"May December," a recent film from Netflix, presents the portrayal of Asian male stereotypes. Here's the review.

The stereotypes of Asian men portrayed in “May December” reveal a troubling truth

The Netflix movie “May December” draws inspiration from the real-life relationship between Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, leading to a depiction of stereotypes of Asian men that closely mirrors reality. The portrayal raises concerns about the impact of the woman’s race on her ability to groom an Asian American boy and the public’s reaction to the story. This perpetuates the harmful stereotype of Asian men as compliant and submissive, contrasting with the typical depiction of white men as dominant and assertive. The film exposes how gender and racial roles can make sexual abuse more acceptable to the public.

In a particular scene, Joe reveals that while other girls at school didn’t show much interest in him, “Gracie saw me and I wanted that.” It’s evident that he has internalized the white-savior complex. Gracie capitalized on the perception of Joe as an “other” to her advantage, especially as he grew up in a predominantly white community. It becomes apparent that Gracie had a fetish for Joe from the beginning, initially noticing him solely because his family was the only Asian family in the neighborhood.

In contrast to Joe, Gracie is much more controlling, treating him more like a tool or dehumanized servant than her husband. She also weaponizes her traditional “victim” role as a white woman, portraying herself as constantly under attack and hurt. She even tells Elizabeth, “I am naive. I always have been. In a way, it’s been a gift.” Despite clearly being in control of the relationship, she maintains a narrative of victimhood. She explains to Elizabeth that Joe “grew up very quickly,” while she herself was “very sheltered.”

There is also explicit and implicit fetishization of Joe’s Asianness at “May December”.

When Joe’s suppressed feelings about their relationship’s origins come to light, he approaches her more like a child than an equal partner and husband, asking, “Why can’t we talk about it?” Despite being only 13 years old at the time and unable to consent, Gracie continues to feed him a false narrative, telling him, “You seduced me. I don’t care how old you were. Who was in charge? Who was the boss?”

This situation brings up the “hot for teacher” trope often depicted in movies and TV shows. When a male teacher engages with a female student, it is universally seen as problematic and predatory. However, when the roles are reversed, the perception is vastly different. This framing obscures the truth that Gracie is a pedophile and an abuser.

There is also an explicit and implicit fetishization of Joe’s Asianness at play here, which can be harder to identify as it often manifests as so-called yellow fever and the objectification of Asian women. However, it also happens to Asian men in the form of exoticization or emasculation.

Gracie is not the only one to fetishize Joe’s Asianness. As Elizabeth reviews audition tapes for who might play Joe in the movie within a movie, she comments that the kids are “not sexy enough. You’ve seen him. He’s got this, like, quiet confidence. Even as a kid, I’m sure.” Similarly, she is able to use her white womanhood to seduce Joe herself.

The movie, and Letourneau’s real-life crime, reveal a disturbing truth: if Joe had been a white girl and Gracie an Asian man, the story would be perceived very differently. It’s hard to imagine American audiences accepting the idea of an emasculated Asian male teacher manipulating and seducing a young white female student. The relative acceptance of Gracie’s actions and the treatment of Joe reaffirms the perception of Asian men as “less than” in American society. They are often seen as emasculated and fetishized, serving the whims of the white majority without a voice or identity.

In real life, Letourneau and Fualaau legally separated in 2019 after 14 years of marriage and two children. Letourneau passed away from cancer in 2020 at the age of 58, leaving much of her estate to Fualaau. The conclusion of “May December” raises unanswered questions worth exploring.

The media’s portrayal of the real-life story relied on conventional gender stereotypes. Letourneau was depicted as a social victim, and her relationship with Fualaau was often described in terms of love. Her criminal actions were almost excused in the court of public opinion, while Fualaau’s trauma was overlooked. Similarly, in “May December,” gender stereotypes are prominent, but the racial implications are not scrutinized to the same extent. The power imbalance is attributed to the dynamic between an older woman and a teenage boy, rather than examining the impact of whiteness and Asianness.

The film’s conclusion leaves uncertainty about Gracie and Joe’s future, suggesting that she still has a hold on him and he remains trapped in their relationship, with his desires unimportant.

Source: popsugar.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *