I’m a big fan of You Offend Me, You Offend My Family — maybe even more so, ever since I started reading their series called Movies that Should Have Starred Asians. After all, some of the movie changes they suggested would have created an Asian man/non-Asian woman love story.
They got me thinking, what other romantic movies should have had the sort of Chinese men-Western women romances at the heart of this blog? Here are six to start off with (including one nod to You Offend Me, You Offend My Family, who inspired this list).
P.S.: While it seems odd to file this under “Yangxifu Pride,” I see this post as empowering us out there to reimagine Hollywood into something more yangxifu friendly, even if that’s still decades away.
Sweet and slightly neurotic “ethnic” guy meets and falls in love with blonde WASP beauty. He accompanies her to meet her equally WASP parents where he finds himself under the suspicious eye of her protective and scary father. Things get worse when ethnic guy initiates a series of missteps, which makes an already tense situation worse….
Yup, if someone like my fellow Offender Roger Fan had stepped into the part, the story would have still worked with minimal changes to the script. In fact, the basic premise of the “outsider” boyfriend meeting his fiancee’s “all-American” family would be even more strengthened if said boyfriend was really “different” i.e. Asian. But couldn’t that character be any person of color–not necessarily Asian? I don’t think so….
Because the essence of Greg Focker’s character is one of a well-meaning but insecure guy who is also a male nurse—the ultimate “feminized” job a man could hold. Let’s be honest, there is arguably no other group in America that is more emasculated than the Asian American male. You could use that to your advantage in a comedy such as this. So when daddy Byrnes and the other characters poke fun at Greg’s masculinity as they do throughout the film, there’s an added dimension that could be explored which just wouldn’t be there if Greg were black or Latino or, hell, any other race/ethnicity.
Like Crazy. That title could easily describe my feelings when I learned that this story — centering on a couple separated after the girl violated the terms of her visa — featured a white American guy and a white British girl. Seriously? They do a movie about lovers divided by visa problems and choose the most boring international pairing possible — one where loss of visa privileges doesn’t, in my opinion, sting nearly enough. Yeah, I know, the story’s based on the real-life experiences of the American director and his ex-wife from Austria. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t use a little more imagination to up the stakes.
A lot of international pairings would do better, but you know what I’d rather see — a Chinese guy and a Western girl. Heck, you could even keep Felicity Jones in, except now she falls in love with a foreign student from Beijing (let’s call him Jie instead of Jacob — Kevin Wu would be perfect), who overstays his visa and ends up getting in trouble. Just think how much more it would hurt a Chinese citizen to get banned from a major Western country such as the US or Britain. Plus, maybe the movie could shed some light on the dehumanizing procedures folks from developing countries have to face when applying for foreign visas (the US Embassy in Shanghai reminded me of a prison with bank teller-style windows).
Green Card. Once again, it’s a visa-related movie set in America with a boring choice for the foreigner — French (no offense to any French nationals reading this). I don’t know if things were really that different in 1990, when this came out, but I have a hard time buying a tale where a Frenchman named Georges wants to stay in the US so badly that he will go through with a sham marriage.
But what if you turned Georges into a character like Hong Yunsheng in the 2003 movie Drifters/Er Di (a man so desperate to make a better life in the US that he entered the country illegally)? Now you have something. The fact that the American woman in Green Card can’t stand Georges in the beginning reminds me of how there are just some white women out there who never give Asian guys a chance.
Crocodile Dundee. Culture clash really forms the heart and soul of this 1986 movie, where an Australian bushman meets New York City. As cool as Mick Dundee is, he’s still a white Anglo-Saxon guy (albeit one with some serious survival skills in the Australian Outback).
Wouldn’t an East-meets-West culture clash make for a far more interesting film? They could have turned Mick Dundee into, say, a Mongolian or Tibetan cowboy, someone who could survive in the Gobi desert or the Tibetan plateau, a fearless warrior. Now drop that guy in New York City and imagine the potential for more laughs and more drama. Plus, he’d be even more of a foil to Sue’s WASP-y boyfriend/fiancee, and more easily the kind of guy he’d just write off, the way many white men seem to write off Asians.
Legally Blonde. I once read in a forum that the Emmett Richmond character in this movie, who ends up dating and marrying Elle Woods, should have been Asian (the author Amanda Brown, who wrote the story based on her experiences as a blonde at Stanford Law School, supposedly had an Asian boyfriend). I don’t know if that’s true, but I can totally see Emmett as an Asian guy. He’s a Harvard Law School grad, something most Asian parents would kill for. Plus, his personality reminds me of something J.T. Tran once said:
The nice thing about being Asian…is that we are almost always considered safe (unless you’re going down the entire bad boy route). Many times I’ve pulled girls to my car or the hotel and they simply felt safe with me because they knew nothing BAD would happen.
Who could be safer than Emmett? He’s the kind of nice guy who gives Elle tips on law school just to be friendly, who doesn’t judge her because of her “California Barbie” looks and her pink scented resume. He could easily have put the moves on her when they go together to interview a woman at a spa in the Berkshires, but that’s not Emmett. And later, when someone does make a sexual advance on Elle, he’s arguably more upset about it than anyone else (except the client who was also a sorority sister to Elle).
Mamma Mia. If Donna Sheridan really were such a wild child, why do her flings feel so ordinary and even cliched? She could easily have loved men from other races and cultures — providing an additional, and arguably more compelling, reason why her family disowned her: having a multiracial child.
Instead of the Greek isles, you could set the story on one of those postcard-perfect places in Thailand or Bali, and have the possible fathers hail from different Asian countries and cultures. Maybe some of them slept with Donna because she fit the sexy seductress stereotype of Western women, and they just wanted a one-night stand. The Sam Carmichael character’s love for Donna reminds me so much of the way I’ve seen some Chinese men bury their true love in their hearts.
What do you think? And what movies did I miss?