Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) finally kisses Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
By Ed Diokno
To paraphrase a famous existential question: If a kiss by an Asian romantic lead was hardly seen, did it really happen?
Vincent Rodriguez III did what eluded other Asian actors like Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat and John Cho. His character Josh Chan kissed Rebecca Bunch, played by Rachel Bloom, in the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfirend, episode 13.
Most followers of the entertainment industry know the ground-shaking significance of this event. “The Kiss” by an Asian male actor playing a leading man for an American audience is an event so rare that when it occurs, it’s time to pop the champagne corks and let the confetti rain.
In Romeo Must Die, an updated movie version of Romeo and Juliet with Jet Li as Romeo and R&B artist Aaliyah as Juliet, the original ending had the two ill-fated lovebirds kiss. But according to the studio, the kiss ending didn’t test well with audiences so the studio changed it to an awkward hug. Uh … OK, you mean we watch this movie for two hours based on the most famous love story of all time – families fighting, people get killed – with the two main characters falling in love with each other, and all they do is … hug? Ugh!
“Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light,” said Gene Cajayon, a Filipino American director.
The neutered asexual Asian male stereotype is so imprinted in the American consciousness that to see an Asian male in a romantic situation that culminates in a kiss is so contrary to what the audience expects that it “gets uncomfortable.”
That is a stereotype that needs to be corrected immediately.
But it won’t be easy.
If they aren’t playing servile second-banana roles or bumbling clowns, Asian males are usually playing martial artists who know all the exotic moves of the martial arts but apparently are ignorant of erotic art of love despite the kama sutra’s Asian origins.
Strong male roles played by Asians are cut down to size by being desexualized. Even the legendary Bruce Lee had to go to Hong Kong before American producers discovered he had sex appeal.
This is about as close to a romantic scene as it got between action hero Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino in The Replacement Killers.
The charismatic stud Chow Yun-Fat made his U.S. debut opposite Mira Sorvino in the Hollywood version of Hong Kong blockbuster The Replacement Killers. Even though the sexual tension was thick between the two stars, in the end, the ungrateful Sorvino didn’t even give her hero a hug. You know if he was White, he would have gotten the girl by movie’s end.
John Cho was so close to being the first Asian male leading man to kiss a girl in his the late TV series Selfie last year but unfortunately, the series ended before the couple could reach that point.
That’s what makes Rodriguez’s kiss as Josh Chan so significant. Thankfully, The Kiss happened early enough in the series that we, the audience, didn’t get cheated with what we all wanted to happen.
But that leads to the intriguing question. What next?
Whatever happens next better happen quickly. Even though CEG is receiving high praise from TV critics, its ratings are so low that it is difficult to chart, which makes a second season highly doubtful. It is last in its time slot and last among CW series. Better watch now while you can.
Crazy Ex-Girlfirend airs Monday nights, 8 p.m. on the CW and only five episodes remain.
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)
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