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A Qualitative Investigation of How Asian-American Males View Emasculating Stereotypes in U.S

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MEDIA@LSE MSc Dissertation Series Compiled by Bart Cammaerts, Nick Anstead and Ruth Garland Unmasking ‘Sidekick’ Masculinity: A Qualitative Investigation of How Asian-American Males View Emasculating Stereotypes in U.S. Media Steffi Lau, MSc in Global Media and Communications Other dissertations of the series are available online here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/mediaWorkingPapers/ ElectronicMScDissertationSeries.aspx

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Dissertation submitted to the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, August 2015, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MSc in Media, Communication and Development. Supervised by Dr. Shakuntala Banaji. The Author can be contacted at: steffitracy@gmail.com Published by Media@LSE, London School of Economics and Political Science (‘LSE’), Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE. The LSE is a School of the University of London. It is a Charity and is incorporated in England as a company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act (Reg number 70527). Copyright, Steffi Lau © 2015. The authors have asserted their moral rights. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher nor be issued to the public or circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published. In the interests of providing a free flow of debate, views expressed in this dissertation are not necessarily those of the compilers or the LSE.

MSc Dissertation of Steffi Lau

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Unmasking ‘Sidekick’ Masculinity: A Qualitative Investigation of How Asian-American Males View

Emasculating Stereotypes in U.S. Media

Steffi Lau ABSTRACT This paper sought to explore how Asian-American males perceive stereotypical media

portrayals of themselves in relation to their identity and masculinity and conversely, how

they construct identity and masculinity in relation to emasculating media representations.

Through semi-structured interviews, this research explored the inner worlds and life

narratives of 23 Asian-American men. Using thematic analysis, I found that Asian-American

men by and large negatively view and reject media’s emasculating images of themselves and

find resistance in choosing to assert their masculinity and identity in other ways.

Nonetheless, as identity is not produced in a vacuum, but is socially recognized, Asian-

American men suffer from being ascribed unwanted identities out of their control.

INTRODUCTION

I am an Oriental. And being an Oriental, I could never be completely a man. – M. Butterfly

In February 2012, after singlehandedly converting a dismal game into victory for the New

York Knicks, a virtually unknown basketball player, Jeremy Lin, burst into the global

spotlight, as he drove ‘near-superhuman’ point leads that led his team to victory over an

unparalleled winning streak spanning seven games and toppling historical statistics

(Freeman, 2012). Yet what made this underdog’s rise to stardom even more remarkable was

his background: the athletic, charismatic 6’3’ Taiwanese-American was an unprecedented

rarity in the league, defying stereotypes of Asian-American men as bookish, puny and

physically inept

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