Friday, May 15, 2009

My Weekend Crush

When I was a kid, only a handful of other kids in my school looked like me. And, growing up in the Midwest, the numbers never rose much higher. So I was just used to going to the movies or watching TV and seeing no one who looked like me staring back. That was just how things were. Then, while still in gradeschool, “The Karate Kid, Part II” came out. I make no apologies for the rampant stereotypes the film perpetuated. The concept of honor. The Far East exoticism. That all Asians know karate. That we would ever condone the use of cheesy Peter Cetera music. But I didn’t care about any of that. I cared that Tamlyn Tomita kind of looked like me. And there she was with her amazing hair and her almond eyes playing Ralph Macchio's love interest Kumiko for everyone to see.

After the movie came out, a schoolmate told me I looked like “that girl from Karate Kid” and I’m not sure if my feet touched the ground for the rest of the day I was so proud. We actually don’t, not really. She’s Japanese; I’m Korean. We don’t all look alike, you know. But she was beautiful and Asian and the star of a major motion picture. That was enough for me. Through the years, it has always given me an inexplicable thrill each time I’ve seen her in another role, from “The Joy Luck Club” to “The Day After Tomorrow” to a guest spot this season on “The Mentalist.” And, yesterday, while writing about Disney’s first-ever black princess film, “The Princess and the Frog,” it finally dawned on me why. Whether we admit it or not, we all need role models who reflect our realities back to us larger than life. Tamlyn did that for me, all those years ago. She made me feel a little less alone in a world that looked nothing like what I saw in the mirror each day. Also, seriously, how awesome was her hair? Happy weekend, all.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

She is also Hiro's mom on Heroes.

e said...

What a lovely tribute, Ms Snarker. *smiles*

Anonymous said...

and she is, still, unbelievably hot now.
http://heroeswiki.com/Tamlyn_Tomita

:D

Whit said...

I actually felt this way about Mulan from Disney's "Mulan" (I was a post-"Karate Kid" Asian kid). I remember that when I watched "Mulan," it was one of the first times I had ever been, firstly, aware that I was Asian (I grew up in a predominantly white town), and, secondly, proud of the fact that I was Asian.

That and when that James Bond Movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies" came out, I saw it several times just to see Michelle Yeoh (of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" kick ass and be super-sexy (I was also a blooming Asian baby-dyke, at age 9 or 10).

I love your blog, by the way, and reading about sex-perspectives written by Asian-American lesbians (or queers, I'm not sure what title you use). I'm hoping to find more A-A queer blogs out there, or perhaps to start blogging about these things myself. Do you have any suggestions on where to find A-A blogs that write about these sorts of things?

RHEA said...

GREAT post :)

Anonymous said...

omg i have been reading your blog for a YEAR and i think i read your ENTIRE archives and i LOVE you and i'm Asian too and why don't you mention being Asian more often, i know it shouldnt' matter, I like your writing no matter what but damn, girl, why don't you represent!?!

TheWeyrd1 said...

Nice! I'm still waiting for the white geeky chick with questionable social skills... Oh wait, that's Bones... Let me amend that. I'm still waiting for the white geeky lesbian chick with the questionable social skills...heh.

Sublimefemme said...

Coincidentally enough, my most recent post is a tribute to an Asian American lesbian icon, Jenny Shimizu. Come by and check it out. I think you'll like the pics ;-)

@ Anonymous I would not presume to speak for the lovely Ms. S but I remember reading some moving posts about race/ethnicity around election time.

xo
SF

Anonymous said...

Under a rock again. I did not know you are Asian. That said it's interesting and nice to know. Never thought about exactly who the woman I wake up with 5 days a week.

As an African American lesbian I feel a sisterhood with all lesbians of color. I already "loved" you. This just puts a cherry on top.

Tamilyn Tomita is HOT! I've been an admirer since Come See The Paradise.

Looking forward to waking up with you Monday Morning.

Anonymous said...

Ms Snarker: I feel your pain, sister. Here's an oldie but goodie from Margaret Cho for your weekend enjoyment.

jetgirl said...

Dear D. Snarker,

Please get out of my head, it's creeping me out.

love,
Jetgirl

PS: This is something kind of odd about me, but I find her slight cross eye really cute. lol

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I too had bookmarked your blogs and this one is special. Growing up, i watched the tv series Good times to see representations of me. I sometimes cringe to see reruns now but now i also embrace all the positives. From jj to cosby to obama. How cool is that!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Dorothy.

Tamilyn Tomita was also on Criminal Minds this week. She looked quite lovely in the red HazMat suit she had to wear for much of the episode.

rjelad said...

Guess I was lucky; growing up in HI i didn't put a lot of importance/need to see a representation of myself on T.V. or in the movies...I was represented 24/7 by 75% of the people around me. That being said, I'm still waiting for a filipino representation that's not a prostitute/stripper/domestic servant.

I also thought Tamlyn was the best thing in KKII, but her turn in the Babylon 5 pilot made this SciFi geek giddy w/ unrequited anticipation.

Love your blogs and tweets.

Anonymous said...

Huh, I didn't know you were Asian. I had forgotten about that actress; had a huge crush on her when that movie came out.

Anonymous said...

Props,
I'm not sure if I ever had a specific Asian role model for me, but I love seeing Asian people on tv and it makes me happy to feel represented, even if it is in a small way.
-Midwest Asian Girl

Marie said...

Holy crap, I watched Karated Kid 2 a week ago in the train (yeah don't ask, old school movies to pass the time is pretty brilliant :D), and was thinking about her and how gorgeous she was!!! That's the best timing of a blog post in history, no kidding :D Thanks for all the info!

Melinda Barton said...

I love her! She's amazing and still gorgeous after all these years.

But I get you about representation. Until Northern Exposure, you rarely saw anyone of Native descent on television, either full or mixed blood. My uncle made us watch Westerns with him on the weekends, but the Natives on those were played by white people in bad face paint. I get a lot of amusement out of the fact that many mixed blood Native actors now play white people. But I'd prefer better representation than the "special" episodes where they go to the rez to solve a crime and the local "tracker" helps save the day.

Josephine said...

Oh, I had a crush on Tamlyn Tomita all through my childhood! She's soooo pretty. I remember her guest starring on an episode of Quantum Leap, which was my very favorite show for a while. But I think I somehow missed seeing Karate Kid 2. Maybe I'll have to watch it now.

Bookmonger said...

Loved this post (and your blog.) And yeah, TT.
The first 10 years I was out, I met only 1 other Asian American lesbian. I'm glad that this is no longer true.

sphygmo said...

Hi Dorothy, I didn't know you were Asian. :) I wanted to say that Tamlyn Tomita played a lesbian in The Last Man on Planet Earth. She's hot. :D

Leo said...

Well, I wish I saw this in 2009, but I must say, she was my first EVER crush. Classy and old fashioned. I have been searching for girl just like her ever since.