Ken Tanaka is a Los Angeles based artist who often makes art about issues related to identity. In 2013, his short film “What Kind of Asian are You?” went viral. It received five million hits in one month. While the film was released as part of a youtube comedy special, it has lived on in discussions of racism and stereotyping years after first appearing online.
Teaching Suggestions and Reflection Questions
- Write down what you see in the most objective language possible. Now, focus on a moment that either made you, or one of the characters in the film uncomfortable. What do you think was going on inside the two characters’ heads?
- Why do you think the white man kept trying to find out where the jogger’s ancestors were from? What do you think was his motivation? Why do you think he brought up the restaurant?
- What do you make of the female jogger’s response? What was she trying to communicate with the man?
One exercise to consider when using the film with students would be to stop the film before the woman responds. Discuss the first two questions above with the group, and then ask your students to predict how she will respond. Then show the end of the film, consider the third question from above and ask the students to reflect on how they might want to respond if they were in that situation. If you and your students are comfortable, consider having students improvise the scene based on their best guess as to the way the male character might respond.
What is at stake in an interaction like the one in the film? Consider using the three whys to explore the significance of the story?