Michelle Sugihara, Executive Director, Cape:
What I think is so powerful about media is that it touches everyone, and it’s one of the most pervasive and quickest ways to change perception, which in turn alters reality.
Growing up as a Japanese-American in Honolulu, Hawaii, I didn’t really think about race at all, to be honest. And I didn’t start to learn more about it until I came to California for college. Eighty percent of the media consumed worldwide is produced and produced in the US. And that means Hollywood has a deep responsibility.
And one of the problems with stereotypes is that people eventually get flattened. They are only seen as having that stereotype. So, this model is the stereotype of the minority, the stereotype of Asian Americans being smart, hardworking, stupid, and the other stereotype we face is forever foreign.
The problem with a stereotype is when it is used to make the character the object of a joke. The more caricatures of this type we have, the easier it is to harm people. There’s a reason that propaganda during war uses the same tactic of dehumanizing people, so that it’s easy to hurt them because you don’t see them as fully human.
It is really important to be aware of the choice you are making and the media you are consuming. And, moreover, it’s about celebrating and pushing the envelope for more stories, different stories. We would love to see more stories about Asian bliss and Asian love and hot Asian American men.
As such, there are many more stories that have yet to be told – they are now being told. I think we believe that fiction and stories can change the world. We started with authors because representation starts on the page.
And then, five years ago, we looked at the other end of the spectrum, who are the executives, because inclusion begins with the gatekeepers. And then there’s the promotion and celebration of the films that make up the final part of it. So everything we do on our program side is very strategic. And we see where we can push the lever the most for the most impacts.
It’s really important for Asian Americans to be in the rooms where decisions are made, because we need to tell our stories and the stories about our communities, the stories we tell for all of us.
My name is Michelle Sugihara, and this is my short but brilliant story of changing the world through stories.