Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

In college I majored in Mass Communications, which meant we spent a lot of time watching and analyzing movies and T.V. shows. I also went to college at a public school in California which these days means seemingly, if not actually, 50% of the students are Asian. Being a media major, I realize that all the Asian American females were aspiring Connie Chungs (pre-Maury). Which left the remaining Asian Am males to bitching about their identity on screen. So finally, something my major has prepared me for.

I came up with a model of mainstream ethnic attractiveness perception that I loosely called the "inverted pyramid." At the pinnacle of popular culture fetishization is the African American male and the Asian American female. Inversely, the Asian American male and African American female are bottom feeders trowling for scraps, when it comes to "fish" in the sea. Everybody else in the middle. (Eva Long. and J. Alba make a nice, really nice, argument for the rise of the latina but not for the Asian male.) Yes, there are problems, sometimes creepy, disgusting problems, with fetishization, (I would never let my sister or daughter date any of the guys in the locker room I was in), but as an Asian guy growing up, I would have preferred to be fetishized than not. [I have to say, if you look up "feeble Asian male sexuality representation" in the dictionary, the worst has to be Jet Li's "hug" of Aaliyah in "Romeo Must Die" (but he was twice her age.)]

Years removed from college, and while I agree we start off disadvanted, let me play Carson and say some Asian dudes need to stop whining and take hard look in the mirror. First, its hard to date someone when you never ask anyone. No matter how smooth you do it, playing video games is never hot. Ease up. The ride don't matter if you can't get her in the car. Do research into hair product. Workout. Spend money on clothes that flatter. Separate your e-life from your real life. Hang around a diverse set of people. There are times not to be brutally honest.

When I was in Washington D.C. and OCA (the Organization of Chinese Americans) was the largest and most active Asian American "civil rights" outfit going, I swear that 75% of their job was send a finger-wagging press release whenever APAs bore the brunt of a media joke. The Skyy Vodka campaign, the Maxim "Gay or Asian" bit, or every time Mancow or some other morning shock jock did some stupid bad accent sketch on their show. These mainfestations are a. not funny or original, b. in poor taste, c. somewhat offensive, d. a civil rights issue (not so sure.) Even if they are really offensive to some and follow a historic pattern of degrading Asian Americans, the response didn't seem the most effective and seemed to come off more as nagging or being uptight (an Asian stereotype.) I think its better combated by creating one's own original representations that challenge the stereotypes (because there is also some truth in them.) Dat Phan, the winner of the first Last Comic Standing, comes to mind.

A lot of my life is about overcompensating to not be defined but what an Asian American (male) is suppose to be from career to refusing to play tennis. As a father now, I'm maybe overconfident that my son won't fit any stereotype. As much I will teach him to be assertive, take risks, and speed up to merge, I still want him to be financially-conservative, respect his elders, and overachieve in school. He'll have the right hair product once Eva Longoria's has a daughter.


frozen tundra said...

Kudos to your reference about looking in the mirror, Mr Maestro! We can't let self-limiting beliefs/streotypes get in the way of meeting the opposite sex!

And if anyone wants a better example of Asian male sexuality try to get a copy of Vanishing Son I-IV, a series of made for TV movies starring Russell Wong(also of Romeo Must Die fame!) and Rebecca Gayheart (the original Noxema Girl)

Even though I'm fortunate enough to be married to a gorgeous Irish/Portugese gal, Russell still gets the gold medal in my book. His performance is truly an inspiration =)


Anonymous said...

Funny this topic came up. My recently divorced girl friend (44 year old) is dating a Chinese American man who claimed to be a virgin at 32. And get this, this guy doesn't seem to have a real life outside the cuber world. More, his mother is still paying his bills for him, argh!!!!!!!g

fly said...

Hmmm, unfortunely, I think I know that guy... I hope he's not actually living with his mother, too.

Sexual Asian male role models? I can only think of a few from popular HK culture that you may have heard about in US: How about Tony Leung, both the one from the Lover and the the one from In The Mood for Love? Chow Yun Fat? Lee Hom Wang (google him) is supposed to signed to be Ang Lee's next movie, so that is just a short list just off of the top of my head. Oh, there is also the young male leade who played next to Zhang Zhiyi in Crouching Tiger, he is the male face of (I think it might be LV?) here in Asia.

R2Dad said...

I was thinking of Takeshi Kaneshiro , who was Jin in House of Flying Daggers. He has got to be hot property these days. And R2 liked his topknot.

honglien123 said...

I saw this clip and I immediately thought of this post. About an "average asian" guy.

peachboy said...

I appreciate your candor, Maestro. In your piece, there are some things that don't quite sit well with me. A few thoughts:
(1) I'm not so sure that I'd give Dat Phan, or others like him forging individual paths, more credit than stalwart civil rights organizations like OCA. Maybe OCA, CAA, JACL, or even NAACP ain't original or creative, but we are better off for them. Henry Cho, another astereotypical Asian comedian with a southern accent, gave me a chuckle but did not up my sociocultural standing or uplift the race.
(2) Your advice to Asian brothers to use hair product, move out the house, lose the x-box -- c'mon, this means you're buying the stereotype. I don't want to hear this silly advice from an Asian man, a white man, or anybody else.
(3) It seems you're under the impression that the individual life choices and behaviors of Asians have the power create or diminish racial stereotypes. That's a pretty simplistic view of a contextual, historical, political phenomenon.
(4) Internalized oppression is a bitch. If you prevent yourself from enjoying tennis or pursuing an engineering career just because you might live up to a stereotype, then, surprise, the stereotype worked you. I guarantee that sometimes your son will live up to a stereotype and sometimes he won't -- that's the nature of stereotypes. He just needs to understand how stereotypes operate so that he's not manipulated by them.
(5) I want my daughter to drive effectively because poor drivers are annoying and dangerous, not because whitey thinks she'll be a bad driver.