I am Serena, a recovering KPop-aholic.
I have been clean for two years. It has been rough, but Kelly Clarkson was right: it only made me stronger. Despite the sleepless nights, keyboards with the ‘!’ key missing and entire albums on my phone with pictures of Asian men seven years older than me, I am a better person now.
KPop stands for Korean Pop music. If you are prone to selling your soul in exchange for attractive people dancing in tight leather pants, I would recommend squashing any curiosity you may have at the moment.
Since I am kind of a masochist, I did not follow that advice. Which explains the occasional foamy mouth and demonic chanting I experience at random times of the day.
But let us talk about the reason I stayed with KPop. No, not the leather pants. (Though that was a factor.)
I enjoy staring at pretty people. I am a slave to my endorphins and I imagine them saying “Oh là là!” whenever they notice humans with superior bone structure.
Until KPop, though, those endorphins only acknowledged Caucasians.
Growing up, the only references to beauty I had were my Barbie dolls. They were beautiful, and I was enraptured. After countless hours spent matching miniskirts with blue eyes, however, my definition of beauty shrank until it seemed like a suspect poster: Wanted! Light eyes. Bright hair. White.
I soon realized I did not match the description. Therefore, I was not beautiful. My skirts would never match my irises. (The latter hit me the hardest.)
KPop allowed me to expand that poster. It allowed me to love myself.
For the first time, I saw people who looked like me in the headlines. People who had flat faces and were nonetheless praised for their talents and beauty. I saw popular movies and reality shows with largely Asian casts. I saw a world where my culture and features were celebrated, not pushed off to the sidelines.
Although I have grown out of KPop, I still have my dolls. They bat their long eyelashes at me every time I buy a movie ticket. They insist on ruining every film because no matter how rich the plot is or how astounding the special effects are, I am always acutely aware of the lack of minorities.
Do not get me wrong; I love American cinema. But I cannot think of a single movie with a non-white protagonist highlighted against a white cast. There are countless Las Vegas crime movies in which a white man stands out in stark contrast to a crowd of Asian, Hispanic or African American characters, but a minority in the spotlight? Unheard of.
A few months ago, I watched the movie “The Impossible,” which depicts the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and its effects on a city in Thailand.
I was surprised to note that despite the geographical location, not a single significant Thai character was introduced. The main characters were a white family on vacation. Turns out, the story is based off the experiences of a Spanish woman during the ordeal. Let us rewind. Nope, not a single Hispanic among the cast.
Apparently, the only group that can be affected by natural disasters is vacationing white families. Hey, that is kind of reassuring.
But wait, there is more! For the price of one whitewashed movie, you will get to enjoy the benefits of being underrepresented for a lifetime!
Tiger Lily? Played by Rooney Mara, a white actress. The Prince of Persia? Portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, a white actor. Katniss Everdeen? Collins ambiguously described her as having olive skin, but Hollywood only called for Caucasian actresses between the ages of 15 and 20.
Even the movie adaptation of Pearl Buck’s famous novel “The Good Earth” about Chinese farmers has an entirely white cast wearing layers of makeup to look Asian.
Come on, Hollywood. I am flattered, but you can execute my flawless look and give me movie roles.
I am not saying to boycott Hollywood films forever, nor am I pointing a finger at talented actresses and actors. Whether we like it or not, however, Hollywood has a massive influence. The quality it produces is the quality we consume. When such a major part of American culture exhibits preference for one race over all others, it is incredibly damaging to how everyone views minorities and how minorities view themselves.
When I was told, “You can be anything you want!” they failed to mention the fine print: that the way your eyes, nose or lips are shaped can alter your entire future.
I am told everyday by the media that my place is behind a desk, in an operating room or in a theater seat, admiring celebrities who have no epicanthic folds. My place is not onstage. I am not meant to be recognized. My body is good only for filling a diversity quota. I can look, I can touch, but I cannot ever have.
I am a recovering KPop-aholic. Now it is time to cure America of its addiction for a single race.