Love, TV Musicals, and Filipino Immigration to America Created by Rasarea Chan

Can Josh Chan change the representation of Asian Americans in the media by transforming the conceptual map behind Filipino immigrants in the United States?

This site tackles the representation of Filipino-American men in the media through the exploration of the character, Josh Chan, played by Vincent Rodriguez III on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It argues that Josh Chan will be able to transform the conceptual map surrounding Filipino men that has long been developed since they immigrated to the mainland US. This argument is supported by delving deeply and analyzing this history including anti-miscegenation laws and other forms of exclusion placed on Filipinos. What’s found is the character of Josh Chan is an anomaly to this viewpoint as he’s seen as a strong love interest. What’s also important to note is that because the show is critically acclaimed, it counters the idea that race may have anything to do with the reception of Asian-American characters.

Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh Chan

Ryan Gosling, Richard Gere, and Vincent Rodriguez III have in common that they have played the love interests of beautiful white women on American screens. The key difference is that Rodriguez is Filipino-American, a stark contrast to the former two white men. He costars as Josh Chan on the TV musical romantic-comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, about a woman who moved across the country in an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend. Josh Chan is the main love interest of Rebecca Bunch, played by Golden Globe winner, Rachel Bloom. Josh Chan’s significance is that being a Filipino love interest disrupts America’s intended performance of Asian America that has been developed since their immigration to mainland US.

The prevailing conceptual map, or “the systems of concepts and images formed” (Hall 3; CR 89) surrounding Filipinos, specifically Filipino immigrants, is one that has portrayed them as beasts incapable of being civilized, as well as sexual threats in America. There were various legal means used to exclude Filipino immigrants from the America white people were able to enjoy such as being able to pursue naturalization or even simply to begin families. This can be seen in the anti-miscegenation laws that outlawed interracial marriage between Filipino men and white women in America as well as a shortage in Filipino women that forced Filipino bachelors to search for love from white women in the first place.

Josh Chan

The show begins with Josh Chan and Rebecca Bunch at the high school summer camp where they first fell in love, but the flashback ends with Josh breaking up with Rebecca, establishing her as the titular “crazy ex-girlfriend.” Fast forward to Rebecca as a grown woman working at a law firm in New York, she runs into Josh on the street who tells her he’s moving home to California. Unsatisfied with her life in New York, she impulsively decides to move to pursue Josh with whom she believes was the last time she was happy. Josh is portrayed as a family man who cares for his sisters. He starts the show with two love interests, Rebecca and his high school girlfriend, but he fights to include Rebecca into his everyday life and welcome her to his hometown. He is confident and charismatic, very sure of himself, though an insecurity he has is he isn’t the most intelligent. He is also very physically fit, playing sports and doing martial arts, as well as exceptional at dancing. The season ends with Rebecca and Josh finally getting together.

Josh Chan and Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom)

Because the show is a musical, Josh also has different musical numbers that occur in Rebecca’s imagination. In season one, episode three, Rebecca hosts a party just for Josh to come. In his number (below), Josh is seen as four members of a boy band vying for Rebecca’s heart. All of the songs from the show parody song genres with this one being a play on the various boy bands of the 90s who were considered heartthrobs to be pined over. This is interesting because the most notable ones are Nsync and the Backstreet Boys who had all white members.

Asian America

Though it isn’t outright stated that Josh is Filipino-American until the fifth episode, it is part of his identity and something he alludes back to throughout the season. Having this sort of Filipino representation in mainstream media is already an exciting feat for Asian America. Past onscreen stories of Asian America were told in the form of “yellowface” where white actors would portray Asian characters. In more modern media, this can be seen in another form called “whitewashing.” Roles for Asian Americans are just not easily available to Asian American actors, even if the role is made for them. The history of Filipino immigration to mainland America began after the US annexation of the Philippines in the 1920s, immigrating by the tens of thousands to satisfy the labor deficit as well as to fulfill their American dreams of riches and prosperity in America.

How Josh Chan relates to this history requires delving into the racial mistreatment of Filipino men who immigrated to America. Filipinos were seen as threats to white labor and to the American economy, but they were also seen as threats to “white racial purity”(Takaki 329), tainting the innocence of and taking advantage of white women. These two anti-Filipino sentiments led to hate and violence afflicted on immigrants. The idea of being sexual threats to white men stemmed from the success Filipino men found with white women, which was different from previous Asian immigrant relationships. The Watsonville Riots involved 400 white men attacking a Filipino dance hall after an interracial marriage between a Filipino man and a white woman was announced in the papers leaving Filipinos beaten and one shot dead (Takaki 328). Anti-miscegenation laws eventually outlawed interracial marriage, but Filipinos were also afraid of being in public with their white love interests. The white women involved would also fear discrimination as well as losing their US citizenship.

Left: Alejo Filomeno and Jessie Chaverria, an interracial couple affect by anti-miscegenation laws and were forced to move to New Mexico to get married; Top Right: Bachelors' club dinner parties where single Filipino men would meet with white women; Bottom Right: Newspaper clipping after Watsonville Riots that resulted in Filipino man, Fermin Tobera's, death

Josh Chan being a love interest to a white woman challenges this history by the normalization of their relationship. Josh isn’t portrayed with any of the stereotypes pertaining to Filipino-Americans. He is completely romanticized by Rebecca. Whenever Josh is on-screen for the first season, there is a warm halo of light behind him as this is how Rebecca views him.

To Conclude

"I just feel really lucky that the show that gave me my break embraced that aspect of my life — which didn’t define me and doesn’t necessarily define Josh, it’s just an aspect of who he is" - Vincent Rodriguez III on being Filipino

Vincent Rodriguez III playing Josh Chan in TheCW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is significant in that it could open the door for more Filipino-American actors to land leading roles on screen. However, while it is exciting for Asian American actors to join the stage with white actors and it should become a normalized feat, something to avoid is assimilating and simply showcasing white American stories with Asian Americans. Instead, this is important in depicting a more accurate image of America by telling the stories of more Americas: Asian America.


  • Fabros, Alex S. “When Hilario Met Sally: The Fight Against Anti-Miscegenation Laws.” Positively Filipino, Positively Filipino LLC, 2 Oct. 2013. www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/when-hilario-met-sally-the-fight-against-anti-miscegenation-laws.
  • Hall, Stuart. “The Work Of Representation.” Representation: Sage Publications Inc., 2013, pp. 1-47. Reprinted in Performance In America (Theater 25AC): Unit Reader. Murdoch University, 2009.
  • Takaki, Ronald. Strangers From A Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Little, Brown and Company, 1989.