Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thinking On It

On a recent trip to Kinokuniya Bookstore (the same day we engaged in Sanrio photo booth fun), I couldn't resist buying Kip Fulbeck's new book Part Asian, 100% Hapa. It's a simple concept, beautifully executed: a basic portrait (from the shoulders up, very little make-up, no clothing) on the right-side page and a statement of identity (and a breakdown of ethnicity) in the subjects' own hand on the left-side page. There are, interestingly, no names.

I find the photos fascinating, and the statements even more so. But I have to admit to feeling a twinge of something's not quite right here, and I'm guessing that part of me must be objecting to the, well, objectification. One of the first things people comment on in regards to mixed race folks are their looks, after all, and this book does nothing to curb the tendency. I'm thinking now of my daughters and realizing that my annoyance threshold when it comes to this sort of thing depends entirely on who's doing the asking and how they're doing it. Anyways, the statements in the book often make up for the vaguely (obviously? subtly? I dunno...) fetish-like quality of the portraits. One woman writes:

What am I? Shouldn't you be asking my name first?

My favorite statement so far is from a young man:

Many of my ex-girlfriends were habitual half-asian daters. These women considered half-asian men "exotic," "sexy," and "just-like-Keanu Reves-in-the-Matrix."

I consider these stereotypes appropriate because I got laid.

Ohmalordy. So funny. And another fave from a twenty-something woman:

i am my mother's driving passion and my father's steady reason...

Okay. I guess I should read the foreword, introduction, and afterword before passing any further judgements. Meanwhile, I highly recommend Kip's (that's what I call him now: I call him "Kip," and sometimes just "K") short film Lilo & Me, in which he documents his uncanny resemblance to every "ethnically ambiguous" animated Disney character ever committed to celluloid. Quicktime required, yo.

I just said "yo."

Goodness gracious.


Gladys said...

ver, thanks for the pointer to this book. given your excerpts, what i find extremely interesting is the suggestion that, even as the reader is drawn by her/his voyeuristic pleasure, s/he is also forced to reckon with her/his fetish of hapa-ness. which leads to mixed race in general: it's not just part-Asians; there's also the history of fetishizing Black mulatta/os as well as Latin American morena/os (like in brazil). i was having an e-mail exchange about this with a former student of mine who's doing sociological research on Black-Filipina/os and White-Filpina/os, so this stuff has been on my mind lately. really fascinating. (and for me it's personal as i expect to have mixed-race, "hapa" kids myself.)

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Brilliant short film, Ver. Thanks for pointing the way!

I've blogged about it, but what I found essentially beautiful about the film was his choice to land the film on a space of hope and strength. A space this non-hapa, multicultural FilAm can appreciate.

ver said...

Hi guys. I was hoping to chime in with some more, but I still haven't read the intro or anything. And I refuse to look at the rest of the portraits until I do. So more on this later! One thing I forgot to mention, though, is that there is at least one person whose ethnicity is listed simply as Filipino. For better or worse, we're "multi" almost by definition...

Gladys said...

re: filipinos as "'multi' by definition" -- yes indeed, i often hear that among my hapa-identified friends, that filipinos are already mixed-race because of the long history of colonialisms etc., so that it makes no sense for them to claim "hapa" identity, especially since "hapa-ness" comes out of a very american context. to point out that student i mentioned earlier, he talks about mixed-race filipina/os not as "hapas," but as "mixed-race." however, one of my friends (half-chinese, half-german) is a card-carrying member of the Hapa Issues Forum based in s.f., and in his documentary about the emergence of the hapa movement in the u.s., he definitely includes half-filipina/os who were born in the states. (i'm hoping his documentary on it will come out on pbs eventually.)

sorry this was so long. looking forward to what you find during your readings.