Walking Dead's Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
In the post-apocalyptic TV series, The Walking Dead, Maggie a Southern belle, with an equally Southern drawl, falls in love with Glenn, a Korean-American. It’s a pairing we don’t often see on our television screens. Even Glenn himself, has trouble accepting Maggie’s initial advances. “She doesn’t mean it. I mean, she can’t…” he explains. But when the world turns topsy-turvy, and you’re one of the last men standing, anything is possible, right?
Whether in fiction or in real life, Asian men, unlike their female counterparts, seem to have it tough when it comes to dating people outside of their race.
“Are You Interested”, an American online dating website, recently surveyed over 2.4 million interactions on the site, and found Asian female users were in high demand. They were more likely to get messages from a man of any race unless those men were Asian.
Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan attend the AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Season 3 Premiere.
The not so scientific affliction, “yellow fever”, a rather racist term that typically describes a preference for dating Asian women, is not a new phenomenon. In multicultural Australia it’s quite common to see Asian women partnered with non-Asian men, but rarely the other way around.
A report on intermarriage in Australia conducted by Monash University using data from the 2006 Census confirms this trend. Its authors found higher rates of intermarriage for women than men in all of the East Asian and South-east Asian birthplace groups.
While Asian women are increasingly courted, their male counterparts seem to be shunned. In a 2007 study conducted by Columbia University, researchers surveyed more than 400 students during speed dating sessions. They found African-American women and white women said “yes” 65 per cent less often to the prospect of dating Asian men after the speed dating session, in comparison to men of their own race.
Dr Janet Hall, Clinical Psychologist, says these superficial stereotypes are reinforced in popular culture. According to Hall, these representations can impact women’s dating preferences. “Asian men are often depicted as geeky nerds with high intelligence but low charisma.
According to PolicyMic writer Justin Chan, the constant stereotyping of Asian-Americans in the media, conditioned his initial interactions with non-Asian women. It became a source of anxiety. “What if they thought I was a nerd with poor social skills? What if they rejected me?” he wrote.
“Asian-American men approaching non-Asian women often either feel an unnecessary burden to prove themselves against Asian stereotypes or keep to themselves in fear of rejection.
Asian actors continue to be typecast in restrictive stock roles, from nerds, to evil villains, and martial artists. Rarely are Asian male actors cast as leads in films, let alone as leads in romantic comedies. Instead, Hollywood film-makers often have a tendency to cast white, bankable actors in Asian roles. Think 21, Prince of Persia, and the Last Airbender.
Nicolas Cage, recently criticised the lack of Asian actors in lead roles, and welcomed change in the industry. “My son is Asian. He may want to direct one day; he may want to be an actor like his father - and I want that to be open to him,” Cage told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in October.
The perception of all Asian men as effeminate and passive will continue to be propagated if the roles offered to Asian men are not diversified. It also precludes an understanding of heterogeneity within the Asian race, and discounts the potential positive benefits dating an Asian man can bring to a relationship.
But breaking stereotypes is also about challenging our own cultural perceptions. Senthorun Raj, a researcher at the Sydney Law School says, “Our desires are racialised as they are gendered, as they are subject to other cultural and social values.”
Raj says there’s a tendency to shy away from challenging our sexual preferences, proclivities and desires because it is often seen as an emotional rather than conscious part of our lives. He says, “I think the real kind of important thing for us to do as individuals is to confront racism as an intimate part of our lives. And that’s a really difficult word for people to hear because racism is often thought of as something intellectual, something that operates on a conscious level.”
Then perhaps an Asian man dating a non-Asian woman, won’t only seem more plausible in post-apocalyptic scenarios.