Where are all the hot Asian men in American films?

    I love movie previews. So it came as quite a disappointment when, while waiting for “”The Matrix: Revolutions,”” I saw the trailer for “”The Last Samurai.”” In itself, the movie didn’t look half bad, but it bugged the hell out of me when I saw a snippet of a romantic interlude between Tom Cruise and Koyuki, who plays his Asian love interest. Yes, it’s another story about a white man who finds himself as an alien in a foreign land, forced to adapt to an ancient, backwards culture and ends up learning a lot about himself ‹ and of course, he hooks up with a hot Asian chick.

    It’s not only the premise of the film that I find incredibly hackneyed but the depiction of the consummate geisha girl. How many more films does Hollywood plan to make depicting a heroic white man hooking up with a beautiful Asian lotus blossom?

    I’m sure many of you have read Professor Yen Le Espiritu’s book “”Asian-American Women and Men,”” and have been introduced to images like that of the dragon lady, the geisha doll or the lotus blossom baby. Whether she’s aggressive or submissive, the Asian woman is generally portrayed to be sexually available, especially for the white man, who is often portrayed as being the ideal mate and savior. Poor, poor Asian men, on the other hand, are depicted as small, hairless, asexual beings.

    No offense to white men, but why are they the ones getting all the action in American films? And why are Asian women always so easy?

    When I look at recent Asian male actors, it becomes quite obvious that few, if any, have qualities that make them “”sexy”” or the ideal beau in the eyes of the American media. Sure, they may have mad martial art skills like Jackie Chan or Jet Li, but how often do they ever get the girl? In most cases, the girl gravitates to their often-goofy side-kick (think Owen Wilson in “”Shanghai Noon,”” who somehow gets Chan’s Native-American wife), if she ends up with anyone. Even tall, strapping Asian-American actors like Rick Yune (“”Snow Falling on Cedars”” and “”The Fast and the Furious””) aren’t exactly chick magnets on film. In “”Snow Falling on Cedars,”” Yune’s Japanese-American wife fantasizes about and has a near-affair with the pale, wimpy Ethan Hawke.

    I know there are sexy Asian men out there. I’ve seen them, and I know that some are even actors. The new Japanese film “”Returner,”” which is currently distributed in select theaters by Sony Pictures, stars the incredibly good-looking Takeshi Kaneshiro. Sure, he’s chasing down Transformer-like aliens, but this heartthrob manages to pull off Matrix-like moves in leather jackets and makes them look even better than Keanu Reeves did. Sadly, this film, which has immense crossover appeal and could easily get any girl to sweat over an Asian guy, is playing in fewer than 10 cities nationwide.

    Other than the lovely Kaneshiro, it is an interesting phenomenon to see Asian men depicted as superb athletes with very little sex appeal. For example, compare Chinese superstars Chan and Li to American action heroes Vin Diesel or Ben Affleck. I don’t think I can remember any movie scene where either Chan or Li pull any woman into a passionate embrace. Yet Vin Diesel pulls Asia Argento into one (“”XXX””), in which she looks like she’ll get crushed by his massive biceps.

    While Asian men hardly get any play in film, Asian women get more than plenty. As the Asian man becomes asexual, the Asian woman becomes hypersexual. One major example of this is Lucy Liu. In nearly every single one of her roles, she depicts the quintessential dragon lady. Her characters are nearly always seductive and often dangerous, like in “”Charlie’s Angels,”” “”Kill Bill”” or even “”Chicago.”” But this image of the sexually available Asian female was already cemented in the American collective memory through other films like “”The World of Suzie Wong,”” “”Heaven and Earth”” and even “”Apocalypse Now.””

    There have been advancements in the portrayal of Asian women as complex emotional beings through Asian-American films like “”The Joy Luck Club,”” “”Double Happiness”” and the work of Gurinder Chadha and Mira Nair, but there are others that, sadly, perpetuate the stereotype about Asian-American women. In the recent Asian-American indie film “”Charlotte Sometimes,”” the two Asian-American women are highly sexual beings. One is a highly complex and enigmatic dragon lady while the other is oversexed and insipid, with an annoyingly high-pitched voice. Of the two Asian-American men in the movie, both women sleep with the one who is half white (Matt Westmore). This continues to support the idea that a man who is even partly white is the desirable one. Sure, the other guy (Michael Idemoto) had no hair and wasn’t rippling with muscles, but he was still damn sexy.

    Filmmakers, especially Asian ones, need to start depicting Asian men and women in film as they are in life. Sure, there are the Long Duk Dong (“”Sixteen Candles””) computer nerds and Lucy Liu-like vixens out there, but there are also discerning Asian women with values and hot Asian guys who can attract women.

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