January 23, 2024
BEIJING – Film star Daniel Wu criticized the Barbie manufacturer for perpetuating stereotypical images of Asians on social media.
His Weibo post included images of a Barbie dressed as a doctor wearing a panda-themed outfit and another Barbie playing the violin, both of which depicted Asian characters.
“I strongly support diversity. However, an Asian Barbie marketed as ‘You can be anything’ is set as a violinist or a panda doctor? It seems more like ‘You can be anyone your Asian parents want you to be.’ This either appears to be a misrepresentation by a non-Asian, playing into stereotypes, or it’s designed by an Asian carrying intergenerational trauma,” said Wu in his Weibo.
The Barbie dolls are manufactured by American toy and entertainment company Mattel. Owner of one of the strongest portfolios of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world, Mattel said on its website that their purpose is to “empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential.”
Indeed, many Chinese immigrants in the past have fervently hoped that their children would become doctors, and the violin was often a talent they encouraged.
The issue with perpetuating stereotypes, even if they seem positive, is that they can limit individual aspirations and reinforce narrow expectations based on race or ethnicity. While being a doctor or a violinist are respectable professions, not all individuals of Asian descent want to pursue these paths, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate the diversity of interests and career choices within any community.
In July, 2021, famous US violinist Pinchas Zukerman angered many of the roughly 100 students and teachers during a master class at the Juilliard School, a private performing arts conservatory in New York City, when he invoked racist stereotypes about Asians. The violinist had to apologize for his words. .
Only by actively challenging stereotypes and embracing the richness of diverse experiences, can the US create a more inclusive society where individuals are valued for their unique talents and aspirations.