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Lost in the ’90s: Struggling to Find Asian American Representation When There Was None

6 August 2020

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Lost in the ’90s: Struggling to Find Asian American Representation When There Was None

When you’re a kid, you can’t explain why you like something. Not really anyway. The best most kids can do is nebulously describe something as “cool.” But looking back, I notice that many of my favourite movies, shows, and characters were directly tied to Asian culture. No one at school ever let me forget that I was Asian, so I needed to find the value in that.

The ’90s were a magical time wherein the seeds of mainstream nerd culture started to grow (Batman: The Animated Series, Game Boys, Keanu Reeves), but in retrospect, that time period grades out very poorly in Asian American representation. Asians weren’t invisible, but the more successful characters were often regulated to tired tropes like Mr. Miyagi — the old, exotic master — or Jackie Chan — the goofy foreigner who’s good at martial arts. The not-so-lucky Asian actors were relegated to sidekicks or background characters: Dante Basco’s Rufio, Thuy Trang’s Trini of the Power Rangers, and Jubilee of the X-Men.

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Image Credit: New Line Cinema