The Effects of (Mis)Representation in Visual Media on Asian American Youth

Natalie Shen ’20
Faculty Advisor: Lilia Cai-Hurteau
April 24, 2020

The perseverance of centuries-old racist notions in modern entertainment has led to the acceptance of lackluster, or wholly nonexistent, representations of the Asian/American experience in visual media. This is particularly concerning in relation to cartoons, an industry specifically targeting children. These characters are role models to the younger generation, but what if those role models don’t exist? Or what if they’ve only ever been the taxi driver, the silent kid who gets straight A’s, the eccentric foreigner?

Natalie Shen ’20 aims to share the untold history of manipulating cartoons as a means of disseminating racist Asian/American imagery. She will analyze the roles of Asian/American characters in mainstream American cartoons, graphic novels, and animated movies and how the perpetuation of harmful representation influences the crucial development of racial identity in children. From “Phineas and Ferb” to “Big Hero 6,” the critical assessment of character design, character development, voice acting, and visual appearance will lend itself to a greater understanding of the gravity of implicit messaging in seemingly innocent productions.

Natalie’s presentation seeks to empower us all to be more critical and conscious viewers when consuming media, and inspire us to imagine the endless possibilities of positive and inclusive characterization.

Natalie will be joined by guest collaborator Kawai Lai, Kawai a designer and facilitator serving schools in strategic planning. She started to unleash the visual mind of every learner. Formerly, she served as the Vice President of Innovation at the National Association of Independent Schools and helped launch and grow Education Elements. Ms. Lai’s visit is sponsored by an Abbot grant to PA’s Asian Women Empowerment (AWE) organization.

Join us for her presentation on Zoom on Friday, April 24th at 8 PM EST.
Password: natalie20

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