A quick and brief review, as the movie is fresh in my mind tonight. Obligatory trailer to catch you up on the story….this review is FREE OF SPOILERS :D
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)
Fascinating not just for its intended subjects – Steven, a white man with Yellow Fever, and his soon-to-be Chinese bride, Sandy – but because of the struggle and change you see in the director and narrator herself. Debbie Lum is a third generation Chinese-American in the San Francisco area, and like many fellow ethnic Chinese here in the Western World, she’s sick of the creepy way white men fetishize her race. The documentary begins with her bitter bias, and though I’d normally think that works against a documentary…it’s what makes this one great. She begins the film seeing Steven as a complete character. He’s an old white man, divorced twice, and seeking an Asian female on online dating sites. His search is broad at first, but he eventually narrows his tastes down to a girl who looks “really Chinese. I mean, you can’t get more Chinese than that!”
Steven ignores Debbie’s request to explain what it means to “look really Chinese”.
The couple unites in the US and this is where the meat of the documentary takes place. Sandy, the woman from China, is a cute and lively person with a certain charm that won me over very quickly. I found myself rooting for these two to make it together. Debbie got suckered in too – once the fights began and Steven, who spoke zero Chinese, and Sandy, who spoke terrible English, asked her to help translate during an argument. And that’s when this strange relationship began between the three.
You really feel for Sandy. She’s all alone in the US, and though they said they were in the San Francisco area, it looked quite suburban and Sandy had no one to talk to in Chinese. She tries to be the traditional housewife, but miscommunication and culture clash plague the couple. Steven, whom I and Debbie suspected only loved the idea of Sandy (a traditional Chinese wife), grew before our eyes. His love was sincere, and he turned out to be an honest man who genuinely cared for his third bride.
Like Debbie, I’m also an American Born Chinese who’s with a white man, and part of what made this so interesting to me too was watching “Seeking Asian Female” with my boyfriend at my side. His perspective, as a 29 year old white male from the Mid West, was that a “mail-order bride from China” (which is slightly off from what she actually is) would be some ditzy girl that couldn’t figure out a better way to sustain herself in life other than marrying a stranger. He thought Sandy would be naiive and rather simple, but this “country mouse” turned out to be a highly intelligent woman with her own schemes. Some of the things she does in “Seeking Asian Female” looks one way, then is revealed as an ‘ah-ha!’ moment later. “Clever girl,” I’d think and smirk. I’d like to be her friend. The more I learned about her history, the more I found her admirable. There were a few other moments that served as interesting talking points between me and my boyfriend, but I can’t quite recall them now :(
All in all, this documentary had great people in it. Steven and Sandy’s problems as a couple were problems that ANY couple of any race would have. Sure, there is the added difficulty of language issues, but how many of us have dated and had miscommunication problems? Even when both parties speak fluent English! All their issues were issues I have had myself, or my friends have had. Steven and Sandy went from being caricatures to extremely relatable, and I was very happy to see Debbie herself evolve and widen her view on the couple as time progressed. OH, and one more thing!! Despite Debbie serving as translator, there are times when I wonder how well she actually did that – her Mandarin is pretty awful! I can sympathize since mine isn’t great either, but man, I do hope the couple relied more on Sherlock (a software that does translations) than Debbie!
This documentary was worth the watch!
Of interest to those who have already seen the film: if you scroll down to the italicized text in this article, Steven writes his post-documentary reaction and response to the film and Debbie Lum’s portrayal of him and Sandy. It’s a great read where he also responds to the term “Yellow Fever”, and gets a chance to explain himself to the haters of the world. Personally, I think most of the haters have not actually SEEN the documentary, just the trailer!
And just for fun, on the topic of creepy white guys with Yellow Fever (but people who are gross an charmless, the anti-Steven): a tumblr of things creepy white guys say to Asian girls on online dating sites.
I’m very torn about the term “girly” and identifying as it. I will say that I definitely want to be considered “feminine”, and it’s been a concerted effort on my part to make that true. Until high school, I absolutely hated traditionally “girly” things – stuff like make up, nail polish, WEDDING STUFF, and skirts. Oh, and boys and romance!! None of that stuff made sense to me when I was younger, and sometimes I think if Old Me met the Present Me, she would not understand how I came about. How did things go from Point A (Old Me) to Point B? So many “never will I evers” have been overturned. None of which I regret, and I fully embrace. At least I still play video games and read comic books, haha! And I still feel like the guy in the video, “It’s Not About the Nail“, and pretty much never the girl. Hehe. Perhaps this is all fodder for another post. ;) On the otherhand, and I feel I really need to say this, I find it weird when people say things like “You’re not girly, you’re one of the guys” or treat me seperate from girly girls. Well. I’m not a girly girl, they are right, and I know it’s meant to be a compliment. But I take issue with how the person is INSULTING “girls”. It’s not a bad thing to be a girl…there’s idiots in both genders, not just those who are female. Being a girl, being “girly” is not inherently a bad thing, and I wish people (guys and I’m-a-special-snowflake-tomboy-gurlz) would quit it with the negativity. Whenever guys say that, I wonder how they’re gonna deal with things if they ever have a daughter. I really hope they don’t teach her that being a “girl” is, generally speaking, the equivalent to being an idiot.
One of the things I’ve just started watching is a new show called “Marriage Boot Camp: Bridezillas” !!! The main show, Bridezillas, is ending in it’s 10th season, and Marriage Boot Camp is overlapping it.
There are a couple things great about it:
Alright, this needs a bit of explanation. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Bridezillas, there’s a common theme to every couple. The woman is absolutely awful, shrill, and stomps all over the man during the wedding process. They show their ugliest side and you, the viewer, always wonder – why the hell is this guy marrying her? Like any abuse victim, the husband-to-be always makes excuses for her. She didn’t meant it. She’s under a lot of stress. She’s not usually like this. Or he tries to laugh it off as something temporary, while acknowledging that maybe she is kind of a brat, but he loves her regardless. Then they get married, and suddenly it’s the best day of their entire, petty, superficial lives. The bride and groom are all smiles and everyone is happy and so in love. So what happens to this couple?
Fast forward to Marriage Boot Camp. If you thought they were a bad match and would be a terrible married couple….YOU WERE RIGHT. It’s really one of those “No shit, Sherlock!” moments. But the fun part, the validating part for me, is seeing how the two finally acknowledge that they are NOT getting along.
2. How Do You Keep Love Alive?
Movies, television shows, they always focus on the “exciting” part. The part where boy meets girl; the part where sparks fly and love is in the air. Movies and TV shows end when the “will they, won’t they” saga ends and two single people are now one couple. Rarely do you ever see the two interact together, not as simply boyfriend and girlfriend, but husband and wife. How do they get along? What do they do to stick together? How do you keep love alive, through the years? And remain loyal? And most of all, how do you deal with someone with baggage…someone whose baggage came from YOU?
So I’m incredibly interested in seeing how things go with these Bridezilla couples. They’re somewhere between 1-4 years in to their marriages, I believe, and approaching divorce. Counseling is their last resort, it seems, and so far everything does indeed feel genuine. There’s one girl who feels a bit fake, but hell, everyone in the house calls her out on it :D It’s awesome. I feel pretty bad for most of the guys, but the one person I dislike the most, so far, is the skinny blonde girl, Melissa. She’s not in to being there at all, she’s truly a bitch, very cold, makes her husband cry, is snippy with him for no reason, and worst of all….
She kept saying in the prequel episode that she’s 26 and ought to be out partying. Which she does. The husband stays home and watches the kids, and she goes out drinking and partying with guy friends. She changes their names on her cellphone to GIRL names so that her husband won’t realize she’s hanging out with guys and getting drunk, but he totally knows. These guys also call her up at 2am, and the way one of them was talking when the camera was on him…..I dunno. Sounds like she cheated with him, or he witnessed her cheating (and was very smug about it). Maybe they “just” made out. Maybe it’s “just” an emotional affair. Maybe she didn’t do anything that can be considered cheating at all. But the husband clearly does not approve of this, he clearly is torn up with worry and anxiety about what she’s doing hanging out with these guys past 2am, and I think that’s just downright awful. How can you put someone you love through that kind of torture? She does nothing to try and assuage his fears. To the core, that’s just DISRESPECTFUL!
Oh, one more thing that makes this a reality show worth watching – there are NO ELIMINATIONS!!! That stuff is always so fake and breeds more fakeness, since it means they have to remove people that shouldn’t be removed. Like in the Biggest Loser, if they’re there to help people lose weight, then they shouldn’t be kicking them out every week. Let them all train for all 8 weeks (or however long it is), man. If you want to have a winner then just pick the one who did the most by the end of the season instead of every week. These people gave up a lot to try and change their health, their future, their life, and they get kicked out due to stupid producer-induced meddling.
Four episodes are out so far and I’m eagerly awaiting the next :P In secret.