In this performance of “Cool”, Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) showcases his singing ability for the first time and auditions for a role in the play, West Side Story. The football team, which is ethnically diverse, joins Mike on stage and they all show their athleticism through their dance moves. Because of his participation and ability to fit in in both the football team and the Glee Club, it is obvious that Mike is assimilated. His cuffed jeans and converse shoes are “American” and it is uncommon to see Asians play football (Football is usually associated with African Americans and Whites).
In earlier TV shows and movies, such as The Green Hornet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Sixteen Candles, Asian males were portrayed to lack masculinity. They possessed no romantic feelings and were shy when it came to women. For instance, Long Duk Dong (Sixteen Candles) was nerdy, asexual, and pathetic, and “yellowface” (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) sneaked peeks at Audrey Hepburn. These portrayals encouraged the public to view Asian males to be feminine and females to rather seek a romantic relationship with White males. In contrast to earlier portrayals of Asian men, Mike is perceived to be masculine. He has a nice body (the show always focuses on his abs [as shown in the picture above]), is athletic, has a girlfriend, is charming, is confident, and stands up/fights for his friends. He is not afraid to speak his mind and follow his dreams. Harry Shum Jr. is seen as a sex symbol to the Glee audience. Thus, he can eventually change the Asian male stereotype and influence more women to be attracted to Asian males.
AE: We still don’t see that many Asian characters on TV. Do you feel like you’re kind of representing in a way that Chris Colfer wound up representing gay teens?
HS: In a way I do. I don’t really feel the pressure. Asian Americans have come up to me and said thank you for representing Asian Americans on television. So for that I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I keep it in mind, and I just want to create a character to be a character that portrays things outside what you normally see and have seen on television.
- Michael Jensen “Interview with Glee’s Harry Shum: ‘I Usually Don’t Lift Up my Shirt’” (http://www.afterelton.com/people/2011/08/harry-shum-mike-chang-abs)