After an absence of almost two years from the cinema, my friends convinced me to go see the film Jump 22 Street. If there is one thing about me, I tend to get agitated over issues most of my friends would never care about. Low and behold comes the trailer for the recently released film, ‘Lucy’ starring Scarlett Johansson as some government prodigy who somehow gains all these supernatural powers through a few simple (and unwanted) injections. I have not watched the film, you can fill in the blanks.
What ticked me off about the film was how in preview trailer, there was a particular scene where the protagonist vehemently shoots away at an Asian man simply for not speaking English. After a bit of research, it turns out that the scene in question takes place in a busy traffic intersection of Taiwan, a non English speaking but very modern country. What was my interpretation? Here we have this white woman emasculating the Asian man through the medium of the Hollywood film again. Sprinkled with a complete regard for languages other than English for good measure too. ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU BITCHES!
Maybe because of my Arts major in Asian Studies does this rile me up but I am viewing point-blank-racism aimed at pertaining Asian stereotypes as nothing more than docile, useless, mute beings who are only capable of Kung-fu moves while sipping green tea! Of course, I will be more than happy to use taekwondo, karate or escrima to whip anyone back to their senses but unfortunately I am a law abiding citizen of the world. These stereotypes have themselves been recreated in Australian local cinema such as the ridiculous ‘Japanese Story’. A tale of very bogan woman falling in love with a reserved Japanese businessman who dies in a billabong lake and then faces his widowed wife who is only given obligatory lines such as “thank you” to say. Even a personal favourite flick of mine, ‘Romeo Must Die’ removed a kissing scene between Jet Li and Aaliyah because it apparently did not suit the story while a white man known as Tom Cruise saves the day and gets the Asian girl in ‘The Last Samurai’. *coughcontradictioncough*
My point is that we need inclusiveness. We do not need film after film kicking people of colour to the bottom of the hierarchy in favour of white superiority. We see the effects of colonisation enough already in the world, and to see it through the medium of film which is meant to communicate stories is another kick in the guts. We need examples of not just Asian role models in film, but with all groups of people. We are still living in a society that randomly checks any Arab for a drugs and security check at the airport, a society that still thinks every Asian speak some bastardised ‘ching chong’ language, a society that credits Iggy Azalea for making a few catchy hooks while actually black female rappers are still hustling without any recognition. The film ‘Lucy’ holds no shame in blatantly slapping us people of colour on the face again and again. It is a tool of media that reaffirms the old adage off the ‘submissive and emotionless Asian’. We Asian men are not devoid of emotions and lack masculine strengths, we Asian women are not merely quaint prostitutes looking for a white man with a hint of hello fever to save us. We are actual human beings and we deserve to be treated rightfully so.
When I hear Thai, I always listen out for words that are borrowed either from or to Khmer. The sounds are like my language except with the addition of tones which adds a musical edge to it.
When I hear Korean, I think of strength. I have met so many Koreans who are such exceptionally hard workers, and it comes as very pronounced when they speak their mother tongue.
When I hear Cantonese, I get reminded of Bruce Lee films and the amusement it brought to me as a child. Somebody on the tv who had the skin colour as me. How happy I was to learn of my grandfather’s Cantonese origins.
When I hear Japanese, I think (hesitantly) of my high school days when every other Asian kid in my year fell in love with anime and manga. The first interest in their culture allowed me to jump into their country and see the beautiful merging of modern and traditional life. Innovative minds the Japanese are. We have a lot to learn from them.
When I hear Vietnamese, I feel like I am with friends. For all the times we all made fun of the nasal sounds that leaped up and down, we were probably feasting on pho with the smell of fish sauce in the air, hair salons in front of our eyes and a nosy aunt asking us if we were married yet. It brings a sense of familiarity.
When I hear Khmer, or rather Khmai, I hear my family, my home and my spirit. After not hearing it in so long, a smile always comes across my face. Another homecoming it is and I rise up and the day becomes perfect.
When you say Asian women are submissive, I say my mother owned her own business in a country not of her mother tongue with an education that did exceed primary school.