Jeremy Lin Just Called out an Overlooked Racial Stereotype in Hollywood

March 1st 2016

Laura Donovan

Charlotte Hornets basketball player Jeremy Lin just confronted an aspect of Hollywood racism which rarely gets discussed.

In a tweet posted on Monday, Lin responded to racist jokes at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, which made light of harmful Asian stereotypes.


The point guard tweeted that he was "tired of it being 'cool' and 'OK' to bash Asians" and shared a Washington Post article that criticizes some of the quips directed at Asians during the televised event. At one point in the evening, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen joked that Minions were a group of “yellow people with tiny dongs,” an apparent reference to a racist stereotype about Asian men. Host Chris Rock also made a joke that poked fun at Asian ambition and child labor.

Lin told reporters after practice on Tuesday that he has "no issues" with Rock, but felt the need to "stand up for Asians" on Twitter.

“I just feel like sometimes the way people perceive Asians or Asian Americans today can be disappointing in the way they view them," he said. "Even Asian American masculinity or whatever you want to talk about, just a lot of the ways that Asians are perceived I don't always agree with.”


A photo posted by Jeremy Lin (@jlin7) on

He added:

"I feel like we are just so much more broad than that. What you see on TV, that is so influential. Perception is reality and that's the truth in today's day and age where it's such a digital and technological age. So if we can start branching out a little bit or at least showing that we are different than what other people think we are, maybe we can start to break down some of those walls."

Lin, who is Chinese-American, grabbed headlines in 2011 when he earned a starting role for the New York Knicks. His outstanding performance on the court sparked the "Linsanity" phenomenon, which not only made Lin an international superstar, but challenged stereotypes about the physical prowess of Asian men.

Despite his success, Lin's no stranger to racially coded language. During the 2011 season, ESPN fired an editor and suspended an anchor who used the racial slur "chink" when referring to Lin or the Knicks.

Asian stereotypes in film and TV have been around for decades and manifested through various jokes and performances.

In recent years, many have criticized the 1961 film version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" for the late Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, a character that perpetuates negative Asian stereotypes:

Mr. Yunioshi

"The ‘60s were a simpler time: Manhattan was cleaner, fashion was crisper and there were no Asian actors in Hollywood," quipped writer Rebecca Brayton in a WatchMojo.com piece. "Apparently. Well, how else do you explain this inexcusable case of yellowface? That’s Mickey Rooney under the false teeth, squinty eyes and outrageous Japanese accent playing Holly Golightly’s landlord. Come to think of it: even with an Asian actor this’d be an offensive part of an otherwise classic film."

"2 Broke Girls" also came under fire when it first aired five years ago because of its cartoonish depiction of an Asian man named Han Lee, the boss of main characters Caroline (portrayed by Beth Behrs) and Max (played by Kat Dennings).

"Short, asexual and work-obsessed, Lee is ridiculed for his broken English and failing to 'get' US culture," writer Priya Elan wrote in a piece for The Guardian in 2012. "In one episode Dennings' character says, after a run-in with Lee: 'You can't tell an Asian he made a mistake. He'll go in back and throw himself on a sword.'"

Last year, many also felt uncomfortable with the Vietnamese character Dong in the Netflix original, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," who struggles with English and fulfills a lot of Asian stereotypes in popular culture.

"[F]or a lot of viewers, including a lot of Asian-American ones, the traits that make Dong such a classic Fey-sian misfit also make him a dull, even infuriating Asian stereotype: his thickly accented, broken English; his gig delivering Chinese food by bike; his aptitude for math; his deportation-anxiety storyline," NPR's Kat Chow wrote last year. "So which is it: Does Dong push back against Asian stereotypes, or does he just prop them up?"

Some shows, however, have aimed to empower Asian individuals in television. In 2015, ABC debuted the comedy series "Fresh Off the Boat," which follows a Taiwanese family and has been celebrated by many for increasing visibility of Asian culture on TV. Margaret Cho, who starred in the short-lived 1994 sitcom about an Asian American family in the early 1990s, gave "Fresh Off the Boat" her seal of approval:

Cho told TheWrap in November that she was also set to appear in ABC's "Dr. Ken," a comedy series starring Korean American comedian and doctor Ken Jeong.

“It’s a powerful thing because I created the first Asian-American family show 25 years ago and then helped a little bit on ‘Fresh off the Boat’ and now I’m helping a little bit on ‘Dr. Ken,'” Cho told TheWrap. “It’s a good feeling, that all of my hard work sort of was not for nothing.”

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