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The Social Network: The Dragon Lady Returns

Do you know who Brenda Song is? After acting on Nickelodeon for several years, Ms. Song is kicking off a big screen career of Facebook proportions. She stars in The Social Network as Eduardo Savarin’s groupie girlfriend, Christy. I don’t think this film needs any introduction.

I don’t want to talk about the woeful lack of female character development in The Social Networkbetter publicized blogs have done that. I want to talk about the temporal significance of Christy’s character, from her over-made face down to her stiletto heels.

She meets Facebook financier Eduardo Savarin through whispered conversation at a lecture on Harvard’s campus. (Speaker? Bill Gates.) A few scenes later, Christy, and her Asian friend, Alice, take Facebook founders Eduardo Savarin and Mark Zuckerberg into the bathroom for a little non-verbal oral engagement. Alice disappears from the film without a trace, but Christy and Eduardo begin to date.To sum up without spoilers, Christy is portrayed as an opportunistic, hypersexual, pushy broad who also happens to be bat-shit crazy. Assume what you will from the photo provided—the circumstances that created this scene are rationally out of the realm of mental possibility.

As identities are often constructed as binary, for Asian women, these identities are the Lotus Blossom and the Dragon Lady. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s portrayal of Christy neatly places her into an image we’ve seen before: Asian women as dangerous, sneaky, or sly. On the flipside of this stereotype binary is the Lotus Blossom, aka the passive/sweet/submissive Asian woman. Needless to say, Christy breathes fire. But where has the Lotus Blossom gone? I  haven’t seen her much, not since one achingly stereotypical Phoebe Heyerdahl, a creation of Nickelodeon Studios—Brenda Song’s alma mater.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a film that displays an amazing identity fake-out. Scott’s girlfriend at the beginning of the film, Knives (yes, that is her name) goes from 20th Century Lotus Blossom (see: loves Hello Kitty) to Dragon Lady2k10 — a martial arts experts who wants to kick everybody’s ass.

Quel choq. By moving between completely archetypal poles, Knives’ character evens out as a flat, cartoonish caricature.

I’ve read that shows like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy feature Asian characters with depth and nuance, which is awesome. Demographically, Asians of all persuasions makes up 5% of the U.S. population, but they are the best educated, and have the highest household income of all the races. I demand to see the intelligent, three-dimensional Asian women that I know exist! Do it for Brenda Song—she can’t play vengeful sluts for the rest of her career.