Objectified – 2023 Ongoing Series
Over the past two centuries there has been no shortage of caricatures of Asian men in Western media, from movies to print to popular culture at large. As a refugee from Vietnam arriving in the U.S. in the early 1980s, there weren’t many role models for me on television and in cinema other than the infamous Asian character Long Duk Dong in John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles.” When coming out as a gay teen shortly after high school around that time, I quickly found myself near the bottom of the pecking order of desirability in the queer community, mainly because of white perceptions of Asian men.
Fast forward to 2018 with the groundbreaking movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” Hollywood took notice of the Asian story’s bankability. As of this writing in early 2023, an Oscar frontrunner movie is “Everything, Everywhere All At Once.” Ke Huy Quan got nominated for best supporting actor, and his last major roles had been in the mid-1980s as a child actor. His Golden Globe acceptance speech brought tears to my eyes.
Asian men have at least gained some inroads in the last few years, thanks to major social changes in 2020 for diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI.) But Asian American men still have some distance to travel in terms of visibility and bankability in the mainstream entertainment media.
The term “objectified” tends to evoke sexual desire with the sole purpose to serve one’s carnal pleasure. Asian women have served this myth and stereotype, particularly for non-Asian men, in the Western world at least since the mid-1800s. On the other hand, Asian men in general are rarely seen as sexual objects. Hence, the charter of this series is to explore a broad range of Asian men’s desirability, intimacy, and masculinity. The message, if I have a message, is that Asian men can redefine their own sexualities.
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