(crossposted from Facebook)
I used to pay basically no attention to representation in the media as a problem, because it didn’t seem to me that lack of asian representation was holding me back personally in any way. If anything – and I thought this very, very quietly, all to myself – it seemed to me that being held back by lack of representation was in some sense a weakness.
I was completely wrong, but I couldn’t see the problem for years because it was so embedded in my background assumptions about reality that I never thought to question it. Here is what I have come to realize:
I never saw someone who looked like me as a romantic lead growing up (the closest I got was Jackie Chan in Rush Hour, which, come on). I have always carried with me a pervasive fear that I in particular am, and asian men in general are, fundamentally ugly and undeserving of love. And these two facts are probably related.
I have been surprised by almost every relationship I ended up in. On some level, I never understood what my partners saw in me. I felt lucky. That sounds almost romantic, but actually it consistently fed in me a growing desperate conviction that I had to get the relationship exactly right because it might be my last chance. I couldn’t help being ugly, but maybe I could make up for it by being the perfect mix between a Disney prince and a romantic comedy lead. That went okay, sometimes; it even led to some beautiful moments, which I don’t regret. But it never lasted, because the desperation underneath always shone through.