Arthur Chu, an Asian American insurance analyst from Cleveland, recently became an overnight celebrity after amassing a small fortune with consecutive victories on the popular and long-running game show, Jeopardy! Unfortunately, the publicity Chu received was not all positive. Instead, Chu’s winning ways incited many angry Jeopardy! fans to tweet negatively about his unorthodox style of play, supposedly smug demeanor, and his penchant to interrupt the show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek.
Fan backlash toward Jeopardy! contestants is not completely unheard of. In an op-ed on Slate, 74 time-winner Ken Jennings, for example, noted that he was all too familiar with the public ire that Chu was receiving for his success on the show. More provocatively (and sociologically), Jennings went on to suggest a “racial angle” to the hostility leveled at Chu stemming from the fact he was a “bespectacled man with rumpled shirts and a bowl cut” who played into “every terrible Asian-nerd stereotype.” Is there truth to Jennings’ critique?
Asian American men have long been portrayed in the US media as sinister and conniving threats. This in turn has has affected the racialization of Asian American men in contemporary times:
- Robert G. Lee. 1999. Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Even successful Asian American men such as professional basketball star, Jeremy Lin, have had to deal with unflattering stereotypes and racist caricatures from the media and general public:
- Stephen Suh, Kyle Green, Ben Carrington, Rosalind S. Chou, and C.N. Le. 2012. “Linsanity and the Model Minority Myth”, The Society Pages
All this connects back to what sociologists claim is the tendency for Asian Americans to be perceived as both racially inferior and culturally unassimilable:
- Jennifer Lee. 2013. “From Unassimilable to Exceptional.” The Society Pages
- Claire J. Kim. 1999. “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans.” Politics & Society 27(1): 105-138