form of the idea of “model minorities”. This term suggests that Asian-Americans persevered through the prejudices to become successful individuals. Although it sounds nice, the term receives a lot of criticism because it glosses over the problems that Asian-Americans still face and makes it appear that they are all success stories. As an Asian-American myself, something I face is being called “naturally smart” because of my heritage, where in reality it is something I have to work hard for. This really influences my perception of the depiction of “model minorities” because some people truly don’t understand why it is offensive, since it is a positive trait on a surface level of understanding.

What Shall We Do With Our Boys, George Keller, 3 March 1882, found on

This next image is a political cartoon featured in The Wasp in march of 1882. This was the same year that the Chinese exclusion act was passed. Just from the publisher, it can be inferred that since it is about Asians, it will be very negative because W.A.S.P.’s are historically known to be very xenophobic. In the cartoon, a Chinese man is portrayed as an impish looking monster with several hands doing many different tasks. Some of these include being a cobbler, tailor, and cigar maker. In one of the many hands, he is holding a money bag that has a note saying, “to China”. This implies that the Chinese at the time were ruthlessly taking business for their own monetary gain. The message that is trying to be conveyed is that Chinese immigrants are taking all of the jobs in the United States away. The face of the Chinese worker is grossly distorted as he has very slanted eyes, missing teeth, and unkempt hair. In contrast, on the other third of the image, innocent and sophisticated looking white males are seen to be just hanging around with no work to do. Under the image, it even says “What shall we do with our boys?” as if they were robbed of jobs. This has a very negative outlook towards Asians, and the historical context of the time has a huge impact on that outlook.

Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior, Disney, 2006, found on

The final image is a movie poster for the Disney Channel movie, Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior. The movie stars Brenda Song, one of the few Asian-American actors for Disney. In the poster, she is depicted in the air doing a kick that one would associate with martial arts. Asians are very commonly associated with most forms of fighting, and this just reinforces that association. While specific branches of martial arts are practiced in asia, it is not limited to that area. In the media, Asians are either stereotypically represented, or just underrepresented completely. The representation of the practice of martial arts is also very untraditional in the dress, form, and expression. Not only does Disney exploit the practice, but they also choose the very stereotypical name of “Wendy Wu”. Most of these aspects lead to this looking very Americanized and washed of culture. Because this is a promotional image for the film, the audience doesn’t know the whole plot about the movie. It can be inferred that it is about an Asian with fighting skills, which isn’t very uncommon at all in the film industry.


These three images are great examples of the Asian stereotype trope and each one has a vastly different meaning and connotation. It is very interesting to note just how different Asians are perceived based on the context of the time and the distortions and features of the actual image itself. It was especially interesting to look at this from the perspective of having an Asian background.


Works Cited
Linshi, Jack. “Tech Diversity Report Response Ignores Asians – Here’s Why.” Time, Time, 14 Oct. 2014,
Walfred, Michele. “‘What Shall We Do With Our Boys?” 1882.” Illustrating Chinese Exclusion, 6 May 2017,
Zhou. “Disney Channel, Brenda Song, and Asian Stereotypes.” Stranger in a Home Land Asian American Literature, 9 Sept. 2015,