Like many Asian writers, I never wrote about being Asian.
The Asian affinity for whiteness has something to do with it; I never It was write about it. Also, it’s hard to write about immigration and my race in a way that doesn’t feel like cosplay. It is easy to describe my exotic food as a child. But it is too difficult to talk about why, for example, Asian women have one of the highest rates interracial marriage but also experience disproportionate level of violence. We are assimilated, but also hypersexualized and small, so it’s easy to kill us so that we don’t lead innocent white people astray.
If there is anyone who should sympathize with me on this, it is my mother, who is also Asian, a woman and an immigrant. But just because we had a similar experience doesn’t mean she has anything useful to say. If anything, her advice would be that if you do it right, you’ll be safe. My parents never forced me to become a doctor or a lawyer, but I know the pressure to get good grades, behave impeccably, and limit my free time—a phenomenon researchers call “parental disempowerment”—is familiar to me.
Only recently have I explored the shortcomings of this mindset. Perhaps this is because more recently there have been films such as blushes and All Everywhere All at once to illustrate that perfection is both unnecessary and impossible. I understand though. If we daughters accept pressure, it’s only to justify the sacrifices our mothers made to come here and get us. And watching my strange, specific experience reflected on the screen led me to empathize with my mother in a way that I could not before.
blushes was the first suspicion I had that something was wrong. Numerous reviews are of the opinion that the film is about puberty. That a teenage girl turns into a giant panda when she gets upset is a metaphor for menstruation. Indeed, Meiling’s mother publicly brandishes a box of menstrual pads in one of the film’s most humiliating scenes, but for me blushesThe message lies in its denouement when her mother discovers evidence of Meiling’s various wrongdoings under her bed. Money! Pop group 4Town! And most importantly, school work, which is piled up and crumpled! Ratings are visible. B+! WITH! “Unacceptable!” I screamed loudly before I could stop myself.
As far as I remember, one day I brought home a C in physics in high school, which immediately gave me the opportunity to study with a private tutor. It was disorienting to discover, safely in my thirties, that I envied Meiling is able to transform into a red panda as a teenager. It was involuntary! It wasn’t her fault! When she turned into a huge, fluffy, cute and smelly, she was not small, obedient and quiet. She was loud and took up space and it was Great. Her friends, who accepted her for who she was instead of punishing her for what she wasn’t, saved her. She could experiment. She got bad grades and made stupid decisions.
Like most high school girls, I belonged to a clique. I hung out with them a lot, but I missed a lot of inside jokes. Until now, it never occurred to me that my friends spend so much time together without me, because they had no football, piano, violin, internships, and big family gatherings every weekend like me. Structure holds you in, but it can also suffocate you.
“We found that the forces that saved us in the old country caused inconvenience in the new,” lamented one of Meiling’s aunts. As her aunts and mother give up their unruly panda spirits one by one, Meylin decides to keep. In her implacable personality, she honors her ancestors more than any of her older and more respectful relatives.
Like Jay Caspian Kang wrote in his book The loneliest Americansbeing an Asian immigrant means constantly overlaying your own stories on the myths of our adopted country, holding books like On the road or Johnny Tremaine and we try to match these outlines with the contours of our own life.
Nowhere is this clearer than in All Everywhere All at once. I liked the film of my colleague Eric Ravenscraft. consideration and a message to be kind and support each other amid the chaos. But it’s clear to me that this story of a Chinese American woman plodding through all the disparate lives she could have lived in a quest to save herself and her daughter is the story of immigrant parents.
When I was a child, my mother worked as a secretary and went to school in the evenings to become a software engineer. It worked! But she did not happen, for example, to be an artist. With a large extended family to support, she couldn’t fail. She couldn’t choose to be as frivolous as the Gear editor, who spends most of his time testing vacuum cleaners and riding his bike.
Being an immigrant woman means having many images of yourself in your head at the same time. Not only is there a gaping gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us (to be honest, sometimes I don’t know about you people), but there is also a gap between what our lives would look like if we stayed there instead of coming here.
Nobody can do this better than Michelle Yeoh. AllEvelyn. Yeo’s graceful athleticism Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon made it one of the firmaments of my superstar night sky. When Evelyn plays ping pong across the multiverse and is confronted with a reality where she is a glamorous movie star, in footage of Yeoh attending her movie premiere. Crazy Rich Asiansshe sighs to her husband upon her return, “I saw my life without you, and it was beautiful“.
In the end, Evelyn admits that the standards she set were unrealistic. The act of choosing her only, sleazy, human daughter out of all the other realities she could possibly have redeems their relationship. Trusting in maternal love, the villainess – her daughter – becomes her daughter again. It’s very touching and no one has to be perfect to be loved.
But watch All Everywhere It’s hard not to scream too But you’re Michelle, damn Yeo! I’m sure your daughter is very sweet and you all look very happy, but apart from that, what if Michelle Yeoh could be my mother? I could be a daughter Michelle Yeoh! Choose this reality! I would do.
Unlike more complex ideas about Everything is everywhere and blushes is an Umma, a film directed by Iris Shim, produced by Sam Raimi, and so slow and boring that I couldn’t finish it (sorry!). It pained me physically to see the long, movable face of my Queen Sandra Oh and the sculpted cheekbones of Fievel Stewart in such an unexplored depiction of intergenerational trauma.
Umma is the story of Amanda, a Korean woman who gave up her heritage to live with her daughter on an isolated farm without electricity. Amanda’s mother was abusive so she ran away. But, of course, you can’t run from your past forever. Being an immigrant has been so hard that it has led Umma to abuse Amanda, but Amanda breaks the cycle, forgives her mother and (spoiler!) lets her own daughter go to college. These are not nuances, but a formulaic, one-minute version of the complicated immigrant mother-daughter relationship that you could tell a disinterested white therapist.
But it normal. One of the perks of assimilation is that it’s okay to make a movie that, uh, isn’t that great. We’ve got enough to do. There’s a conflict between a “real” Asian and a fully Americanized one, or when you walk into a room and people there see either Suzie Wong or Long Duk Dong. There is a life you could have in the place you left behind compared to the one you have now. As Waymond says in Everything is everywhereholding too many realities in your head makes your brain crack like a clay pot.
I am closer to Maylyn’s mother’s age than to Maylyn’s, and closer to Evelyn’s than to her daughter Joy’s; I myself have a little daughter. My daughter is a third generation immigrant, biracial, and the conflicts she will face will be as different from mine as my experience as an assimilated second generation was from my mother.
But I hope I can give her at least one gift, besides an incessant metabolism (and terrible eyesight). For her, I hope the multiverse backs off. This is our place, whether other people like it or not, and she can be who she is – redheaded, furry, smelly, lesbian, kung fu master or movie star with hot dogs for fingers. The goal of Asian American women is, ultimately, to be fully human, no matter how that looks.
Credit: www.wired.com /