Saturday, February 2, 2008

Asian Males, the Media and Interracial Dating

So, I've touched on black/white and Asian female/white male interracial combinations. Let's talk about one of the least discussed match-ups: Asian men interracially dating.

Whenever I do read something about this topic, it usually puts Asian men in the same boat as black women. However, I think the Asian male case is more bleakly forecast than what's happening in reality simply because of the perceived influence of media portrayals of Asian males and the comparison to how Asian females are doing in relationships. Admittedly, I wouldn't know what's really going on. My perception just has been that, in heterosexual relationships, though Asian men are less in demand than Asian women, whites as always and now even black men, they are still able to attract white women and some Asian women, as I see Asian men with white or Asian women all the time. In queer relationships, it seems that the script is almost entirely flipped--Asian men are very much in vogue, essentially getting the same kind of attention as Asian females get in hetero relationships.

Another thing I must admit is I'm not very educated on the media stereotypes of Asian men. I can count on one hand the number of movies or TV shows I've actively watched that had Asian males in them. I do notice, though, that Asian males don't play leading roles and that they are often somehow involved in martial arts. What is this all about? Is it white racists in Hollywood? Is it a lack of Asian male actors or Asian males trying to succeed as actors? Is it typecasting?

Here's what I've noticed about how Hollywood--and, essentially, much of the US--works: you have to complain. White people hate it, but complaining seems to work for minorities in some cases. While there are many differences between Asians and blacks, one of the biggest differences I've noticed is that blacks complain, complain, complain publicly...and Asians don't. In fact, I've found that in order to find out about certain Asian issues and general sentiments/opinions among many Asians on various issues and current events affecting their group and others, it has really taken digging deep, going into spaces that are very specifically Asian...whereas if you don't know some of the things going on with blacks or how many blacks think on a topic, it's because you're not listening. With blacks, you're gonna hear it, whether you want to or not! With Asians...ehhhh...visit an Asian American message board, an Asian American journal/magazine, a blog about Asians by an Asian or a site devoted to Asian American issues.

So, when blacks aren't seeing enough blacks on TV, they let everyone know this is a problem...and then, sometimes, they demand to see a black character on a really popular show. This has happened with shows like "The O.C.," "Friends" and "Sex & the City." Oftentimes, blacks have their wishes granted...but not quite the way we wanted. For example, usually when "white" shows or movies stick a black character on, it's a black male--not a black female. And then these white writers and producers proceed to create storylines for these characters that kind of piss many blacks off, such as having the black male strike up a romance with a white or Latina leading lady rather than bringing a black female in (and worse yet, race is never an issue in these storylines), having the black character play a stereotypical role and/or meet a tragic end, portraying the black woman as needing a white male to save her or sex her up, having the black character play an extremely minor role such as the janitor/Principal/waiter or a character that is kind of like the @sshole or b!tch of the show, and so on.

Roles that seem perfectly harmless to the average white person result in all kinds of things that black people see. The black guy's a cop, but the cop is basically this nuisance to all the white characters, harassing your favorite characters unfairly rather than helping them. He's this dumb@ss who won't listen when the white characters, who always know more and are more proactive than the black cop, tries to tell him what's really going down. Ultimately, some white guy saves the day in the end, and the idiotic, useless black cop shows up a second too late to be the hero or just do his job. If you've never seen this before, just turn on pretty much any soap opera. These seem to be the only kind of black characters these people can keep on the show. Blacks in love, enjoying a normal relationship? Forget it. As soon as their contract is up--if they're even lucky to get a contract in the first place--their @sses are blown to kingdom come.

I've gotta tell ya, this is just like everything else with whites in this country--they do these racist things unintentionally and subconsciously. The average white person doesn't know anything about blacks or Asians other than the mass-produced images and stereotypes, so that's what they keep putting on TV and in movies (though because of Asian fetishes, whites tend to have more accurate information about Asians than blacks). They think they're doing something good by putting black men and Asian women opposite white characters in love stories. They think they're showing race no longer matters...which is, in itself, an ignorant thing to show since it's not true. This is not what they're showing us, though, right? They're telling us black women and Asian men are undesirable or incapable of playing lead roles (except black women who look white enough).

You can ask viewers and people in Hollywood who is sexy, and you might get a Lucy Liu or Sandra Oh on the list. You'll get the same standard black women, i.e. Halle Berry and Beyonce, but not Gabrielle Union or Angela Bassett. You'll definitely get black men like Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Taye Diggs. And, for sure, countless numbers of white men and women will make the list--in fact, all you have to do is say their first names and everyone knows who you mean: Brad, Angelina, Ben, Cameron. You'll even have Latinos (which I know Cameron is part-Latina), such as J.Lo, Jessica Alba and Mario Lopez on some lists. But how many times have you heard an Asian male counted among the hot? Aside from Jet Li and Bruce Lee, how many Asian males in Hollywood can you even think of? And by that, I mean men people know and acknowledge as Asian males, i.e. not Keanu Reaves or even Tiger Woods (not that he would make a "hot" list)?

Back to the Asian fetish thing. That tends to be more prevalent among white males, no? And white males are predominantly in charge of the entertainment industry, right? So, sure, they'll put an Asian woman on TV and have her be their sexual and romantic interest. After all, this is both consciously and subconsciously what white men want anyway. And these women are usually not all that "Asian." In fact...I'm not all that into TV and especially not into movies, but I can't help but notice that Lucy Liu plays a lot of "sexy" roles where she's always around whites and involved with white men. She's not that submissive Asian stereotype; she's the other one, the same thing Hollywood tries to do to black women every now and again. She's the sexual fantasy come to life, the f*ck toy. No doubt, once again, whites probably are off somewhere congratulating themselves for doing something good and "right" by showing an Asian woman as just as attractive to white men as white women are. So, Asian women get these stereotypes while Asian men get to either be martial artists or plain invisible, maybe sometimes breaking the mode to be that nerd-boy stereotype.

Oh, and let's talk about those nerd-boys! See, TV and movies aren't the only effed-up media. You know, it's sad when there are Asians out there who can really sing, but the one Asian to get a record deal and actually get the necessary exposure is William Hung from "American Idol." Asians have tried out for that show every season. One even made it to the top 3--Jasmine Trias. And Jasmine put out a CD (which I actually like, btw, and I usually don't like mainstream-sounding CDs that come out nowadays, so...) that, if you live on the mainland and watched "American Idol" when she was on it, you probably never knew anything about it...unless maybe you're Asian. But people in Hawai'i (where she's from), particularly the hapas and "full" Asians who live there, knew. Her music and voice were good enough to fit in with the pop/R&B that has been coming out over the past few years, but...oh, we get William Hung and Sanjaya. And then there are other talented Asians who have secured record deals here, but the record labels let them flop, like Coco Lee.

Kind of funny that the Asians they wanted to put out there were Asian males--the kind of Asian male that is "typical" in white and black people's eyes. William Hung was an engineering student at the University of California-Berkeley and totally looked like a geek. He had absolutely no singing talent. Sanjaya, while less typical of the Asian male in America's eyes, fit those stereotypes of Asian males being feminine and not having any creative abilities/talents. But, as I basically said, Sanjaya and Hung have gotten more love from "American Idol" and the American public than pretty much any legitimate Asian singer who has ever tried anything in the US. Why? It was funny to people. The Asian male is a joke to the US. They don't want to see any Asians who can sing R&B, but especially not an Asian male since there have been many Asian males who have tried out for AI but none of them make it to the top 10. Or do they?

What's the excuse for not showing Asian males as actors and good singers, other than wanting Asian females all to the white-man self and thinking all Asians can't do much more than math and science? Well, I do suspect that some of it is career selection among Asians. But that has been changing; the question is has/will the industry? Ask people who run Hollywood, and I suspect their explanation will be something along the lines of the public not wanting to see Asian males or to support their music, just like they try to justify releasing the kind of rap music they do and canceling shows that actually deal with racial issues by saying the public wants this and doesn't want that.

As someone who used to work in the music industry, all I can say is: it's a lie. The public doesn't really care who entertains them. They might care who's in their boardroom or even in their bedroom, but...make good music or good TV, and it's all good. None of us who were trying to make it in the industry as some kind of musical artist cared creatively what race someone was, and we all recognized talent when we heard it, regardless. I chased down several Asian singers, trying to get them to work with me, and I heard/interacted with Asian music producers who were intelligent and talented, not to mention had white clients. And, to me, the public does this weird thing where anyone who is a celebrity immediately becomes hot...which means get more Asian males on TV, and, like with Latinas when J.Lo first really got on people's radar with "Selena" and her own music, Asian males will probably be the new thing...both in the media and in society.

The industry has this totally new source of revitalization and trendiness, and they don't even realize it! J.Lo is the reason why I am forced to keep seeing Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria everywhere I turn around or why people care that Eva Mendes is now allegedly an alkie, and one Asian male actor or singer really could do the same thing for Asian men. Whether or not whites will get hip and cast more Asian males or if Asians will start to complain loudly enough about this issue, I think the same problems blacks experience after complaining about the media will happen to Asians, i.e. more Asian males in the media but in stereotypical and degrading roles.

Is the lack of Asian males--and the way Asian males are portrayed to date--in the media the reason for their lower position on the interracial dating hierarchy, at least for heteros? Well, I'm not a white woman, the group of women Asian men seem most interested in attracting interracially (and, for some, regardless), so I couldn't say. But I've seen a lot of talk over the past ten or so years that black women and Asian men should get together because they are the ones being left out in the cold. As I said, I don't think the situation is quite as bad for Asian men. But when I say I find Asians among the most attractive, that does include Asian men. I can't see how anyone would think otherwise of Asian men, despite the stereotypes (getting everything you know/believe about a group of people from the media is unfathomable to me).

But, as a black female, I never really think of them as realistic options because they seem to show the least amount of interest in black women of all the men from every racial & ethnic groups. I dated two Asian males roughly 10 years ago, but it's different when you're a teenager. The more conscious people become of race and racial issues, the more that seems to result in narrowminded-ness. Obviously to anyone who reads my blog, that includes me. Ten years ago, I wasn't hesitating or thinking anything of dating Asians at all. Now it just seems so impossible.

I've noticed that Asian males aren't free from the double standard I've discussed in other posts, though, i.e. they seem to feel negatively towards Asian women dating white men but they, themselves, would like to date white women. It makes me wonder, for the Asian men to whom this applies, would they feel differently if white women were as interested in them as white men are in Asian women? Although a lot of Asian women don't seem aware of/to mind/to believe that many white men who approach them have a fetish (and though some are aware and do mind, many seem not to attribute that to why guys approach them or to their fathers, if they're hapa, or their own boyfriends/husbands), I've noticed that men pretty much never care if a woman is not truly interested in him for who he is (perfect example being the way so many men try to use their socioeconomic status to attract women, essentially encouraging women to use them for money or their position in society, i.e. many white male/Asian female and white male/Asian male relationships, in fact). So, it seems, then, that white women having a fetish for Asian men would be quite ideal for Asian men.