Wednesday
Jul 19, 2017
   I’m Tired of Watching Brown Men Fall in Love With White Women Onscreen   

Read the original review on themuse.jezebel.com.

 

Aditi Natasha Kini is tired of watching brown men fall in love with white women onscreen, as she wastes no time telling us. She starts off saying The Big Sick is good and she liked it, and then spends 16 paragraphs explaining that she doesn't like what happens in it or what it's about. The movie, as Kini herself notes, is autobiographical and written by the real-life Kumail and Emily. Deciphering how she thinks the true story of a brown man falling in love with a white woman should have been filmed to depict a brown man not falling in love with a white woman is left as an exercise for the reader. Fortunately I love pointless endeavors, as this blog amply proves. There are three obvious ways to slice this Gordian knot: 1) Make Emily non-white. 2) Make Kumail white. 3) Have Kumail reject Emily and marry a Pakistani woman named Aditi Natasha Kini. The only problem with these solutions is that they're completely different movies that someone other than Kumail and Emily would have to write, but I have a pretty good idea who Kini thinks that someone should be.

Despite the posture of long-building boredom with an oft-repeated trope, Kini can only muster enough recent examples to count on two sloth-hands, plus a WWI-era silent film that I guess we're supposed to have heard of. For comparison, there have been 16 Marvel superhero movies released in the last decade and eight Fast and Furious movies. There have, in fact, been more movies about Jason Statham driving fast than a brown man falling in love with a white woman. But I can understand her exhaustion, some things get boring quicker than others. I'm already tired of reading articles about people who are tired of watching brown men fall in love with white women onscreen, and I've only read one.

To belabor the point a little further, not only is The Big Sick autobiographical, two of the brown men in question are Aziz Ansari and one of the other movies is a documentary. So it's not so much that Kini is tired of watching movies about it, she's tired of brown men actually falling in love with white women. One might think after reading this article that two brown people falling in love has never been depicted on screen, when in fact Bollywood cranks out over a thousand movies a year, and the vast majority center around exactly that. Interracial relationships are so rare in movies that it should be impossible to be tired of them. You could just as easily say you're tired of movies about gay cowboys, with as much validity. When you have the same stance on race mixing as David Duke, it may be time to reevaluate your progressivism.

I fully understand if you didn't make it all the way through this impenetrable tangle of misguided analysis, so I've excerpted half a paragraph for reference:

In choosing an Asian man, these white women also symbolically reject all the white men who have oppressed Asian men for centuries. And by earning white love, the Asian man gains acceptance in a society that has thwarted them from the very beginning. When an Asian is loved as a white man, he is taken on a road to realization (as Frantz Fanon puts it in Black Skin White Masks, one “marries white culture, white beauty, white whiteness”). It is at once an act of love, and of revenge.

This article is an example of how a stupid idea dressed up in academic jargon and tangential references is still stupid, you just have to be smart enough to understand the stupid. Generalizing a relationship as being between an individual and a generic representative of another race is the kind of stupid you only get with a liberal arts degree, and Kini has two. In a way, Kumail and Emily are lucky, because most people don't get to read a reductionist lit crit essay about their relationship. But when the point being made with all that fancy book-learnin' and big-city talk is "Who you are doesn't matter as much as what you are," it really just serves to illustrate the difference between "educated" and "wise."

Kini complains that none of brown women are fully fleshed-out characters, but there's one who is: Kumail's mother. It's puzzling that Kini doesn't mention the mother, because she is the on-screen representation of Kini. She thinks she knows better than Kumail who he should marry, and specifically she thinks he should marry a brown woman. In fact, she is outraged that he's dating a white woman. Sound familiar? Kumail's mother makes the same arguments Kini is making (albeit in much fewer words), and Kumail provides answers in the movie. Why is he dating a white woman? Because he's in love with her. Why won't he marry a nice Pakistani woman? Because he isn't in Pakistan and he doesn't want that life. Obviously, Kumail's answers didn't satisfy Kini any more than his mother, but unfortunately for us where his mother tried to punish him with the silent treatment, Kini did the opposite.

Around about paragraph nine is where it really goes off the rails:

A South Asian man rejecting a South Asian woman because of her culture is a more radical statement than if it were the other way around. In The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling’s onscreen relationships with white guys take on a different context, because South Asia is a patriarchy—a colorist patriarchy. In an already-skewed power dynamic, depicting South Asian women as unworthy romantic partners is a radical rejection of their cultural baggage because women are the bearers of culture.

So all that stuff she said earlier about "exotification" and "othering" doesn't apply when it's a brown woman, because something something here's a link to a book that seems smart. I understand that there is more cultural pressure on women to conform, but that's not what makes it ok for them to date outside their race. What makes it ok is that it's none of your damn business. It's weird that she's ok with Mindy but not Master of None, because it's the same premise with the genders reversed. Apparently Kini is more feminist than racist, so I guess we can be thankful for that.

But where she rejects the obvious paralells between Master of None and The Mindy Project, she highlights the similarities with The Big Sick. Apparently they're both "masturbatory fantasies that give brown men the vantage point of a white male cinephile". So now I'm trying to picture somebody rubbing one out to commentaries on race and family cultural dynamics. Maybe that's how you know you should write for Jezebel. Even the most cursory Pornhub search would've shown her that the white male cinephile's masturbatory fantasy isn't what she describes, it's a white guy fucking an Asian woman. That's, like, an entire genre. Just like in regular movies, to see an Asian man in porn you pretty much have to watch something from Asia. But perhaps she's tired of watching brown men fuck white women on screen too.

It's undeniable that this article does have a valid point: non-white women are under-represented in Hollywood. But so are non-white men, and interractial relationships are almost never shown. But unlike The Big Sick, this article lacks the self-awareness to recognize the selfishness of deriding Kumail's experience for not portraying her experience. And that is not good enough.