The model minority myth hurts Asian mental health
Although the model minority myth may seem like a positive representation of the Asian community, it fails to acknowledge the darker side of constant perfection
The model minority myth paints Asians as highly successful individuals due to their innate intellect. However, is their intelligence truly innate or does the pressure of conformity cause the Asian community to succeed in this standard? Society tends to view this community as perfect individuals that all racialized people should aspire to be.
However, the conceptualization of the Asian community as a "superior" minority group also isolates them from the broader racialized population.
This narrative has also been perpetuated in television as it reflects how society views Asians compared to other racialized individuals. For example, The Proud Family episode titled "Teacher's Pet" explicitly perpetuates this narrative that all Asians are high achievers with innate intelligence.
The model minority construct places the Asian community within a confined box where there is immense pressure to achieve success. Then to ensure success, Asian cultures tends to prioritize nurturing their child's intelligence, though sometimes to the detriment of other aspects of their lives, including their mental health.
Just as in any other community, there are those within the Asian community who may struggle in STEM-related subjects, while others may have challenges with the arts. However, for this community in particular, failure to live up to this myth can cause a disconnect between an individual's actual self, and ideal self, in turn further degrading their mental health as they may feel like they are not living up to their potential. Furthermore, to achieve this standard set forth by the model minority myth, people hide the areas they struggle in which leads to neglected mental health.
The model minority construct enacts harsher consequences on outliers, inducing stigma around mental health that prevents the Asian community from accessing the support they need. Additionally, this construct limits appropriate support for Asians as society sees their success and not their struggles. Why would an intelligent and successful population require support?
The model minority construct especially can impact Asian individuals who experience adverse circumstances beyond their control; they are still expected to perform as well as their peers, or better, as the pressure to achieve perfection remains constant, even at the cost of their mental health. Success is the only option, leading their needs to be overlooked as society fails to see beyond the model minority myth.
However, by acknowledging that this myth often does more harm than good, we can work towards rewriting the dominant narrative and creating a safe space for people to relieve the pressures of perfection.
The Proud Family reboot, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, aired "Curved," an episode paralleling "Teacher's Pet." During the lunchroom scene, Penny frantically asks the Chang Triplets to join the debate club, thereby perpetuating the dominant narrative. As Penny is desperate to win the debate competition, it is implied that Asian individuals will give her the best chance of succeeding due to their intellectual superiority.
However, as we grow more aware of the dominant narrative, we learn to resist it. "Curved" demonstrates this as the Triplets confront Penny about perpetuating the model minority construct. Rejecting Penny's requests demonstrates that each triplet holds interests beyond stereotypically academic activities associated with the model minority ideals, reinforcing that society should recognize individuality rather than the stereotype.
Similarly, we can resist the dominant narrative by confronting and educating those perpetuating it. Creating alternative narratives that showcase contrast to the dominant narrative creates opportunities for society to change its perception of Western constructs.
By acknowledging that this myth often does more harm than good, we are working towards rewriting the dominant narrative and creating a safe space for people to relieve the pressures of perfection. By allowing the Asian community to explore their interests and be who they truly are as opposed to what society expects them to be, it also opens the conversation on mental health and accessing support.