Thursday, September 07, 2006

adding fuel to the fire? Red Doors

inspired by Gar's post about the movie Red Doors by Georgia Lee. Lee's come under some fire from some ppl for having a movie w/ 3 asian american sisters who all have white male love interests (i think). BTW gar, in my post i use "your" or "you" a lot, but that does not equal Gar, it's a general "you".

let me start by saying:
-I am an APA woman who finds APA men extremely sexy and lovable.
-It makes me really disgusted when i hear APA women say "i can't date an asian guy b/c it would be like kissing my brother" i think to myself, wow, you must also subscribe to the idea that all asians look alike b/c you can't tell your brother part from another APA man!
-I live in the Bay where yellow fever is rampant and often get annoyed by its huge presence. i try not to, but i def sometimes maddog these couples. (I *really* try to stop doing that)

back to red doors
i have not seen it or really followed the back and forth too closely. i did read michael kang's post on it. i ONLY read kang's post and Gar's post. i did not read all those comments on Kang's blog. here is an excerpt from kang: "Georgia didn't grow up in a predominately Asian community. She grew up in an upper-middle class suburb of Connecticutt. She probably didn't have much exposure to Asian men in her love life growing up. For her to write a story about these three sisters in relationships with Asian boys would have been false. She stuck by the old adage that you write what you know. When I see Red Doors, I believe she knows this material inside and out."

not only is this part of Georgia's reality, but also the reality of many many APA women and men (including myself up to age 17). that story deserves to be told as much as anyone elses (even if you think it doesn't further your APA agenda)

i often think about the large burden that artists of color are expected bear. it's not fair of communities of color to expect artists to dismantle negative images in all of their projects. when i think about supporting APA artists, yes, i def throw my support behind those whom i feel create new and refreshing representations of APAs, particularly those that fit in w/ my political agenda. HOWEVER, one of my many hopes for the APA community is not so focused on dismantling negative images of APAs but providing a diverse and complex representations of our experiences, INCLUDING white male/ asian female loving. mores stories, more voices right? we are not homogenous, our experiences certainly are not.

hopefully, Georgia's characters are complex. i know if i watch red doors, i will have to really try and remove my automatic dislike of white-on-rice to see if the characters are multi-dimensional, if the film is beautiful, if the story is solid, etc etc. my political beef on APA male representation can play a role in how I recieve the film, but hopefully it will not be the only role.

another thing i want to say is that APA men can be the harshest critics when it comes to this shit. for those of you who don't know why, i'm not going to take the time to explain it right now. anyway, i get frustrated b/c implicit in getting upset over asian female/ white male couples is that it becomes framed w/in ethnicity and sexuality (demasculinizing APA men, right?). however, SOMETIMES IT'S JUST AN ISSUE OF PATRIARCHY! it becomes a competition of ownership. "Who can legitimatley own APA women?"

last thoughts?
this issue will always depress me. the outrage over representations of APAs can seem so silly to people on the outside, but it is def grounded in a sociohistorical context AND of course it affects our everyday lives. no doubt, it is very personal. it sickens me that there are so few APA artists/ writers/ filmmakers who are given acccess to resources, publicity, acceptance, etc that we must staunchly defend/ defeat them because the artists are not making an image that is palatable for our community. it's like we get someone and we have to immediately assess "For or Against"? because there's so few in the first place! FUCK MAN. you know white folks don't ever get slammed for showing trailer trash or their suburban counterparts. it's hard enough to break out and decide to follow your heart and your art, then get funding, then get publicity, and then also have to please all APAs? come on, now.

here are some related thoughts: on black male/ asian female relationships (an old post of mine)


Elle-Même said...

Something I've always wondered, which I wouldn't ask about except that you brought it up here. If white people say that all Asians look alike (which they don't, except in the way that when you first meet two people who look similar - like, two blonde surfer guys - you sometimes have trouble remembering which is which at first), do APAs or other races think that all white people look alike?

Amazing Hypatia said...

OK...I am ignorant. What's APA?

Hui Jeong said...

hypatia: APA= Asian Pacific American

elle: your question makes me laugh! i certainly can't speak for asians or other folks of color, only for myself.

once i was introduced to two of my sister's friends (both white males). five minutes passed, my sister and i went into the kitchen and i asked her if they were brothers or twins. she burst out laughing. later i took a good look at them and realized they look NOTHING alike AT ALL!!!!!! they don't even have the same hair color...

i'm not sure if this is an indication of me thinking all white ppl look alike. it may or may not be. in general i'm very non-observant of people. in fact, sometimes i worry if i get mugged or something else, i won't be able to identify the person because i'm so unobservant. once i was at nordstroms and was looking for the shoe person who was helping me. i asked around and ended up thinking my person was light-skinned latino, tall, and had glasses. in actuality he was black, short, and of course had no glasses.

the few white students i work w/ i often do get them mixed up. this is b/c i try much much harder to match names and faces of my students of color. when someone confuses me for another asian female, i wonder if it is b/c of the all asians look the same thing and i dont want my kids to wonder the same thing.

Gar said...

hey HJ,

I read your post and for the most part, I agree with a lot of your observations.

Yes, us Asian guys can definitely be the harshest critics when it comes to the IR disparity (even I sometimes freely venture into AngryAsianMan territory), but at the same time, I don't think that the fact there is some sensitivity to the issue negates people's criticisms of the movie.

I dunno how much of the forum thread link I posted (you should definitely read it, it's good reading), but to answer some people's criticism of the film, a couple of reps from the movie came and posted on the forum. One of the facts that came out was that originally, Georgia Lee had cast 2 Asian male leads, but for varying reasons, the actors dropped out and she made the decision to replace BOTH with white men - not different Asian men, not Black men, Hispanic men, or men of any other color, but white men. For a movie that wants the support of the entire Asian American community, doesn't that strike you as odd?

Either the director was too lazy to seek more AM actors (who last I checked, are badly in need of more dramatic roles), or thinks that white men are interchangeable with Asian men... but if this is a film centering on the Asian American experience, isn't ethnicity an important issue to examine?

Yes, artists are free to create whatever works of art they want, but those works of art don't exist in a void and will be judged both by their context and the people who view them... and Georgia Lee can't claim she knows nothing about the current perception of Asian males and AF/WM relationships in our social context. It'd be like me painting a huge mural in Harlem that read "BLACK PEOPLE ARE UNINTELLIGENT", claim it was art, and expect that there would be no backlash or criticism.

Anyways, sorry for blowing up your comment box with the long reply... again, I know you're a smart cookie and we already agree on a lot of stuff. Definitely checkout the forum link I posted because the discussions/criticism there are much more articulate than anything I could write.



Anonymous said...

Your comments and analysis on whole WM/AF is so damn white washed, sadly western society/white man have brain washed you asian women and other minorities to point of being so damn apathetic and ignorant on AA issues

Julia Oh:

ric2 said...

from Mike2cents blog

"I attended the premiere of Red Doors at the Tribeca Film Fest last year. I was really looking forward to the film--i waited in line in the drizzling cold rain, got into the theater and didn't even get a seat at first--but i waited and anticipated. Unfortunately, at the end of the film, it fell far from my expectations. I won't go into my likes and dislikes of the movie because i wanted to post about how Ms. Lee thoroughly left me dumbfounded by her response to a question from the audience.

Someone asked why none of the love interests were Asian American. Ms. Lee responded initally by saying that she expected someone to ask her that question. With that introduction, i expected an answer that would be thoughtful and perhaps enlightening to hundreds of people who packed the theater -- maybe she can actually address stereotypes and images.

To my astonishment, her response seemed to reinforce why a filmmaker wouldn't cast an Asian American male actor and tell people an easy way to get around with Asian American representation. She continues to explain that the audience member is wrong. That there was an Asian American love interest -- the second daughter's lesbian lover is in fact played by an actress who is half-Asian. She further explains that Mia Riverton speaks fluent Mandarin, better than anyone else she knows. In my mind, she was saying that to be Asian, you must speak an Asian language.

Ms. Lee continues explaining to the audience that the male love interests were really complicated characters. Take for example, the older daughter's former love. Ms. Lee said she had to find an actor that not only could act, but had to also be able to sing and play the guitar. So, I and others interpreted this to mean that it's too hard to find an Asian American actor to fill such a complicated role. AT NO POINT that night, did she mention that she had cast an APA male in the role but something happened that she had to recast. Only until reading some later responses, did i find that out.

I was just completely disappointed by Ms. Lee because i thought she had an opportunity to really address the issue of representation head on. I would have respected her response if she addressed how APAs are represented in the media, or talked how she did try to cast an APA male in the role and why she wanted to cast someone APA. I would have loved if she talked about her reason to cast white males in those roles -- how it was important to add to the story she was telling. But she didn't. And to me, it seemed as if she didn't get it -- she didn't understand why it would be an issue. She lost a great opportunity to educate filmgoers. And she lost me as a result of it.
Posted 9/2/2006 at 10:27 PM by "

Perfect reflection of my sentiment

APA cannot just blindly support anything that is" ASIAN" film just for sole reason of support

Hui Jeong said...

GAR- i want to clarify that when i say that APA men are often the harshest critics, i am by no means saying that their opinion should be negated. marginalized groups will always be the most vocal in their dissent. my point was that the defense of "manhood" is often patriarchal and heterosexist in nature, especially because it is usually linked to the right or ownership of women. THUS, i think it is important for men and women who feel passionately about this subject (including myself), to think critically about the nature of our passion.

also, maybe the meat of lee's APA story is not primarily told through the lives of the daughters (i have yet to see the film or read the screenplay). from m. kang's post it seems like iti s in fact a story about the father.

as for art in a sociohistorical context, gar i know that you know i don't see the world existing in a vacuum (i actually said this in my post). however i'm not sure your example of BLACK PEOPLE ARE... is speaking to the particular framework i am coming from. 1. you are (probably) not a part of the black community (i am speaking of the community "burden" on artists of color) and 2. i am questioning the subconcious reasons for this backlash.

THANK YOU though for the synopsis on the reps from the film. this will give me more to think about...

ric, or whatever your name is- stop thinking that every APA woman who is not slobbering on your balls is colluding w/ our white supremacist society.
i have a degree in Asian American Studies , i am very familiar w/, and i work in the APA community. had you taken one minute to stop feeling sorry for yourself and browse my blog this would be apparent and perhaps you would think otherwise. unless, of course, you are one of the yellow brothers/ sisters who believe APA women need to choose between their race/ ethnicity and their gender. (see number 9 on the APA month )

also, i never implied or said that apas need to blindly support each other. i do not support michelle malkin or john yoo even though they are APA (see #4 on the afore-linked list). in a similar manner, i do not oppose everything that is related to white male/ asian female relationships.

ric, i also hope the passion you have on this issue does not end w/ representations of Asian men. i hope you are equally concerned with issues of immigration, language access, and poverty.

lastly ric- thanks *so* much for cutting and pasting SOMEONE ELSE'S thooughts that gar ALREADY refered to in HIS comment. two points for originality!

ric said...


1. Af in AA organization or club doesn't mean jack, actually AA organization in general is laughable

a. AAF organization sit around and TRY to be proactive in regards to being asian but they are left fighting for white feminism. When last time you seen AAF club/organization denonunce asian female oriental fanasty stereotype? yet MAJORITY of these organizations are run by asian women who are married to white guys? hmmmmmmm

b. Anyone can join an asian-aa organization, even white ppl. As for AA degree, well I hope it pays the bills and not some inner self plead or help to make yourself MORE asian due to your previous past ( hanging out with whites, etc....)

c. Who would have more clout someone who is with another asian person or someone who isn't in regards to asian figure head

asian power couple

asian female /white male power couple?

d. being aware of modelminority doesn't mean much either, unless you particapte in forums or articles

2.who said I want AFs coming on my jock? sad to say there is no other race of female as insecure, racists, low self esteem, or plain old back stabbing sellout than asian female.

Even in asia, same issues of white hegemony exist

WM/AF representation doesn't NOTHING to OUR community. Great for AF who love and worship white men and white community( makes them feel more worldy educated and less racist, which of course is not case)

You are just sugar coating the issue, by protecting your so called " SISTERS" because in effect to criticize this issue would mean to attack yourself as Asian FEMALE and rest of so called sisters

3. As for cutting and pasting

1. You said yourself you too afraid to read over comments made on mike2cents,

2 points + foul, for having fear of reading comments on web

2. you skimm over the comments so I doubt you got handle from POV that this movie is trash, just like Joy Luck Club

"ric, i also hope the passion you have on this issue does not end w/ representations of Asian men. i hope you are equally concerned with issues of immigration, language access, and poverty.

Well you know Asian women seem to doing JUST FINE helping themselves. NO one else is giving us slack, so we have to watch out for ourselves, that includes W/O asian women

I'm into immigration issue the most aside from media portrayal ( but asian sisters got this one cover...roll eyes)

also the whole WM/AF, stop sugar coating the issue is probably MOST damaging social endeavor, because it brings nothing more than MORE issues and creates a divide in community

you need to start checking some of these so called sisters

ric said...

"SOMETIMES IT'S JUST AN ISSUE OF PATRIARCHY! it becomes a competition of ownership. "Who can legitimatley own APA women"

READ JUILA OH, fellow sister who need to educate the masses of AF/AAFs and their brainwashed-western white colonized mentality

"HOWEVER, one of my many hopes for the APA community is not so focused on dismantling negative images of APAs but providing a diverse and complex representations of our experiences, INCLUDING white male/ asian female loving. mores stories, more voices right? we are not homogenous, our experiences certainly are not."

I notice that you included WM/AF, but yet no AM/WF?

I guess you are one of those typical AA actvist totting AF who joins clubs/organzations and even get a degree in it, but when it comes down to it , you really are nothing more than WM pawn and eager to be with one. Which of course is typical of AAF organizations and activist, they join these establisment so makes them less INSECURE of being asian, gain acceptance for their WM partner, and to gain some " asianess" to their sellout identity

ric said...

black male /asian female?


Where is latino male /asian female?

Middle eastern male/ asian female?

wheel chair with one leg old man/ asian female

How can you write about black male/asian female, when it's SAME MO and social constructs as WM

Same stereotypes apply, AA degree is paying off

ric said...

Curious do you spport Amy tan?

Lucy Liu?

kelly hu?

Maxine kingston?

or any other white worshipping AF?

notice LACK of AM leads or AM/XF themes on your so called proactive AA blog

Roger said...

This movie is just another propaganda film designed to degrade and subjugate Asian men. Hollywoods wants to wipe the memory and awareness of Asian men off the face of the planet. It wants to create a society where Asian men are the outcasts, not reflected by the media when the media reflects society itself.

It's time for Asian men to stand up and destory this vile order. It's time for Asian men to support the military modernization of China. Together we will destroy western supremacy and create a new Asian world order.

Hui Jeong said...

*sigh* this is my last response to a hateful comment by ric.

ric- this is clearly a battle that goes nowhere because you fail to read my words/ blog closely and think critically.

it is shamefully obvious by your comments that your modernist understanding of "our" community is limited to one that is heterosexist, antiwoman, and COUNTERS the positive work being done by progressive APA men and women.
you are trying to reproduce the ills of this white supremacist patriarchal society we call the U.S. the only difference is that your perfect society has an ignorant APA male figurehead instead of a ignorant white male figurehead.

anyway, i will continue to post articulate disagreements on this topic but will no longer post any disrespectful, hateful comments.

chris said...

Your inability to form a coherent argument is truly astounding. Presenting your "points" in outline form and dropping catchwords like "hegemony" (do you even know what that word means?) does not hide the fact that you lack basic reading comprehension skills. Go back and read the post again. Make sure you understand what HJ is saying before you react. Otherwise, you risk (once again), looking like a fool. You are truly daft.

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zhao said...

Okay, ric asked me to post a few thoughts, so here they are.

Hui-jeong, regarding to ethnicity and gender, the idea that "ethnicity" and "womanhood" are at war with each other and that women must choose between the two is well-studied in Asian American academia. Sau-ling Wong said that ethnicity and gender are inherently fused: "Ethnicity is, in some sense, always already gendered, and gender always already ethnicized."

Regarding your response to ric's comments, I get the feeling that you're of the opinion that you're willing to deal with APA men, but will not do so until they resolve their own issues first. Is this a correct analysis? In response to this kind of position, Frank Chin writes: "Chinese American women are not going to deal with Chinese American men until the men resolve their own conflicts? This is an extreme expression of the identity crisis. See how it incapacitates the race. The women and men of this sensibility are not -- and, by their reckoning, never were -- a people."

Feminism. Elaine Kim wrote that "historically, the white American women's movement has been both racist and nativist." It is undeniable that feminism is more advanced in China, Japan and SK than it is in the US.

For example, a higher percentage of women work in those countries than in the US. SK, China, the Phillipines, and India have all had female heads of states within the lifetime of the United States, which has had none, and currently have larger percentages of females in their Senates than the US does.

The 2005 income census shows that Asian American families averaged a median household income of $57,518 as compared to the average white family income of $48,977. Since Asian Americans earn between 10% to 26% lower than whites, this means that a higher percentage of Asian American women work, as compared to white women. This means that a higher percentage of Asian American women are career women, compared to white women. The reality is that Asian American men are more not less supportive of career women.

Anonymous said...

Toison_Villager here.

I'm not quite as "militant" about all this as Ric is. I can however emphasize with the anger I hear in Ric's post. When you are part of a disempowered and disenfranchised minority that is given almost NO voice even in your own community, it can be quite frustrating and infuriating.

At the root of the problem is the overwhelming disparity in interracial dating that favors Asian women with white men. There is a sense by many Asian men that Asian women are pegging AA men with the same racist stereotypes that white people do.

How many times have Asian men heard from their Asian sisters statements like:

"oh, dating an Asian man would be like dating my brother or my dad!"


"Asian men are too sexist/cheap/short" etc.

The funny thing is, if a white woman doesn't like a sexist guy, she stops dating SEXIST GUYS. She doesn't write off dating white men.

Bottom line: there is a sense of betrayal. This is not a sense of betrayal in the "ownership" sense. Asian men don't want to control you or own you. That's just another stereotype. We just want you to stop subscribing to the SAME racial stereotypes that whites apply to us. We get enough of that from whites. We don't need it from women of our own race.

And when a movie like "Red Doors" comes out that completely wipes out Asian male sexuality from the picture.....well you're gonna see anger from people like Ric. Can you blame him?

ric said...
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Hui Jeong said...

ZHAO thanks for your comments.
i agree w/ sau-ling that gender, race, ethnicity, class, etc etc are always intersecting w/ each other. there is no doubt that the tension between ethnicity and womanhood exists. that is why i brought it up.

in the case of elaine kim (who has a hapa son btw), i am extremely aware of her views of feminism as she was one of my mentors in undergrad. it is important to note that in the quote you used, elaine is talking about" white American women's" feminism and not the third world feminism or feminist of color. there is an absolute distinction between the two. the reason that elaine speaks of white feminism as historically racist and nativist is because of what sau-ling speaks about: the intersection of race/ ethnicity and gender. in circles of white feminist, women of color are often asked to shelve their concerns that are related to race and ethnicity. we are asked to leave that "baggage" behind. TW feminism argues that women of color (and all women actually) are oppressed by patriarchy and much else including but not limited to homophobia, racism (internal and external), and classism.

i also am not of the mind set that Asian countries are more/ less patriarchal, classist, or racist than the U.S. i do, however, strongly believe that much of ills in Asian countries is a direct result of the U.S.' global hegemonic power.

in terms of APA career/ income, a two-income household is APA families is very common. i do not think that APA men are not supportive of career women, but your statistic may also be an indication of the necessity of APA women to work. (APAs are concentrated in areas w/ a high cost of living, often have multigenerational households, AND like you said, earn less than whites).

lastly, despite what frank chin says, i do not simply "deal" with APA men. much of my life has centered on APA men: my students, family members, best friends, and lovers. many of these men have very strong feelings on the emasculation of APA men. BUT they have certainly never resulted to verbal abuse and disrespect that Ric continues to demonstrate in his comments.
i also do not think that the media (misrepresentation) of APA men is a men's issue. it is something that i feel passionately about and continue to do work around.

Hui Jeong said...
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Anonymous said...

Toisan_Villager here:

Hui Jeong, I hear what you are saying. The problem with "militancy" is that it tends to make people start talking in absolutist terms. I don't agree with painting *all* WM-AF couples with the same brush. I am in favor of people being free to date whomever they want.

But, as an Asian man, I also am free to notice societal trends that seem to discriminate against me. And oftentimes I feel that some Asian woman use the "stop trying to CONTROL me!" argument as a defense to avoid talking about the issue altogether.

I think the sense of betrayal that we spoke about earlier manifests itself in various ways. Anger and bitterness comes spilling out. The problem is, if you are an Asian man, who do you really talk about this with? Other Asian men? perhaps. Other men in general? Do you really think we men wanna go up to our buddies and whine about how nobody loves us? That would just make that person seem all the more pathetic.

How "manly" is it to complain about how assexualized Asian men are portrayed? It's a catch-22.

So oftentimes when Asian men DO get a change to voice their opinions, you're going to get some people who overcompensate and talk about it in a misogynistic and overly-militant way.

I tend to think of it being akin to black americans who rediscovered their black roots and how everyone started wearing multicolored Dashiki's and fez caps. Look at the Black Panthers, heck, look at the music group "Tribe called Quest". Overcompensating manifests itself in strange ways.

Hui Jeong said...

toison villager thanks for posting one non-abusive comment. to clarify, i'm not bothered by the militancy or anger of ric. militance or anger does not bother me too much.

anyway, i understand the frustration of being silenced w/in your own community. see how some APA men and APA women try to silence each other on this issue? and by silence, i do not mean disagree.

as for the internalized racism of APA women (APA men also have internalized a lot of bull shit as well), i also agree w/ you. that is why on this post i said "-It makes me really disgusted when i hear APA women say "i can't date an asian guy b/c it would be like kissing my brother" i think to myself, wow, you must also subscribe to the idea that all asians look alike b/c you can't tell your brother part from another APA man!"

and your bottom line, i KNOW that there is a feeling of betrayal. this also exists when APAs will automatically discount an APA woman because she is w/ someone of another race. i do not think that someone's anger and passion on this issue is a form of trying to "own" someone else. however, i do think that ppl who write fanatically, vilely, and maliciously about this topic are trying to "own" APA women by dictating who APA women should date.

in terms of white agendas, i never said that all APA men who are angry about this issue are trying to own APA women. however, for SOME men this is the case. likewise, believing that ALL APA women who date outside their race do so b/c they are trying to move up, hate APA men, think APA men are not sexual, are trying to be white, are mentally colonized, etc etc is also subscribing to the white agenda.

Hui Jeong said...

Toisan Villager, i do not question your "manhood" because you are concerned about issues of representation. i am, however, a bit concerned that you have a split personality. one who is toisan villager, an APA man who feels silenced and unable to speak about issues of represenation and another who is Ric, one who obessively leaves verbally abusive comments on ppls blogs.