Thursday, June 22, 2017

The romantic white guy vs the mysticized asian gal.

I say mysticized instead of fetishized because I didn't want to turn this article into an academic history lesson siting too many plays and movies and books or one that throws around terms like colonialism and orientalism or neo-colonialism (which interestingly, I studied in college, which is perhaps why I am not wooed by such terms on facebook.)


For everyone of those theories put out there... there are some holes in those theories. Colonialism happened to a lot of groups but each group got different stereotypes put on them. Instead I am going to focus on some interesting encounters that are more anecdotal... but cut through to some of the cultural differences that exist even in American (white and Chinese) culture.

I'm also going to talk about Chinese instead of Asian because at some point I will be talking about sexual stereotypes that Japanese have for Chinese and vice versa.


First,.. I want to talk about the "romantic" white guy. And I will immediately break my own rule by talking about Hollywood.

The white male hero.. or white savior... in the image of John Wayne, and others (now Matt Damon) was one of the first cultural icons to be exported from the united states across the world. I have never seen Waterlooo Bridge" in its entirety but I can feel its strong presence in movies like Andy Lau's "Ah Fu" which I think was called, "A Fighter' Blues" in English...... basically watching Hong Kong movies... you just know it's something that a lot of Asians have watched and that certain images of a white guy kissing a white girl on a bridge are probably etched into their subconscious. In Kwong Kow we learned to sing "Should Old Aquaintence be Forgot" in Chinese and that was actually my first exposure to the song and I always wondered why Looney Tunes had the song we were forced to learn in Chinese School. I mean that song was HAMMERED into us at Kwong Kow. And I was totally there to learn about my Chinese side.

One more thing about the silver screen.

A woman at St. James in Chinatown was sharing her experience fo how she came to be Catholic and referenced that movie about the Boxer Rebellion. (55 days at Peking?) Lots of Yellow face. I think it was actually a good movie in many ways but I didn't have time to watch the whole thing. But I did see the bit that this elderly woman mentioned. Where a white american hero sees Chinese people acting like savages (the Chinese version of events is the exact inverse... same events but the westerners were the savages)  and saves this young Chinese girl.. and the Chinese woman telling this story felt that white people saved her in much the same way.




I'm not saying she is wrong. She WAS saved by people who happened to be white in her particular case, I'm just saying the fact that she referenced this movie...you see it's a theme. Partially based on reality but hammered through by propaganda as well.


Now further into real life.....


Chinese American families have a certain way they treat women and White American families have their way. I should probably actually not say white but instead Anglo American. Think about some Downtown Abby type manners. Men hold doors for women and stand up when they enter the room. The old style of Chivalry (dead or not) has this idea about a "lady"


Now... In Chinese culture, these things do not necessarily exist unless they were absorbed from western culture. In fact in many a TVB series or Hong Kong movie a romantic Chinese man will be somewhat hyper westernized compared to the characters around him.

Sometimes the Chinese guy that is a lady killer has been to the states and that is where he learned his lady killing skills. I've never seen this type of thing in real life, only in the movies.

What I have seen is this.

There are Chinese American men that can be successful in both worlds (I am NOT talking about myself) and turn on the Western Charm around white people and act accordingly Chinese around Chinese people. I never noticed it until my wife pointed it out to me. Because around Chinese... I am white and around whites I am Chinese so I would never be privy to to this perspective on my own.

I also tend to act how I am feeling at that moment and not how the environment dictates.

Someone Chinese told me "Talk Ghost talk with ghosts talk people talk with people."

You know what I do? I do the exact freaking opposite cause I feel like it. It's also why I am not that successful.


But here are some things I did in China that turned the heads of women or rather one main thing.

I held the door for them.

Now I am not even talking about holding the door and allowing them to pass first.

I am just saying I did not slam the door in their face on purpose.

"Wow... this guy treats women so well."

The thing is... I'm just doing that because it is our custom in the states and it was taught in school. Some people can misinterpret that to mean I care deeply about them. When actually I suppose in theory it is possible for the guy who slammed the door in her face to maybe one day care deeply for her... I don't know.

Often times I fear being called some sort of sexual criminal were I to offer a hand to a white woman stepping over snow... or, if I see they are physically fit (which sometimes happens to mean they are hot) then they should be fine. And so I often reserve my chivalry for the elderly and infirm thinking that young women are offended by such acts anyway.

(Side note: real chivalry is just the decision that maybe Knights in Europe should not go around terrorizing raping and pillaging women of high birth. I don't think it even extended to women that were normal.)

I actually have to turn back to my wife who said that only over time did she realize that white men, especially older white men, have a very polite way of talking to a woman. But that doesn't mean that they care about you. It's just manners and custom. It's just how they talk. But if you have never been exposed to this way of talking, like if you grew up in an immigrant Chinese American household, that way of talking can get you all swoony and thinking like this person really cares for you.

Nowadays maybe all this is irrelevant because of texting and all that. But I am saying that there are some cultural differences of the past that led to the romantic white guy image.


This article is long and I haven't touched the "mysiticized" asian female yet.

As far as certain fetishizations... I only came to realize some of the stereotypes existed in college. Although my mother was white I grew up in a Chinese community so when "Chinese woman" came to mind I thought of a good number of people in my life, and most of them older. People who were not my mother... but did do motherly things for me.

Certain fetishizations are as hard to wrap ones head around as people believing in mermaids... and that belief coming from manatees. Except Mermaids are magical and these fetishizations are just disgusting. Well maybe the Selkie belief can be compared.. a belief where the Celts or Norse thought that the Innuit an(and in many stories the women) could turn into seals because of the clothes (made from seals) that the shed while bathing in the sea.  But that misunderstanding that birthed legends is still kind of magical and not disgusting.


But I do want to briefly talk about how the stereotypes between cultures often mirror each other. And so... some of these stereotypes really are a reflection of the self. (Oh crap I broke my own rule again... ie the fetish is just a manifestation of "the other" but it's really you.)


For instance here is a stereotype.

"Those women are different. They are hornier. They like to have sex more. It is never enough with them."

So whose stereotype is this?

Well if you watch a Hong Kong movie... Japanese women are depicted as hornier. So are white women.

If you read a Japanese Manga like Ramna... it is the Chinese woman that is hyper sexualized.


Now I have heard of the dragon lady stereotype and seen it once overtly in a Jimmy Stewart movie. In general Asian women are sexualized in American media... but so are women in general. There are actually other stereotypes that the activists don't talk about much that I find more interesting. But that's for another blog post.

French and Russian women... who are white too, are also usually depicted as hyper sexualized though too. I think Germans and actually perhaps Europeans in general are depicted in this way. If you really want to analyze it, any place that the hero goes and he is sort of conquering or visiting (this could be the South) the women from that place will be depicted as romantic targets and o sexual objects to be conquered. Are Asians depicted this way more than other groups?

The main thing is that while Asian women are sexualized, Asian men tend to be emasculated... or somehow violent but not sexy. Whereas French men, Latino men Black men.... are equally as sexualized as the Asian woman.

The Asian man is NOT usually a cool lady killer in American films.... but part of this might be cultural too.

In Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee remains chaste while the other main characters get the ladies. But Bruce was the star of that movie and he himself was married to a white woman. Who made the decision for that plot choice? I always assumed that he had a lot of control over that movie.

I also want to point out that I have met white women that said they love dating Asian guys because there are cultural differences there that also shock and awe. Like one woman told me that her Phillipino boy friend would buy her stuff everywhere. Like a white guy might by you a drink... but her boyfriend would buy her CDs. She said it really made her feel.... like a lady. Sounds a lot better than someone holding the door.

Well I wanted to write about this subject in a way that didn't just say the same thing that everyone else has already said.

Chinese culture in general (which would include the women) tends to be mysticized and made somehow magic. Many movies where people switch bodies of Mel Gibson suddenly can read women's thoughts somehow hinge around something Chinese. An old Chinese woman passes by and lightning strikes. A lion dance is happening in "Freaky Friday" and the lion dance drum can actually be heard when they switch back.

But while the women can be magical and alluring... the movies tend not to show a Chinese man in the same light. Except for ONE episode of Dr. Quinn medicine woman where the Chinese man named Peter is changing clothes in the woods and Dr. Quinn's teenage daughter is spying on him.....

Oh yeah and Russel Wong and every single thing that he was in. Magicked that white woman in that made for tv late night soap opera and slept with her on camera with candles everywhere....

He's mixed though does that still count? Come to think of it Bruce Lee was mixed too.

Daniel Wu is a Chinese male hottie...so it isn't unheard of... it's just less heard of... and even Daniel Wu did not envision himself as the star of the show that he was producing, even though all the white anchor women interviewing him totally wanted his body and probably only watch the show because of him being shirtless most of the time.


Speaking of Bruce, when Linda Lee's version of events, "The Dragon" came out starring Jason Scott Lee, I think some people were very uncomfortable with the shower scene. Watching it with a group of friends in middle school, the teacher left the room, saying it was too sexual. Was it too sexual or was the fact that it was sexual with a white woman and an asian man the subconscious issue. At any rate... it WAS very sexual on purpose because it was something that was not shown in most movies and I think the directors and Linda herself wanted to make sure it WAS shown in that movie in a tastefully dramatic way, soundtrack and all.


That's not the scene I am talking about... it's just all I could find.


Since I brought up Chivalry and European Knights... I think I will have to bring up the equivalent in Chinese culture... which would actually be Yi Hei a brotherly love between men.

Where as in the west the King Arthur Story tends to focus on Lancelot and Guinevere.... the Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on the bond between Kwan Gung, Zhang Fei, and Liu Bei.


I think if Romance of the Three Kingdoms was westernized and romanticized (like man an woman romance) then Zhu Zilong would have an affair with Liu Bei's second wife. Instead he just walks in on her breast feeding. Interstingly she is actually a very strong fighter, as strong as him. Or strong enough to fight at his side against her own brother.

Okay, so, there is another aspect in Romance of the Three kingdoms that shows a bit of a cultural difference. At one point a peasant who is hosting Liu Bei kills his own wife to feed the king meat. They had other food, but he thought that it wasn't fitting for a king. Now if this happened today people would just think the farmer was crazy but in the story the idea is not that he was just killing his wife and trying to get rid of the body. But he loved his wife... but just loved the king more.

In the original story of King Arthur I think Guenevere is set on fire for adultery. But over time that idea of love conquers all evolved.

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms story has changed over time and a Japanese video game as Liu Bei as a handsome prince chasing Diao Sim. (he also has... blond hair)

But the Three Kingdoms still played a big role in the conscious and in the media in Hong Kong even in the 90's or at least the 80's and probably still today to a degree. A struggle was seen between that old way of thinking and the new modern westernized romantic way.


Now Chinese movies set in the past all have more of that romantic western feel...

But I am saying there were (if they no longer exist for this generation) some fundamental differences in culture that might make the western culture more romantic when it came to the love between man and woman. Whereas Chinese culture set other things above that. Duty, loyalty, the greater good, etc.
















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