Back in the '90s Asian American Actors were in Leading Roles

First off, I just want to say that I feel like an old fart for posting this, but it was kind of nostalgic viewing some of my favorite films starring Asian American actors. This post came about after reading all the Asian American bloggers complaining about the portrayal of Asian roles in recent films like Ninja Assassin, Last Airbender, and the Green Hornet. I saw the Green Hornet and I enjoyed it for what it was. However, it did have its flaws. The biggest complaint I always see are that Asian actors are always in the background or that they are asexual characters that never gets to have a love interest outside their ethnic group. Well guess what? In the nineties Asian American actors portrayed characters that were alpha males and got the girl. Films and tv shows in the nineties had better portrayals of Asian men than they do in 2011.

It was amazing to see how progressive film and tv shows were like Vanishing Son, Rapa Nui, Only the Strong, China White, Hook, Surf Ninjas, and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story to name a few. Compared to the crap they release today, these films gave Asian American actors a chance to shine. I do understand that the film industry is a business and that using Asian pop stars will increase sales worldwide, but there are so many talented Asian American actors to choose from today. Has Hollywood taken a step backwards by casting Asian pop stars over Asian American actors in leading roles?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for Bruce Lee films until I was a nerdy ass teenager. Growing up I always wanted to be Russell Wong from Vanishing Son because he kicked ass and always had sex with pretty girls. For those who haven’t heard of Vanishing Son, it’s a story about Jian-Wa Chang, a musician who escaped from the People’s Republic of China after being involved in a student demonstration against the government. He and his brother Wago escaped to America, where he pursued his music while Wago became drawn to a life of organized crime. It’s a shame that this series isn’t available on DVD or at least on hulu. The show was ground-breaking for the casting of an Asian male in an attractive leading-man role. So, if you’re disgusted of how Asians are portrayed in films today then go watch ’90s films and tv shows where Asians were portrayed decently. In short, I miss the ’90s and Ernie Reyes, Jr. looks like Manny Pacquiao.


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  • Anonymous

    Great post, I think one of the reasons why we are seeing less asian actors in positive portrayals compared to the 90s is because of the weak economy. Irritating filmmakers like M. Night and James Wong seemed to be only concerned about making money and I have a feeling both of these Asian filmmakers and their cronies were scared…instead of trying to represent Asians fairly, they’ve actually made things worse. I also miss seeing Ernie Reyes, Jr, I remember seeing him on the Disney channel when they featured his short TV series and his love interest was a white girl which I applaud Disney for trying to show interracial relationships between Asian man and white girl (which is rare).

    • Anonymous

      Just wanted to add, the show with Ernie Reyes, Jr, that I mentioned was on the Mickey Mouse Club, Secret Bodyguard.