Recently, I began to see some Asian celebrity from Asian countries in US mass media and popular culture.
Lin Yu Chun, a Taiwanese singer, became very popular in Taiwan by singing Whitney Houstons’ “I Will Always Love You” on a Taiwanese reality show Super Star Avenue, a Taiwanese version of American Idol. Although he does not speak English fluently, His singing sounds like native English speakers’ singing, and his voice is unbelievably beautiful and grasped attentions of not only Taiwanese audience but also audience from all over the world. He was invited and performed in several US television shows and have countless fans globally.
His appearance in US media seems very impressive considering the presence of small percentage of Asian American celebrities in US entertainment media. Lin Yu Chan and other native Asian celebrities’ being a part of US pop culture reveals the transnational media trends in both US and Asian countries. Lin Yu Chun’s singing video on Youtube made me think that due to the globalization in present day, the world began to have similar taste of entertainment media, music and other parts of popular culture. A person living in Asia can sing a popular American songs with great sensitivity even though he cannot speak English, and American people love his singing. This suggests that US and Asian popular cultures are quite closely connected. But why and how?
This phenomenon reminded me of a term “cultural assimilation” which was mentioned in Henry Yu’s article, “Ethnicity.” According to Yu, cultural assimilation is “the process by two groups communicated with each other and came to share common experiences, memories, and histories.” (Eng 134 CR p. 8)
The rise of modern communication,media, and transportation technology facilitated and accelerated the process sharing experiences and information between one another. Through internet, we can find news, popular films, and TV shows of India, and by taking an airplane, we can go to Japan to see a concert of a popular Japanese-pop singer. Because of this facilitated process, people from different culture can intermingle more often and eventually can share common experience.
Global media is dominantly influenced by the culture and interest of US. Constant export of US film and media products has created an easy, global access to US pop culture and entertainment media trends and has generated a huge profit. Statistically, US film and music industry created $95.4 billion revenue in 2010 (http://selectusa.commerce.gov/industry-snapshots/creative-media-industry-united-states). (http://www.seawost.com/massmedia.html). To keep up this profit from the around the world, U.S Film industry and television shows would have to consider not only domestically entertaining factors, but also globally entertaining factors. To fulfill this mission, in my opinion, Hollywood has cast some globally recognized Asian celebrities such as Lee Byung Hun in G.I. Joe, Jung Ji Hoon from Ninja Assassin and Speed Racer, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan from Pink Panther 2 and Bride and Prejudice. Many fans of these celebrities around the globe will have more interests toward the films, will think of the films globally trendy, and eventually help in creating revenues throughout the Asian countries. The Asian celebrities, on the other hand, are able to consolidate its position as global stars by appearing in U.S films and TV shows. However, many of their roles are still limited by racial stereotypes in US as I mentioned in my previous blog entry.
One interesting fact I found is that Korean film exports went up 8.4% in 2012, and distribution of Korean films in North America also has gone up.(http://www.screendaily.com/news/asia-pacific/korean-film-exports-up-84-in-2012/5051843.article). One of the main reason for rising of Korean films and dramas, according to Hyun-Key Kim, is that in Korean films, “Asian-ness” is no longer something marginal, but takes center stage and makes the Asian fans feel at home. It is not deniable that Hollywood have shown dyastopia to the Asian people by having them in limited, stereotypical roles such as ninja, martial art master, dragon lady, and some weird villains. Kim also mentions that Korean films, drama, and pop music not only have traditional Asian value but also follow global trends in terms of employing western fashion, performance, usage of English as lyrics in songs. These features will make many Korean and non-Korean audience to enjoy the films, drama, and pop music without much of cultural barrier and exoticism. I believe that these features bring satisfaction to native Asians and also Asian Americans by seeing people who look like them playing the main roles in drama, comedy, and romance movies.
*** I just focused on Korean films and TV shows since I got to find a lot of information about them as I research. I’m pretty sure there are many other Asian countries creating popular, global films and TV shows.
As a conclusion, US and Asian media are constantly affecting each other in order to meet economic goals and audience’s satisfaction. Although there are still some stereotypical issues in Hollywood films, US media industries attempts to satisfy global taste of entertainment by inviting many Asian celebrities. On the other hand, rise of Asian films also bring new satisfaction to native Asian and Asian American people by promoting Asian performers to the main roles and by following the global trends.
Hyun-key Kim, Hogarth. “The Korean Wave: An Asian Reaction To Western-Dominated Globalization.” Perspectives On Global Development & Technology 12.1/2 (2013): 135-151.