“Hello, America. I’m an Asian. We’re the ones in your high school that you always wanna cheat off of. And we’re that porn tag you’re not so ashamed about … you think you know us. And that’s why you never ask about us.”
These first few lines of the pilot episode of "Yappie," the latest television series from Wong Fu Productions, provided a backdrop for the keynote event of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week at Penn. This year, Wong Fu Productions members Wesley Chan, Taylor Chan, and Jessica Lin came to Penn to talk about challenges of representing Asian Americans in media.
Wong Fu Productions spoke to a sold-out crowd at Penn's Bodek Hall for the keynote event of APAHW, which featured workshops, a cooking contest, and a talent show throughout the week. Wong Fu Productions is an Asian American filmmaking group that got its start on YouTube and now has over 3 million subscribers.
The week's theme was "Dimensions," which emphasized the need to recognize all people as complex and to recognize the inadequacies of cultural stereotypes, 34th Street Magazine reported. For many in attendance, Wong Fu Productions was the perfect keynote speaker for this year's theme.
“I think their work is important because it’s a lot of topics that are really relevant to our demographic as Asian Americans and the things that we think about and the struggles that we have," said Emma Loh, a first-year graduate student and self-proclaimed long-time fan of Wong Fu Productions.
"I think that it’s cool to see things that I can relate to that are part of my identity reflected in mass media … which is something that I really felt like I didn’t have growing up,” Loh said of Wong Fu Productions.
The event's Q&A session addressed stereotypes of Asian Americans and their portrayal in media. Sporting a t-shirt that read "remodel minority," Taylor Chan discussed the difficulties the group encountered when approaching television networks with a pilot version of "Yappie."
"A lot of people just didn’t understand why this story needed to be told," Chan said.
Wesley Chan said the show was created to represent “the stories and voices you haven’t heard and seen on mainstream media for a long time.”
“We’re all fighting for the same thing, which is balance,” Wesley Chan said.
Wesley Chan said while Asian Americans sometimes do pursue "comfortable" stereotypical paths, the problem lies with media representation, which often perpetuate stereotypes.
"The problem is in entertainment, we’re only seeing the ones that are pre-med and have accents and are awesome at martial arts. Wong Fu’s fight has really been to balance the other side … not the kung fu-fighting math wizards. The best thing you can do is hope the other side will listen when you try to educate them.”
“I think it can show that Asians aren’t one-dimensional and that we’re just the same as anyone else,” attendee and College freshman Kelly Chen said.
She also described her experiences with racism and said she has been met with racial slurs while “out on the street.”
At the event, the first two episodes of "Yappie" were screened and selected audience members attended a meet and greet with Wong Fu Productions. The show portrays the life of a “young Asian professional” as he attempts to combat the stereotype that depicts Asians as a “model minority.”