I felt more selfish than usual in this class. No other class has encouraged or even allowed me to simultaneously explore movies, the fascinating power of Facebook, and myself. I began this project with an analysis of the Love Life of an Asian Guy, a popular Facebook page created by a straight, woke, angry Asian man who is upfront about his identity, and uses his privilege to raise issues marginalized people face, call out microaggressions and commentate about inappropriate behavior in American culture. IN ALL CAPS. He promotes Asian Americans’ and other people of color’s rights together, and critiques everyone including himself, striving to create a genuine “platform of equity.” I next examine how Ernie in The Motel, an Asian American boy who initially has no physical or virtual spaces to learn about himself, is helpless until he finds his own through writing. I butt in to compare our occupied spaces and formative experiences as Asian Americans living communally. Then I watch the most shocking Korean movie of my life, The Handmaiden, a creation by another Asian male using privilege to center marginalized individuals. I spew about its destroying of comfort zones, onscreen lesbian sex and empowerment; global implications; apply a queer of color lens. Curation derailed by Trump, my last post is pure application of Rosalind Chou’s conversational advice for any-level active Asian American: introspection of the political responsibility of privileged bodies (including mine), learning from and supporting other marginalized groups, my parents, preventing normalization of current political discourse, and activating together, not alone.
I’m also obsessed with the role of media platforms (online social media and publications, movies) in Asian American identity creation. Over the course my interest in depictions of communication, race, gender and sexuality in what little representation we get in media has grown. They can be fluid sites of communication, organization and affirmation, or invisibility and confusion. In the midst, Cherríe Moraga’s theory of the flesh knocked me over and out. It honestly makes me want to hug everyone, from Asian male porn actors in Richard Fung’s “Looking for My Penis” to the performance artist hanging herself from hooks in “Bridges” to Asian people working through interracial relationships. They show me Asian American sexuality, which should be individually-determined, can actually exist beyond the white gaze – of course, with great effort. The self-conflict is heightened and politicized. Yet the class assignments were created by real people sharing their most personal selves, helping others find resonance and form self from unexpected sources. In fact, I see every assignment and blog post as betrayals (@nationalism) attached to names of real bodies.
The online blog medium provided a unique opportunity since the thoughts spurred in class didn’t simply sit in our notebooks or Google Drives. Only a handful of people will read the pieces here, and maybe another few if this website is linked for the next class. Still, every view counts. After reading a few classmates’ insightful, honest, surprising posts, I’m tackling them all. Chou says that compared to African Americans who have organized and embraced their identities since days of legal slavery, Asian Americans have mostly split between cultural preservation and white assimilation over diaspora building. We have “an absence of counter-narratives and resistance” (175). Visibly, at least. This portfolio is my part of recording that elementary collective memory. I realize my collection is biased towards works created by Asian men. I listen to many female Asian American artists, but I’m a more thoughtful watcher and reader than a listener. Notes for improvement.
I’m now equipped with tools, language and theories and examples, to verbalize my feelings. Our feelings are the only things we own, a friend said recently. I don’t have to validate them to others, but having the intellectual and experiential tools – language and theories and examples – helps me better understand myself and disruptive experiences with friends, family, the Internet. They also help me frame experiences so I’m both reasonably angrier and more generous, but willing to learn bilaterally through difficult conversations. While I’m frustrated I have to be a bridge, I want to do be an effective one. I’m grateful to have been a lucky participant in this space, I can and will make a difference for and with other Asian Americans vocally, symbolically, financially, environmentally in my current position, no later.
Chou’s discussion hopes for Asian Americans to transcend the neoliberalism seeped in our world. Well, I remember frantically drawing several concentric circles, then drawing lines through them like a pizza cutter, then writing “hegemonic domain of existence” and “how we exist at the nexus of multiple hegemonies” and many essential terms as my professor Doug spoke and wrote at his speed (fast). It looks like a galaxy, with a little X (that’s me, apparently) stuck at the center of all those layers and things that align together messily. I’d never heard the word hegemony before. I was freaking out on day one. Eleven weeks later, I know I’m not alone, and I’ve learned to start moving between all those layers and things. On the first page of my now-full notebook, the X in the big galaxy isn’t so little or stuck anymore.