May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. There has been a lot of discussion on the lack of Asian American representation on screen, especially when it comes to the whitewashing of films like Ghost In The Shell and Doctor Strange. However, whitewashing is only part of the representation problem. Another area of Asian American representation that needs to be addressed is the nearly non-existent representation of multi-racial Asian Americans and interracial relationships involving Asian men and women.
As the daughter of a Vietnamese-American mother and an African American father, I used to feel uncomfortable with my ethnicity and multi-cultural experiences because I didn’t feel that they were valid. Growing up, I thought interracial relationships and mixed race people that mattered were literally black and white because that is all I saw onscreen. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered blasian ethnicity and relationships in Love! Love! Fighting!, a manga-style webcomic by Sharean Morishita.
Love! Love! Fighting! tells the story of a twenty-something black-Korean plus-sized woman named Oriana. After being fired from her job, she and her cousin Krisa take a trip to their home country of South Korea. With a family reunion comes unresolved issues from Oriana’s past and a K-pop idol that slowly changes Oriana’s life for the better.
The further you get into the comic, the more you see Oriana’s complexity. She loves herself, but desires to be loved by others and struggles to form close relationships. She also deals with issues that come from her identity as a dark-skinned plus sized multi-racial woman and her attempts to break her into the modeling industry. Since the creator is a black woman married to a Japanese man, this representation of Oriana’s various identities made the comic very authentic in certain scenes.
One of the most striking scenes in this comic that was relatable to me as a blasian person is when Krisa tries to get Oriana signed to a Korean modeling company. As her agent as well as her cousin, Krisa tries to get Oriana sponsors and gigs while trying to suggest what she thinks is best for Oriana. Although Krisa states that Oriana is the perfect candidate for the company, the company tells Krisa that because Oriana doesn’t look Korean, she doesn’t fit their company’s image.
This incident is similar to a real-life incident involving a bi-racial black and Japanese beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto. In 2015, she won Miss Universe in Japan, but was criticized for not being Japanese enough. Like Oriana, she is blasian, but her darker skin has caused her to face discrimination despite her ethnicity. Both Oriana and Ariana’s struggles with anti-blackness among Asian people are just some of the things that blasian people experience.
Although she experiences anti-blackness from some Korean people and fatphobia from Krisa and others, Oriana finds acceptance from Jae-Hwa, an overworked indie Kpop idol. Since Jae-Hwa can’t speak English and Oriana can’t speak Korean until later, they slowly find ways to understand each other and communicate.
One of the best scenes involves Jae-Hwa and Oriana being on a Korean matchmaking game show. Oriana is wearing a translator and she asks Jae-Hwa, “Does a person’s size really affect their chances of being treated with respect and attractiveness?” Although Jae-Hwa is supposed to be following a script, he honestly replies, “Everything has its own beauty but not everyone sees it.” When Oriana compares herself to a smaller girl, Jae-Hwa continues, “It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, beauty and love come from being you.”
Although there are some blasian couples in current media like Into The Badlands and KC Undercover, there isn’t a whole lot more to choose from. Moreover, multi-racial asian identity has no representation in mainstream media, and this shows how far the conversation on Asian American representation still has to go.
By dealing with multi-racial identity, interracial relationships, and personal growth, Love! Love! Fighting! is one of the most groundbreaking comics I have ever read. Not only does it show that I’m not alone in my experiences, but it also shows that they are just as valuable as the typical American story. If somebody makes Love! Love! Fighting! into a K-drama or movie, then I wouldn’t mind.
Latonya Pennington is a contributing writer for Black Girl Nerds and Afropunk. In the past, she has also done pieces for Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, and Buzzfeed. She lives somewhere in the southern United States and spends way too much time listening to music, watching shows online, and reading. Find her on Twitter.
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