Well, as I shouted from my seat in the theater as Coldplay’s “Yellow” in Mandarin (performed by Katherine Ho, credit where credit’s due) played over the final scenes and the credits began to roll, “I AM SO FAT AND UGLY AND BROKE.”
Actually, that’s not true, I lied. I harsh-whispered it into my other best friend’s ear (there’s Little Loca, and then there’s this one, whom I’ll call Bitch Duck from now on) mid-movie as I sobbed in the dark.
The cast of that film is so searingly good-looking that I need eclipse goggles, shit you not. AND—AND! this is important!—they’re not all light-skinned! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS IN THE MOTHERLAND? There’s mad colorism back there, and for this film to not only show a predominantly white market that Asian men can be—and are—über caliente but that we also come hot in different shades IS A HUGE FUCKING DEAL. I’ve honestly been waiting for us jungle Asians to have our come-up for a looooonnngggg time (and no, that’s neither a politically correct term nor a nice one, I know that).
AND WE’RE FUCKING NORMAL IN IT (I mean, normal for people who can afford $1.2 million earrings … well, the storyline minus the wealth is kinda normal)! And I say “we” because every Asian in the Western world had so much riding on this fucking movie because we’re so invisible otherwise. If you swapped out the cast for an all-white one (please don’t) and made the plot about an American chick going to meet her English boyfriend’s parents back in stuffy McPoliteville in the Queen’s country, then this would just be any another rom-com about a fat and vulgar but daring and somehow, ultimately, lovable American woman shaking things up à la the plot of What A Girl Wants (RIP Amanda Bynes’ career). This one is special. I love that it addresses how different Asians are from Asian Americans because, as common sense as it is, a lot of people don’t seem to know that. The synapses are fraying, not firing. To the white public, we’re all lumped together in this fat yellow cluster of dumplings and bamboo and origami paper. HOW REFRESHING THAT WE GET TO BE NORMAL, is my point.
When I “went home” to the Motherland, it was weird as shit. I was darker than my cousins, I had a thick, hick American accent while speaking the 100 words of Vietnamese that I know, and I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle (let me reiterate that you can, in fact, forget how to ride a bike — I know because I almost got bopped into the rice fields by a truck while yelling back to my cousins “I got this!”). I’m told I’d be referred to as việt kiều, aka broke-ass American bitch who can’t hang with her own people. The culture shock is real. And I’m glad it finally got some air time.
Also pretty stoked that hoa quỳnh (aka the Queen of the Night blossom) finally got its day. My dad has been growing it for years. It’s a thing. And it’s a nice thing when what you grew up celebrating in your household is celebrated on the big screen.
Anyway. Aside from the significance of this film for Asian American representation in Hollywood (and there is, unfairly, a lot riding on this film due to aforementioned narrative scarcity), I kinda just feel fat and gross after watching that. When Gemma Chan first came on screen, I think I puked in my mouth at the thought of going to the restroom post-movie and having to confront my own reflection in the prison lighting they have in there (most public lighting is designed to make you feel badly about yourself). I really wanted to hate her, but her character in the film is so lovely and noble that you can’t, so the only other option is suicide. If you think I’m being dramatic, THIS is what Gemma Chan looks like:
When the movie was over and the lights came on, I surveyed the roomful of my compatriot ugly plebs, and I felt a wave of depression wash over me. I need to get my shit right if I’m ever going to have half a chance in gold-tinted hell of being an extra in the next installment (John Chu, may I interest you in the exciting concept of casting a broke uggo in the background of your next film?).
I don’t think au naturale is a good look for me. I spent mad money at Glossier recently to achieve said look for the summer, but now that I’ve tried it out, I really don’t think it’s going to get me very far in this life, so I’m opting back into the “cake face” look. As you well know, I also bought a shit-ton of skincare products hoping to fix the dumpster fire that is this *waves hand circularly, counter-clockwise, over face*. Still undecided about what I’m gonna do about the moles, the mustache, the sideburns, and my Venus flytrap eyelashes, but I’m sure there’s a cosmetic fix for each of those things. I’m putting in the effort, is what I’m saying, just as I said I would. For you bitches. And for casting directors.
This isn’t just about self-care anymore. This is about straight-up vanity. The stakes are high. I wanna rep the clan by being—at the very least—the person mowing the lawn in the background somewhere (honestly I didn’t read the books so I have no idea wtf is going on or what to expect in the next film). Surely, there’s enough room now for a broke Asian—who isn’t the genetically-perfect Constance Wu—in the storyline? If only just to contrast the lavish riches of the remaining cast? Idk Jon Chu, just think about it and call me.
I really don’t want to start doing squats, guys. I know exercise is probably the missing piece to my master plan (that, and teeth bleaching to scrub out the wine stains), but it’s literally my least favorite thing to do besides checking my credit score. I’m a single dog-mom with a demanding, full-time job in New York City. I have neither the time nor the extra income to make use of a $300/month membership to Xtend Barre, one of the very few things that has ever worked for me (anyone who wants to crowdfund for my bod, by all means). And it’s not like I can do athletic things with my dog, either. He had Stage 4 heartworm when I got him so his heart has physical holes in it. PITY ME, I HAVE NO OPTIONS.
If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, I’m kind of giving up on my job. I’m back home in California for vacation, and I’m kind of flirting with the idea of walking out on all of that. The sense of purpose and life fulfillment that once buoyed my waning energy has been snuffed out by the racism, the next-level bullshit, and the power trips that really just don’t belong in the nonprofit sector but is somehow all too commonplace?
I honestly think it’s because I try hard. I work hard, not smart. If I was smart, I’d have no standards. I’d let myself be vapid and shallow and just work on aesthetics all day. I’d probably be some corpse’s bride like I’ve always wanted (my exact phrasing was “some Wonderbread corpse’s jade pet” but same shit) by now. I’d probably actually be a crazy rich Asian. Alas, I’m more like Rachel Chu, following my passion and what not.
Except that shit ain’t real — Henry Golding doesn’t exist for the rest of us, we’re all fucked.
Highly recommend the film, though.