"I don’t want you to immediately pin me as a martial artist or a nerd without getting to know me"
Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why actor Ross Butler has shared his thoughts about Asian American stereotypes.
In an article for Teen Vogue, Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why actor Ross Butler writes about Asian American stereotypes in Hollywood.
Butler writes that diversity on screen as certainly improved over the years. “I couldn’t be more proud of what diverse communities have done so far in the fight for a space in the cultural sphere,” he writes. “To be on your television screen. To show up in the movies you’re watching at the theater. To finally be seen.”
However, Butler also believes that there is a misconception about what actors from different backgrounds are trying to achieve. “Amidst all the chatter, I feel like there are some misunderstandings of what we’re striving for and why,” he writes.
Writing from an actor with Asian heritage, Butler reveals he is often stereotyped immediately due to typecasting. “Thanks to years of tropes and typecasting of Asian men in entertainment, you may make assumptions about me without even knowing me,” Butler writes. “If you see me walking down the street, I don’t want you to immediately pin me as a martial artist or a nerd without getting to know me.”
“Sure, I may know martial arts and I may have nerd tendencies, but at least buy me a coffee and find those things out before just assuming,” he adds. “There are plenty of Asian-Americans out there who do play the violin or have their black belt, but that doesn’t mean every single one of us does.”
“If Asians were better represented onscreen, perhaps you wouldn’t be as likely to have preconceived notions about me or put me in a box.”
Butler writes that audiences from diverse backgrounds are often asked to relate to characters from outside their race. “If you happen to be Asian — or any other racial minority — you’re asked to relate to the white characters as a default,” he writes. “And a big problem is that people want to see themselves reflected both accurately and fairly in the entertainment they watch. They don’t like stereotypes, especially when those lead to judgment as something they are not.”
However, Butler also adds that not every show should be about triumphing diversity. “Do I think every show and movie should be about minorities going forward?” He asks. “No. I’m not disillusioned. Hollywood will always make movies about white characters; we’re simply asking that we have our share of options, in addition to those stories. I realize that the majority of America identifies as white, and that not every high school clique has a “token” minority friend.”
“But the fact that these inoculated pockets of America still exist is proof that we need diverse storytelling; if left to their own ways, those white groups could just get whiter, and their prejudices could grow deeper.”
Butler concludes his piece by emphasising that diversity on screen is necessary to reflect the real world and that he is looking forward to the change. “If the actors and writers and directors are talented, we get immersed in these images we see onscreen, and they stay with us,” he writes. “We’re pushing so hard for inclusion and diversity so that these stories are accurate and better mirror the world we live in. And that’s why I’m excited that everything is finally changing for the better.”