The Myth of the Model Minority

Recently I have embarked on a new art project on how my identity has been shaped and how I am seen by others. As an Asian American, I sometimes feel out of place–I was born in the United States and can barely speak my native language, so does that really make me Asian? On the other hand, my racial identity is something impervious to social forces–I am and will always be Asian American. Specifically, to inform my project, I recall things people have said to me or even things that my parents have said to me.

One common stereotype is the myth of the model minority. Asians are often portrayed as nerdy, awkward, and high-achieving; as an extreme example, they might spend all their free time when not studying to be a doctor playing the piano or the violin. Seemingly, they are an example to others of how the American Dream can be attained through hard work. While some people, Asian or not, are able to attain success and wealth by diligent work, which is impressive and quite amazing, the model minority stereotype is problematic and dangerous.

Stereotypes are considered harmful, even if they seem to depict a certain group in a favorable light. Yet the model minority myth popularized in media categorizes an entire racial group into one box. Despite the many different identities people carry, being Asian immediately labels you. It erases other significant facets of one’s identity. This is especially deleterious to mental health. When a person of a specific group is expected to perform to a certain level, it puts a great amount of pressure on them, as if they are representing the entire group despite being just one person with intersectional identities. That stress can heavily contribute to anxiety and depression among a host of other mental illnesses, and is considered burdensome for a race that is always portrayed as quiet and never needing to speak up. Beyond surface level, the stereotype of the model minority can be very damaging in the long run.

The bottom line is, not all Asian Americans fit into this tiny constructed mold. Some do, and that’s okay. It’s important to consider the big picture and remember that everyone is unique.

Who is Big Chungus?

Recently, a meme has circulated the internet featuring a gluttonous Bugs Bunny named “Big Chungus.” The character was originally shown in the cartoon Wabbit Twouble from 1941, and has become massively popular in the past few months despite its brief resurfacing in 2017 on Reddit.

The word “chungus” was allegedly created by Jim Sterling in 2012, a freelance video game writer, who incorporated the word in various articles, and is defined as “meaning anything and everything.” Redditors in 2018 then ascribed the term “Big Chungus” to the image of obese Bugs Bunny photoshopped onto a Playstation 4 video game cover.

Now, memes of the absolute unit Chungus have morphed into jokes internet-savvy users spread across social media channels, such as a lovechild of Big Chungus and Ugandan Knuckles, or Big Chungus appearing in various movie scenes for example.

Although the meaning of Big Chungus still remains elusive, it illustrates the absurd creativity of the internet, spreading nonsensical jokes with no apparent value except to bring joy to viewers. Who is next?

John Cena and the Complexities of Man

 

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John Cena, a professional WWE wrestler and actor, is also known for his charisma and unexpected sweetness, thus drawing appreciation from fans around the world. He is a diamond in the rough, an example of a superstar who uses his talent and celebrity to better others’ lives while still having a fun time.

Originally portraying a trash-talking rapper, WWE promoted him to face of the company, shifting his character to a Superman archetype. He has acted in numerous films and regularly guest stars on TV shows. Cena also speaks Mandarin (which he learned to help WWE expand internationally) and in 2005 released an album titled with the popular catchphrase “You Can’t See Me,” showcasing his many talents.

John Cena is also known for his philanthropy, working on causes such as the Make a Wish Foundation, where he has granted the most wishes in history (500!). Turning his brolic character into a multidimensional person capable of being both strong and sensitive, badass, and compassionate, I honestly wish more celebrities were like John Cena.

The Value of Doing Absolutely Nothing

After my girlfriend’s last final, we found ourselves in a rare situation: we were (mostly) free of all responsibilities for a few days, able to do whatever we pleased until it was time to leave. But, most of our friends had left for the holiday already, or were studying rigorously for their last finals. We ended up spending many nights watching random videos, eating snacks, and snoozing. It was pretty great.

At home now, I have so much time for myself. There are also things I told myself I wanted to get done–take photos, make art, apply for internships, catch up with friends. At the same time, it’s relieving to simply have a break from a hectic college schedule. Over the course of the semester, I found myself in a cycle of scheduled classes, meetings, and homework taking up nearly every minute. No longer inundated with these tests and papers and club meetings and work for a few weeks, this holiday break is a perfect time to relax and refresh.

Even though our society looks down upon doing something that isn’t “productive,” taking moments for yourself is important. Taking time to breathe or reflect can be helpful as well, perhaps even insightful. Doing nothing is powerful. Whether it’s reading a book, watching movies, taking a much-needed nap, or even daydreaming, I think we can all benefit from a little self care.

Big Mouth Energy

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Big Mouth is an adult animated show based on comedian Nick Kroll’s tweenage years. The star-studded cast boasts the voices of John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate, and Jordan Peele for instance.┬áThe Netflix series features a wayward cast of Nick and his best friend Andrew, their friends Jessi, Missy, Jay, talking pillows, strange parents, older siblings, and of course, the dreaded Hormone Monsters. Other recurring members weave in and out of episodes including an incompetent but well-meaning gym teacher, the ghost of Duke Ellington, and Jay’s talking pitbull.

The tweenage characters each have a hormone monster, which serves to guide them through puberty. Yet the monsters often get into trouble, acting as impulsive influences. Each episode features an awkwardly honest look into growing up, entailing all of the things that come with middle school changes: masturbation and sex included.

At first glance, the show seemed immature and borderline disgusting–you can imagine some of the scenes that happen when two 12 year old boys are the main characters. But as I ventured into the second season, I recognized the hilarity and value of such cringeworthy scenes, which highlight a universally relatable time in middle school. As much as we try to repress these memories, they form an important phase in our lives.

Characters struggle with their own identities while growing up, and face drug use, bullying, sexuality, and depression to name a few issues. Big Mouth is brutally honest yet simultaneously nonsensical at times. If you haven’t yet, I recommend watching Big Mouth for at least a few episodes to relive your best and worst prepubescent memories.

 

King Princess: The New Era of Music

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If you listen to pop music, you’ve probably heard of King Princess. The 19 year old pop artist, born Mikaela Straus, has skyrocketed to celebrity within the past year. Her fans adore her for her lyrical and deep songs featuring themes of love, queerness, and identity. She grew up in the studio in Brooklyn, learning music from her sound engineer dad, and now lives in LA. King Princess signed with Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records as his first artist on the Columbia imprint label.

King Princess herself is known for being transparent, which is rare among famous people–she is straightforward in terms of her gay sexuality and being genderqueer, thus calling to attention the importance of representation. Although she only has a handful of songs, they are carefully crafted, crooning melodic odes to love and loneliness in the modern era. King Princess’ musical talent is shown through instrumental elements, as well as her eccentric eye. Clare Gillen directs her music videos, each with a particular unique theme.

“1950” was the first single that boomed among top charts. In it, King Princess pays tribute to LGBTQ people throughout history who have had to hide their sexualities and self-expression. Most recently, she has released “Pussy is God,” a straightforwardly explicit anthem celebrating female anatomy. There are no hidden gimmicks or double meanings; the song co-written with her girlfriend, actress Amandla Stenberg, expresses love for their partner’s beauty in a funky tune.

King Princess represents a new generation of pop artists: those unafraid to be completely themselves and speak up for what they believe in. She has already garnered millions of fans and will continue to do so, hopefully inspiring young people everywhere to be authentic to themselves and unabashedly honest.