Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an emotional appeal to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, calling on the US film industry to improve its portrayal of Asian characters.
“In the late 1960s, when I was a student at UCLA studying martial arts under Bruce Lee, he spoke often and with passion about the nefarious ways in which Asian Americans were portrayed on TV shows. television and in movies. … Asian men were grateful, genderless servants. Asian women were generally beautiful, wise and sexy, who needed protection from white men carrying weapons, ”wrote Abdul-Jabbar, who fought with Lee in the 1978 film“ Game of Death ”.
Six-time NBA champion Abdul-Jabbar noted that Lee worked to dismantle these stereotypes but ultimately turned to the action world of Hong Kong because he was frustrated with Hollywood. And there have been only a few exceptions to these degrading on-screen portrayals in the nearly five decades since the release of “Game of Death,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote, notably “Minari,” “The Farewell ”and“ Crazy Rich Asians ”. “
The United States may have seen an increase in anti-Asian violence due to COVID-19 and “dumb politicians” who used racist rhetoric to refer to the virus, but Abdul-Jabbar said “the degrading perception of Asian Americans by the non-AAPI community ”Has always existed.
“This perception, which infantilizes women and emasculates men, creates an environment, both conscious and subconscious, that tacitly allows the persecution of those who are seen as less worthy of respect than whites,” he writes.
“We need a commitment to produce more diverse portrayals of Asian Americans, but also to have more of their stories told by Asian Americans working behind the cameras, including writers and directors.” , wrote Abdul-Jabbar. “The problem is when the industry produces a ‘Minari’ or ‘The Farewell’ … he likes to sit and relax while welcoming himself. But prejudice – and the resulting hostility and violence – does not relax. “
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