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    Sexual Asian-ation

    Via Gay News, I saw this DP article about an actor who spoke at Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. (I was a bit confused about that. I thought Asian Pacific American Heritage month was May and was wondering whether I was going to have to go all ethnicity-admiring and diversity-appreciating on Marc‘s ass for the second time this year. But I think last week was just a Penn event, so I can keep liking my Asian friends in the boring old individual way.)

    The actor, who apparently used to be on Law & Order, was faced with a problem: he is (1) a racial minority and (2) a faggot–but not (3) a woman, and therefore does not qualify for the PC Triple Crown. I thought he found an ingenious solution to this appalling deficiency:

    Wong conveyed the confusion of his childhood in San Francisco when he interrupted an anecdote about his struggles as a young Asian-American with, “Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was a homo,” eliciting peals of laughter from the audience.

    Encouraged by a “colorblind” drama teacher, Wong discovered a passion for the performing arts as a child.

    Later, Wong encountered Asian stereotypes in the acting world for the first time when he was cast as a Chinese stowaway in a play outside of school.

    “It was the most shocking thing that I have ever experienced in my life,” Wong said.

    Though Wong changed to a different role after speaking with the director, this experience was the beginning of his “racial anorexia.”

    Wong highlighted the intensity of this internal conflict when he said, “At least when you’re anorexic, you can starve yourself. What can you do when you have this face?”

    See? He was, like, anorexic, and what’s more princessy-feminist chick than having an eating disorder brought on by patriarchal pressure? All right, FINE, he was a metaphorical chick, but in this world of contingency and différance, we wouldn’t want to be reinforcing false binarisms between the literal and the figurative.

    I have to say that I’m not quite sure what the anorexia comparison is supposed to, you know, mean. He wanted to destroy his Asian self, I guess? There’s a potentially interesting question lingering in there about where typecasting shades off into stereotyping. No one bitches that Kristin Scott Thomas is, as much for her sky-goddess coloring and bone structure as for her actorly skill, frequently called upon to play uptight women of Northern European extraction with emotions simmering beneath the surface.

    I can see, in an instinctive sense, how casting Asians in boxed-in roles is somehow worse, but it’s hard to explicate. Surely one doesn’t have directors telling actors to Charlie Chan up their accents. There is definitely a tendency on the part of casting directors to figure that everyone with slanted eyes and dusky skin is interchangeable, which is how you end up with Vietnamese, Korean, and Taiwanese women all playing Chinese roles in The Joy Luck Club. But that doesn’t seem to be what Wong is talking about. And what, pray tell, is a “generic Asian waiter”? It’s not as if there were meaty, three-dimensional waiter roles available by the dozens for white actors. If troubled Korean gang members exist, I’m not sure why they shouldn’t be featured in teleplays, as long as their individual identities are fleshed out.

    Wong, as befits the occasion, doesn’t seem to have been much concerned with individual identity:

    After struggling with his race and sexual orientation during most of his life, Wong has gradually come have confidence in himself.

    “Ironically, the two things that I loathed about myself were the things that were rich about myself,” he said.

    Yes, we should all learn to derive our sense of the richness of our personal identities from the boxes we check on census forms. An inspiring example for today’s college youth, that is.

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