Thursday, October 26, 2017

Worse In Asia...Because Asians.

The "Us Too" Affliction.....

It has come as no surprise to me that the recent revelations coming out of ultra-liberal, yet, unapologetically, anti-Asian Hollywood exposes a culture of abuse and sexual exploitation of both vulnerable women, and even men, over a period of decades. The man at the center of these revelations, producer, Harvey Weinstein, has been exposed as an alleged serial molester/rapist, who allegedly used his power and influence to make or break the careers of women in the industry to allegedly satisfy his allegedly perverse sexual appetite.

Yet, as I have come to expect, almost as soon as this story broke, up steps an Asian-American focused article that seemed to exist merely to imply that the West isn't that bad since - as we all know - Asia is always much worse. The article appears in an Asian-American online magazine called "Resonate" which purports to be a..., entertainment and blogging website that provides writers with a platform to discuss topics that strongly resonate amongst East Asian communities in the West. 

Also on the "About" page, you can find the following statements....
The representation of East Asians is unreasonably disproportionate within politics, the film industry, music industry and the media in general. For example, when East Asians are represented in the film, they are often represented through takeaway owners or martial artists.
‘Resonate’ actively encourages positive representation in the media by making your voice heard by delivering interesting articles from your own perspectives to actively engage wider audiences.
Instead of a piece that conforms to the stated aims of the publication to represent Asians more roundly, the article actually does the opposite and relies on old tropes of backward Asian deference to authority to racially stereotype Asians as passive. 

The Resonate article reports that.....
Asia’s “conservative attitude towards sex” and “fear of consequences” prevent abuse victims in the Asian entertainment business from coming forward.
..and that....
it was “highly unlikely” that Asian actresses “will come forward in the way that their Western counterparts have” like the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
To be fair, the piece is quoting an article from Variety, written by Hong Kong journalist, Vivienne Chow, which actually makes the melodramatic (but unsubstantiated) claim that Asian actresses don't come forward [like their western counterparts] for fear of jeopardizing the lives of their families. As if that was not enough, yet another article appeared, this time on the YOMYOMF site that also cited the same Variety piece. YOMYOMF is another Asian-American interest site that also wants to improve representation of Asians in the media

Whilst I don't challenge the claim that there may be some alleged abuses going on in the "Asian" film industry, the problem here is the Variety piece's assertion that western culture has somehow displayed a more open or healthy response to allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and the abuses he is alleged to have inflicted on several women. The truth seems to be a little more complicated.

As we have now learned, Wienstein's actions seem to have been well known throughout the industry, amid allegations that some of Hollywood's A-list actors, directors, and producers had knowledge of the issue but chose to do nothing about the alleged abuses, or even actively worked to prevent Weinstein from being exposed. Sadly, dozens of female and male victims were ignored, or, for reasons of not wanting to hurt their careers, remained largely silent.

Ironically, this fear of, and deference to, authority displayed by both victims of Weinstein and those around him who lied on his behalf, or those who simply knew what was going on but refused to speak up, runs counter to the image portrayed by Hollywood - and tightly interwoven into the fabric of western cultures - of the western maverick individual who lives to swim against the current and push against the grain. To be clear, I am not blaming the victims here in any way, and my point will become clearer later in the piece. Yet, it is a pity that the Variety "exposé" on the Asian film industry seems to do just that - imply fault on the part of Asian victims of sexual violence.

The point is that Asians have been stereotyped - by the media, especially Hollywood - for years as naturally subservient to authority. We are supposedly from cultures that produce weak individuals with hive mentalities who are unwilling to stand up to injustice, or authority, and who definitely would not speak up for themselves, or others, as individuals. Oh, we're money driven, too.

Sadly, the Variety article seems to play upon these tropes, implying a different cultural mentality that restricts the ability of Asians to speak out against injustice whilst also implying that a greater courage exists amongst westerners to do just that. It doesn't take an epic feat of observation to notice that this simply did not happen in Hollywood, and that there was clear deference to authority amongst those who were not victims but who knew, but also amongst the victims who, for whatever reason, chose to stay in line and not come forward.

The Variety article was written by a Hong Kong journalist who may not know, or care, about the nuances of racist stereotypes in the western media. The YOMYOMF and Resonate platforms that both carried the story should know better. With the stated aim of improving representation of Asians in our culture, it seems oddly cursory that there would be an uncritical re-posting of an article that plays upon racial stereotypes that form the basis for poor representation of Asians in the media. Surely, the first step in improving representation for Asians would be to be capable of recognizing the stereotypes that lie at the root of it?

A deeper issue here is that not only does the Variety piece play into negative stereotypes of Asians, it seems to uphold the positive, overbearing stereotype of Caucasians as dynamic, fearless, individuals who brazenly speak out against injustice. Staying silent for decades is not dynamic individualism, nor is it brazenly anti-authority. Again, YOMYOMF and Resonate should recognize this principle at work here as part of their stated aim to improve representation for Asians - racist stereotypes of Asians are merely the worst traits of Caucasians projected onto others. So far, I've seen few examples of brazen Hollywood individuals having made a stand against Weinstein - or the numerous others of his ilk. In fact, no one that knew came forward on behalf of the victims for decades even though it is alleged that his actions were well known throughout the industry. Hardly a shining example of maverick individualism pushing hard against authority.

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