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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

the over-celebration of individualism

We're part of a generation that has been bred since the days of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon to embrace being an individual - we are constantly fed messaging that being different, unique, against the status quo should be celebrated if not put above all else. It's hard to find advertisements that don't feature a back to back cast of individuals who could not look more different from each other, and often times far different from anyone you've ever seen. In fact, I don't recall the last time I've watched a half time show that showcased a series of southern folks from rural Virginia, or banker bros from NYC or Asian Americans you'd see during Sunday services. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure how different the current cultural narrative is from the very thing that it's trying to criticize or "fight against."

I do agree that some level of representation is important, but it's also important to highlight accurate representation. It seems that by the masses, all ads do an over-the-top job of displaying folks of the LGBTQ community, interracial marriages, "body positivity" and racially ambiguous individuals. We all know the thesis behind these forms of media and even as I'm typing this out I can't help but question "am I discriminating by thinking this?" Truthfully, the fact that such a though somewhat prevents me from actually noting what I'm thinking frustrates how infiltrated I've been by the popularized media. The reality is, the groups of people I mentioned don't make up most of America - in fact, they are a very tiny minority. Once again, before I get an array of pitchforks at my door, I firmly believe representation is important. But I do question how different this is from having what was "normal" or what represents a majority of the country as a standard in all forms of media. It's actually inevitable for the media to not have a narrative - the meta right now seems to be to embrace the powerful women, the strength of diversity, and to demean what used to be the norm. I have no issue with such messaging if the messengers came outright admitting that they are pushing their own agendas and shilling their own bags - that's what human beings do. In an age where female directors are celebrated, movies about non-white races win awards, it becomes ever more-so profitable to invest and produce such forms of content. But let's be real with ourselves and admit that amidst the nice packaging of "doing this for the Asian American kid who grew up without a role model in the media" sugarcoating, there's certainly an investor or actor raking in the millions. I iterate one last time - there's nothing intrinsically wrong about shilling your own bag or using culture to generate profits - I do have an issue with displaying such productions solely as a means to "fight for what is right" and "provide representation."

To take a step further, there also seems to be a select group within 2022's blessed demographics that direct who gets the attention and the payday. There's plenty of minority groups that don't seem to get their own story or H&M clothing line, some of which are far lesser in number than other minority groups (if that's the standard that you're fighting for) or more marginalized than others. If you truly believe in providing a voice for the voiceless and representation for those under-represented, without having any form of personal benefit to come from such campaigns, it's hard to look past the other groups that continue to be shunned by whoever's controlling the masses. What's even more concerning is that a select few (who are now minorities, but also consist of what would now be considered the "majority") dictate what problems those that "suffering" have and present solutions that must be accepted as the truth and resolutions. As an example, I truly wonder how many Latin Americans wish to embrace the Latinx nomenclature and how many Asian Americans want to continuously hear the repeated story of a broken relationship with parents "who only wanted the best for them." As one myself, I'm solely thankful for what they have done and rather tired of seeing that on the big screen every time I'm in attendance at a show with Jimmy O Yang or Ken Jeong as the comic relief. In some ways, not having such stories told at all or not being reminded that "your race is so under represented" would fair better. Shang Chi did not get me teary eyed knowing my 15 year old brother now has an Asian avenger to look up to.

Immature snarky comments aside, I really do think it's important to recognize that the way that media is shaping up to be and has already overturned what was previously the norm is just the same devil in a different form. The only issue, which in my humble opinion makes it even worse, is that it's become bullet proof in this vest known as "morality" and "humanity" and whoever questions or attacks such representation is deemed to be racist or homophobic.

I look forward to the day I get to watch a super bowl ad featuring a Korean American straight male from Orange County that exited investment banking to start a NFT company.

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