Why America is the Melting Pot of the world

America is supposedly the Melting Pot of the world, where people of many different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds come together in peace to establish one united and equal society. As one of the most developed countries in the world, the United States is, to many individuals, a symbol of enlightenment and advancement in all areas of the arts, sciences, and all aspects of life. The Melting Pot may indeed be an accurate metaphor for America, and the contents of that pot do originate from many nations and cultures. However, there are implications of that metaphor that may not be thoroughly analyzed by gung-ho, idealistic, patriotic American citizens. Is a Melting Pot really that desirable of a place to be contained? Consider, for a moment, the actual state of affairs within a melting pot on a hot stove; it is not a pretty picture. Like the many cheeses and spices that combine to make fondu when heated, there is an attempt by this pot to homogenize the contents of the nation into one desirable dish, yet to retain the claim to having a wide range of ingredients. Indeed, it is to be dutifully recalled that one can expect to find burned scum along the bottom and sides of a melting pot that have been sacrificed due to their inability to flow properly with the rest of the pot contents. The ingredients that do integrate rather than being cast aside or destroyed in this pot have one fate: to be consumed into the lumpy mass by the other ingredients, as well as eaten alive by the omnipresent diner. This analysis of the American way may seem a little over the top, however, the point remains quite valid. People from other countries that enter America face a number of heated problems when trying to become a part of American culture, retain aspects of their own culture, and find a personal and cultural identity within these surroundings. Asians in America have a particular dilemma because there is a complex dichotomy to their cultural identity within Western culture. The Orient is perceived as exotic and mundane, intellectual and disadvantaged, chic and impoverished; orientalism and the Asian identity within America are both idealized and degraded.

One of the signature goals of every downtrodden and underprivileged group of people within this country to demand proportionately accurate representation, whether that be the fight for representation within the government, within the mass media, or within public perception. However, a proportional amount of representation does not necessarily mean equal representation. “It is crucial for all of us living in the industrialized West to obscure and willfully distort relations between East and West, between Asia and America. Our standard of living depends on it.” (Shah) Americans want to believe that this is a land of endless opportunity and open understanding, and therefore many efforts are made to create an illusion that this is the truth. In the case of Asians and their culture, there is a great deal of representation. Asians are popular in America not only in king-fu type movies where a complete universe of Oriental inspiration is created, but also in Western-style projects that call for a little ethnic oomph. Asians are represented in such American art forms as action movies, pornography, sold-out self-help books, bizarre children’s cartoons, and the commercialized news media. Certainly, the appearance of more Asian characters in all forms of media is to be appreciated, particularly for the few Asians whose paychecks are the result of such creations, and for the many audience members who are entertained in one way or another by these creations. Take, for example, the 1994 sitcom “All American Girl,” which was groundbreaking in that it featured an all-Asian cast of characters. However, the show was riddled with stereotypes about the Asian-American, such as the girl always dating white boys, her mother being sternly against that choice, and the brother being a quiet dateless nerd. (Mura) in some ways, perhaps this is equal representation, for most sitcoms are based on stereotypes and easy jokes; in many ways this is something that gives the impression of having accepted Asians into American mainstream, but at the same time exploiting them and encouraging the rifts between the ethnicities in this Nation. Another example is the movie “The Joy Luck Club.” This movie was one of the most amazing Chinese achievements within American culture: “It is a big-budget story about Chinese-American women, directed by a Chinese-American man, cowritten and coproduced by Chinese-American women. That’s a lot to be thankful for.” (Hagedorn) However, even this piece which can be analyzed and interpreted to a very large degree as a fair, unprejudicial, and accurate of Asian culture, still has strong stereotypes and negative consequences from the weepy implications of the film. One can also see in countless representations of the Asian and Asian-American that the dichotomy of American understanding of them is quite complex. The Asian is laughable and weak, but also intellectually superior. Studies deal out statistics that show the superiority of the Asian intellect, from high test scores to masses of brilliant scientists of Asian origin. The Asian is expected to be surpassingly smart and academically achieved, and for many Asians that creates further prejudice. If the Asian student is up to par with classmates but not surpassing them on tests and in performance, then he or she may be perceived as actually underachieving rather than among the top of the class. The intellect of the Asian makes the masses expect him to save the world, and at the same time leery of him because he may be a mad genius bent on global destruction. It is difficult to assess if no representation is preferable, such as one recent study found that “Asian Pacific American and Native American children are virtually invisible on local news.” (Gilliam)

Another concern about Asian assimilation into America is what may be referred to as “Orientalism” or “Americanization.” This is the corruption of the culture from the Orient as it is changed into something that is pleasing and marketable by the West. Asian clothing, food, art, and religion have all undergone this process, and the understanding that the majority of Americans have regarding these cultures is skewed by this. For example, the American understanding of Chinese food is inseparable from the Fortune Cookie, yet this was an American invention created to help the ethnic foods sell in America, not a traditional Chinese treat. Another example is Asian fashion being incorporated into American styles. “Pop singer Madonna donned dyed black hair, bindi, sari-like wraps, and mendhi after her first child… The Material One trying to mimic a traditional South Asian matriarch.” (Shah) Asian culture is something to don when it is comfortable, and to shun when it is not. Other examples of this include the recent trends of Feng-Shui for interior design and seeking serenity with one’s surroundings. The Americanized understanding of Feng-Shui relies on easy to remember catch phrases and short anecdotes about Ancient beliefs that are easy to read and pleasant to remember. However, most of the principles taught by modern “Feng-Shui” experts are completely removed from the long-standing sacred art of the placement of objects and surroundings, and completely missing the point. However, this provides Americans an easy way to feel multicultural, and an even easier way to make a pile of money off of the exploitation of a culture. One trend-watcher referred to the trend as “inflashion.” “The result of the infatuation is Om cologne, popular books on feng shui, pillow hams modeled on Buddhist prayer mats, and a host of other Asian-esque consumer items…while Asian-inspired things may become fashionable or lucrative, actual Asian people are not.” (Shah) Everyone wants to be Buddhist, but no one wants to actually learn about Buddhists or study the religion, and certainly no one wants to have anything to do with modern Asians. The admiration for the Asian is a kind of twisting of the old and rejection of the new. The result of this Orientalism is the selling out of Asian culture by Asians (and anyone else) to Western culture to try to compete economically and meet the demands of the consumer. Buddhists will serve Mongolian Beef Lunch Specials with a smile to American customers, passing the folded take-out containers right under the nose of a mass-produced Buddha statue despite the religious frowning of eating beef. Japanese and Korean immigrants will present themselves as being from China so that the American fast-food consumers will think they are getting “authentic” Chinese food at the China House Take Out restaurant. Even Asian-Americans that were born in America, speak English fluently, and have no noticeable accent of any kind will put on a fake barely intelligible dialect when serving customers so that Americans are comforted by the assurance that “real” Asians cooked their food and wish to serve them hand and foot. Devoted religious followers and atheists alike will produce replicas of holy artifacts from the Orient to appeal to American consumers that find them fashionable.

A further stereotype about Asians that cannot be ignored is that regarding the sexuality of the Asian female. “Asian Pacific women have generally been perceived by Hollywood with a mixture of fascination, fear, and contempt….If we are ‘good’ we are childlike, submissive, silent, and eager for sex or else we are tragic victim types. And if we are not silent, suffering doormats, we are demonized dragon ladies — cunning, deceitful, sexual provocateurs.” (Hagedorn) the pornography industry is highly populated with Asian women fulfilling the male desire for sexual stereotypes. Japanese school girls in short skirts with lollipops and repressed sexual needs are a popular fetish. The subservient Geisha wife in kimonos, pale make-up, and most importantly donning a subservient, unthreatening, submissive sexual attitude is another. Look again and one is certain to find the “dragon lady” as mentioned above: the over-sexed, wild, uninhibited Asian girl looking to please as many White men as possible because she is uncontrollably lustful. An even wilder Asian stereotype puts her in the role of the dominatrix or submissive partner in extreme sadomasochistic sexual acts, for the “ancient art of Asian bondage” is prevalent as well. Books, movies, and the Internet are jam-packed with Asian girls for every American stereotyped fetish possible. The Asian whore is particularly prevalent and appealing in many popular fiction appearances. “The World of Suzie Wong” is one American film example of the sexy and sassy prostitute of the Orient that is so desired by the American public. She enjoys pleasing men, lives in wonderful conditions despite poverty being her reason for keeping the job, she is cute and giggly, and she falls in love with her White male customers. The White patrons of the Oriental prostitute are even portrayed as upright moral citizens. Other media representations of the Asian female, from sitcoms like “Seinfeld” to countless websites devoted to “Oriental Love,” the Karma Sutra is responsible for the sexual superiority of the Asian woman. Psudo-Karma Sutra books are extremely popular bestsellers, however once again the Orientalism trends are inescapable. The modern self-proclaimed Karma Sutras rarely have anything to do with the content of this ancient book, and the majority of Asian women have certainly not studied and trained in ancient sexual rites and rituals. When social taboos regarding the “place” of the Oriental woman are broken, Hollywood inevitably uses a form of psychological conditioning to prevent untraditional ideals from entering the public subconscious. “Contrived tragic resolutions were the only way Hollywood got past the censors in those days. With one or two exceptions, somebody in these movies always had to die to pay for breaking racial and sexual taboos.” (Hagedorn) Breaking a Sexual-Social taboo might range from not being sexualized to being overly sexualized. Some may wonder what the harm is in portraying all Asian women as better lovers, and may consider it to even be a compliment to the race as a whole. However, those who perceive this to be the case do not understand the deep-rooted social implications of such a burden. Consider the example of the “Comfort Women” of World War II. Comfort Women was the euphemism used for enslaved Asian sex workers kept prisoner by soldiers. “Most comfort women were from Korea, with a significant fraction from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Japanese-occupied nations. Surviving comfort women reported being raped as frequently as thirty times in a given day….Many women reported having their uteruses rot off due to the disease acquired from servicing thousands of men over the course of several years.” (Yazashi 2005) Young girls were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, and yet this tragedy is reenacted upon the pixelated pages of Orientalism-inspired pornographic websites. Asian women are not taken seriously as intelligent, moral individuals in Western culture because of this series of over-sexed stereotypes.

The fate of the Asian man in Western perception is related to that of the Asian woman. While the Asian woman is oversexualized, the Oriental male is in many ways metaphorically castrated and stripped of sexuality. “Asian-American men are the eunichs of America,” says one Japanese-American actor. (Mura) the oversexualization of women of the Orient reinforce a stereotype that the East is feminine, as are Eastern men. Movies such as “M. Butterfly” have portrayed this stereotype blatantly, presenting a cross-dressing dancer as the masculine ideal for Asian men. In the movie “Showdown in Little Tokyo,” as another example, the Japanese villain is shown as impotent, the female lead is interested only in the white men as possible sexual partners, and the male Asian “hero” of the film reveals that white men have much larger penises than do Asian men through a comment made between himself and a naked white man. White and Asian women alike are never shown as being attracted to Asian men, but instead going after the white men and allowing the Asian men to only be platonic friends, comic relief, or impotent villains.

It is important to realize, however, that this is also a form of sexualization. The male powers-that-be regarding socio-sexual desire wish to have sexual power over all Asians, not just the females. The White men must be as feminine and appealing to White men as possible. In pornography, Asian males are far from being absent, but rather they have an extremely high appeal to the Gay pornography audience. Advertised often as “twinks,” Asian men make the perfect companion as the ideal homosexual. “Asian and Asian-American men are simply not seen as attractive or sexual beings by the mainstream culture. What could be attractive about the horny, thick glassed nerdy Asian guy?” (Mura) This assumption, however, is forgetting the prevalence of “alternative” sexual preferences of many kinds in America. The nerdy, slender, boyish Asian has a vast amount of appeal to men and women alike. Take for example the prevalence of YAOI stories and artwork online. These Asian-inspired pieces couple together boys in romantic and highly erotic situations. The horny nerd Asian is popular, as is the effeminate Asian, and the metaphorically castrated, as well as the impotent villain; every possibly negative sexual stereotype about Asian males also has an audience that finds these traits incredibly appealing. However, sexual stereotypes for males continue to have unpleasant consequences, whether they make them sexless or oversexed.

The Oriental individual is dehumanized in American culture. Over-sexed and castrated, under- and misrepresented in the media, the concern about the treatment of Asians and Oriental culture goes far beyond the desire to have a nice, politically-correct world. There are real social implications, and very real consequences for dangerous lines of thought. The Comfort Women sex slaves are one example of these consequences. Another is the case of Vincent Chin, who was brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat, yet the White killer got off with a slap on the wrist. (Tomoyuki) Equal and fair treatment of all ethnicities is the ideal of the American way. Unfortunately, the reality is far from reaching that ideal.


Hagedorn, Jessica. “Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck.”

Mura, David. “Fargo and the Asian-American Male.”

Shah, Sonia. “Race and Representation: Asian-Americans.” 1999.

Gilliam, Frank. “The Local Television News Media’s Picture of Children – 2001.” Study on Race, Ethnicity and the News. October 2001.

Children Now. Complete Study Findings Available for Download at http://www.childrennow.org/newsroom/news-01/pr-10-23-01.cfm.

Tomoyuki, Tanaka. ‘Who Killed Vincent Chin? http://www.mindspring.com/~louve/vinchin.html

Yazashi. 2005. Comfort Women. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia [online]. [cited 4 May 2005]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women)

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