Last week, the BBC received intense backlash for their new show “Chinese Burn”, a series about three Asian women in London who go on dates and smash stereotypes.
Sadly, the only thing “Chinese Burn” smashed was my faith in humanity because holy Dickbutt, I thought I was watching a straight-to-VUDU version of Lena Dunham’s “Girls”. If “Sex and the City” had the budget of a 9th grader’s weekly allowance and you replaced Sarah Jessica Parker with a half-eaten New York poppyseed bagel, you might have a more entertaining show than “Chinese Burn”.
Writers Shin-Fei Chen and Yennis Cheung are two Asian women who want to expand public perception of what real Asian women are like and break stereotypes. It’s a show that aims to empower Asian women by exposing the everyday sexism and racism that Asian women face.
But there’s a huge fucking problem: they’re trying to fight sexism with racism.
Instead of challenging Asian female stereotypes by writing diverse and interesting characters, “Chinese Burn” writers Yennis Cheung and Shin-Fei Chen pandered to the lowest common denominator (racist White audience members) and weaponized gendered racism at the expense of Asian men to distance themselves from the submissive Asian stereotype. They created Huang Lo, a racist, a one-dimensional Asian male caricature who was constantly ridiculed and defined by his small penis.
Why is this show trying to empower Asian women through the degradation of another oppressed group? To understand this methodology, Sociology Professor Patricia Hill Collins of the University of Maryland, College Park explains that, “In order to prosper, systems of oppression must regulate sexuality, and they often do so by manufacturing ideologies that render some ideas commonsensical while obscuring others.”
Yennis and Shin-Fei are Asian women, so they can’t directly benefit from the same system of oppression that impacts Asian people, but they definitely supported them. And that’s exactly what happened when they used racism (a system of oppression) and Asian dick jokes (a manufactured ideology that regulates Asian male sexuality) to combat the submissive Asian female stereotype (commonsensical/stereotype) and undermine the sexual identities of Asian men (obscuring).
Fighting Sexism with… Asian Dick Jokes?
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that the writing in “Chinese Burn” was trash. We shouldn’t tolerate any racist Asian dick jokes at all, but in one episode “Chinese Burn” managed to include four.
1.) At the cafe.
Elizabeth: Do you have a boner?
Huang Lo: Oh yea! Have you ever heard about my one-inch dick?
2.) At the cafe again.
Huang Lo: My friends call me Hung, for large reasons. Jackie: You’re Chinese, so I doubt it, Hung.
3.) In the storage room.
Oh, look! Huang Lo snuck up behind Elizabeth in a dark and creepy room! I wonder what he has to say?
Huang Lo: What your friend said was B.S. I don’t have a small dick.
4.) When Elizabeth gave Huang Lo a handjob and he came after 1-second.
That Awkward Moment When Your Feminism is Racist
If you rub your eyeballs with Tiger Balm and squint real hard, you could argue that the four penis-shaming scenes and the existence of Huang Lo introduce the subject of sexual harassment. Huang Lo is indeed a creepy, disgusting character, and he represents a very real problem with predatory men.
But “Chinese Burn” never condemned Huang Lo’s sexism and predatory behavior. All Elizabeth did was give Huang Lo a handjob, Huang climaxed in one-second, and his character was defeated by his own sexual inadequacies. She killed him with humiliation. Understandably, Asian men have expressed their frustration with “Chinese Burn”, but Shin-Fei Chen dismissed these concerns.
“I think for us, we want to – in order to smash stereotypes – you have to offer it up first, and in terms of one of the characters, he’s there to pinpoint Jackie’s racism, because [it happens] sometimes within the East Asian community itself.”
First off, racial stereotypes are already offered to the public, that why they’re called stereotypes — duh. Second, Shin-Fei Chen and Yennis Cheung can’t use the “It’s okay if I’m racist because I’m trying to make a point about racism” defense because they didn’t present the Asian dick joke as an educational opportunity, they just made racist Asian dick jokes and called it free speech. What lesson were they trying to teach us? That Asian women can be racist? No need to tell me, sis, Tila Tequila is representing racist Asian women just fine.
The predatory/sexually inexperienced Asian man trope isn’t a new stereotype either, it’s a racist concept originated when English novelist Sax Rohmer created the racist Asian male character Fu Manchu in the early 1900s. Fu Manchu, like Huang Lo, was a predatory Asian villain who raped, killed, and hypnotized White women. In the 1966 movie “The Brides of Fu Manchu”, Fu Manchu has a legion of hypnotized White women who he sexually abuses.
Fu Manchu became an international success, and the image of the sexually deviant Asian man can be found all over anti-Asian war propaganda posters, comics, and books.
So on top of being racist, this shit isn’t even original.
Let Asian Men Define Their Own Sexual Identity!
At the end of the day, Asian men don’t want to reverse the stereotype overnight to “Asians all have big dicks.” We just want the ability to define our sexual identities on our own terms. We don’t need White men to talk for us and we definitely don’t deserve to have our sexual identities weaponized for White laughs.
“Chinese Burn” is a racist show, and it didn’t have to be. It could have elevated the discourse on Asian stereotypes and still confronted the issue of toxic Asian masculinity. But instead, Yennis Cheung and Shin-Fei Chen created a show that justified one form of bigotry to fight another. I can only hope that the BBC cancels the show, but Yennis and Shin-Fei are determined.
Interestingly enough, the two comedians wrote another show back in 2016 titled “Chinese Girls in London” that seems very similar to “Chinese Burn”. “Chinese Girls in London” ran for nine episodes and was produced and written by Yennis, Shin-Fei, and Sean Power.
You don’t know who Sean Power is? You might want to watch this video that he uploaded to his YouTube channel (before he takes it down) and ask yourself why a group of Asian feminist writers from London would work with this guy.
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