2018 was a stellar year for Asian representation, but an incident on a Canadian talk show proved we still have a long way to go to reverse harmful stereotypes.
Toronto actor Simu Liu appeared on CTV's "The Social" to promote the latest season of his show, "Kim's Convenience." But as the conversation turned to "stereotypes in the bedroom," and Liu cut in to give his perspective, the studio audience began to laugh.
"THEY. LAUGHED. I was stunned; you can see my face as I process what the f**k just happened," the 29-year-old wrote on Instagram, where he shared the clip.
Liu then turned what could have been an awkward incident into a teachable moment, and called out the audience.
"See, the fact that there's even laughter now, some of these stereotypes are absolutely and totally untrue," he said. "Just imagine being a kid and growing up having none of the girls want to date you and hearing more than anything that people are just not into Asian guys."
Liu referenced the fact that Asian men in media are portrayed as the "dorky, nerdy sidekicks" so often that it's become laughable to think of them as leading men. He then joked that that's why his Instagram page has an abundance of shirtless photos — to fight the stereotype that Asian men aren't sexy.
"[Asian stereotypes are] false and outdated, and the humour is incredibly cheap and low brow, specifically the ones surrounding Asian men," Liu told HuffPost Canada in an email. "Quite frankly I lose a lot of respect for anyone who thinks it's OK to make those jokes. I'm also probably more fit, more athletic and more attractive than them. Yeah, Louis C.K., I'm talking to you. You too, Steve Harvey."
On Instagram, the actor explained that he took a stand on the talk show "because goddamnit people it's 2019 and I'm tired of having to prove to the world that we're not Long Duk Dong from 'Sixteen Candles.'"
The incident left the internet shaking its head in disbelief, and many praised Liu for the way he handled the situation.
My husbands Asian, the audience doesnt know what they're talking about 🙄 and unfortunately, we hear those dumb jokes a lot . Gets pretty old and not to mention incredibly rude.— Sarah Antonio (@SarahPSmart) January 17, 2019
A large part of kicking stereotypes is doing what you just did, sitting down and having a talk about what stereotypes are portrayed and what is acceptable and what is harmful. Also, low key was like why are you soo familiar in a tv sense, then was like Kim's convenience. Lol. ❤— Hannah Britton (@noctuslupus) January 18, 2019
you are so well spoken & im so glad you're using your platform to speak about these issues. there's so much power in having these engaging conversations, because it's a huge step towards changing narratives!!— winnifred (@damnitwinnie) January 17, 2019
Even fellow Chinese-Canadian actor Ludi Lin chimed in.
Respect #invAZN— LudiLin (@ludi_lin) January 18, 2019
Liu has been adamant about fighting Asian stereotypes, and it's evident in the projects he chooses. In addition to starring in "Kim's Convenience," Liu was also featured in Wong Fu Productions' "Asian Bachelorette 2" last year, which pokes fun of stereotypes and puts hunky Asian men front and centre. Liu also posed as Mr. October for Haikus with Hotties' 2018 calendar, which "celebrates Asian male hotness in all forms."
But stereotypes exist for all people, not just Asians. For those who find themselves the butt of a joke because of this, Liu has some strong advice.
"Depending on the situation you can choose to let it slide or call it out, but what you absolutely cannot do is allow yourself to even remotely believe it," he told HuffPost Canada. "You cannot allow your perception of yourself be shaped by something so stupid and baseless. Keep your head held high, and REFUSE to be less than."
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Although Liu's experience on "The Social" might not have been ideal, he was happy it turned out to be a positive one.
"Much love to everyone at #TheSocial for being amazing and allowing me the space to properly educate some people," he wrote on Instagram. "I will be doubling my shirtless photo quota moving forward. I'm damn proud to be Asian."
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