“Totem Poles ARE Stupid”

Kevin Wu, also popularly known by his Youtube username KevJumba, is an Asian American comedian. Using the worldwide web as his center stage, he puts out countless comedic videos ranging from rants to skits to production movies/music videos. Currently he has a very successful youtube channel with over 2,969,000 youtube subscribers.

This particular skit/rant combo I would like to focus on is about how KevJumba critiques and voices his disdain with the perception that Asian guys are unable to attain a Caucasian female girlfriend, that Asian guys are “at the bottom of the totem pole”. Now from what we have learned in class, we know this perception stems from how American media portrays Asian men as being sexless male figures because they were viewed as potential threats to the “white man’s superiority” (Ideological Racism). And with media and society constantly depicting how Asian men rarely get the white girl, for example, never giving an Asian male in cinema a white female love interest, it has somehow brainwashed Asian men into believing that they have little to no chance at attracting specifically a “Caucasian counterpart” or any other race for that matter. He says in his video that “the only people who think Asian guys are at the bottom of the totem pole are Asian guys” and goes on to criticize that this is not due to Asians being unattractive because he believes that he, along with all other male Asians, have very attractive qualities like being “smart, cute, clean, and we don’t sweat a lot”. He specifically attributes this self hatred to Asian men having very low self-esteem and self confidence. KevJumba then finishes his video by trying the empower the asian male community by telling them they need to stand up, be confident, and assertive when asking girls out. Throughout this video he uses humor to entice the audience and keep them watching till the very end so he can get his message across. He begins the video with a comedic skit that introduces the specific dialogue he wants to address and then he proceeds to end the video with a rant that voices his frustrations. His word choice and face to camera shooting position also helps him connect more with the audience. In the video when he voices his frustrations, he regularly makes use of the word “we” instead of “you” to show less accusation and more inclusion. This serves to empower and motivate his male viewers to take his advice and translate it into actions. By ranting to the camera with only his face in the view shot also creates the atmosphere that he is directly talking to his viewers thus creating a stronger connection through the web.

KevJumba and other Youtube celebrities like Timothydelaghetto have especially been vocal about trying to combat Asian male stereotypes created by the media through their youtube videos. In Lisa Nakamura’s article, she stats that “Asian Americans use the Internet more than any other ethnic group in America” (262). Asian Americans have flocked to the internet as an outlet to showcase their creativity, voice their opinions, and rant about problems like stereotyping, since the mainstream media did not include enough Asian representation correctly in film or television. The internet and particularly these videos criticizing Asian stereotypes or any ethnic stereotypes present mainstream media “effectively employ self-critiquing interactivity that challenges vision itself as a way of understanding race, and culture” that otherwise would not available without the internet (270).

3 thoughts on ““Totem Poles ARE Stupid”

  1. I agree with the video, in that I have never seen an white woman ever say they do not want to date Asian men. But, I do feel the media is completely responsible for putting down Asian men and making them seem sexless. Even in 2013 we still see this in the film industry. For example I watched “Pacific Rim” a couple days ago and noticed that there are no Asian males in the movie that have a love interest. The leading Asian men in the movie, were faceless and nameless throughout the movie and although showed great power and control in their fighting skills they lacked any sort of personality, individuality, or love interests. I feel that Asian men lack a role model who is smooth with the ladies. Does anyone know of a Hollywood movie with such an actor?

  2. That was humorous watch! I’ve certainly heard of statements like this before, but totem poles? That’s certainly a first. Judging from what I saw, Kevjumba fits into the description of what Nakamura calls a ‘poweruser’. Meddling with his cameras and editing his videos would definitely require adequate to proficient literacy with the computer. As far as the content goes, I think this ties back to that idea of cultural hegemony we discussed a while back in class.

    Asian American men have been portrayed as either unworthy, unlovable, and passive so often that now, they themselves consent to this hierarchy. In this case, Justin is the one who plays into accepting this false stereotype. I think Kevin makes a good point how only Asian guys would say they are on the lower tier. After two years on this culturally diverse campus, I have not overheard a single demeaning attribute towards my race. But I do believe that it is the Asian American guys that allow and unconsciously uphold this comment.

    Nakamura would take this point and redirect us to the alllooksame site. The general low scores serve to show how the “truth about race is not a visual truth. It really doesn’t matter.” In other words, racism is meaningless because most of us can’t even decipher race through our eyes alone.

    I’ll side with kevjumba on this one. The reason Asian American males believe white females are beyond our reach is because they choose to accept it. Movies and shows have a lot to do with this as mentioned above by John, but Asian guys are not at the bottom of this totem pole. For whatever reason it is, there may be some instances where the white woman is against Asian men. But there is no way it is universally applicable to all white women. This totem pole has got to go!

  3. Very interesting way to look at things. I enjoyed KevJumba’s short and quick analysis of Asian American men when it comes to dating in general. Personally, I really side with the message KevJumba gives.

    For me, I think that by adhering to the stereotypes of the “totem pole,” you are only strengthening and reinforcing this system of hegemony by acknowledging it. If you don’t think you are masculine enough for anyone because of your ethnicity or race, then you just give in to the system and continue it, rathe than prove it wrong. KevJumba identifies the stereotype that Asian American men are shy, quiet, and inferior to other men, and tells men that it is simply a mental mindset. He advises to forget about the totem pole because he thinks it does not exist at all, and it is all in the head.

    KevJumba says the remedy is to “sack up” and just ask the girl out. I think the remedy is to just do you, regardless of what people tell you. Do not reinforce the totem pole, but ignore it even exists. Whatever the remedy might be, I think the point is to break the chain, and tell the system to go f*ck itself. And you know what? I’m pretty cool with that.

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