Many colleges and universities also have diversity education and training programs, some required for freshmen and some optional. Bryn Mawr had neither. On the Community Day of Learning, all classes were cancelled and two workshop slots were scheduled with over 40 different choices of workshops led by faculty, staff, and students. It was Bryn Mawr’s first active step towards opening a safe space for faculty, staff, and students to learn from each other’s personal experiences.
Given this was the first year, I understand things were not going to be perfect. Before Wednesday, I wondered if people would actually go to the workshops, or sleep in because there was no class. I wondered who would come to my workshop on Asian identities when there were 40 other workshops and only two sessions. I wondered who would care about Asian identities when the Asian American (and Latinx) experience is often forgotten in the usual Black-White binary discussion on race. Would the people who needed to hear about these issues the most, with an open mind, even show up.
The Bryn Mawr administration had contacted the co-presidents of the Asian American Students Association and the South Asian Students Association to put together the “Perspectives on Asian Identities” workshop, but we were only notified two weeks in advance. I am glad that the administration included the input of students, but I also felt like I was brought in as a token Asian American to speak on Asian experiences. Leading a workshop also meant I had one less workshop to attend myself. The other presenters and I tried to emphasize diversity of the Asian American experience and portrayals and consequences of the Model Minority Myth, but I found it somewhat difficult because my experience growing up in Northern Jersey was so different from my classmates who grew up in California or even Central Jersey. I can honestly say that I had never been discriminated against or had to deal with familial pressures and stereotypes until I learned about what others had experienced before coming to college. I had also never taken an Asian American Studies class (much to my dismay, Bryn Mawr doesn’t offer one).
My only hopes for the future are that Bryn Mawr continues the discussion outside of that one day of the year, and that Bryn Mawr keeps a good record of the presentations shown so anyone can access them.
Fresh Off the Boat is inching toward its season one finale and I am eagerly waiting for ABC to announce another season. Right now it’s all up in the air, on whether FOB will have a second season, but over the course of the season FOB’s views and ratings have been quite consistent after a slight dip flowing the season premiere. Episodes seven and eight, again, were not as heavy as the first few episodes, but still brought up important issues such as the “American Dream” and Asian adoptees. Here is a quick recap of episodes seven and eight.
Episode 7: “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” (9/10) – 8.5 for Randall Park and Constance Wu plus the extra 0.5, since Eddie got Nicole to say “Hey”
Eddie’s dad, Louis, wants to boost sales at the restaurant and buys a billboard near the longest stoplight in town. Initially things go so well that Louis and Jessica get invited to a charity dinner at the local country club. This week Eddie’s problem is that his bus ride home sucks and that his crush, Nicole, ignores him. I was privileged enough to never ride the bus in middle school, but to my knowledge the bus ride was some kind of hell. Screaming, hormone crazed middle schoolers that wanted to kill each other…Ya sounds about right. Eddie, being the little schemer he is, asks his mom to carpool. Jessica agrees to this during a particularly charitable moment. Nicole, however, likes riding the bus and Eddie just ends up carpooling with some strange neighbor kid and his brothers. He gets a second chance to impress Nicole when his parents go to their country club charity dinner. He thinks she is just coming for dinner but, she ends up babysitting Eddie. Eddie tries to impress her in some cringe worthy scenes but, as you can imagine, fails.
Louis, meanwhile, is facing his own problems. Golden Saddle is repeatedly vandalizing the billboard; Louis reveals that he stole the idea for his restaurant from Golden Saddle. He ripped off Golden Saddle, since didn’t want to pay the $50,000 franchise fee. Jessica says that he is a great businessman that provides for the family and supports his decision. Jessica and Louis vandalize the Golden Saddle sign in retaliation. The cops come by and they run. The next day, Eddie is back on the bus and it seems maybe his scheme with the rap CD actually worked as Nicole actually says “hi” to him on the bus.
This episode deals with immigrants grinding and fighting for their piece of the “American Dream.” In this episode, Louis did some shady things to ensure that he could support his family and help them be well off. Although, I do not condone illegal activities in the name of prosperity and success, I do respect “the hustle.” I respect all those people who knew they were worth more and put themselves out there on a dream. This episode really conveyed this idea well and Randall and Constance really hit it out of the park with their performance.
Episode 8: “Phillip Goldstein” (7.5/10) – This episode overstressed the point that America is a melting pot where, “A Black kid and Asian kid go to a concert to listen to Jewish rappers.” This simply made the episode feel forced and unauthentic.
There’s a new kid named Phillip in school and he’s Asian! Eddie thinks they can be friends, since you know they are the only two Asians at school. Although everyone at school thinks they look alike and therefore must relate to each other, they have nothing in common: rap vs. classical, Shaq vs. Tolstoy, stinky tofu vs. gefilte fish. Meanwhile, back at the restaurant Louis needs to hire a new host, since Mitch went to work at Golden Saddle (Ya I know kill the traitor). Louis hires a new host named Wyatt, who is almost too good to be true. Ok back to Eddie. Jessica gets to meet Phillip and she instantly thinks he is the perfect Chinese son, since he plays cello, studies hard, and practices all day. Eddie sees this as an opportunity to get his Mom to let him go to the Beastie Boys concert. Phillip wants to go see Les Mis, but it’s on Shabbat and he does not have a ride. Eddie and Phillip make the agreement that if Eddie takes Phillip to see Les Mis, Phillip will go to the Beastie Boys with him. Mitch hates his new job and asks for his job back. Louis agrees to hire Mitch back, but only if he fires Wyatt. After Les Mis ends, Phillip ditches him, so he doesn’t have to go to the concert. Eddie thinks he lost Phillip and Jessica panics. She wants to tell the Goldsteins the truth and goes to their home. When they get to the house, Phillip answers the door and says Shabbat ended at sundown and he took a bus home.
Jessica: “I thought it ended at midnight.”
Phillip: “I’m a devout Jew, not Cinderella.”
Jessica stands up for Eddie and declares that Phillip “is not a good Chinese boy.” She makes it up to Eddie by taking him to the Beastie Boys herself. Next day Eddie wears his Beastie Boys shirt to school and the black kid also wears the same shirt.
This episode created the impression that all adoptees are socioeconomically well of and aren’t struggling with issues of identity. Many Asian American adoptees grow up in predominantly white communities and lose the ability to learn and identify with their own ethnic backgrounds. There are many cases where parents approach adoption as “color-blind”, where the adoptee’s ethnicity is completely disregarded and insignificant. It is intolerable to pretend that ethnicity does not matter; adoptees will be judged by their ethnicity for all their lives. Nearly every day, they will be confronted with Asian stereotypes that they will be unable to cope with in the white community.
Even though she doesn’t admit it, she’s expecting it too.
Every year I send a Chinese New Year card to my grandma written in Chinese characters. My grandma never demanded this of me. I was actually the one to start this tradition several years ago. At the time, I was still taking Chinese classes and wanted to impress my grandma. A typical card to my grandma consists of a hand-painted replica of a Chinese calligraphy painting I found online and a letter in Chinese either wishing her happy birthday or a prosperous new year.
I am fortunate that there is no language barrier between my grandma and me, and we actually communicate in English. Even if we tried to, we cannot communicate in spoken Chinese. My grandma grew up in Hong Kong and came to the U.S. to marry my grandfather, so she speaks Cantonese and English. I only learned Mandarin because my parents or grandparents never taught me Cantonese, and Mandarin was deemed the hottest language to learn because of China’s recent economic growth.
My grandparents only spoke English to their children, who in turn only spoke in English to me. I think it was because my grandparents wanted their children to know English fluently, so they valued English over their own culture. Soon, Cantonese will disappear from my family like it was almost never there.
Is this what it’s like to be fully “Americanized?”
Who will order dim sum for me when my grandma is not there?
How will I go to Hong Kong and communicate with my relatives there?
Sometimes I think about how I will raise my own children to celebrate their Asian heritage. I’ll try to speak Chinese to them. Cook them occasional Chinese dinners when I’m not too exhausted to resort to pasta. Put them through Chinese school and camp (I meet too many Asian American classmates in Chinese classes regretting their previous rejection of their own culture in desperate attempts to “be American”). Maybe even force them to write Chinese New Year letters to their grandma like I do to mine. Perhaps I’ll try to learn Cantonese in the future. In the meantime, writing letters to my grandma is one of the few ways I am trying to preserve my own Chinese American-ness.
I no longer have time to continue studying Chinese in college (maybe I’ll regret this later in life too), but I still write Chinese New Year letters to my grandma–never email, just snail mail. (Sometimes I even have to use the Chinese dictionary to look up forgotten characters.)
Fresh Off The Boat is about half way into its thirteen-episode, first (but hopefully not last) season. The first four episodes established the series’ foundation, giving it character and personality. Episodes 5 and 6, of course, added to the series’ general identity, but seemed more like “breather” episodes than something that was more intense or built toward developing the plot. The issues covered so far have not been particularly heavy, but they have dealt rather explicitly with the characters wanting to fit in. Whether the issue was Eddie wanting friends, his family wanting to impress others, or his parents wanting financial success, every week, we have seen the Huang family projecting their insecurities and hurt feelings with vulnerability and humor. Episodes 5 and 6 weren’t things I could particularly relate to, but were funny nonetheless; here is quick recap of those episodes.
Episode 5: “Persistent Romeo” (7/10) – Oh the sex talk. It was funny, but I’ll leave it to the “birds and bees.”
This episode was reminiscent of episode 3 with all the sexual euphemisms; some were funny and some were just plain creepy. But unlike wanting a hot girl or talking about “Flowers and Watering Cans,” this episode was a little deeper. The episode starts with Eddie getting invited to a sleepover. Eddie has gained some popularity after “grabbing” Honey’s butt in Episode 3. Jessica, however, tells Eddie that he can only have the sleepover at his house, since she’s afraid of pedophiles lurking in the area. Eddie convinces his friends to have the sleepover at his house by telling them that he has a porno. Yup, the thing that all male adolescent, middle schoolboys want to watch. Meanwhile, the restaurant is flourishing. To prevent the restaurant from facing any liabilities, Louis decides to give a sexual harassment seminar. Jessica tries to give the seminar herself, but ends up harassing the employees. Louis then gets a professional named Dusty Nugget (sounds like a stripper’s name to me too) to give the seminar. Eddie doesn’t have the porno, but since the boys know nothing about sex, the sexual harassment VCR tape that Louis leaves at home passes for the porno. The next day, all the boys in the grade are using lines from the sexual harassment video and the principal tells all parents to give their children “the talk.” The actual depth of the episode comes from Louis giving Eddie “the talk.” Unlike other parents who sheepishly use metaphors to describe sex, Louis tells him everything and…I mean EVERYTHING. Eddie respects his dad for telling him the truth and this further develops the father-son dynamic. In my case, I learned about sex in school. To this day, my parents will pretend like they don’t know what sex is. Asian American families are simply not as open about sex as other racial groups. The primary reason is that it’s never been “normal” to talk about sex; it has always been a taboo. Asian American parents disapprove of premarital sex and talking about sex openly, is often equated with condoning sex and promiscuity. This belief is so widespread that it has become indoctrinated in the minds of many first generation Asian Americans. However, this stigma is slowly fading. With more interracial marriages, more generations of Asians, and more general assimilation, more Asian Americans are beginning to open up and talk openly about sex.
Episode 6: “Shaq Fu” (8.5/10) – Work hard for the “skrill”
This episode epitomized many of my friends’ experiences working at their families’ restaurants and working hard for their allowances. It was different from my childhood as I usually would play sports or study afterschool. In my defense, I did not get any allowance from my parents and was broke 99% of the time.
A new videogame called “Shaq Fu” comes out, combing Eddie’s basketball idol Shaq: and his two favorite things kung fu (kinda cliché) and video games.
(It was a pretty bad game. EA, the creators of the game, considered it an “abomination.”)
Naturally, Eddie wants the game immediately. The problem: is the game cost fifty dollars. Eddie first asks his parents for the money, but his parents refuse. His dad suggests that he work at the restaurant for the money. Eddie works as the, “Fajita Boy,” for a week and only earns 18 dollars. Feeling defeated, Eddie doesn’t go to work one day, angering Louis. Grandma Huang reminds Louis that while his father was a hard worker, he was also un unnecessarily hard man. Louis decides that he was too hard on Eddie, and decides to give him money for the game. Eddie buys the game, but tells Louis that he wants to work and earn the money for his game. Louis is proud of him and calls him “fajita man.”
Like many other Asian Americans, I have had my eye on the recent TV premiere of “Fresh Off the Boat.” There’s a scene in Episode 2 where Eddie takes out his lunch his mother packed for him, a container of Chinese noodles. When the other non-Asian boys see his lunch, they tease him saying it looks like worms.
If there’s anything that unites Asians and Asian Americans, it’s food. I scroll through the text messages my family members send me as they watch “Fresh Off the Boat” and realize it’s almost all about the authenticity of that food scene. (I’m not one to comment on how closely the show actually represents Eddie Huang’s life, he can tell you for himself.)
My aunt, uncle, mom, and Eddie Huang are around the same generation, so I compared my own experiences with theirs.
I would have loved to eat Chinese food everyday for lunch.
In actuality, Chinese food is one of the most complicated foods to make. My working parents didn’t have the time, or the skill, to make that every morning for me. So I ate the average American lunch: a sandwich (okay, maybe an above average sandwich because my mom bought turkey and roast beef cold cuts). Then I looked around at the other Asians in the cafeteria. Some had homemade kimbap, others had nice bento boxes, and then the rest had regular lunches like me. No one was being made fun of for his or her lunch.
My roommate Leila, a 1.5-generation Chinese in America who grew up in Miami shared her childhood with me.
I sold my lunch back in elementary school when my parents owned a Chinese takeout place. I think I charged $1 per dumpling. For the soup and noodles, either they gave me a container, or I just put it in their hands. Still, $1 per soup and noodle serving. Once I got into middle school, I sold Kasugai gummy candies from the Chinese store. Half of my customers were Asian, half were not.
Why was there such a stark difference between Eddie’s experience at school and mine? Perhaps the value of Asian food in American eyes has changed. We live in a society where sushi is regarded as high class Asian food, while Chinese food is still viewed in its cheap takeout form. People have come up to me saying things like “You’re so lucky to be Chinese, you can eat lo mein every day!” and “I’d love to join the Asian Students Association! I love Chinese food!” Those statements actually make me cringe more than someone making fun of my food. (Remember that awful viral music video ‘I Love Chinese Food?’)
* “Char Siu Bao Boy” is a children’s book about a Chinese boy who bring Chinese pork buns to school for lunch. Initially, his classmates tease him, but then they try some and like Char Siu Baos too.
** Inspiration for this blog post came from reading “A Moveable Feast,” and article by Julia Lee in Huffington Post about her Korean American identity, her working class upbringing, and food in response to “Immoveable Feast,” an article by Chang Rae Lee in The New Yorker about his experience eating dining hall food at Exeter.
It was 7:55 p.m. February 4, and I was eagerly waiting for the two-episode premiere of Fresh Off the Boat. At first, I was thinking about all the homework I had to do later that night and how I should probably multitask…Well, good thing I didn’t. The first two episodes (and of course the third and fourth episodes) had my family and I laughing and smiling; it was so reminiscent of our own FOB experience when we first arrived to Boca Raton, Florida in the early 2000s. Fitting in, school being too easy, making friends, success: each episode was like a window into my own life. Although Eddie’s experience of living in the U.S. was more extreme than my own experience, I also had to tackle issues of people thinking I was a “foreigner,” whether because of home-made Indian lunches, getting called weird names, or people telling my English is “good.” Fresh Off the Boat surpassed my expectations of being a basic scripted American sitcom with Asian faces and Asian stereotypes. It is an original, quirky, funny show, bundled up with experiences that reflect upon Asian Americans living and assimilating in America. So far I’d rate the series 8/10. Fresh off the Boat is filled with warm family moments, quirky jokes, and a like-able cast, but suffers at times from forced, uncomfortable jokes (*cough* *cough* Talking about you, Episode 3) and rushed scenes. For example, the scene where Eddie gets called a chink made me a little unsatisfied and unfulfilled; it was a major moment in Eddie’s life, but after Eddie get called a chink, the screen goes black and we skip to the scene with the principal’s office. More emphasis could have put into that scene, that moment of heat, but then again ABC allowing, “chink” to be said is a “big deal.”
Episode 1: “Pilot” (8/10) – Good opening, but rushed scenes
The Pilot introduces us to Eddie’s family: his dad Louis, his mom Jessica, and his two brothers, Emery and Evan. They originally lived in D.C. where Louis worked for his brother-in-law, but moved to Orlando so that Louis could follow his “American Dream” and open a restaurant called “Cattleman’s Ranch.” (In my life, I moved from Florida to Maryland so that my dad could follow his own “American Dream” of working at a big research institution.) When they arrive in Orlando, everyone but Emery is experiencing problems. Emery gets a girlfriend on the first day and this leads to one of the most humorous scenes in the first episode.
Eddie: Why aren’t chicks giving me soda?
Emery: You want it too much.
Eddie and Evan have trouble fitting in school, Jessica has trouble fitting in with the perky, rollerblading, cliquey women in the neighborhood, and Louis is having trouble with getting people to come to his restaurant. These problems will become the central issues the Huang family will deal with in the coming episodes. In the end of the episode, Eddie gets called a “chink” and gets in trouble for cursing out the boy who called him a chink. He gets sent to the principal’s office and his parents fight for him. Eddie gets off the hook and the show ends with Louis saying,
Coming to this new place is going to make us all stronger.
Episode 2: “Home Sweet Home-School” (9/10) – Not as funny but, heartwarming
Episode 2 deals with Jessica trying to give the boys supplemental education at home, since they had straight “A’s” and there was no Chinese Learning Center (CLC) or gifted programs in Orlando. Louis was also trying to get Jessica to stay home, since she was ruining business by being too critical on the customers and employees. In the end, Jessica stops her home schooling, when she sees Eddie playing basketball with his Dad and that the restaurant was doing well with Louis.
The episode reflected on Asian Americans and even people in general not needing to tell their family members that they love them and that love can be shown through actions. It was a little cute and sentimental, but honestly true. I said something similar to my friend, when he asked me why my family and I did not explicitly say we loved each other. Something that made me laugh and cry a little bit was that Eddie’s white neighbor did not get any love from his dad.
Episode 3: “The Shunning” (7/10) – One word: CREEPY. I really don’t need to see Eddie hitting on a married woman in a provocative way.
First we need to pay homage to Ol’ Dirty Bastard:
This episode is centered on fitting in. Jessica is trying to fit in with women in the neighborhood while Eddie is trying to fit in school and be cool. Since his parents are too cheap to buy him Jordans, he decides that the ultimate status symbol is a hot girl. Although this is misguided and misogynistic, Eddie tries to woo his next-door neighbor, Honey, who ends up being the only woman his mom likes in the neighborhood. They bond over Stephen King movies and books, and over the fact that Honey actually eats and likes Jessica’s stinky tofu. The movie then goes all Mean Girls, since the other women hate Honey and being associated with her is like some plague. Since being friends with Honey might hurt the restaurant, Louis tells her to stop being friends with her. Jessica listens to Louis at first but, eventually makes up with honey and sings, “I Will Always Love You.” Eddie falls in love with Honey’s stepdaughter who later gives him, the finger.
Episode 4: “Success Perm” (8/10)– OJ Simpson case reference is funny, but again feels rushed
This episode is centered on success. Jessica’s sister, Connie, is coming to Orlando along with her husband and their mother to see how well Jessica is doing. Jessica and Louis try to show off to them by spending more money then they have. Ironically, Connie and her husband do the same thing. In the end, they realize that they did not need to show off to each other. Eddie’s cousin who opened Eddie up to hip hop starts listening to grunge, but let’s be honest, hip hop > grunge.
If you missed any of the episodes they are available on ABC’s website:
There’s this great article detailing the 12 stages that occur when injustice against the black community takes place. One of the stages immediately following such an event is exhaustion: Tragedy after tragedy, injustice after injustice –how long can outrage be sustained? It becomes so easy to say, “I’m not surprised” or “What did you expect?” when the violence or the events aren’t so up close and personal.
As 2014 ended and 2015 began, we have borne witness to grand juries that have decided against indictment in two cases: Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Darren Wilson in Ferguson and Eric Garner’s death at the hands of Daniel Pantaleo in New York City. In between, we’ve seen the deaths of a witness at Michael Brown’s case and a 12-year old boy holding a toy gun. We have seen the deaths of two police officers –both men of color –and the mounting criticism of the peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. Most recently, we have witnessed the deaths of three young, bright, brilliant Muslim Americans (a topic that will be tackled in a future post in greater detail).
Even our comedians have no more words. It’s incredibly tragic, made even more tragic because this all isn’t just a single isolated incident stacked upon another single isolated incident. The victim-blaming, the smear campaigns, the baseless justifications—and on and on and on: it’s all part of a pattern. When at every turn the events that transpired are denied vigorously, how do we even begin to process what has happened?
For me, answering these questions meant asking myself questions that led me to revisit what it means to be an ally. How can I, as an Asian American woman, best support the black community? What does it mean to be in allyship with my peers? As one friend put it, how do I support, rather than take over, the narrative?
These questions are ones that prevent me from just throwing my hands up in the air and giving up; these questions force me to recognize the privilege I have in being able to be exhausted. Most importantly, these questions force me to do all I can to understand and converse and stand in solidarity with those around me.
I cheered when Arthur Chu wrote, “WTF is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. Do you crash strangers’ funerals shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS.” Many of my peers held mixed opinions when the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag grew in popularity. Even the musicians who dominated every summer party soundtrack found themselves embroiled in the growing conversation about race and what it means to be black in America.
But back to the original question: Why should we care?
The AAPI community has historically maintained at times tense, at times supportive relationships with the black community: In the wake the Rodney King shooting, the Korean American community was split over how to respond in the midst of the LA riots. Race relations were tense: Koreans were often disliked and blamed for pushing out black businesses. With the death of Latasha Harlins at the hands of a Korean shopkeeper the previous year still in mind, many rioters took to Koreatown during the spring of 1992.
And yet, LAPD largely ignored Koreatown; shopkeepers were forced into a situation where they could either defend their shops and livelihoods or watch and allow the lootings to occur. Our justice and law enforcement system essentially pitted the Korean and black communities against each other and prevented both groups from gaining any sort of resolution, progress, or reconciliation. It was classic misdirection.
Ten years earlier, in 1982, Vincent Chin became a victim of a hate crime when two white men beat him to death. Frustrated at the declining jobs in the auto industry due to the rise of Japanese car manufacturers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, took a baseball bat and brutally assaulted Vincent. Vincent spent four days in a coma before he died, whereas Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz only served three years of probation for manslaughter. The reaction of the AAPI community has been seen as a turning point in Asian American activism.
I point to these two events as examples of how the AAPI community has been embroiled in race issues in contemporary American history. We should care about what is occurring now not only out of the if-not-us-than-who mentality but more importantly because we have the power to create change and to break the status quo.
With groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice, 18 Million Rising, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the AAPI community can no longer be ignored or be held up as some sort of standard to which other minority groups should emulate. To do so establishes a false racial dichotomy among communities of color that prevents us from working towards an actual solution for the police brutality, imprisonment of black bodies, and systemic racism and oppression that exists within the current American justice and law enforcement systems.
Both policymakers in the “system” and grassroots organizers against the “system” are needed for substantial progress. And that progress, as Chris Rock so brilliantly pointed out, is the responsibility of society as a whole –all of us. The past few decades of progress are not black progress but rather white progress. We as communities of color must continue to work together to ensure that this progress will not be built upon the bodies of our black brothers and sisters.
It’s not easy to look at cases of “yellow fever” from the view of the “yellow fever” infected, especially if you are an Asian American feminist on the other side of the issue. I could not even imagine what filmmaker Debbie Lum experienced first hand as she filmed her subject Steven, an aging and quirky White man with a severe Asian fetish, in her documentary “seeking asian female.” There are times in the beginning of the film where Steven stops treating Lum as the filmmaker, but rather as another pretty Asian women he is obsessively attracted to. As a documentary filmmaker, she could not call Steven out on his “yellow fever” or allow her own views to get herself too involved in the marriage. She simply had to watch and wait as the story unfolded. Watching and waiting was not as simple as it seemed, though. Lum still reflected on this internal ethical struggle when driving home after long days of filming Steven and Sandy. If I were the filmmaker, I would find these golden rules of filmmaking extremely difficult to follow and might even give up. Thankfully, Lum persisted and told us a different kind of story.
Admittedly, I could not help but cringe when Steven shows Debbie his collection of Asian female faces stacked neatly like porn at the beginning of the film, but I watched Steven mature as the film went on through his marriage with Sandy, his wife from China. Here was someone who I didn’t even expect to find an Asian wife (Ms. Lum said that most of the men with “yellow fever” she potentially filmed didn’t find their dream girl in the end). Despite language and cultural divides and multiple fights and separations (marriage is hard), Steven and Sandy learn to love each other. Steven cleaned up his life and became a responsible husband.
Why would someone with “yellow fever” deserve a happy ending? What Asian woman would be crazy enough to marry him? I think that while it’s much easier for those against “yellow fever” to automatically dismiss this documentary for giving screen time to a “villain.” Debbie does describe this dismissal as part of the initial reaction she received from the Asian American community. Had Steven and Sandy’s marriage crumbled as a representative “lesson” to all that marrying a man with “yellow fever” is downright bad, I would have lost faith in humanity. Much to the delight of the audience, Steven throws away his mail order bride magazines and his collection of Asian female faces because he truly loves Sandy for Sandy. The cure to Steven’s “yellow fever” was not a strict lecture on Asian fetishes or punishment for his past offenses, it was love.
Check out the Q&A below:
“seeking asian female,” which has been featured on PBS and This American Life, is an eccentric modern love story about Steven and Sandy—an aging white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, documents and narrates with skepticism and humor, from the early stages of Steven’s search, through the moment Sandy steps foot in America for the first time, to a year into their precarious union. The film recently screened at Bryn Mawr College through collaboration between EALC, Film Studies, the 1902 Fund, academic departments and the Asian American Students Association.
Has the time come? After years of Dragon Lady, Fu Manchu, and Kung Fu master stereotypes, will we, Asian Americans, get something that doesn’t paint us as foreign beings from the distant lands of Asia? Will this Asian American based sitcom outline the struggles of Asian immigrants? Will Asian Americans be FINALLY accepted into Hollywood without any caveats?
My answer is: *drumroll* … Almost. The new series, Fresh Off the Boat, premiering on February 4th, is an achievement for Asians and Asian Americans, and is one of the first few steps of Asian Americans entering Hollywood as just Asian Americans, and not as household stereotypes. Although, Asian Americans have thrived in new media, especially YouTube, there has always been a “bamboo ceiling” in TV. The thought that white sells and color doesn’t has always lingered in old media; it’s kind of like the smell of rotten eggs or skunk spray or fish or another thing that stinks up the place and needs to be gone. There have always been a few better-scented candles like Everybody Hates Chris or Blackish, but the scent still lingers. Hopefully, with Fresh Off the Boat, we are at the point where the stink is receding and progress has been made; Fresh Off the Boat may serve as a bridge to a new future of Asian Americans in TV. It is NOT the Holy Grail or the end all, be all solution to white TV.
“People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit ‘em with the soy. Baking soya, I got baking soya!”
“They haven’t seen us.” Fresh Off the Boat is something radical, like changing form regular milk to soy, but not too radical, like changing from steak to stinky tofu; the goal of Fresh off the Boat is to give something that the average American can swallow, without causing anger, panic, or “a yellow scare.” When we watch the show over the next few days, we will understand that it is not Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, but a more watered-down, “American” friendly ABC: Panda Express-style orange chicken Fresh Off the Boat. It is how it is, but it IS progress. Fresh Off the Boat is the first pill given to medicate American ignorance and to start research for a cure. For now, it’s time to get some popcorn and watch for any side effects.
“Someone please reverse this… at least they didn’t do the Native American with chicken pox blankie lol”
“Point isn’t whether we in fact wear kufis and rice hats but it’s reductive”
Although, this could have been a publicity stunt to create buzz about the upcoming show, it is racist, offensive, and ridiculous. There’s simply no excusable reason on why this should have been posted. Right now, it’s causing a stir of anxiety, nervousness, and fear for show supporters, since it could possibly lower views and simply group Fresh off the Boat as a “racist comedy.” We are biting our nails, crossing our fingers, and knocking on wood, hoping that the premiere does well.
All and all, I’m excited for the show and hope that everyone gives the show a chance.
It isn’t every day that I have the opportunity to name a phenomenon, so I’m taking full advantage of this chance. The Murdoch Fallacy is henceforth defined as the erroneous reaction to a tragic event in which the race, gender, or other identifier of the instigator is used as a vehicle to place blame that entire race, gender, or member of the other identifier. As an example, Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-American business magnate, tweeted the following message, which has since become viral:
“Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” (https://twitter.com/rupertmurdoch/status/553734788881076225)
This kind of statement is the blood and bone of the Murdoch fallacy. The entire Muslim population worldwide is, according to Mr. Murdoch, responsible for the actions of the few extreme Muslims–the cancer, so to speak. Despite his ‘allowance’ that most Muslims are peaceful, and never mind that peace activists everywhere, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have denounced the actions of these extremists, he still holds this peaceful majority accountable for jihadist attacks.
Nevertheless, let’s allow this leap of logic, just for one moment. Let’s make it acceptable to blame the many for the actions of a few. So then, Mr. Murdoch, if you’re a White Australian, why didn’t you stop the genocide of the Aboriginals? You’re Christian, why haven’t you done anything about your cousins-in-religion, the Westboro Baptist Church folk? Aren’t you also American? Why aren’t you held accountable for the slave trade, for killing my people with internment camps, harsh working conditions, hate crimes? You’re also a man, Mr. Murdoch. What have you to say about your brothers forcing my sisters into child prostitution, for the countless rapes in India, for the fear I feel when I walk alone? Why are we excusing you? Why are you allowed to be a White, Christian male and not be held accountable for all the crimes that your parts have committed?
Because of privilege. To be a White, Christian male means that you live and breathe in an unrivaled position of privilege. You have no need to be afraid of race hate crimes, religious persecution, or a potential rapist around every corner. You simply are not that vulnerable.
When a White man shoots up a school, he is not a terrorist, or a jihadist, or an evil man. He is simply a shooter, a gunman, maybe a misunderstood fellow with some mental disability. When a Christian militant blows himself up, there is no need for a mass movement like #illridewithyou, because no Christian anywhere has to worry for his or her safety. And, certainly, no non-Christian will ever be seen as a Christian just because of outward appearance. While there is stigma attached to all rape, a man will not have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy, about being slut-shamed because he was violated, nor about being seen as ‘damaged’ and unfit for love.
So for shame, Rupert Murdoch. To take the words of Aziz Ansari, I suppose that the existence of the Murdoch Fallacy (all the way back to any jihadist attack ever, any rape ever, and anything ever like the Japanese internment camps) is, without a doubt, #RupertsFault.