Opinion

Asian Men In Australian Media Have Always Been Stereotyped As Awkward And One Dimensional. “Hungry Ghosts” Has Changed This Narrative.

The four part drama mini-series “Hungry Ghosts” has just finished, with the climatic final episode 4 airing last night. Having watched all 4 episodes, I feel extremely satisfied that finally I am able to watch a mainstream Australian made series which treats Asian Australians as regular people living their lives and not pigeon holed into the tired, negative old stereotypes of being laundry mat owners, sex workers, textile workers or being caught red handed on some customs/border security type show. More importantly, the series features many handsome Vietnamese/Asian Australian men from all different generations playing characters of sons, fathers, grandfather, men of religion, lovers, ghosts, professionals, businessmen and all showing real emotions of love, anger and happiness. If I was to describe the Vietnamese/Asian male actors in the series, I would use the term “thirst quencher”, but we are here to be and speak professionally, so I will describe it as representing positive stereotypes of Vietnamese/Asian Australian men.

Australian media stereotypes of Asian men have followed the lead of how Hollywood has negatively stereotyped Asian men – as awkward, asexual, unattractive and the goofy sidekick. I wrote about this for a piece for Junkee in 2019:

“One of the first mainstream Asian male characters introduced to the Western world was Dr Fu Manchu, a sinister “oriental villain” who graced the screens in the first half of the twentieth century, aimed at scaring women into thinking an Asian man is out to kidnap them. Or in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we get a goofy, buck tooth Asian male character played by Mickey Rooney ( yes a white man) named I.Y. Yunioshi. Or remember the weirdly sexless Asian character of “Long Duk Dong” introduced in Sixteen Candles, who comes across as a horny joke.”

However, in a change of narrative, if we take a look at the Vietnamese/Asian Australian men featured on “Hungry Ghosts”, there are so many handsome and talented Vietnamese/Asian Australian male actors who play all sorts of characters without the need of a white male saviour overshadowing them. I think that is all I need to say about this topic, because the following images and names will demonstrate this. Safe to say, Australian media and entertainment industry really has no reason to say there are not “enough” Asian Australian males to cast as leads for their show/film. Don’t take my word for it, but check out the following images and names! Enjoy!

HOA XUANDE – “KHOA” ( Ghost)

FERDINAND HOANG – “ANH NGUYEN”

GARETH YUEN – “PAUL NGUYEN”

LAP PHAN – “SANG TRAN”

CHRISTOPHER JOHN QUYEN DINH“DANIEL NGUYEN”

VICO THAI – “QUANG” ( Ghost)

TRACKIE TRAN – “HOC” (Ghost)

YUCHEN WANG – “THAO” (Ghost)

WARREN LEE – “HARRY TRANG”

LAWRENCE MAH – “THAY DUC”

MAX BROWN – “JAMES HOANG”

KOA NUEN – “YOUNGER ANH NGUYEN”

ROBERT PHAM – “THAY MINH”

Images via Hungry Ghosts Instagram and header image via Catherine Van-Davies

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