Brenda Song’s Crazed, Hypersexualized Asian Female Stereotype in The Social Network (Updated)

By Guest Contributor Jenn, cross-posted from Reappropriate

I haven’t seen The Social Network — nor do I really plan to see it anytime soon. I mean, how much do I care about rich White guys battling other rich White guys to be the richest White guys out there?

But, out there on the blogosphere, there’s been some vague excitement about the return of Brenda Song, freshly grown-up from her Disney Channel days. She is shown prominently in The Social Network‘s trailer, and there was some early speculation that Song would make for an interesting supporting character against the backdrop of Jessie Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake making billions of dollars with some simple databasing and a lot of drunken debauchery.

Turns out all of that hope was for naught: despite Aaron Sorkin’s normally brilliant writing of strong female characters (to wit, C.J. Cregg of West Wing), Brenda Song’s Christy in The Social Network is only the most visible of a long litany of hypersexualized, dehumanized female props that exist merely for the sexual gratification of the movie’s White male main characters.

In Rebecca Davis’ review of The Social Network, Davis describes the viewer’s introduction to Christy:

We first meet Brenda Song’s character, Harvard co-ed Christy, when she throws her cleavage at newly successful (and, ohmigod, final club member!) Eduardo Saverin. A few minutes later, she’s giving him oral sex in a public restroom. Afterward, Christy and her friend sit uselessly on a couch while the men plot the expansion of Facebook. This isn’t the only time in the movie when two girls are drunk and irrelevant on a peripheral sofa. Then, inexplicably and suddenly, Christy becomes mad with jealousy. Near the climax of the film, Christy lights a scarf on fire in Eduardo’s apartment, then turns and asks, doe-eyed, if he’s leaving her. What this scene contributes to the film’s development is beyond me—unless Sorkin is trying to explain why Harvard’s all-male final clubs won’t let women become members: We might all be vindictive pyromaniacs. Kartina Richardson, a filmmaker and writer, described this scene to me as “really the only cheap move on the movie’s part—here’s the erratic hyper-sexed Asian woman totally obsessed with her white Harvard man.”

The counter-point to the Social Network‘s army of bubble-headed groupie women are apparently, according to Davis, “feminist killjoys.” Because, of course, any woman who actually has respect for herself, and can think for herself, must automatically be ugly and hate fun.

And, this is the film that critics are calling “brilliant“?

Awesome. I’m really gonna go see this movie now …

By contrast, at least this Taiwanese animated news version of the movie is honest about the movie’s sexism. (Warning, minorly NSFW because it animates the “sex in the bathroom” scene.)

Editor’s Update: Aaron Sorkin addressed the Brenda character, and other representations of women in the movie, on TV writer Ken Levine’s blog:

It’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal. Mark’s blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he’s sure he’s missing, came directly from Mark’s blog. With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark’s blog verbatim.

More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80’s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)

And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn’t just confined to the guys who can’t get dates.

I didn’t invent the “F–k Truck”, it’s real–and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it’s what they deserve for being who they are. (It’s only fair to note that the women–bussed in from other schools for the “hot” parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women–whether it’s the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo’s psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo’s girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters–again I hope you’ll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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