Netflix's 'Secret Obsession' perpetuates the 'White Male Asian Female' fetish and it is time to put an end to it
The movie, which premiered on the streaming service on July 18, stars Brenda Song and Mike Vogel in lead roles
In Netflix's latest psychological thriller 'Secret Obsession', Brenda Song stars as a newlywed woman Jennifer Williams. After a brutal attack at a dark rest stop, Jennifer cannot recall anything from the past, not her identity, not her husband's, neither does she remember anything from the night of the incident.
As she is recuperating in the hospital, we are introduced to her husband, Russell (Mike Vogel), who is just thankful she’s alive and eager to get her home – a secluded mountain estate the couple calls home. But Mike has Detective Page (played by Dennis Haysbert) suspicious about him. The detective pursues Jennifer’s assailant and is determined to put him to justice. As it turns out, Dt. Page's own daughter went missing as a young girl never to be found.
The plot for the film was revealed pretty much when Netflix released the trailer. And while this was the talking – laughing, and critiquing – point when the trailer was out, some were quick to point out the problematic portrayal of White Male Asian Female (WMAF) relationship.
Before we dive into how WMAF plays out in the 'Secret Obsession' context, here is a quick brief about what exactly it means courtesy Urban Dictionary.
WMAF: A creepy relationship between a white male and an Asian female that is predicated on (1) the white male fetishizing the Asian female as an exotic sex object and (2) the Asian female being desperate for approval from white males because she feels internalized racism toward her own race. ie. Hollywood frequently pushes WMAF couples in commercials, television shows, and films as a subtle form of propaganda.
Another explanation of the issue goes:
WMAFcouples are toxic relationships derived from colonisation. The white male is typically a beta loser who white women don’t want to f**k so he has to go for “the next best thing” the irony of this is that they often chat shit about Asian males to make themselves look more masculine whereas Tyrone is still f***ing Becky in bed. The Asian female, in this case, is a ‘twinky b**ch’ meaning she’s deeply insecure and would give anything to be “white,” including shitting on every Asian male in her family. She is the definition of self-hatred and insecurity. There are many famous products of WMAF relationships, the most famous being Elliot Rodger who committed the Isla Vista massacre. While not every WMAF is about insecurity, hatred, and white-worshipping, the latter is more often true (sic).
Song plays the role of Jennifer, a young woman married to a white male – the real Russell Williams (played by Daniel Booko), who is killed at the hands of Mike Vogel's imposter Russell. Her stalker and obsessor (Mike Vogel, who is actually Ryan Gaerity) is also a white male.
But here lies the big difference in both these relationships – one is a lover, the other a predator. Vogel's plays the role of a man obsessed with an Asian woman for the longest time. The real couple and Ryan all work together in the same workplace, where Vogel's character spends a long long time obsessing over Jennifer. Towards the end, where he comes out and reveals his long-standing obsession with her, the only inference to make it just how creepy and spineless he is for being in the shadows all this while and dangerously plotting against the couple.
In another scene before Jennifer discovers the truth for herself, Vogel's Russell demands sex from her because he has waited in that hospital waiting room for weeks before she gained consciousness, because she is acting up for no reason, and because he is her husband. Jennifer's discomfort and a straight "no" doesn't mean anything to him. He forces himself upon her, even chastising her for refusing. The entitlement Ryan displays in this particular scene not only reeks of white privilege, misogyny and abuse but also points to the very stereotypical (problematic) sexual characteristic of Asian women: meek, dissenting at first, and always, that she can be overpowered.
This is not to specifically point out that all WMAF relationships fall under the abusive, racist category. Note that Jennifer's marriage with the real Russell was built on love, trust and respect. But Ryan thinks he can own Jennifer, his "love" for her already crossing the line. Consumed by his obsession for her, he sets out to take what he thinks belongs to him.
The movie is currently streaming on Netflix.