ASIAN VOICES

'Fresh Off The Boat' Star Randall Park Wants More Working-Class Asian-American Stories On Screen

The "Fresh Off The Boat" star said the stories of most Asian-American and Pacific Islanders have not been told.

As Asian-Americans celebrated seeing themselves reflected on-screen in successful movies over the summer, they’re hoping that Asian representation in Hollywood doesn’t end there ― including Randall Park, who has an idea of what he wants to see next. 

The “Fresh Off The Boat” actor stopped by for a BUILD Series interview with HuffPost ahead of his show’s season premiere on Friday. And he called out the absence of some crucial narratives about the Asian-American community in television and film. 

“For me, I would love to see more working-class or lower class [stories], because that exists in our community but those stories aren’t often told,” said Park, who plays cheery patriarch Louis Huang in “Fresh Off The Boat.”

“There are a lot of communities within the Asian Pacific Islander umbrella that are predominantly more working-class or lower class, and those stories haven’t been told yet, so my hope is that we see the gamut of perspectives,” he said.

In mainstream media and beyond, Asian-Americans are painted as the “model minority,” reinforcing the erroneous belief that they’re a monolithic group and all financially well-off. This myth obscures the struggles of lower-income Asian-Americans and Asian subgroups that are, on average, more disadvantaged than the average American.

In fact, a Pew Research Center report released this year showed that Asians have the largest income gap in the U.S. Among the poorest Asian groups are Hmong, Malaysian, Burmese and Bhutanese people, 28 to 33 percent of whom experience poverty. The general U.S. population has a roughly 15 percent poverty rate.

“The model minority myth chooses to highlight the successful immigrant examples and brush aside the high rates of poverty,” Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, previously explained to HuffPost. “The myth assumes that we somehow have the capacity to work ourselves out of poverty without any help.” 

While “Crazy Rich Asians,” for example, was considered a big win for representation in Hollywood, the movie doesn’t depict all Asian-American experience or even “average” Asian-American experience.

“In terms of representing all of Asians and Asian Americans, it doesn’t hit that mark. It is a very specific story to a specific enclave, and even within that enclave, a specific class of that enclave,” sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen told The Washington Post. 

But it’s unrealistic to expect a single movie to reflect the diversity of backgrounds in the Asian-American community, she added.

“The problem is that we don’t have enough stories,” Yuen said. “It’s not that this film is terrible and Kevin Kwan’s book is so horrible, but that it is one story and it shouldn’t represent all of Asia and nobody wants that to happen.”

Well, we’re definitely here for a range of Asian-American stories! Your move, Hollywood.

CONVERSATIONS