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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."