For YLLOGRL' Sets the Path Toward Shattering Stereotypes
& Ronald Tansingco
a bright yellow Buick convertible with the top down
and a license plate reading "YLLOGRL" whizzed
by you, wouldn't you notice? What would you assume?-It
has got to be an Asian girl? Wouldn't you want to find
out? After hearing about this seemingly mythical figure
of Southern California from a few friends last September,
Daisy Lin Shapiro set out to find the truth on her own.
But this wasn't just a lame, pointless project that
came clear out of left field. This filmmaker was on
a mission to break stereotypes about Asian American
women. On her journey to find "YLLOGRL," Lin
Shapiro made a documentary about a beautiful array of
Asian American women who had a thing or two to say about
the concept of "YLLOGRL."
the evening of August 26th 2003, Cinespace in Hollywood
hosted a VIP cocktail reception benefiting the documentary,
"Looking for YLLOGRL." In the trendy, jazzy
club, an affluence of people scattered around the rooms
and anxiously awaited the screening of the new film.
Among many of the guests were, actress Keiko Agena,
Denise Dador and Kathy Vara of KABC, news anchor Ted
Chen, and comedian Suzanne Whang. The turnout for the
screening was very successful and many patrons were
interested in the idea of a documentary based on changing
common stereotypes about Asian American women; some
of these include: passive, subordinate, soft-spoken,
geisha-like manicurists and martial-arts experts who
dare not ever think a single sexual thought.
crowd assembles to preview Lin Shapiro's latest
project. Courtesy of APA.
the overwhelmingly dominant Asian American crowd watched
the premier screening, many found the quest to find
"YLLOGRL" to be quite a hilarious one. The
documentary featured many women, ranging from innocent
bystanders, whose opinions were caught on tape, to professors
of Asian American studies with long, serious theories
on these issues.
the documentary, one of the women Lin Shapiro speaks
with is Natalie Nakase, a UCLA basketball player, whose
participation in collegiate athletics is a blatant contradiction
to the general public's expectations of Asian American
women. This is especially true considering her role
as a point guard, which requires her to call plays and
lead the team. In considering Nakase as a "yellow
girl," she clearly does not exude the timidity
or passiveness which is so often characterized to Asian
women. It is clear to the viewers that she is confident
in who she is as an Asian American female athlete.
"yellow girl" has a potentially offensive
connotation, its repercussions were not as negative
as is usually expected at the screening. Comedian Suzanne
Whang channels the emotions that result from racial,
namely Asian, controversies into a comedic routine that
manages to spark the audience's curiosity about such
issues. Though raised in the United States with an American
lifestyle, Whang couples a hanbok, a traditional Korean
garment, along with a fan to open up her act. Her scenes
in the film provoked some of the audience's biggest
members taking their seats in anticipation of the
film. Courtesy of APA.
a woman, wearing traditional Asian attire, hiding her
face behind a fan with her hair tightly pulled back
in a bun onstage at Hollywood's Improv Club. The visual
would surely send a few chills up my spine. Not knowing
what to expect from Whang's act could be quite nerve-racking,
especially if the point is to make a complete mockery
of Asian Americans. However, Whang executes her comedic
act with humorous irony and leaves all races feeling
comfortable about learning truths about Asian American
culture. I spoke with Whang after the screening and
she gave a surprising comment about her audience members'
sometimes come to me after the show and slowly enunciate
the word, 'CON-GRA-TU-LAY-SHUNS' (at a few thousand
decibels louder than normal conversational speech),
assuming that the whole act was really who I am
I just say, 'Hey thanks a lot, I appreciate
it' (with proper pronunciation). And then they look
at me with the most astonished look on their faces."
enough, the film identifies clothing as a potential
means of combating Asian stereotypes in more ways than
one. Though Whang's hanbok serves as a tool in breaking
away from the assumption that Asian American women are
traditional in both manners of dress and moral values,
clothing plays a very different role for Sophie Chea,
who is introduced in the documentary as a designer of
her own clothing line. Chea's business sense is anything
but coy and diminutive. She makes her living by selling
apparel inspired by Asian popular culture. Her store
features the typical tanks and T's with random Chinese
characters that, according to Chea, sell really well
to Asians and to mainstream consumers alike.
the film, Chea expresses her own interpretation of the
word "yellow." For her, "yellow"
is more indicative of a way of life as opposed to the
hue of a person's skin. Her attitude exemplifies a newer
approach to the term, which embraces and redefines its
meaning, as opposed to accepting it as a derogatory
intriguing as all of these individual stories are, the
credit is definitely owed to Lin Shapiro for compiling
these unique anecdotes, opinions, and jokes. Her approach
to the term "yellow girl" is one which seeks
a thorough understanding of the various meanings of
the words to different individuals. Her visually-recorded
attempts to talk to people and to actively seeking out
answers are simultaneously entertaining and insightful.
The result of her efforts is a film that brings a new
perspective on what it means to be an Asian American
lot of stereotypes result from a lack of understanding
(The women in "Looking for YLLOGRL") are
not superwomen; they are just themselves."
Shapiro cites the goal of the film as telling, "interesting
stories that just happen to be Asian American."
She seeks to show "Asian Americans as real people
A lot of stereotypes result from a lack of understanding
(The women in "Looking for YLLOGRL") are not
superwomen; they are just themselves." Lin Shapiro's
attempt to redefine the Asian American woman's image
is admirable for its hard work and persistence. She
takes a potentially awkward experience and transforms
it into a period of self-enlightenment. Fortunately,
the cameras keep rolling and bring the viewers along
for the experience.
Shapiro's drive is certainly present on film. By the
end of the screening, the uncomfortable feeling in everyone's
stomachs seemed to have been assuaged by a good dose
of reality: Asian Americans need to take actions to
advance their culture in a positive way, free from the
restrictive barrier of stereotypes.