Though I should have been studying for finals last week, I decided to forgo those responsibilities as I usually do by browsing my Twitter feed to see that one of my teenage heroes, an Australian YouTuber named Natalie Tran had posted a ~40 minute video, which was very different from her typically 10 minute long comedy sketches titled “White Male Asian Female”; a documentary that wasn’t funny at all and explored the sticky and controversial topic of this interracial relationships between these two demographics. Tran had created the video because of the violent and hateful comments that she has gotten over the years about her own relationships with white men. She states in the video that people have called her degrading names, insulted her cultural identity and have even threatened to rape not only her, but also her mixed ethnicity nieces.
This kind of harassment has been especially heightened because of her celebrity status and manifests itself especially on social media comments and Reddit– the nature of the source that can be anonymous and hard to understand from a username and an avatar. That’s why it was fascinating to see Tran interview a Reddit user named EurasianTiger who moderates the “Hapa” subreddit through a phone call about his perspective about the “White Man Asian Female dynamic.” Despite the subreddit’s name, which I had always taken to mean “half-asian”(apparently the definition has multiple definitions) the community is actually focused on half Asian-half White men and their racial identity: their sidebar features a picture of one of these men who claims that he’s never been able to embrace his Italian side because it doesn’t fit with how others view his appearance, and therefore him as a person.
Peculiarly enough, their sidebar also features a picture of the actor Nicolas Cage, his ex-wife Alice Kim and their son. After listening to EurasianTiger’s conversation with Tran, the implications become clearer, but they’re still unsettling: that sons of these relationships grow up with an inferiority complex due to society’s negative perception of Asian males (and therefore, half-Asian half White-men, because that’s how society perceives them.) .
Though he’s posted some pretty shocking statements on the subreddit, the manner in which he explained his own life experience and argument, as the son of a Neo-Nazi and a former Neo-Nazi himself, was well thought-out and rational. And I think I can see some of the truth in his statements: especially about how some “Hapa” people reject Asian culture in the hopes that that it might make them more accepted by the norm or so they can distance themselves from that part of their identity.
Though Asian masculinity has been discussed to a large degree, how mixed race individuals fit into that narrative is not something that is talked about much, and a worthwhile conversation to start– and something that seems to be speak to people: Tran’s video already has 375k views after being released just a week ago.
This topic reminded me about a conversation that I had with some professors about successful Asian female YouTubers, their success on the platform and how race plays into their narrative. Many of these beauty and fashion vloggers, as well as Instagram models, boast hundreds of thousands of followers for their admirable styling and beauty…Aaaand quite a few have white boyfriends or husbands.
Michelle Phan, Make Up YouTuber, 2.1M Instagram Followers
Aimee Song, Fashion Blogger, 4.7M Instagram Followers
Jenn Im, Fashion YouTuber, 1.6M Instagram Followers
Jen Chae, Make Up YouTuber, 1.2M YouTube Subscribers
So there is a trend (but there are also Asian female YouTubers who are in relationships with other Asians and those who are involved in both types of relationships who do comment on their cultural identity– and none who continue to have a negative perception of their ethnicity (the main critique of Asian women in interracial relationships is that they are self-hating and submit themselves to a white centered hierarchy.)
Though writing about Asian American media does make race the focal point of all my blogposts and there is this trend about some Asian YouTube/Instagram celebrities, I felt incredible uncomfortable about commenting about what the seemingly sinister implications about what meant– because I didn’t know these people, I didn’t know anything about their relationship with their culture and because there are people speaking about these struggles/identity issues in a positive way, I know that this is a way that the internet can create meaningful conversations about what is often left unspoken.
If vloggers and social media stars advertise their relationships on their platforms, they should expect that others will comment and judge them for their choices, as people do about looks, clothes, politics, etc.– but the idea that others can be so malicious about how other people learn their personal lives is unwarranted and disrespectful to the uniqueness of our own lived experiences.
However, as people come from different backgrounds and histories. People make quick assumptions. Perceptions persist. — that’s why conversations about this topic are important to figure out where the hate about WM/AF relationships come from and how to remember that people are more than their race, despite what they think society sees them to be.