“It’s white people in Asian disguises”: Contesting Race in YouTube’s K-Town

Linda J. Kim, Brooke Johnson

Abstract


This paper utilizes ethnographic content analysis to analyze the discourses surrounding the negotiation of Korean American identity in a YouTube series, K-Town, a reality web series with an Asian American cast set in Los Angeles, California. We find that ethnic stereotypes about Korean Americans (KAs), as well as Koreatown, Los Angeles (KT) as a foreign space, are actively constructed and contested by users on YouTube. We argue that YouTube user-generated comments illuminate DuBois’ concept of stance and disalignment whereby users invoke their ethnic or racial identities as either Korean American (KA) or more broadly Asian American (AA), to validate their own social location and to make claims regarding the authenticity of the webisode in portraying KAs and KT. YouTube users also deployed Butler’s concept of “abject identity” to critique the portrayal of unacceptable KA identities while simultaneously affirming acceptable ethnic identities. We conclude that YouTubers not only contributed to the discourse of what it means to be KA or AA, but also brought to the forefront who ought to determine what is an “authentic” portrayal. This is significant considering mainstream media’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes in mostly White-centered narratives.


Keywords


Korean Americans; racial-ethnic identitities; YouTube

Full Text:

PDF

References


Altheide, D. L. (1987). Reflections: Ethnographic content analysis. Qualitative Sociology, 10(1), 65-77.

Angryasianman. (2010). Ktown reality show cast photos. Retrieved from http://blog.angryasianman.com/2010/07/ktown-reality-show-cast photos.html

Beckles, C. (1997). Black struggles in cyberspace: Cyber-segregation and cyber-nazis. Western Journal of Black Studies, 21(1), 12-17.

Burkhalter, B. (1999). Reading race online: Discovering racial identity in usenet discussions. In M. A. Smith & P. Kollock (Eds.), Communities in cyberspace (pp. 60-75). New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex.” New York: Routledge.

Byrne, D.N. (2008). The future of the “race”: Identity, discourse, and the rise of computer-mediated public spheres. In A. Everett (Ed.), Learning race and ethnicity: Youth and digital media (pp. 15-38). Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Chia, A. (2012). Welcome to me-mart: The politics of user-generated content in personal blogs. American Behavioral Scientist, 56(4). 421-438.

Chou, R. (2012). Asian American sexual politics: The construction of race, gender, and sexuality. Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Chun, E. & Walters, K. (2011). Orienting to Arab Orientalisms: Language, race, and humor in a YouTube video. In C. Thurlow & K. Mroczek (Eds.), Digital discourse: Language in the new media (pp. 251-273). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, L. (2003). A Consumers’ republic: The politics of mass consumption in postwar America. New York: Knopf.

Collins, P. H. (1999). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.

Cropp, F., Frisby, C.M., & Mills, D. (2003). Journalism across cultures. Ames: Iowa State Press.

Danico, M.Y. (2005). Internalized stereotypes and shame: The struggles of 1.5-generation Korean Americans in Hawai’i. In L. T. Vo & R. Bonus (Eds.) Contemporary Asian American communities (pp. 147-160). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Daniels, J. (2009). Cyber racism: White supremacy online and the new attack on civil rights. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

DuBois, J. W. (2007). The stance triangle. In R. Englebretson (Ed.), Stancetaking in discourse: Subjectivity, evaluation, interaction (pp. 139-182). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Espiritu, Y. L. (2001). “We don’t sleep around like white girls do”: Family, culture, and gender in Filipina American lives. Signs, 26(2), 415-440.

Florida, R. (2014). Rise of the creative class: Revisited. New York: Basic Books.

Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of a spoiled identity. London: Penguin.

Gray, H. (1995). Watching race: Television and the struggle for “blackness.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Gruger, W. (2012). Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ hits 1 billion views on YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/1481275/psys-gangnam-style-hits-1-billion-views-on-youtube

Guo, L. & Harlow, S. (2014). User-generated racism: An analysis of stereotypes of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians in YouTube videos. Howard Journal of Communications, 25, 281-302.

Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/Decoding. In S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe, & P. Willis (Eds.), Culture, Media, Language. London: Hutchinson.

Hamamoto, D.Y. (1994). Monitored peril: Asian Americans and the politics of television representation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Han, C. (2006). Being an Oriental, I could never be completely a man: Gay Asian men and the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Race, Gender, & Class, 13(3-4), 82-97.

Hermes, J. (2006). Hidden debates: Rethinking the relationships between popular culture and the public sphere. Javnost-The Public, 13(4), 27-44.

Huang, E. (2015). Bamboo-ceiling tv: The network tried to turn my memoir into a cornstarch sitcom and me into a mascot for America. I hated that. Retrieved from http://www.vulture.com/2015/01/eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat-abc.html

Hughey, M. W. (2012). “Show me your papers!” Obama’s birth and the whiteness of belonging. Qualitative Sociology, 35(2), 163-181.

Hughey, M. W. & Daniels, J. (2013). Racist comments at online news sites: A methodological dilemma for discourse analysis. Media, Culture, & Society, 35(3), 332-347.

Ignacio, E. N. (2003). Laughter in the rain: Jokes as membership and resistance. In R. C. Lee & S. C. Wong (Eds.), AsianAmerica.Net (pp. 158-176). New York: Routledge.

Jacobs-Hueys, L. (2006). From the kitchen to the parlor: Language and becoming African American women’s hair care. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jimenez, T. R. & Horowitz, A. L. (2013). When white is just alright: How immigrants redefine achievement and reconfigure the ethnoracial hierarchy. American Sociological Review, 78(5), 849-871.

Jung, E. A. (2014). All-American Girl at 20: The evolution of Asian Americans on TV. Retrieved from http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/american-girl-20-evolutionasian-americans-tv/

Kang, J. (2003). Cyber-race. In R. C. Lee & S. C. Wong (Eds.), AsianAmerica.Net (pp. 37-47). New York: Routledge.

Kawai, Y. (2005). Stereotyping Asian Americans: The dialectic of the model minority and the yellow peril. Howard Journal of Communication, 16, 109-130.

Kibria, N. (1999). “What ‘Asian American’ means to me”: College and the identity pathways of second-generation Chinese and Korean Americans.” Amerasia Journal, 25(1), 29-51.

Kibria, N. (2000). Race, ethnic options, and ethnic binds: Identity negotiations of second-generation Chinese and Korean Americans. Sociological Perspectives, 43(1), 77-95.

Kim, J. (2012). The institutionalization of YouTube: From user-generated content to professionally generated content. Media, Culture & Society, 34(1), 53-67.

Kim, N. Y. (2008). Imperial citizens: Koreans and race from Seoul to LA. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Kokas, A. (2017). Hollywood: Made in China. Oakland: University of California Press.

Kolko, B., Nakamura, L, & Rodman, G. (2000). Race in cyberspace. New York: Routledge.

Lien, P. T., Conway, M., & Wong, J. (2003). The contours and sources of ethnic identity choices among Asian Americans. Social Science Quarterly, 84, 461-81.

Moody-Ramirez, M., Tait, G. B., Smith, C., Fears, L., & Randle, B. (2016). Citizen framing of #Ferguson on Twitter. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 5(3), 37-69. Retrieved from http://thejsms.org/index.php/TSMRI/article/view/198

Nakamura, L. (2002). Cybertypes: Race, ethnicity, and identity on the internet. New York: Routledge.

Nakamura, L. & Chow-White, P. (2011). Race after the internet. New York: Routledge.

Ng, K. (2015). What race does online: “Gangnam Style” and Asian/American identity in the digital age. Verge: Studies in Global Asia, 1(1), 109-113.

Nielson Co. (2013). Significant, sophisticated, and savvy: The Asian American consumer 2013 report. Retrieved from http://www.aaja.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Nielsen-Asian-American-Consumer-Report-2013.pdf

Oh, D. C. (2015). Second-Generation Korean Americans and transnational media. Lanham: Lexington Books.

O’Neal, S. (2010). Meet the cast of the Asian-American Jersey Shore. A.V. Club. Retrieved from http://www.avclub.com/article/meet-the-cast-of-the-asian-american-emjersey-shore-43204).

Ono, K. A & Pham, V. N. (2009). Asian Americans and the media. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Osajima, K. (1988). Asian Americans as the model minority: An analysis of the popular press image in the 1960s and 1980s. In G. Y. Okihiro, S. Hune, A. A. Hansen, & J. Liu (Eds.), Reflections on shattered windows (pp. 165-174). Pullman: Washington University Press.

Plant, S. (1998). Zeros + ones: Digital women and the new technoculture. New York: Harper Collins.

Pyke, K. & Dang, T. (2003). “FOB” and “whitewashed”: Identity and internalized racism among second generation Asian Americans. Qualitative Sociology, 26(2), 147-172.

Raghavan, R. (2009). Digital activism on YouTube. In The official Google blog. Retrieved from https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/digital-activism-on-youtube.html

Reft, R. (2013). From Better Luck Tomorrow to K-Town: Asian Americans and Los Angeles in 21st century media. Retrieved from https://www.kcet.org/departures-columns/from-better-luck-tomorrow-to-k-town-asian-americans-and-los-angeles-in-21st

Ritzer, G. (2009). Correcting an historical error. Keynote address at the Conference on Prosumption, Frankfurt, Germany, March.

Ritzer, G. & Jurgenson, N. (2010). Production, consumption, prosumption: The nature of capitalism in the age of the digital “prosumer”. Journal of Consumer Culture, 10(1), 13- 36.

Ryzik, M. (2016). What it’s really like to work in Hollywood* (*if you’re not a straightwhite man). New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/24/arts/hollywood-diversity-inclusion.html

Santiago-Rivera, A. L., Arredondo, P., & Gallardo-Cooper, M. (2002). Counseling Latinos and la familia: A practical guide. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Toffler, A. (1980). The Third Wave. New York: William Morrow.

Tuan, M. (1998). Forever foreigners or honorary whites?: The Asian ethnic experience today. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Tynes, B., Reynolds, L., & Greenfield, P. M. (2004). Adolescence, race, and ethnicity on the Internet: A comparison of discourse in monitored vs. unmonitored chat rooms. Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 667-788.

Wang, O. (2010). A shot at half-exposure: Asian Americans in reality tv shows. Television & New Media, 11, 404-427.

Wang, O. (2012). The altered reality of “K-Town.” Retrieved from http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/the-altered-reality-of-k-town.html

Wilkins, A. C. (2004). Puerto Rican wannabes: Sexual spectacle and the marking of race, class, and gender boundaries. Gender & Society, 18(1), 103-121.

Wilson, C. C., Gutierrez, F., & Chao, L. M. (2003). Racism, sexism, and the media: The rise of class communication in multicultural America (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Wu, F. H. (2002). Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white. New York: Basic Books.

Yang, J. (2012). Tough times for tiger moms as Asian-American meets “Jersey Shore.” In The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/07/17/tough-times-for-tiger-moms-as-asian-america-meets-jersey-shore/

Yu, E. Y., Kim, H., Park, K. & Oh, D. (2009). Korean American economy & community in the 21st century. Los Angeles: Korean American Economic Development Center.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business Administration, and Graduate Studies.