The Asian ‘girlfriend experience’ in two American movies
If we take a look at depictions of Asian women is some famous American films, we can get an idea of how certain ideas and stereotypes have gained a hold in people’s understanding of Asian women. I want to look at two American films that show relationships between a white man and an Asian woman.
Released in 1992, the film is a full length feature about two slacker types who run their own TV show from their basement. The men are typical of the audience the film was presumably aimed at. Whilst Garth has his own dream woman in the form of a blonde fantasy goddess, it’s Cassandra (Tia Carrere) who is the object of Wayne’s affection. That the actress playing Cassandra Wong is not Chinese but Hawaiian is beside the point – most of the time Hollywood will choose actresses who look only part Asian rather than look for an Asian-born actress who can speak fluent English.
Cassandra is by no means a submissive Asian woman, but it’s interesting to see how her Asian-ness is at times highlighted in the film. For example, she wears a traditional Chinese dress when meeting her father with Wayne. This is a very curious scene since it plays into the fears white men have of dating an Asian woman. Most commonly these relate to feeling inadequate, especially in the eyes of the girl’s family.
In another scene, Cassandra orders Wayne a Chinese takeaway. She’s far from an ‘easy’ woman, in fact she’s not terribly interested in Wayne until he shows that he has the ability to be successful. At the same time, Cassandra is seem to be in every way the perfect girlfriend. It doesn’t hurt that Carerre looks gorgeous in the film. She looks good in every scene, whether it’s the red lace dress she wears performing on TV, the bikini she wears in a dream montage, or the leather outfit for the video shoot. These aren’t the clothes that would normally be worn by a rock singer, even a grunge singer would wear much less revealing outfits. In case we had an idea that Asian women are submissive, the film has Cassandra executing a perfect flying kick to a drunk gig-goer who gets in her way.
The Social Network, 2010
The second example of an Asian woman girlfriend comes from the film that covers the origins of Facebook. Brenda Song plays Christy, a student at Harvard who meets Eduardo Saverin when he is at a speech given by Bill Gates. Although Christy is not the main character in the film, she makes quite an impact. The film has already explicitly mentioned Asian women as being attracted to Jewish guys, “and you don’t need an algorithm to work it out. “They’re not Jewish and they can’t dance,” says Eduardo at a party scene.
If Cassandra is in many ways the ideal Asian girlfriend, Christy is the exact opposite. Firstly, she is shown to be jealous and controlling of Eduardo to the point that she openly accuses him of being unfaithful because he hasn’t changed his relationship status from single on the website he co-created. In another scene, Mark asks Eduardo how his relationship with Christy is. ‘It’s terrible, she’s controlling and incredibly jealous. I’m scared of her.’ In the next scene, Eduardo gives his girlfriend a gift in an attempt to mollify her. Instead, she flies into a rage and then sets the scarf on fire. It’s as if the film is sending out a warning to viewers that they shouldn’t become romantically involved with Asian women, unless it’s to have fast and exciting sex in restaurant wash-rooms.
I draw these as examples because I feel that the cinema is a strong cultural indicator of society. It may not have quite the range that it did, but films are still a global force. What I’m really interested is how films shape and help us to make sense of the world. If you wanted to understand what it’s like to date an Asian woman, you could watch Wayne’s World and it would give you a good indication of what to say, the kind of things to do and just as importantly, the things you shouldn’t do.
I particularly like the way Wayne at some point in the film realizes that he may be losing Cassandra to the smarmy TV executive, so he has to work harder to get her back. In this way, the film is as positive in in it’s summation of how it is to date a sexy Asian woman. It’s mostly fantastic of course – the film shows us exactly why Wayne has such a thing for Cassandra and gives the idea that the most unconventional of men can attract their very own Asian beauty to be their girlfriend.
Sadly, there are other ideas people have about Asian women that aren’t nearly as positive. If you ask some men what they think of Asian women, they might say something along the likes of ‘Asian women are easy‘ – meaning I guess that Asian woman are easy to have sex with ( as long as you are a white male to begin with).
Unfortunately, Asian women have been portrayed as little more than sex objects and certainly no more than thinly sketched love interests for the main character. In most action films where the male visits Asia there will be a minor character who might provide some extra exoticism to the film. You can see this in franchise movies such as ‘Tokyo Drift’, or some of the Bond films set in Asian countries such as ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’.
You do wonder why Hollywood has been so reticent when showing interracial relationships. Certainly it’s unusual even now to see films where the couple are of different nationalities. Even as international marriages become so common as to be not worth mentioning, the movies are such a long way from catching up that the movie that is closest to the reality of dating an Asian girl is still good old ‘Wayne’s World’ from 1992.
The Asian Crush in two American filmsTweet