Coveting La Vie En Rose

I wasn’t a rom-com girl until To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before came out on Netflix. Woof. The aesthetic alone on that movie is enough to make one fall in love — let alone the Asian-American lead and the cute white boy? Please. Then Crazy Rich Asians dropped at about the same time, and I was hooked. Of course the most attractive thing about it was seeing Asians exist in the glammed-up love that has dominated American major motion pictures for decades: Asian women being attractive and expressing attraction, Asian men FINALLY being sexy onscreen (thank you Henry Golding), and under it all, East Asian families and cultures at the crux of both films. As I write this, To All The Boys 2 has yet to arrive, but it will be out by the time this piece is online, and I am truly so excited to get my heart broken by Jordan Fisher.

That being said.

Why are these movies so attractive? Why was I on the edge of my seat during the entirety of watching both, despite the fact that neither plot is that surprising or new? On one level it was the cultural significance, and certainly also how starved this mixed girl has been for representation. But in looking back, I realized it was something more sinister. I was watching Asian girls assume the roles that white women onscreen have claimed for a century — the Desirable, Beautiful, occasionally Powerful Female — and I was tasting the privilege of a dating experience where race actually didn’t matter. It was never brought up in a romantic context in To All The Boys — and Lara Jean’s Asian parent isn’t alive to exert that presence, so all of her Asianness is already mostly happenstance — and everyone is Chinese, Japanese, or Singaporean in the main cast of Crazy Rich Asians, so the racial playing field is generally level.

In Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, much of the protagonist’s journey is told through her dating experiences as a Nigerian in the US. There is one scene I think about, in which, at a friend’s dinner party, a Haitian poet declares that race was never an issue in her three-year relationship with a white man. The protagonist, Ifemelu, immediately disagrees. From her response:“‘

The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive…We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience’” (Adichie 359-360)

These small lines of appreciation and desire take on new meaning when you’re a woman of color offscreen. “I want you.” “You’re beautiful.” “You’re so smart.” In a world where hentai, model minority pressures, hypersexualization (and the polar opposite for our male buddies because for so long in white society Asian men were the unseen laborers and Asian women were the nightly entertainment), and idolization of whiteness (from skin bleaching to deliberately raising children in white neighborhoods) exist, what do these statements mean? And where between the speaker’s mouth and the listener’s ear do they get weighed down from the historical and everyday baggage that wafts around us like pollution?

I’ve dated a boy that made dog-eating jokes to my face in public, and I didn’t break up with him on the spot. I’ve dated boys whose yellow fever I could sense like a second skin, and I ignored it. When you crave the simplicity of a Lara Jean love life, where all that matters is the love triangle between you and two nearly identical guys and if not for your face and hair color you could be any one of the lovelorn white girls that have fallen head over heels on the American screen, you make sacrifices in the moment. Microaggressions against yourself. You choose the craving over your own body and the spirit that lives inside of it. And if we’re not careful, these sacrifices erode us into Pygmalionesque statuettes: into the girls — not women, but girls — that we are expected by white society to become.

Perhaps that’s the real joy of watching a movie like To All The Boys or Crazy Rich Asians. For an Asian-American young woman, it’s escapism twofold. One layer of the cake is the idea that you too can attract Noah Centineo. An Asian-American girl living and loving freely — take your pick between five non-Asian hunks or an heir to the uppermost class — is our ganache.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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