New Documentary Reveals How Asian Men are Stereotyped in Films

Cary Tagawa
Cary Tagawa

(KHNL) - Are you an Asian man hoping to break into acting? A new PBS documentary may have some revelations for you. "The Slanted Screen" looks at the bigoted ways in which Asian men have been portrayed in movies over the decades.

Asian American men are only known for playing particular kinds of roles, from stereotypical Asian characters, to martial arts experts and the notorious movie villian.  But the prestigious role of leading man has eluded the Asian male actor in Tinsel Town. In an upcoming documentary, some of Hollywood's top Asian actors speak out about the challenges they've faced.

Before passing on last year, Academy Award nominee "Mako" recalls the words of a studio exec utive over David Caradeen portraying the lead role in Kung Fu.

"I remember one of the Vice Presidents, in charge of production I suppose, said, 'if we put a yellow man up on the tube, audiences will turn the switch off in less than five minutes.'

Cary Tagawa, who's starred in films like Pearl Harbor and Mortal Combat  feels  the stereotypical roles are offered to Asian actors leave a negative impression on Asian children.

"It's not my choice to play bad guys forever but I think Asian kids need to see some kind of strength, and we're not getting that from what Hollywood is putting out right now," said Tagawa.

Tagawa believes the road to stardom hasn't been as tough for Asian women. But it has come at a price.

"I think there's more opportunities for Asian females, but they're pretty much stuck in a sexual thing."

As the television and film industry continues to expand, so do the roles being offered to Asian actors. Maybe soon, we'll see one of them in a starring role, coming to a theater near you.

The documentary called "The Slanted Screen" airs nationally on May 10th on PBS.   It begins at ten PM.