Linda Chen

Although she had heard about the phenomenon of the Asian female fetish, Linda rarely observed or encountered it back home near San Francisco. However, during her freshman year of college, Linda recalls an awkward and questionably offensive conversation with a white male classmate. She says, “We were walking to class and my friend told me that he had never been with an Asian girl before and that he was intrigued to try.” This seemed like his attempt at expressing his personal interest in Linda but Linda doubted his intentions and felt uncomfortable about his implication.

Recently, Linda watched Incredibles 2 which included a short film called Bao. For the first time, Pixar featured a short not only directed by a woman but also depicted a coming-of-age story from the Asian perspective. Linda emphasizes that the last time Disney created a film that attempted to relate to Asian culture was Mulan, and that was back in 1998. And that was not exactly a relatable film since Linda is not and has not been a trained warrior (as far as I know).

“…my friend told me that he had never been with an Asian girl before and that he was intrigued to try.”

The short illustrates the relationship between the dumpling turned child and its Chinese mother, following the dumpling’s transformation from a little kid to an adult that eventually marries and moves away with a white female. The scenes represents the mom’s feelings about her actual son who she misses and fortunately returns at the end of the story to visit her. In addition to this short being a major milestone for Asians and females, the short especially resonated with Linda for many reasons including the parallelism of moving across the country from her parents and moving in with her white boyfriend.

Although her parents have welcomed her boyfriend, it was not without initial hesitation. Linda felt pressure to justify their relationship and explains, “They would ask me about his culture and how I think it will affect our future.” Her parents voiced their concern that her boyfriend may not enjoy their cooking and their uncertainty of how informal they should be with him. Linda points out that her parents have even asked how friendly they should become with his parents as they had noticed non-Asian couples and their families tend to quickly intermingle. To be clear, this does not represent resistance to Linda’s decision to date a non-Asian male and instead illustrates their wish to better accommodate him, despite the unfamiliarity.

“They basically thought ‘She doesn’t like you for you but because you’re white.’”

In a recent article in Huffington Post, the writer felt forced to defend her decision to marry a white male as she was regarded as a race traitor and a whore to the white male patriarchy. She describes the belief that Asian females who date and marry white males are opportunists trying to elevate themselves in white culture. And when Linda first started dating her boyfriend, her parents warned her to be careful about making that impression. Linda recalls her sister’s prior experience dating a white male, whose family accused her of dating their son for reasons such as money and status. Linda believes, “They basically thought ‘She doesn’t like you for you but because you’re white.’”

Not everyone reacted as positively to Bao as Linda did. According to an article called “This Pixar short film isn’t about white people and they’re confused,” one viewer tweeted that the short was the most confusing ten minutes of her life. I, myself, heard a coworker describe the short as hilarious even though the short was intended to narrate a very serious topic, empty nest syndrome, an emotion experienced by many if not most parents, regardless of race.

Linda is frustrated that in Hollywood, Asians mainly appear in comedies and are not likely to star in serious roles. However, it’s not that Hollywood lacks these roles but instead, it refuses to cast Asian actors for them. According to a 2016 article in The New York Times, casting directors believe there are not any A-list Asian actors to cast for these large films and they therefore, choose white actors instead. For example, Scarlett Johansson was cast in the adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, for which producers considered using digital tools to make Johansson look more Asian. Linda mentions Matt Damon in The Great Wall in which the whole cast was Asian except the main and highest-paid actor. Hollywood’s logic is flawed. If Asian-Americans are not allowed to star in these films, how can they possibly become the A-list actors that can be considered for them?

Like Bao, Crazy Rich Asians will be a major milestone for Asian Americans, considering it has been twenty-five, yes, twenty-five years since The Joy Luck Club, the last south-east or east Asian story commissioned by Hollywood. Having read the book, Linda is worried that the film will actually further perpetuate common stereotypes as the novel is centered around a specific subset of Asians. Nevertheless, Linda is intrigued to watch the film and hopes it will break boundaries for what roles Asian can play in Hollywood.

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