So in the past couple of days, my Facebook feed blew up with people reposting this BuzzFeed list, aptly named "27 Asian Leading Men Who Deserve More Airtime." I suspect that part of the reason for its popularity was due to the copious amounts of finely-sculpted abs, but that's besides the point. Sure, they're all extremely attractive (seriously, I think that one can say that objectively about all of them and I will confess a personal soft spot for Naveen Andrews), but many also have extensive acting experience and pedigrees, yet I barely recognized a quarter of them. Those who I did recognize tended to play supporting roles, not main ones. While a couple are from some pretty well-known TV shows, quite a few are from movies that are not exactly mainstream.
Unfortunately, this is not unique to APIA men. In an interview that Lucy Liu did with Net-A-Porter, she laments the typecasting that often happens to women of color (actually, women in general), and how she wants to branch out into other roles.
I wish people wouldn't just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me.
For those of you who might not know, she's currently starring as Watson in a Sherlock Holmes reboot ("Elementary") and I think she's awesome in it--not a whit has been said about her race the entire season, which is great.
At the end of the day, I am not as generous as Liu was in her interview. While she doesn't think that the scarceness of leading lady roles for her is due to racism, I think it is. While it may not be overt instances of bigotry, we can't pretend that there aren't stereotypes of APIA men and women that exist in general that expands into the roles that Hollywood chooses for them.
I think of all of the goofy or villainous APIA male characters, or the martial art or arm candy APIA female characters. There's rarely someone whose character is not affected by some racial undertone, but is simply a character. And until characters are casted just for who they are, and not their race, I don't think this will change.