Hey, Asian guys! You’re hot! Don’t you feel better now. As a reward here is an unasked for smooch from a white woman—for free. She’s even blonde! Feel better now? No? Wait this isn’t the Valentine’s Day gift you always wanted?
As they say, all roads to hell are paved with good intentions.
It is unclear though, if the intentions of Leela Rose, an actress and self-proclaimed activist/Youtuber, were purely altruistic as she claims.
On September 30th, last year, Rose unleashed a now infamous video (trigger warning) titled Kissing Guys In Tokyo an instant sensation on the internet that went viral in a chickenpox kind of way. She prefaces the video with her sentiment that “white women can find Asian men attractive and that Asian men are not represented in Hollywood to her liking as romantic leads”. She declares that by going around Tokyo and kissing Asian men in Tokyo she wants to help fight the stereotype that Asian men are not desirable.
At this point, which is only the prelude to a white privilege nightmare, so many questions come to mind. How is a video of a white woman kissing random men on the street going to change the minds of those who run Hollywood? Moreover, her tone is completely devoid of any perspective from Asian actors who are fighting this stereotype on a daily basis, she speaks on the issue as a savior for the powerless who, conveniently are the object of her desire.
Does anyone remember Julien Blanc? Raise your hand if you do. Some are called Leela Rose a female version of the Pick-Up Artist—aka Juliette Blanc—but that is missing the point.
As her “social experiment” begins, there is a stream of horrific imagery of a blond woman forcefully launching surprise attacks on the faces of many bewildered Japanese men.
Many, after a stunned moment, go along with it.
The video continues to make the rounds on the internet but it has met with some harsh criticism, as well as scattered praise.
Japanese American playwright Leah Nanako Winkler, a vocal critic on the lack of Asian American representation in the US entertainment industry, weighs in on the issue.
“I think this white woman exemplifies clueless American entitlement–and reeks of privilege in such a destructive way that is embarrassing for our country. She is claiming to represent all western women-and I genuinely think she believes this because of the exact cultural biases she is claiming to criticize: she’s white and blonde and fits into the ‘ideal’ female beauty standards perpetuated in American culture -when in reality she cannot speak for anyone except for herself. As an American Woman- I’m mortified people like her are the clueless avatar for our country.”
Winkler further dissects “She is still fetishizing Asian men because she’s conflating all Asian identities into one- and making assumptions about an entire country (Japan) and its social politics regarding male desirability. Men in Japan as a whole don’t have problems getting laid in Japan.* How dare she assume they want her? It’s a level of entitlement that is next level honestly. American white women need to educate themselves before they speak up on Asian American issues…look what happens. It’s like white savior complex dressed in glitter and stupidity.”
It is worth repeating that Asian-American culture/people and other Asian cultures/people are not the same thing as Leela Rose assumes. Sexualizing one does not elevate the status of the other. In other words, objectification has never been empowering.
Another angered viewer, Greek woman Persephone Narra and her Korean American husband Kim Du Han uploaded a Youtube video in response. Han claims that if he was suddenly kissed on the street by a white woman he doesn’t know “he would know that she invaded my privacy and that it was sexual harassment and completely inappropriate.” Persephone stresses that if this were a man kissing random women, it would be sexual assault and the man would be in jail. She concludes the video saying, “No one in Hollywood is going to consider Asian men desirable because a girl sexually harasses them on the street.”
They go further by confronting Leela Rose on Facebook. When pressed to take the video down, Rose claims that she has apologized multiple times and that, “I’m not taking anything down because what I feel that I’m doing is right and I’m taking a stand for something that I care deeply about! I’ve gotten too much positive remarks from the Asian men to take this down. I will continue to try my best to promote more leading Asian men in the film industry whether people agree with my method or not.”
In other words: Watch out Asian men! Blond Face Sucker is on the loose!
As an Asian woman, writer and actor, I thought I’d ask Rose a few questions. She has yet to respond and she may never do but here they are. Some food for thought.
-Do you have Asian actor friends?
-Have you had conversations with them about their lack of representation in the industry? If so what was their response to your video?
-Have you gotten any positive feedback from the Asian American actor communities?
-Did you know that this would be controversial when you were making it? Were you surprised that some people are offended?
-Did all the men you kissed in the video consent to you before the shooting? (It seems in one instance you are informing them of the shoot after you have made out with them)
-Some people are drawing comparisons to you and Julian Blanc, a dating coach, who went around in Tokyo pushing Japanese girls’ faces to his crotch and preaching that foreign men can get away with this in Japan. How would you differentiate yourself?
-What other things can you do to help the Asian actors on their lack of representation?
-Would you recommend that other white females make these videos too so it becomes a movement?
-Other than Hollywood not thinking Asian men are desirable/fit for lead roles, what other problems are causing lack of representation in your view?
-How do you feel about the lack of representation in Hollywood for Asian actresses?
-You have said in other interviews that you are sexually attracted to Asian men. Would you say, you took advantage of this cause to help them being acknowledged as an opportunity to simultaneously fulfill your personal desires/agenda?
-In a different interview you stated you are attracted to Asian men. In your mind are Asian Americans and Asians for instance Japanese men the same? You point out that Japanese men are shy to approach women but also rail against the stereotype Hollywood has given them as nerds and losers. If you wanted to change the image of Asian American men, would it not be more effective to carry out this “experiment” in the US on Asian American men?
Gentle readers, how would you answer these questions?
*The writer would like to point out that while this is true, not many people in Japan are having sex these days but this is another issue entirely.