‘Carnal Orient’ Aims To Challenge The Fetishization of Asian Women In Media


Last year the band Day Above Ground released “Asian Girlz,” a controversial song and music video laden with lyrics and images that many Asian Americans found offensive. Lyrics included lines like, “I love your sticky rice,” “I love your creamy yellow thighs” and “Ooh your slanted eyes,” while the video featured Asian American model Levy Tran scantily clad in lingerie and schoolgirl outfits, as she pranced around to the degrading lyrics.

Band members protested the protests, saying their intent was to be satirical, not racist, but that argument didn’t quite fly with many viewers, including a group of Asian American women who decided to respond with a creative project of their own. Scholar Mila Zuo, Angela Seo of the band Xiu Xiu and actress/producer Camille Mana have banded together to work on Carnal Orient, a short “music film” that aims to provide a counterpoint to the types of objectification and fetishization of Asian women seen in things like the “Asian Girlz” video. Zuo will be co-directing the short film, along with Seo, who will also be scoring the short, while Mana will serve as the producer. The women are currently raising funds for the project through Kickstarter.

“Living in a postmodern world, everything can be swept under the rug of ‘satire,’ ‘farce,’ and ‘irony,'” Zuo, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA studying cinema and media studies, told KoreAm. “[But] racial satire is problematic, especially when you are satirizing another race other than your own.”

Drawing inspiration from surrealist cult film directors David Lynch (EraserheadMulholland Drive) and David Cronenberg (ShiversCosmopolis), plus the early works of award-winning music video director Chris Cunningham (Bjork’s All is Full of Love), they hope to create an artistic response that challenges these reductive ideas on Asian culture and people, especially women, that they see too often in popular media.

“As a society, we’re less attuned to Asian discrimination, and because of that, it becomes more permissible to commit racist acts against our community,” said Zuo.

But the film isn’t just for Asian audiences, and that’s why the project seeks support from the community at large. “The community is not just Asians or females, but it’s for anybody out there who feels what we feel,” said Seo, in the Carnal Orient’s Kickstarter video.

Their Kickstarter goal is to raise $4,500 by Tuesday, July 15, and as of this post, they had already exceeded it, at $4,545.

As an added incentive to donors, they are offering those who pledge $25 or more to be eligible for several drawings for free pairs of tickets to any Xiu Xiu show on the band’s upcoming tour, as well as for T-shirt giveaways from boutique fashion company Two City, where Zuo is the creative director.

Photo at top: Camille Mana, Mila Zuo and Angela Seo. Courtesy of Erica Hsu.