I love playing Halo. So I really had a load of fun watching the webseries Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. Aside from giggling like a school girl every time the Warthog drove by (that’s my Halo ride) and screaming “Duel wield!” every time they found a weapon on the ground, I calmed down enough here and there to notice that there was an Asian American character Junjie Chen (Osric Chau) among the cadet soldiers in training, and unfortunately, the kid was overly stressed about grades and test scores, getting high-pressure video messages from an overbearing tiger dad, and he went the way of Donnie Yen in Blade II, ending up just some canon fodder. Yup, pretty stereotypical model minority Asian character.
Now, I’m not saying Asian and Asian heritage kids don’t have overbearing parents, aren’t overly concerned with grades, or can’t be killed in the line of fire. This reality does in fact exist for a substantial number of Asian and Asian heritage kids. Heck, even the main character of my own Asian American fantasy novel is an academic stress ball of a teen boy. I was one myself as an Asian American teen.
But that Asian American model minority archetype teen becomes a problem when there’s not much else out there in media to show that not all Asian American teens are that way. Many fail in school. Many become artists instead of doctors and accountants. Many have parents who don’t expect much from them. Many couldn’t care less if they didn’t get into that top college.
So I know people are probably going to be like “why you gotta make this political, it’s just a movie” or “why are you picking on this random show and saying be ‘politically correct’”. I heard a lot of that when I criticized Hell on Wheels for not having a strong Chinese American story to tell. But people, we’re missing the point here. Until we have more diverse representation of Asian Americans in the media, every time a new movie or T.V. show comes out with another stereotypical archetype character or fails to tell the story of the minority Asian American groups, reinforcing hate-inspiring misunderstandings or leaving out the experiences of the minority, there needs to be a whistle blower.
I know Halo is not an Asian American story. I know it’s not meant to be a vehicle of political action. And the creators of Halo have every right to tell the story they want to and to give fans the video game action-packed story fun that they want (which they did deliver, complete with wormies).
But they simply followed the status quo, creating yet another stereotypical character, and every time someone does that, whether it’s a video game movie or cowboy flick or a romantic comedy, it adds another brick to an already towering wall of ignorance.
So, creators and writers, tell the story you want, but at the very least be conscious what ignorance you’re adding to and what knowledge you’re not adding to, because we’re all responsible, whether we want to face it or not. I am no exception.