'Fashion privileges Whiteness in the name of Demand Economics'
I was thrilled when I heard that John Cho aka Harold/Sulu would be playing lead in Selfie, a rom sitcom on ABC. However, the series was short-lived and my desire in seeing an Asian man defy the stereotypes fed to me by the media was also short-lived.
I find it extremely troubling and sad that Cho, a South Korean, is the only reference point I have to seeing myself positively represented in a lead role on television. Although Cho is South Korean, the problem we share is the same. Ethnic minorities, in particular Asian minorities, are rarely seen in lead roles. The roles that Asian men are given exist to further perpetuate stereotypes of nerdy, asexual, docile men.
Vulture recently conducted some research into Asian characters and how their sexuality is portrayed in Television. The study was aptly titled ‘An In-Depth Cultural Analysis of Asian Male TV Characters Getting Some Action’. They collated all the times an Asian character ‘got some action;. Unsurprisingly, the instances were rare. Vulture concluded that more fully realised, three-dimensional characters that convey the Asian-American experience would contribute to fighting racism and stereotyping.
Idris + Tony, NY-based fashion photographers, make a step towards this by changing how Asian men (East Asian Men) are viewed through their Persuasion Project. The Persuasion Project was conjured up to depict Asian men in a way western media won’t i.e masculine, sexual and attractive. Tony Craig, one half of the duo, drove the point home saying “I've always had a negative self-image because of my Asian heritage, even though I started out as a male model ... I would not give Asian guys the time of day, nor was I attracted to them in the same way I've been attracted to other races."
What’s great about this project is that Idris + Tony see it as a challenge to the rooted and subconscious racism that afflicts the fashion industry. They agree that fashion, as it stands today, ‘privileges whiteness in the name of demand economics’.