So out of boredom, I compiled a bunch of screenshots of my favorite romantic movies and put them all together in this huge collage for my desktop wallpaper. This had everything, from the funnies like The Princess Bride and 10 Things I Hate About You to the most heart-wrenching like Never Let Me Go and Blue Valentine, and everything in between. What this wallpaper didn’t have, however, as I noticed unfortunately weeks after using it on my display, was a single person of color.
Now I know there have been a handful of cinematic couples with at least one Asian person involved, but I can’t think of any that stand out as tenderly romantic. The most I can think of is the martial artist and his fling with the damsel in distress he just saved. In Asian American classes, I learned about the hypersexualization of Asian women and emasculation of Asian men in mainstream media, but I never realized, how come there aren’t any good romantic movies about Asian Americans? Why isn’t a single one popular enough that I can think of it off the top of my head?
It’s not even like Asian Americans can’t fulfill these romantic roles. Wong Fu Productions makes romantic short films featuring Asian Americans all the time on their YouTube channel, and those videos are very well-written and -acted. And if you think of the narrative structure of some of these popular films, none of the characters really have to be played by white people. Clem and Joel from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could’ve just as easily been an Asian couple. Wong Fu Productions writes these incredibly realistic narratives and casts other Asian American YouTubers to star in their videos, but being on YouTube and not on TVor in theaters, they can only do so much to change the image of Asian Americans.
I see all these movies of white people becoming romantically involved, and I see nothing of the same nature with Asian Americans, so I start to wonder, hey, I can be romantic like those guys, too… right? I start to doubt myself! The media has so much control over how people see things, even I, the guy with the Asian American Studies degree, who knows better than to do so, gets caught up in it all. If all the romance we see on-screen involves only white people, then there’s probably no hope of anyone of color ever finding romance in real life.
But wait! There is still hope. Remember when this happened?
Yeah, that’s right, a Korean guy about to make sweet love to a white girl. (Maybe I should’ve warned you this post would be rated PG-13… eh.) So it is the zombie apocalypse, where there are a lot less people to choose from, and they are in some store on a pharmacy run, so it’s not like they’re in a super romantic candlelit room, but who cares? It’s on national television! The Asian guy gets the white girl at last! It’s the complete opposite of what you see in Asian interracial marriages nowadays. And you know what? Not only is Glenn getting some in this scene, he’s also a complete total flipping badass in the series. And so is Maggie! The characters are awesome, the storyline is awesome, and what’s probably most awesome of all, the network tastefully showed about as much of the sex scene as possible, so we don’t just get a little kiss on his cheek, we see them obviously with no clothes on and definitely about to do it. That’s a lot further than a lot of movies take it these days with Asian Americans. Thank you AMC for making this show and putting it on air. Thank you Robert Kirkman for writing a couple that breaks stereotypes into your Walking Dead comic book series. With the popularity the show has gained, hopefully we’ll see a change in the way Asians are portrayed in the media and perceived in real life.