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Steven Yeun Gets Real About Asian Masculinity In Hollywood

Steven Yeun got real about where he thinks Asian men are in Hollywood. 

The actor recently spoke to GQ about his upcoming Korean thriller “Burning” and touched on the “process” achieving proper Asian representation in Hollywood.

Yeun explained that currently, Asian-Americans are “still getting comfortable with ourselves and that’s okay.” He went into how the struggle for Asian men in Hollywood, who’ve been historically emasculated, has evolved. And he dropped some truth bombs in his response. 

“I know there was a lot of controversy over it, but when an Asian man got with a white woman onscreen it was awesome,” he told the outlet. “And then in the rearview you realize the only reason why that was awesome was because you were basing what’s cool or masculine on the acceptance of what other people told you it is.” 

He continued, saying that while Asian men may not look like Hollywood’s traditional idea of what an attractive man looks like, they don’t necessarily need to adhere to Western masculinity standards to be considered “sexy.”

“That’s the place I think we’re evolving from, just being comfortable with ourselves. Who says an Asian man is not sexy?” he said. “They might not be six foot, blond, blue eyed. But we got our shit. We got our own style. Sexy is just a way of being, and a comfort in ourselves.”


Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

“So we’re getting to that place. I hope we get to that place and then we can make things more nuanced, scattered, eclectic, different, all across the board.”

Hollywood has a long history of casting Asian men as sexless tropes, like the math geek or sidekick, overlooking their potential as romantic interests. Oftentimes when Asian men are labeled attractive, it’s because they fit Western masculinity standards, as writer Jeff Yang pointed out in a piece for Quartz. 

Citing multiple listicles that highlight “hot” Asian men who look like “genetic-lottery winners,” Yang said that these posts perpetuate the idea “that by reaching an optimal standard of Western masculine beauty, these Asian men have managed to overcome their racialized lack of appeal.” 

“Yes, there are Asian men who are able to mold their bodies into the Western ideal—and yes, they look great,” Yang wrote. “But there are other measures of attractiveness which don’t require us to embrace the terms of toxic masculinity or exotic femininity.” 

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