Photo courtesy of boingboing.net
“Yellow fever” is a condition termed for men who are not Asian but specifically prefer, and even obsess about, finding an Asian woman. From searching online to hopping on a plane to China to lavish women with expensive gifts and promises of living in America, these men know exactly what they want: a submissive, wholesome Asian woman. So what happens when a self-confessed, Asian-obsessed, white man is followed on his quest to secure an Asian bride? Well, the film Seeking Asian Female explores just that.
According to the documentary’s website, “Seeking Asian Female is an eccentric modern love story.” And eccentric it is. Like the director, Debbie Lum, the viewer anticipates the relationship between 61-year-old American Steven and 30-year-old, Chinese born and raised, woman Sandy to end in disaster. Or at least result in Sandy receiving a Green Card and skipping merrily on her way.
However, what you get from this exploratory film is something unexpected. What starts as a look into the creepy nature of men targeting Asian women for companionship turns into the real life reality of two people from different worlds trying to make it work with each other.
Lum starts her journey with Steven as he is searching for his bride online—a quest that has lasted for years. He shows Lum scrapbooks of his past Asian girlfriends which are filled with letters and pictures. He reveals that his interest in Asian women came about when he saw his son marry one and realized it was something that he also wanted. Steven talks about wanting a woman who is business oriented but also cooks and cleans, noting that he loves the look of Asian women, especially “the area under the eye.” Upon meeting Lum, Steven says to her, “you look very Chinese!” This immediately repels Lum who says she had to fight the urge to turn around and run away.
After watching Steven’s pursuit fall through with one of his Asian girlfriends the viewer is introduced to his next potential wife, Sandy. Steven goes to China and flies back with Sandy a couple of weeks later. This is Sandy’s first experience in America and she moves in with Steven as the two begin preparing for their upcoming wedding. While Lum questions why a beautiful, young woman would pick up and leave for America, she watches the relationship unfold. Has Steven found the ideal Asian bride?
Although at times uncomfortable to watch, the film surprises the director and the viewer when something that looks like real love is found. At some point the movie turns from being about a white man obsessed with Asian women to two people trying to genuinely merge their lives together. Sandy, as it turns out, is vibrant, sharp and definitely not submissive or “ideal.” As the film progresses you see Sandy and Steven fight to adjust to each other as they work through issues ranging from language barriers to jealousy.
As a skeptic, the viewer waits for Sandy to run off or for Steven to send her back since she is not the mail order bride he had been seeking. But despite the doubt that is heard in Lum narration and the repulsion that a viewer might feel, this film portrays an unlikely and strangely satisfying story. This is a rather well done and insightful film that breaks down preconceptions about both the sufferers and inducers of “yellow fever.”
Seeking Asian Female is playing as part of the 2012 Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) on Saturday, July 28th at 8pm.
Related posts on Schema: