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 Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Trumpeter, percussionist and bandleader Etienne Charles was born in Trinidad and blends island rhythms with modern jazz. He and his stellar band perform a rich gumbo of jazz, calypso, reggae, and rock-steady that Charles calls “Creole Soul” on "The Hamilton Live."