I bet you saw the title and thought of how strange the idea is, how implausible, laughable even. The President of the United States being Asian?
No, that’s absurd.
And yet, legally speaking, it’s completely possible. In the Constitution, all that is required in order to be a presidential candidate is that the person be a natural-born citizen over 35 years old that has lived in the United States for over 14 years. There are plenty of Asian-Americans who fit that criteria. Some who are even elected government officials.
So why is it that the thought of an Asian American president is so…alien?
Well, because in the eyes of many Americans, Asians are precisely that: alien. It doesn’t matter if you’re a second or fifth generation Asian American, if you grow up listening to godawful country music, and can’t dance if your life depended on it. It doesn’t matter if you say mildly racist things like “wow, you’re so articulate!” to grown adults, love to order coffee-flavored milk at Starbucks, or use a fork to eat sushi. It doesn’t matter if you have white friends who tell you, “oh, but you’re not, like, really Asian, you know?”
What matters is that you look like an outsider. And therefore, you must be one.
So, how do we change this stereotype? How do we make it so that Asians aren’t simply thought of as doctors or lawyers, but also politicians and leaders? How do we shift from alien to fellow American?
My solution is simple.
We need an Asian American President. In a movie.
Think about it. If an Asian American was cast as a president in a movie set in the future, I think it would help a huge deal in the acceptance of Asian Americans as people who belong in this country.
This is not a new concept. For a while now, an easy way for a movie to tell the audience, “this is the future, we’ve progressed so much as a country, yay” is to feature a black president. Morgan Freeman was the president in Deep Impact as well as the acting president in Olympus Has Fallen. Some critics argued that Dennis Haysbert’s turn as the black president in 24 allowed people to get used to the idea of Barack Obama taking office.
To a lesser extent, there have been several portrayals of women presidents (all of whom are white, but whatever) and now many people seem to be ready for a woman president. Maybe not Hillary Clinton, but I would argue that the strong opposition to her is not necessarily because of her sex.
So, how about an Asian American president? I think it’s doable. We just need to find the right actor.
Side note: Trying to find an Asian American actress old enough to play the president was actually pretty damn difficult. It’s like they disappear once they hit 40.
Other candidates are George Takei (obviously), and Margaret Cho. I thought about Ken Watanabe, but his accent is too thick to be a natural-born American. And please, whatever you do, keep Ken Jeong away from that role. I’m serious. That would probably set us back even more.
I know it seems like I’m joking about all of this and I am, in part. I’m not stupid. I understand why electing an Asian American President would be near impossible for a long, long time. Asian Americans only make up a little less than 6% of the population, so our fight for a place in this country won’t demand as much attention. Our history is very different from that of African Americans, which creates some unique obstacles that stand in the way of inclusion. One movie isn’t going to change the mindset of an entire nation.
But perhaps it will crack open the door for another movie with an Asian American Secretary of State. Or a TV show with an Asian American Supreme Court Justice. Or maybe just a movie with an Asian American normal person, and not a stereotype or a fucking caricature.
And maybe next time at the Oscars, we’d be treated as people instead of just the butt of a joke. Who knows? Maybe we’ll win.