In recent years, we have seen a steady rise in Asian representation in mainstream media. However, the increase in representation has not been without its shortcomings. One significant issue that has recently come under fire from Gen-Z is the recurring theme of white male-Asian female (WMAF) pairings, often at the expense of Asian men. The trend is especially evident in movies and TV series, such as “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Partner Track.”
In years past, this would have gone unnoticed. But now Gen-Z (and to a lesser extent millennials) is more vocal than ever about how the WMAF pairing is problematic. As noted by various journalists as well as tik tokers.
In 2018, the release of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” sparked criticism, mainly concerning the lack of Asian male representation in the protagonist’s love interests. The author and creator, Jenny Han, acknowledged the frustration but justified her choices by stating that this was the story she wrote. This defense, however, was not enough to satisfy the critics, who argue that the film still reinforces the stereotype that Asian men are less desirable and less worthy of love.
Fast forward to 2022, and the WMAF pairing trend continues with the release of “Partner Track,” a Netflix series starring Arden Cho. The series faced backlash for its portrayal of an Asian woman protagonist pursuing primarily white male love interests, perpetuating the trope of white male desirability. Critics argue that this pattern is not only harmful to the Asian community but also reinforces patriarchal power dynamics and the notion of white superiority.
Media experts like Minjeong Kim, Chair of Sociology at San Diego State University, and Shalini Shankar, Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University, have weighed in on the issue. They argue that the historical context of white colonization and imperialism has created a long-standing perception that white men are more desirable than Asian men. This association contributes to the perpetuation of the WMAF pairing in media.
Arden Cho, who has faced criticism for her role in “Partner Track,” tearfully addressed the backlash during a Q&A session at the Chinese Students Association event. She emphasized that actors and actresses should not be held responsible for representing their entire community in every project. Cho’s statement highlights the pressure that Asian actors face in the industry and the need for change in media representation.
As the demand for representation and diversity in media continues to grow, it is crucial to address not only the quantity but also the quality of representation. The WMAF pairing trope not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also limits the potential for authentic and diverse stories. It is time for the media industry to push beyond these outdated and harmful patterns and create space for inclusive, nuanced portrayals of love and relationships that truly reflect the diverse experiences of Asian Americans.
In recent years, an increasing number of publications have criticized the white male-Asian female (WMAF) pairing in mainstream media. This recurring theme has been especially concerning for the Gen-Z audience, who are demanding more authentic and diverse representation in movies and TV series. Several publications have analyzed the implications of this pairing, highlighting the need for change.
El Estoque, in September 2022, drew attention to the fact that both “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Partner Track” predominantly featured white male love interests for their Asian female protagonists. The article emphasized the long-standing issue of white superiority perpetuated by these choices, reinforcing racism against Asians.
AsAmNews published an article in September 2022 discussing the lack of Asian couples depicted in mass media. The piece pointed out the historical context of Asian immigration patterns and how they contributed to the WMAF pairing. It also suggested that the prevalence of this trope is a reflection of male patriarchal power dynamics and colonialism.
The Representasian Project, in October 2022, questioned the limited number of Asian love stories on TV. The article criticized “Partner Track” for perpetuating the WMAF trope and failing to deliver a more inclusive representation of Asian relationships.
The Georgetown Voice, in October 2022, drew parallels between the WMAF pairing and the negative stereotypes surrounding Asian men. The article argued that this pairing reinforces the historical perception of Asian men as romantically undesirable and socially awkward.
These publications, along with the growing concern among Gen-Z, indicate a pressing need to address the WMAF pairing trope in mainstream media. The media industry must move beyond these limiting portrayals and create space for more inclusive, diverse, and authentic stories that resonate with the experiences of Asian Americans. By doing so, we can challenge and dismantle the harmful stereotypes and biases that have persisted for too long.
Written by Josh Li