Chinese-American actor Daniel Wu criticizes Asian Barbie stereotypes
Published: Jan 22, 2024 09:00 PM
Photo: Screenshot from Daniel Wu's Sina Weibo account

Photo: Screenshot from Daniel Wu's Sina Weibo account

Renowned Chinese-American actor Daniel Wu posted on Facebook, Instagram, and China's X-like platform Sina Weibo on Sunday night, criticizing the stereotyping present in the design of Asian Barbies.

Wu shared two photos of different Barbie dolls in the posts, one portraying a violinist and the other a doctor wearing suits with panda elements.

"I am all for diversity, but a 'you can be anything' Asian Barbie that is a violinist or a Panda doctor? That's more like 'You can be anything your Asian parents want you to be,'" Wu's posts stated.

He suggested that either a non-Asian individual at Barbie created these dolls with stereotypes in mind, or an Asian person who has suffered from generational trauma contributed to the design.

The discussion sparked by Wu's comments quickly trended on Sina Weibo, with the related hashtag garnering over 22 million views and about 3,000 comments by Monday afternoon. Wu's Sina Weibo post also received more than 150,000 likes.

"A panda doctor is really funny. This design has shown that the designer knows nothing about Asians," read a Sina Weibo comment under Wu's post.

"Thinking about if an Asian girl wants a career Barbie doll and these are the only two options for her, what impact does it make in her life growing up? These dolls do look more like it's targeting Asian parents to buy these for their child since it's still the parents who are in control of making the decision and payment," an Instagram user commented, adding, "I could say that the marketing team may know what they are doing and these dolls may make a good sale, but they are definitely neglecting in thinking about the stereotypes they carry and the influence on the children who are going to play with them."

Mattel, as the parent company of Barbie, has faced backlash for a long-standing lack of diversity. Critics argue that the dolls often adhere to white aesthetic standards, neglecting to represent the rich diversity of appearances.

In 2021, Mattel faced criticism when it launched five Tokyo Olympics-themed Barbie dolls, each representing five new sports introduced at the games. "Barbie is committed to empowering girls to participate in sports by capturing the fun and friendship of the season and inspiring kids to find the athlete within," the promotional statement wrote.

The dolls, however, drew backlash for their apparent lack of East Asian facial features, especially considering the location of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Wu, who has starred in more than 60 films, including the Disney+ action comedy American Born Chinese, has been an active advocate for the Asian community, having previously spoken out against racial incidents.

In early 2021, he collaborated with fellow Asian actor Daniel Dae Kim to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of an assailant who had pushed a 91-year-old Chinese man to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown.

Wu also participated in community events during the Chinese New Year, visiting businesses in Chinatown, and distributing blue whistles to store owners as a safety measure. The whistles can be used to signal for help in case of future attacks against Asians, encouraging neighbors to come to their aid.

In addition to his hands-on involvement, Wu designed a T-shirt with "StopAsianHate," raising funds online to support anti-Asian discrimination initiatives.

During an interview with CBS News in 2021, Wu called for more action to combat anti-Asian American rhetoric.

Global Times