Amidst the numerous glittery ensembles and awkward scripted antics of celebrity presenters, the 2010 MTV movie awards this past Sunday featured a surprisingly healthy number of Asian male actors as presenters, nominees and winners.
The panel of heavy-hitters included host Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation, a “wildcard” choice Ken Jeong from The Hangover, Jackie Chan, and Rain, the Korean pop star from Ninja Assassin.
Aziz exhibited his versatility by going through more outfit changes than Christina Aguilera, ranging from a dapper tuxedo to an outfit that seemed one-part Snoog Dogg, one-part Karate Kid.
Ken Jeong, teary-eyed and refreshingly energetic, gave an emotional speech as he accepted his award for “Best WTF moment” in The Hangover.
As for Rain, perhaps his popularity is more concentrated within the Korean circles or perhaps I’ve been living under a rock, but my only exposure to Rain has been through The Steven Colbert Show, in which Colbert challenged Rain to a much-publicized dance-off after losing a popularity contest featured in Time magazine. But apparently Rain is considered a huge sex symbol in Asia, so it was quite refreshing to see that he won the award for “Best Badass Actor,” presented by Jackie Chan, no less. This award will definitely help to cement his crossover appeal to American audiences though it will be interesting to see if his apparently enormous sex appeal in Asia crosses over too.
But let’s talk frankly here. With two counts of desexualized Asian goofballs (Aziz and Ken) and two “ninja” martial arts stars (Jackie and Rain), we’re really branching out in terms of representation in the media, aren’t we? It seems like the only place in society for Asian male actors has to fit neatly in those two categories. I mean, Ken’s performance running around naked as a flamboyant Chinese gangster in The Hangover was brilliantly funny, but it doesn’t really help to dispel any stereotypes about Asian men in the US.
Have we made any progress since Jackie Chan? And where are the women? I don’t think it’s about roles being created specifically “for” Asian actors, especially since Ken Jeong has said he always gets roles intended for “50-year-old white men”, but the fact that he had to adopt an accent and bring out some Kung-Fu moves in The Hangover is telling. I’m hoping to see more diversified roles in the future for Asian actors, but happy that at least we’re getting some face time in the media.
Vanessa lives in New York City and works in marketing in the beauty industry. In her free time, she moonlights as a writer and unauthorized restaurant critic with a voracious appetite for travel, fashion, cringe-worthy reality television, and all things Asian-American.