by Michael Park, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey
After decades of racist characterizations, World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) has finally broken its own mold—by merging two stereotypes into one. Meet one of the WWE’s newest faces, Jimmy Wang Yang, the Asian Redneck, played by real-life Georgia boy James Yun.
“He may look ‘Asian,’ but in reality he is one certified redneck,” the WWE Web site assures viewers. “If any Yankees slip up, Jimmy Wang Yang is sure to culture them with a good ol’-fashioned country-style whippin’.”
Yes, this counts as progress in the pro-wrestling world.
Consider the starting point: Against good ol’ boys like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, foreign-born and non-white villains like sneaky Oriental Mr. Fuji, Cold War automaton Nikolai Volkoff, snobby French pouf Rene Dupree and mustachioed Middle-Eastern strongman Iron Sheik were caricatured (and eventually dispatched) with comforting certitude.
Asians fared especially badly—Mr. Fuji, the perennial “heel” manager, was infamous for creeping up to “faces,” or “good-guy” characters, and throwing salt in their eyes when his wrestlers were losing. That is, when he wasn’t threatening to ruin the U.S. economy by selling us affordable cars with good mileage.
Okay, so what to make of Jimmy Wang Yang?
“Ain’t no yeller about me,” the 205-pound, 5’9” cowboy-hatted Yang drawls into the camera in WWE promos. You could read this statement in several ways:
1) He’s a self-hater who equates being Asian with being un-American, or even wimpy.
2) Group affiliations can overcome racial differences, i.e. red-state trumps yellow skin.
3) This isn’t your daddy’s Model Minority.
We vote for three. As the Asian Redneck might say, “Ain’t we got enough docters and lahyers and folks what can count?”