The Asian Pop Stars Taking Center Stage

The Asian Pop Stars Taking Center Stage
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The Asian Pop Stars Taking Center Stage

The Asian Pop Stars Taking Center Stage

What do they share? They have roots in East, Southeast and South Asia, and different classes, castes, tribes and religions. These include recent immigrants, who are still adjusting to their new homes; the children of immigrants, intermediaries navigating between two cultures; and third- and fourth-generation Americans whose parents were themselves Western-born and fully assimilated – or, as 25-year-old Arizona-born singer Chloe Tang points out, “Not even assimilated: that’s all it takes. ‘they know. “They can be entirely Asian or mixed-race; those of white ancestry are sometimes confused with Latinas, and those of black ancestry tend to be read exclusively as black in a society anxious to classify people into neat and edgy categories. nuances of racial identity. (Remember the infamous “one drop” rule in early America, deployed to exclude people of black descent from white privilege.)

They do not conform to received notions about what Asian women look or act like. “Yes, I’m Asian, but I’m loud,” says Sarah Yeeun Lee, a singer from Maryland who plays Rei Ami. “You won’t speak because of me.” Yet, they have to contend with Asian beauty standards that value delicacy, fine frame and thinness, as well as the Western co-opting of this image into a tale of domination and domination. This is both a fantasy and a historical memory, for while Asians have been present in North America since long before the founding of the United States – Filipino sailors have settled in the bayous of what would become Louisiana around 1763 – our number today derives in part from a century of American foreign intervention: the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines in 1898, the occupation of Japan after WWII and the wars from Korea and Vietnam that followed. American soldiers brought back Asian women and had Asian children, and in the decade after Saigon fell, the United States accepted nearly three-quarters of a million Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Hmong refugees. (In Europe colonialism also determined immigration patterns, particularly British rule over the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947, while in Canada and Australia economic imperatives – the gold rush of the 19th century, the need for cheap labor to help build railroads and clear the bush – was a driving force.)

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To a certain extent, therefore, Asian bodies in the West are seen to still carry the imprint of empire (regardless of their actual origins), with West and East in a difficult dynamic of conquering and conquering. , implicitly coded as male and female. It’s a heteronormative scenario in which the sexuality of Asian men is often overlooked or outright denied, and which can, disturbingly, help to explain why Asian women have finally succeeded in breaking through to Western audiences: because they are. viewed as sex objects, often exclusively for, as reinforced by the relentless portrayals of flexible Asian bar girls in mainstream movies and pornography. “Maybe I could play a prostitute in something,” Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho joked in a 2002 routine, referring to her young self as an aspiring actress practicing broken English in the mirror: ” I have loved you for a long time! ” – a line from Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket” about the Vietnam War in 1987 that will haunt us forever. Sometimes our on-screen counterparts are not sex workers but nonetheless identified as such in mind – wise, laughing women acting like little girls in public who turn out to be sexually rapacious and virtuoso in private, and then bend over. obligingly the laundry.

It’s a disheartening role to fill, and notably a break with the dominant aesthetic of female sexuality and power in pop music at the moment, which is a frank celebration of voluptuousness and overtly stated desire. Asian women whose bodies don’t necessarily fit this fleshy model – or who identify as queer, as many of these artists do, challenging an industry still largely subject to conservative constructions of gender and sexuality – must find ways ‘other ways to express this part of themselves without having to capitulate to stereotypes. It may mean taking on the sweet-slutty binary directly by deploying the exaggerations of Japanese anime – like Poarch, with his waist-deep ponytails tied high on his head and his eyes of hurt innocence, or Rei Ami, who in his latest video, “Ricky Bobby,” washes a red Camaro in a gaping, seemingly liquid-leather swimsuit under a spray of water – or throws it away entirely, mixing pixie demeanor with sharp riffs, delivering narcotized lyrics while wearing nerdy glasses or getting ready for avant-garde street style in a balloon that hides the body.

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