Tag Archives: Pajiba

Butterflies, Slumdogs, And Tiger Moms: Asian American Women And The Rescue Narrative

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta

“Can we try it more mysterious, with that mystique from the East?

… Channel a late night sex chat ad

… Maybe go back further into your heritage … A little more ethnic.”

Remember those racist-alicious ads from Michigan senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra, the ones where the docile, limpid eyed, bike-riding Asian woman thanked “Debbie Spend It Now” for spending so much American money that she singlehandedly ruined the U.S. economy while giving more jobs to China? Well, that Sinophobic Super Bowl ad promptly inspired several spoofs including this one from Funny or Die, and this clever one from Kristina Wong that I found recently on Disgrasian.

In it, Wong plays an actress obviously starring in a “Debbie Spend it Now”-type commercial. The disembodied (presumably white, male) director’s voice is off-camera, insisting that Wong play her role with more ethnic “authenticity.” At one point, he asks her to read the lines like her mother might. When Wong delivers the lines in an American accent, the frustrated director corrects, “But that’s the same as you read it last time, is that how your mother talks?” Wong nods, deadpan. “She was born in San Francisco.” Later, he reminds Wong that she is “in a rice paddy.” To which she exclaims, “Oh, I thought we were in Runyon Canyon.”

Kristina Wong’s spoof speaks to the continued conflation of Asian American and Asian identity. No matter how many years, or generations, we’ve been in this country, we Asian Americans remain ‘contingent citizens’ and ‘perpetual foreigners.’ (You’ve heard the question: “Where are you from? … No, where are you really from?”)

Wong’s spoof also speaks to the sexualized, passive tropes surrounding Asian American womanhood. In a recent talk I gave for Wellesley College’s GenerAsians Magazine, I suggested that three tropes still seem to encapsulate much of how Asian American women continue to be perceived:

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Elementary Racial Privilege, My Dear Watson

Courtesy Wikipedia

By Guest Contributor Sylvie Kim

When I first skimmed Joanna Robinson’s Pajiba post on the casting of Lucy Liu as Watson in Elementary, CBS’ upcoming remake of Sherlock Holmes, and her call to have Liu play the titular protagonist instead, I thought, “Right on.” Though mainly staffed by white writers, I’ve always considered Pajiba to have a fairly critical sense of race and gender in their film and television reviews for a site that’s … mainly staffed by white writers.

But then I really read Robinson’s piece.

Robinson’s main rationale for Liu taking the lead in the modern reboot is that she’s too sexy to play Watson. While I understand her angle that traditionally Watson is the more amiable, less aesthetically pleasing counterpart to a more fly-yet-caustic and emotionally detached Holmes, perhaps there was a cultural competency oversight or two in her analysis of Liu’s sexiness:

Hell, I’m all for Asian women getting prominent roles.  Lord knows Grace Park, Sandra Oh and that fake Hot Topic punk on “Glee” could use some company.  But this is the most ill-fitting casting news since they announced Jonny Lee Miller as their Holmes.  Listen, you TV executards, we all know sex sells, but Holmes is supposed to be the icy, removed sociopath.  Not Watson.

Liu is a sexy, charming performer, but sweet she ain’t.  Anyone who watched her try to Manic Pixie Dream grind her way through “Watching The Detectives” will understand.  You know what Liu does well?  Chilly.  She’s like sexy ice water in your veins. Seriously, cast her as Holmes, make the doughy-featured Miller your Watson and I am fully on board.

And a new thought replaced my previous endorsement: Again?
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