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Documentary deconstructs racist infatuation

By Joon Park

Section: News

October 17, 2014

The Brandeis Asian American Students Association (BAASA) screened a documentary titled “Seeking Asian Female,” a documentary about the fetishization of Asian women, on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in the Intercultural Center.

Before playing the documentary, BAASA Vice President Calvin Wang ’16 and President Esther Lee ’15 introduced a short clip about how white men objectify Asian women.

“Seeking Asian Female” was first screened during the South By Southwest (SXSW) film festival in 2012. It was directed by Debbie Lum, a fourth generation Chinese American born in a majority-white neighborhood in Saint Louis.

“Yellow fever is something that has bothered me throughout my life, on and on,” Lum said in the film. “I am used to men giving looks and comments on how attractive I am because of my race.” According to Lum, she wanted to depict the problems through closely monitoring subjects of Asian fetishism.

Lum conducted research for the subject of the documentary, a five year-long project, by contacting white males looking for Asian women, mainly through the website Craigslist. However, success was hard to find. “I had to fight the urge to turn around and leave,” Lum said. Then she met Steven, “typical white male with yellow fever.” Steven turned out to be a perfect subject.

Steven, an aging, twice-divorced, white man, had a history of obsession with Asian women since his second divorce. According to Steven, his interest began through Sunshine Girls Magazine, which includes a list of Asian women looking for romantic relationships. “The magazine had an endless supply of women,” he exclaimed. Steven is searching for a submissive woman who will help him find his way in life. He has an illusion that women from China would be loyal and put his needs before their own.

The film then introduces Sandy, a Chinese woman who begins talking to Steven online. But it turns out Sandy is not that type.

The couple has the first major fight when Sandy discovers Steven has not deleted photos of his ex-girlfriend. Having difficulties communicating, Lum translates for them to resolve the struggle. The remaining documentary portrays their tumultuous lives, a complicated relationship from many different angles.

The lesson of the documentary is clear. Sandy comes to realize that both Steven and life in America are not as ideal as she had expected. But as she confronts many of Steven’s bad habits, he begins to change. He recognizes that in order to keep Sandy, he must learn how to be a caring, respectful and culturally sensitive husband. Above all he must confront the reality of marriage, not to the sweet innocent girl he imagined, but to a demanding, strong-willed Asian woman.

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