Asian Americans are becoming an increasingly frequent presence in US advertising, which makes sense considering they make up 5.6% of the population and numbers are growing as immigration restrictions are relaxed. However, the WaPo reports that when it comes to depicting couples “the portrayal goes mostly in one direction: White guy and Asian American woman”.
The combination may be the most common depiction of mixed-race couples in popular culture; African Americans are rarely glimpsed with white mates in TV shows or commercials, for example. It may even be more common than an Asian American man paired with an Asian American woman.
Chevrolet, Heineken and Apple have all released recent adverts with this particular mixed-race pairing. The Asian Pacific America Media Coalition has raised objections about the depiction of Asian Americans to industry representatives, “It seems to be okay if the man is white and the woman is Asian. The community thinks it typecasts Asian women as exotic or as playthings.”
Ads featuring Caucasian males and Asian females play off a long history of such portrayals, says LeiLani Nishime, a professor and Asian studies scholar at the University of Washington. “I think part of the comfort with those images comes from the way they affirm a lot of stereotypes we already have about asexual Asian men and sexually available Asian women,” she says.
In TV news, the pairing of an older white man with a younger, Asian American, female co-anchor has become so familiar that some in the news business refer to it as “the Connie Chung effect.” Chung was the first Asian American female to co-anchor a network newscast (with Dan Rather) in 1993.