British East Asian comedian Anna Chen on Asian stereotypes, terracotta warriors, and pets.
This week, hundreds of actors, artists and creatives attended the Act for Change conference at the Young Vic in London looking at the alarming lack of diversity in TV, film, the media and the arts.
Fed up with the continuing exclusion of Black Asian Mixed race Ethnic (BAME) actors, I’m reposting a video (above) of a couple of gigs I did a while back at The Lion’s Den and Mirth Control, lampooning stupid Asian stereotypes.
London, my home city, is nearly 40 per cent BAME. A few years back there was 31 per cent BAME representation in the media industry, but that’s plummeted to five per cent since Ofcom dropped their diversity guidance. I’ve touched on this before but still no response anywhere from Ofcom who, one might suspect, don’t give a flying one.
For someone who’s pretty hard to miss, I’m surprisingly invisible. There’s a whole load of us feeling the same way, and we’re getting behind Act for Change.
Kat, one of my fellow British East Asia Artists (BEAA) co-founders, who tweets as Little Miss Mandu, read out a powerful quote at the conference, illustrating brilliantly our predicament:
“You know, vampires have no reflection in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters have no reflection in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that, if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t feel myself reflected at all … And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” Junot Diaz
My show, the subversively comical Suzy Wrong — Human Cannon, was all about that. I performed it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1994 and nothing’s changed. Except maybe everything’s going backwards.
You can’t even rely on the left to do the right thing.
There’s a dangerous side to minorities being kept invisible, like a pool of scapegoating ready to activate whenever governments get into trouble. The elephant in the room is that governments can and do divert social anger onto you when they screw up. Being kept in the role of a blank canvas, anyone can project their inner demons onto you.
And there are historical precedents for that.
(Video: two categories in Olympic weightlifting competition are the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk”. True.)