While it may sound vain, despite being relatively confident, comfortable, and even sometimes feeling rather pretty, I don’t think I’ve ever felt fully represented as “beautiful”. It frustrates me that so much of my already fragile confidence could be tied to media, movies and t.v shows but it kind of is.
Part of me feels like the culture I grew up in does not believe me to be “beautiful”. I’m not western enough, in fact in personal experience when I see an East Asian in a show or movie, while my heart does glow, they are usually mixed race or distinctly more western looking than I or many other East Asians look, so in a way I guess I’m used to feeling sidelined for a more western standard. Which is probably why I’ve never felt that en masse the American.
I often wonder: have I have been conditioned from childhood to see myself as too East Asian to be considered en masse “beautiful”? I have this fear that there will always be that “for an Asian” tacked onto compliments about my appearance or just the “oh she’s Asian” exclamation. I’m not sure when this would/has befall/en me but it’s still become a very real insecurity.
The older I’ve gotten the more I seem to notice that I’m not sure where I fit, there’s always a twinge when someone asks if I’m an exchange student or to translate something for them, that’s in Korean *cringe*, but hey perhaps understandable transgressions, but still, really?
I don’t see myself reflected back when I see “beautiful” people on the t.v or in books or in American pop culture. When people make lists East Asian are woefully lacking, the part of me that is fed off of pure media is constantly being told that people who look like me aren’t really that beautiful.
I’ve talked about white washing before, but this year I was hit with a whole new wave with the twitter #expressiveasians.
An unnamed casting director is cited in Nancy Wang Yuen’s book Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, as having said, “Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they’re not very expressive.” As much as this statement kind of makes me want to laugh, because who even says sh*t like this? The more I sat and thought about it the more it shocked and … hurt.
I’ve always been slightly insecure about my smile, how small my eyes get when I laugh, I mean just my face in general, but this comment, despite the amazing retaliation from many proud Asians on the internet, just hit hard and not even where it was necessarily directed.
It hit me in a way that I can only liken to feeling like taking a photo with friends looking at it and going, “Oh god why do I look different, why do they all look good while I look so ugly?” It’s just the feeling of being the odd one out, in the case of Expressive Asians it’s being the perpetually non-expressive race.
It’s a kind of reminder that says even if you feel the same you definitely don’t look like it!
While I am in fact Chinese-American I’m not mixed race, I am full blooded Chinese, but I’ve grown up in America with Caucasian parents, in relative white privilege, so I’ve always been stuck between two worlds. I think and act like an American but I realize that people don’t see me as American until I open my mouth and even then sometimes they don’t. It leaves me to wonder about how I feel about myself, how does America as a culture feel about me?
Is it too much for me to want to see myself reflected back from the screen without the aid of cartooning? Is it too much for me to see someone like me be considered “beautiful” in American pop culture?