News / Arts & Entertainment

'Seeking Asian Female' Explores Gulf Between Perception and Reality

Sometimes, the best laid plans don’t always work out as imagined.


That was the case for filmmaker Debbie Lum, the producer and director of the documentary “Seeking Asian Female.” It was also true for the subjects of her film: Steven, an aging white American obsessed with marrying an Asian woman, and his bride-to-be Sandy, a 30-year-old Chinese woman he met online.
 

Lum initially set out to explore the phenomenon of “yellow fever,” a sexual obsession non-Asian men have with Asian women.


“As a Chinese-American woman myself, I originally intended to make an exposé of what I thought were demeaning and racist attitudes about Asian women,” she said.
“The film that develops – a story of cross-cultural challenges, love and friendship – comes as a complete surprise to me.”


The movie is an engrossing, charming story of how three virtual strangers, thrown together, learn about themselves and each other as their preconceived notions meet reality. The three never found what they thought they were looking for, but as the movie ends, they appear to have discovered something better.


While interviewing men with professed “yellow fever,” Lum came across Steven, a 60-
year-old, twice-divorced garage attendant at the airport in San Francisco, California. He represented Lum’s “worst nightmare,” because for 10 years he had been scouring Internet dating sites specializing in connecting Asian women with Western men in search of the perfect bride.


“I think I was initially drawn to him because he had no verbal filter,” she said. “He shared with me the things he thought about Asian women that maybe others didn’t want to say.”


A self-proclaimed hoarder, Steven’s small apartment in a San Francisco suburb was filled with mementos of his long search for love, including pictures of, and letters from, Asian pen pals, as well as catalogs from so-called mail-order bride services he’d used in the past.


At the beginning of the film, Steven is enthralled with a 24-year-old woman in Asia, but she dumps him and, improbably, he finds Sandy online.


Sandy met two of Steven’s criteria: She was young and Chinese, but not quite the innocent he’d dreamt of.


Sandy’s story is a common one in China. Born in the countryside, she made her way to the industrial hub of Shenzen in her teens to work in a factory. She worked her way up and landed an office job. Yet she was still single and considered old for a Chinese woman seeking a husband.


“She was not dead set on coming to America,” said Lum. “She was really looking for someone to get married to. That was her main objective. She actually thought she was posting an ad for Chinese people.”


Lum said she thought Sandy was driven to find someone “who really adored her.”

“There are many times I think she thought things would have been better in China,” she said. “One could argue she could be better off economically in China. Her choice was very much of the heart.”


Sandy, the film reveals, is also not the demure, obedient wife Steven may have thought he wanted. At one point, she discovers Steven is still in contact with his former pen pal and cleverly manipulates the aftermath to permanently remove her from Steven’s life.


Lum intended to remain an objective filmmaker and document Steven and Sandy’s relationship. But since Sandy spoke virtually no English and Steven spoke virtually no Chinese, they turned to Lum, who speaks “broken” Chinese.


“They would just naturally ask me to translate,” she said. “It was awkward, and I wondered if I should be doing it.”


Lum’s intervention was pivotal at one tense moment during a misunderstanding which threatened to end Steven and Sandy’s short relationship.


The couple will celebrate their third anniversary this August.


“We’re happy for the most part. We're doing the best we can to be a good team. Each one of us gives something and shares,” said Steven. "I am the Senate, and she's the House of Representative. There's a lot of clamoring in the House, but the Senate slows things down.”


Steven said Sandy’s English has improved “300 percent,” but admits his Chinese has not improved at all.


Lum isn’t sure what would have happened had she remained a fly on the wall.


“I would say that the two of them have chemistry. Whether they would have been able to work out all of their issues without me being there, I don't know,” she said. “It might have been a bumpier ride. You look at them today, and they have a really solid relationship. I don't deal with their late night calls.”

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lee from: California
May 22, 2012 6:07 PM
Women have been favoring men who are tall, rich, good looking, drive nice cars, wear expensive designer clothes, go to expensive schools, have rich friends, live in rich areas, are related to rich and famous people, play pro sports, etc., Some women are willing to accept a lot of humiliation and abuse from husbands who are rich, but would never accept that from a poorer husband. In high school and college everybody understands that the jocks get the girls while the nerds get humiliation and rejection. Women want "alpha" males in money or looks. Everybody knows the saying "no money, no honey." What about that aspect of female selection?

by: Anonymous
May 15, 2012 3:39 PM
this is a ridiculous story with poor journalism.
It's not white men seeking oriental women, its the other way around. they seek white men for status as whites are held in high esteem in oriental culture (and in general, the world).

do some research and you'll see for yourself.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”