What are you talking about? The fact is the vast majority of roles in cinema no asian american male will ever have a chance in, because those of very specific roles. Even when we're talking about comedic actors or action heroes, there are so few roles given to them that it no way makes of for roles they can never receive.
Furthermore, you're missing the bigger, but implicit point. OTHERNESS. Asian Americans are no perceived as american, they are perceived as exotic, and therefore suitable for roles of mystical martial artists, or sources of amusement through wacky cultural hijinks (which bridged somewhat into them being acceptable in other wacky roles).
While I was talking about male leads, there are other roles written, notice that when something is set in america or with Americans asians are almost never americans, they're always foreign tourists. There is another steriotype for female asians, various "exotic" love interests. Furthermore, supporting actors like in lost have their own steriotypes, but they're incredibly rare in cinema and emphasize the otherness (granted, the other asian-american in lost was an exception, but an incredibly rare exception).
Also, ever wonder why asian males (including leads) almost never get the girl in the end?
Here's the thing though, it isn't so much that asians aren't commonly in cinema, it's that they're signifigantly less common then their percentage of the population would suggest. Are 4.8% of roles in movies taken by asian americans?
This is especially true when you consider that asian americans are concentrated on the coasts, and especially the west coast asian americans have been here for generations and have fully assimilated, so go into the arts in comparable rates. Since the coasts, especially the west coast is so dominant compared to the american heartland one would expect that asian americans would have at least a comparable percentage in movie parts, but that's not true.
And bringing it back to the movie 21, the story that it was based on was about asian americans and their ethnicity played a significant role in why the scam worked (playing on the racism of the casino owners), but the execs decided to rewrite the roles as white, why? They felt it would be more marketable. If that doesn't tell the story nothing does.
I apparently missed some messages I received a few days ago. Apologies.
The problem with your arguement is that you have to keep adding exceptions and exemptions to try and make it, because there is no real case to it. You talk about asians who don't play martial artists or geniuses or do comedy, I give examples and that apparently doesn't count. Then you go on about the lack of such characters but at the same time you also want to exempt anything that is a meaningful role because it involves martial arts, comedy, or some kind of technical skill.
To be blunt most of the so called "stereotypes" you mention with Asians apply to pretty much everyone nowadays, it's just that a pattern is being sought where one doesn't exist. Today pretty much everyone who fights seriously has some form of martial arts in there. Most white/black/etc... action heroes are also martial arts masters. The technical genius is again a stock role, there are plenty of people from other ethnicities that play those roles too, and comedy is likewise popular, and DOES include self-depreciating white people which is how guys like "Jeff Foxworthy", and "Larry The Cable Guy" have made their careers.
Likewise a "we are the world" approach to film making isn't going to work, largely because to meet that objective EVERY film is going to have to involve every group you can think of somewhere in the movie, which is going to lead to messes of irrelevent characters.
The truth is simply that you seem to be "noticing" things that aren't really present, and making a case based around a pattern that doesn't exist. All of the types of roles you mention are integral to enterainment in general and played by members of all ethnicities, asians playing them just means that they have a prescence in the media in general.
As far as an Asian guy getting the girl, it largely depends on the movie, in your typical action movie with an Asian protaganist, yeah he's going to get the girl at the end unless there is supposed to be some tradgedy involved. Of course your dismissing this because like every action hero the protaganist is likely to do some form of martial arts, or engage in nearly supernatural feats of gunplay (let's not forget the whole John Woo thing here while we're at it, you have to call that a stereotype too... since everything is a stereotype in something as derivitive as modern movie making).
I'll also mention one other point, members of the Chinese police, military, and intelligence services are generally trained in something called "Wu Shu" or "War Arts" which is a kind of hybridized kung-fu. Tai-Chi is also the official exercise program of China. If your dealing with a movie involving some guy from China (the most dominant ethnicity) the odds are pretty substantial that he at least has SOME knowlege of martial arts, in a MOVIE where this guy is supposed to be a hero/villain/etc.. he's going to be REALLY good at that as opposed to a more "well, yeah I've done Tai Chi in school as part of phys ed.". There is some truth to this stereotype.
Now to be honest, your correct that not all Chinese are going to have the benefits of their educational system or be a member of their services. The reality of course being that the majority of people from China are uneducated factory workers and farmers who are pretty badly abused overall, China being a country with huge, modern cities that they show the world, and places where they might as well still be in The Middle Ages, and everything in between. This is a place that has a great educational system for the elite, but makes it's money off sweatshop labour, and where diseases like SARS got started due to people living with their livestock.
The thing is that if you start pulling out THOSE examples of the Chinese (the most common culture/ethnicity) it's going to be viewed as even more racist, even is 100% accurate. Such characters DO show up in movies, albiet in the capacity that they do IRL... being victimized, either by human traffickers, or in their lifestyle overseas. It's noteworthy that the US is focusing on the BEST aspects of asian culture, if we started casting a lot of chinese characters as some most likely diseased moron, knee deep in rice paddies, or hunched over some kind of decades over manufacturing device... I don't think many people are going to consider that an improvement.
As far as the "exotic" appeal goes, well you are dealing with a minority in the Western market. The same can be said for whites (especially blondes) in other parts of the world including Asia. Overall whites are one of the smaller ethnic minorities globally. The women always get more attention/credit in foreign cultures, white guys tend not to fare all that well in say Anime and domestic Japanese cinema the same way.
One problem with Asians in general, which also applies to a lot of minorities in the US, is that we don't push force intergration and adaption into society. We wind up with situations where immigrants come into the US, form their own little communities, and then live like they did in the country they came from. Chinatown, Little Seoul, Little Italy, and numerous others all represent this problem. The result is that when you see people from domestic closed cultures dealing with the majority there are problems. I'm one of those people who has been argueing for pushing itergration and getting people who come to the US to join mainstream American culture or get out... for a lot of reasons. Truthfully though the US allows things that most countries won't, and doesn't handle immigration very well, I think a lot of the problems in the US with minorities are caused by the minorities. After all, if some guy can come into the US, move into a community of people like him, and not learn the language or whatever and do everything there, it's not surprising that there are problems when the rest of the country has to deal with them. Of course how to force integration (for those who believe in it) is a big issue. To be honest I don't think there is a big problem in the media along the lines of what your talking about, but what tiny grain of truth there is will be be gradually dealt with. After all it's things like self-created "Chinatown districts" that cause the "amusing" culture problems and ignorance that become fodder for some jokes. The truth be told you have a lot of people who live in ethnic communities who really have no idea what is going on in the country outside of their own little region. This was an issue back in the 1990s with Bill Clinton where one of his minor scandals (post second election) was that he exploited minority media and mono-lingual communities by paying to have outright lies printed in local, foreign language newspapers, the kind of stuff that would be easily dealt with by listening to the general news or radio, but people in say Chinatown couldn't understand it, many of them being mono-lingual Chinese, or having very bad english and
not really caring to check out such things. Of course the Clinton campaign claimed it was bad reporting from local papers and such, and the complaint disappeared especially seeing as it was mentioned when the election was over, but it kind of illustrates a problem. Al Gore also exploited something similar (though not identical) by accepting money for his campaign from the Chinese goverment that was fronted through Buddhist temples, and it took a long time to notice, again because it was a closed domestic culture.