Asian Americans appear to favor diverse and culturally-relevant entertainment, including shows that make a demonstrated commitment to producing culturally-relevant content as well as promoting a diverse cast. Conversely, this cohort frequently rejects television shows, movies and other entertainment that misrepresent diversity and/or are culturally insensitive.
- Although the preponderance of credible analyses on Asian American entertainment preferences focus on this cohort’s favored media channels (e.g., TV, streaming, social) as opposed to content choices, publicly available discussion regarding the group’s content decisions as well as an assessment of associated viewing behavior over the last three years indicates that Asian Americans value diverse, culturally-relevant content and rally against franchises or brands that appear to be in conflict with these standards (e.g., whitewashing).
- Asian Americans have generally “shown strong support” for diverse and culturally-relevant content, including shows that have demonstrated a “commitment and investment in producing diverse content” as well as those that “reflect a diverse lead cast,” according to Nielson’s March 2020 report Engaging Asian American Consumers at the Dawn of a New Decade.
- This preference for diverse content has remained fairly constant over the years, with the most “heavily supported” shows in 2020 featuring culturally-relevant subjects and diverse casts, while the “top four Asian-American preferred series” in 2018 similarly had Asian Americans in “prominent roles” and featured Asian themes, per Nielson.
- Although most (81%) of Asian Americans consider their “unique cultural heritage” to be a key factor in how they perceive themselves and make purchase decisions, this cohort appears to favor general diversity as opposed to just Asian-specific representation in their content viewing decisions.
- For example, Asian Americans are consistent with the general population in favoring participation variety shows rather than Asian-specific content as their “number 1 genre,” according to Nielson’s March 2019 report The Asian American Consumer Journey.
- Similarly, the most popular films among Asian American viewers are typically not the best Asian American films (as determined by Asian American critics/curators) but more generic blockbuster hits that simultaneously reflect America’s wider social diversity (e.g., Spider-Man: Homecoming was the “most popular” movie among Asian American filmgoers in 2017 and has a Filipino actor as its co-lead).
- Conversely, Asian Americans are quick to reject television shows, movies and other entertainment that misrepresent diversity or are culturally insensitive.
- This is perhaps best epitomized by the reaction of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) to instances of whitewashing, such as the group’s “condemnation” of Ghost in the Shell for casting a white actress (i.e., Scarlett Johansson) in the role of an Asian heroine.
1. Crazy Rich Asians
- Crazy Rich Asians (additional details here) is a 2018 romantic comedy film based on the bestselling novel of the same namesake.
- Not only was the movie the “first major Hollywood studio film in 25 years” to feature a majority-Asian cast, but it was the “most successful studio rom-com in nine years” in the US due to overwhelming support from the Asian American community.
- Although Asian Americans typically comprise only 6% of US moviegoers, Asian Americans represented 40% of audiences for Crazy Rich Asians during its opening weekend, per Warner Brothers.
- Moreover, the film performed the “best in Asian-heavy markets” in the US, according to Hollywood Reporter.
- Overall, the film’s success among Asian Americans was attributed not only to the representation of this cohort within key roles, but because of the movie’s representation of diversity in general.
- Notably, this viewing preference for culturally diverse content among Asian Americans stood in stark contrast with overseas Asian communities such as China, where “audiences’ interest was barely flickering” for the film.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (additional details here) is a 2017 action and adventure movie that was part of the relaunch of the Spider-Man film franchise.
- According to the Motion Picture Association of America, this film was the “most popular movie among Asian filmgoers” during the year of its release.
- Notably, the fact that the movie co-starred a diverse lead (i.e., Filipino actor Jacob Batalon) is partially attributed with the success of the movie among Asian Americans.
- Additionally, Marvel Studios advertised Spider-Man: Homecoming as a new diverse representation of the Spider-Man franchise.
3. The Good Doctor
- The Good Doctor (additional details here) is a broadcast network show launched by ABC in 2017 that is currently in its fourth season, and highlights the exploits of a young doctor with autism and Savant syndrome.
- Notably, the television series is culturally relevant as a remake of the Korean drama Good Doctor and is known for its casting of Asian Americans in “prominent roles.”
- Moreover, the show’s executive producer Daniel Dae Kim is a public advocate for “inclusion and diversity,” stating that these “extremely important” factors are an “important, necessary part” of achieving success.
- Consistent with Asian American viewing preferences, this series was the most watched broadcast network show among the cohort in 2018, with 575,000 Asian American viewers of 18 years or older.
4. The Big Bang Theory
- The Big Bang Theory (additional details here) is a broadcast network comedy series comprised of 12 seasons that aired between 2007 and 2019.
- Notably, the show was consistently popular among Asian Americans while it was live on TV, ranking as the fifth top series among this demographic group in 2017 (with a score of 0.47) and the second most-viewed show among Asian Americans in 2018 (with 560,000 Asian American viewers of 18 years or older).
- According to Nielson, the show’s popularity among Asian Americans was due in part to the fact that the series included the Raj Koothrappali, an Asian character that was appropriate cast by an actor of similar heritage.
5. This Is Us
- This Is Us (additional details here) is a romantic comedy television series that was launched in 2016 and is currently in its sixth season.
- This show has remained consistently popular among Asian Americans, ranking as the fourth top series among this demographic group in 2017 (with a score of 0.48) and the third most-viewed show among Asian Americans in 2018 (with 499,000 Asian American viewers of 18 years or older).
- In a fashion similar to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the show does not feature Asian Americans in prominent roles, but is culturally relevant through its “diverse cast” as well as content that frequently highlights “Asian performers and themes.”
Other Popular Content
- Cable Shows: Nora from Queens (per Nielson reporting in 2020), Rachel Maddow Show, Walking Dead, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360 (per Nielson reporting in 2018).
1. Ghost in the Shell
- Ghost in the Shell (additional details here) is the 2017 action film remake of the 1995 Asian animation feature of the same namesake.
- According to IndieWire and Entertainment Weekly, the movie was one of the most controversial films of its decade, owing to the fact that it “ignited serious conversations about the severity of whitewashing” in Hollywood films.
- Notably, the film “bombed” at the US box office, due to outrage by Asian Americans as well as the general American population over its cultural insensitivity in casting a white actress to play an Asian role, according to NBC News.
- In particular, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) were “angered” and “condemned” the movie, adding that the film and its lead actors were “lying” in defending their portrayal of Asians.
- Hellboy (additional details here) is another action film remake, released in 2019, which was also the subject of “growing controversy” due to accusations of whitewashing “specifically by the Asian American community.”
- In particular, British actor Ed Skrein was originally cast for the role of Ben Daimio, a character of Japanese-American descent in the related comics.
- Notably, the “intense conversation and understandable upset” among Asian Americans surrounding the culturally insensitive casting subsequently led Mr. Skrein to quit the film so that his associated character could be “cast appropriately.“
- However, the movie never fully recovered from this and other controversies, and ultimately was an “epic flop at the box office.”
3. America’s Got Talent
- America’s Got Talent (additional details here) is a weekly talent show broadcast launched in 2006 that has shifted from a favorite among Asian Americans to one of significant controversy.
- Notably, the television show was a top series among Asian Americans in 2017, with a score of 0.86, according to USA Today.
- However, the show became the subject of unified outrage among Asian Americans after Jay Leno appeared as a guest judge on the show and allegedly made racially insensitive jokes.
- Specifically, Asian American organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC and the Media Action Network for Asian Americans called on NBC to “take action” and “sever its business ties” with the former late night TV host due to his history as a “repeat offender in denigrating a part of our Asian American community.”
- Subsequently, America’s Got Talent “dipped to its lowest rating and total viewership to date.”