Jean Kilbourne's work on exposing sexism and racism in American advertising is an excellent example. I remember watching one of her presentations and she said something to the effect of, "The first thing people always tell me is that ads don't have an effect on them." And yet, she adds, the average person is exposed to hundreds of ads a day, each one filled with sexist and racist imagery. Psychologists and sociologists have already established that people internalize what they're exposed to, and it's a predominantly subconscious process. So they can protest and argue all they want, but it won't change the truth about what they are.
Author Benjamin Rich supports the fact that the same goes for white people who think they're immune to racism. A person cannot grow up in a "whitopia" (itself a product of maintained white privilege), hear racist dialogue daily, see the consistent exclusion of all things "Other" and magically not internalize some of that racism. That, in itself, is what I like to call delusional racism; i.e., they don't "think" it's there, so they confidently tell themselves (and proudly, stupidly tell others) that voila--it's not there! Their perceived immunity is nothing more than a denial-based fantasy created to keep them from having to think too deeply about racial reality in America--yet another form of white privilege.
Hollywood, as you should all know by now, is an institution I regularly hold accountable for not only overtly indulging racism, but falling back on delusional racism when confronted. To stay as coherent and as consistent as possible while discussing this, I'm going to stick to one example (and yes, it's a topic near and dear to me): Hollywood's unswerving emasculation of Asian & Asian-American men, and how real-life society mirrors that emasculation. By the way, if you're wondering why Miss Chocolatey Moi keeps scribbling about topics like this, it's because I want to practice what I preach: POC need to support one another, and progress will not be made without that support.
Now...let's move on.
They Just Can't...Seem to...Let It Go....
Pop quiz: list the last major serious film Hollywood released in which the leading man was Asian or Asian-American, not a martial artist, had a love interest, and was shown being undeniably, ahem, intimate with said love interest? Don't worry...I'll wait.
Needless to say, there hasn't been one. Oh, I'm sure if you sift through the made-for-TVs, indie flicks, and internet short films, you'll obviously find a few, but no major, big-name, big-budget, absolutely, positively got-to-go-to-opening-night movies--none. And seeing as we are already officially 10 years into the 21st century, the verdict on Hollywood in this matter is...FAIL.
They can "fix" that. White people are slated to become an American minority by 2042? They can "fix" that. Statistics indicate that POC aren't the biggest criminals in America and not overall pathologically violent? Oh...they're not a backward, savage backward group of folks? They can speak English fluently and have successful, diverse careers? No, problem--they can "fix" that! What's this? An unflinching, unfailing, never-diminishing, ever-increasing interest in Asia? No worries; they've had that fi--oh...you meant the men? Well, now...why, yes...one can see the cause for alarm. But no worries, my boy; they fixed that.
Pop quiz: what do all the following movies have in common?
Romeo Must Die
Kiss of the Dragon
The Last Samurai
Quick answers: They're all "big" products of Hollywood from over the past decade (roughly), the leads are all Asian men who don't get laid (yes, Watanabe counts as a lead in Samurai), and even though America is home to approximately 13 million people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, none of the lead actors are Asian-American. And when American actors of Asian descent do play a leading (and sometimes sexual) character, the film still always has...a sort of "problem". For one, the actors often aren't even playing Asian or Asian-American characters. And two, for some reason, the film often flops or just doesn't get taken seriously among adults.
Examples of Problem #1
Keanu Reeves in anything but Little Buddha
Russell Wong in The Prophecy II*
Mark Dacascos in Double Dragon and Brotherhood of the Wolf
His Royal Gloriousness, May He Forever Rest in Peace, Brandon Lee in The Crow
Examples of Problem #2
Ernie Reyes, Jr. in Surf Ninjas (which, by the way, co-stars Rob Schneider, a Filipino Jew who doesn't play an Asian here)
Mark Dacascos, again, in Double Dragon
Russell Wong, again, in The Prophecy II
John Cho & Kal Penn in the Harold & Kumar films
*By the way, in The Prophecy II, Jennifer Beals and Russell Wong (hint hint) actually demonstrate some very hot Blasian lovin' which apparently doesn't "count" because both actors are playing white-ish people (the video is edited and has low quality, but you get the gist).
Mirror, Mirror, Break and Fall....
Because Hollywood isn't churning out film after film with leading Asian-American males, Asian-American men tend to feel they're either one of two things: viewed by strangers as some linguistically-handicapped foreigner (and they usually are being viewed thusly by the "outside") or altogether invisible. That people hold up some of the aforementioned films to comfort [read: pacify] Asian & Asian-American men is delusional racism. It implies that Hollywood is showing "some" [read: insufficient] appreciation for Asian & Asian-American men and that if women aren't willing to date this these men, it's simply their "preference" (a word which requires a whole other rant).
Obviously, I do not co-sign.
I did a brief piece on the [old] Blasian Narrative about Ninja Assassin fanfiction, and how the white girls writing it tell us soooooo much about how they see (and don't see) Asian men. Now, I honestly am glad that they too recognized the error in keeping Raizo and Mika from getting intimate. It gives me faith in young people that they could point this out and try to remedy it. However...I noticed that more than one author portrayed Raizo as an awkward, clueless virgin. I'll admit I wasn't alarmed when the first author did it (maybe I'm getting old and losing my touch), but by the third fic I was appalled.
I also saw that one writer hadn't noticed Asian men before, and now that she has, she's sort of struggling to reconcile this attraction with previously established ones (notice how she describes Mika's thoughts towards the white character, Maslow). She's also trying very hard not to sound racist (fails), not to sound clueless (fails), and sounds almost desperate to "convince" readers Raizo really is an attractive man. But...what if she's merely trying to convince herself Raizo is attractive and that it's okay to think so? Have a gander:
In repose Raizo looked so young, so vulnerable. How could anyone do anything to hurt him? The very thought was like the idea of dropping baby bunnies into a blender while they were still alive and hitting 'puree'. Raizo certainly wasn't some sexy, older, powerful, worldly man – not like Maslow. There was a time when Ryan had made her stomach flutter, nothing had happened of course, but that hadn't made Mika blind to his appeal. No, Raizo wasn't anything like Maslow. For Mika, Maslow had only been an idea, a thrill of titillation. By comparison Raizo appealed to the protective urges Mika had, and her own need for protection. To feel like there was a big, strong man around who would check under her bed, in her closets and keep all the nasty monsters in there from coming out to get her in the night. And to feel like she was serving and protecting someone who needed it so desperately.
That wasn't everything, but it was enough for a foundation for Mika to be curious. To want to know more, to understand more, to do more. Raizo was annoyingly attractive, and she didn't even like Asian guys, too many horror stories from her Taiwanese dorm mate – what would her mama say? 'Asian men don't like strong women', 'be prepared to clean a lot and feel shame if you don't give birth to tons of boys' or even 'oh dear, that's going to be a small penis'. As open minded as her mom was, she was still a little in the dark about other cultures, even a little racist at times despite having married a half-black, half-Italian. Even if that was almost exactly what Mai had described her brothers like, and the guys her parents wanted her to marry. Smiling at the silliness of that, Mika wished she was better at placing the Asian ethnic groups, but she was a fact finder, not an ethnologist. Which didn't mean she wasn't going to try and shuffle through the built in database that was her brain.
Raizo seemed too big to be from most of the Asian groups found in China, maybe Korean, they got pretty big nowadays. Running the tip of a finger over the fringe of eyelashes that touched the tops of Raizo's cheeks, or maybe he was Japanese. Definitely not Vietnamese, that much Mika could be sure of. Utterly wrong build in the torso, facial structure, and coloring on top of all that. Making it a game, Mika studied Raizo, allowing her thoughts to wander from one topic to another. Maybe she should buy him a teddy bear, or give him her baby blanket to keep him company so he would know what it was like to have something snuggly when bad dreams came?See what I mean?
This is yet another example in a long string of examples of how stereotypes and limited thinking get passed from one generation to the next. Notice the ventriloquism used to justify the "discussion"; it's not the "writer" thinking these things, it's Mika who "doesn't really like Asian guys". It's Mika's black mother and her Taiwanese ex-roommate who have all these negative notions of Asian men. (Also notice the writer's subconscious need to "whiten" Mika somehow, with the gratuitous attraction to her white coworker and unnecessary details about her paternal ancestry--and yes, it's a really annoying trend in fandom. I'm actually half-shocked the writer didn't just go ahead and theorize Raizo was the bastard offspring of a white tourist...you know, to explain his "atypical build" for an Asian).
I initially gave some of these writers some praise and gratitude for trying (and very delicate criticism when I could). One writer skipped all this nonsense and just got to the sex, and I commended her loudly.
But in meantime, I think you get my point. I mean, if you're an Asian or Asian-American guy in America, how on earth do you even begin to deal with all of that? Where the hell are you expected to start? No, seriously--what are you supposed to do?