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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
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 Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
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 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 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.

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.”