I’ve been asked, here and there usually by derailing clueless ninnies, why I care so much about racism and sexism in western media; why aren’t I directing it at local works from my own country? Or somewhere from Asia? Anything that’s not from the west, because RAR GARBL RAGYLR ANTI-WEST AGENDA!
Well, this is why.
For those not willing to squint, these are localized editions of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s goatfuckingly awful Dark Hunters softcore porn as well as one of the books from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. I’m not sure what The Hollow is, but I’d guess it’s also some variant of paranormal romance YA. Out of these, I spot only two books that are remotely good about feminism and gender and things. The rest are, kindly put, trash. Full variously of racial exoticization, internalized misogyny, and brooding bad boys who give you a dose of “forced seduction.” Most of these covers feature white people.*
*Although, it must be said: some of the women don’t register as Caucasoid to me, partly because it’s a borderline manga style–but many of them look like female Thai celebrities, especially the redhead on Dark Fire. The blond girl on the cover of Frostbite is, however, undeniably white seeing as she’s a slightly photoshopped version of the girl on the English edition of the same title.
This is only a small selection–the Stephenie Meyer dreck isn’t too far away, I am sure. Because guess what crosses the ocean, and gets localized here? Guess what we watch in the theaters? Popular mainstream fiction out of the US and the UK, much of which is racist, sexist, and homophobic as all get-out. Hollywood blockbusters, which tend toward the same. And it does harm us, part and parcel of the rampaging cultural imperialism that slowly but surely makes sure everywhere in the world becomes just like the west.
And, I’m sorry children, I think the west–in many aspects–is kind of a shithole. Thai people treat visiting whites with deference and automatic respect; a foreign person of color visiting will not be treated half as well as the white one, and often much worse. White backpackers easily get teaching jobs over qualified Thai, even if the backpacker is no more than a spoiled, middle-class, sheltered student going around for their gap year to experience the exotique of Asia. And we aren’t even formally colonized yet!
Simultaneous to the plague of white expats settling here like a host of invading bacteria, we at the same time consume media that’s not merely sexist and homophobic, but which posits us as other through cheap exoticism. It enters our circuit; it pervades our media consumption, sometimes overriding and drowning out our own artists and writers. Creepy, racist, obnoxious white people write books about Thailand that objectify women and reduce us–our culture–to nothing more than cheap hookers. Their words are taken as objective truth, their skeevy sensationalizing distortion as solid facts. White men come here to exploit and abuse women whom they treat as little more than mail-order brides. What you produce shapes us, and affects our behavior. Whether or not we like it. Whether or not we want it. An invasion by another name, if you will.
And what does my country get in geeky media? Why, these:
No, these aren’t panels from the same issue. They aren’t even panels from the same comic. Nor are they from the same writer. The one above is from Warren Ellis’ Planetary; the one below is from Mark Millar’s run of The Authority. It is, in other words, a completely random sampling–the only thing these two authors have in common, apart from being white and male and British, is that they write comic scripts. The comics they write otherwise share very little in themes; indeed Ellis on aggregate writes better women whereas Mark Millar is obsessed with rape. Not enough yet?
Gross to you? Maybe not. But I don’t have the privilege of not finding this gross; unlike you I don’t have the privilege of dismissing it as trivial and walking away. I don’t even have to look for it: this is just a random mobile game from Hexage. Again, there’s nothing in common with the comics, and even less than Ellis and Millar have with one another–apart from the fact that Hexage is either a British or American studio. This is how prevalent this perception of my country as reduced to “exotic food, forbidden pleasures and elephants” is, a perception developed and perpetuated and spread by westerners.
Because it’s such a random sampling, it tells me that you, first-worlders, see “Thai” and immediately associate it with “hookers” and “lady boys” and “forbidden pleasures.” You see nothing else: no culture, no landscape, and certainly no such thing as real human beings. It’s one of the things that most people, even social justice warriors, don’t really think of as racist and ignorant–but it’s an idea they will have absorbed regardless, unconsciously. This is how prevalent and thoughtless you are.
This is why I care. This is why I hate you. Stay away from my country; stay away from me.