Remember when Marcia swooned over cute little Brit mophead Davy Jones in "The Brady Bunch"? Look at her eerie New Millenium twin Ashley. But Ashley's not crying her eyes out over a white teenybopper star like Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
Who woulda thunk that a shy, gangly South Asian boy could reduce Ashley and a million other American girls to tears? She again was a blubbering mess on tonight's finale of American Idol when Sanjaya belted out "You Really Got Me" (Joe Perry was on guitar!). I know that lots of people think he's talentless and only got as far as he did because of Howard Stern's campaign to "Vote for the Worst." Fair enough. But he is a true idol in the most classic of rock-n-roll definitions. Girls just find him so darn cute. They scream and cry when they see him. It's just all so uncontrollable and visceral for a teen girl. When adults talk about him, mostly as the butt of jokes, they'll make fun of his lack of vocal talent or his crazy hairstyles or his guilelessness. Yeah, he's a true teen idol.
Sanjaya to me represents a huge cultural shift in America. There's something different in the way Asian boys are viewed in this country: sensitive and hunky, goofy but foxy. When I was a girl, I only saw Asian guys on TV or in the movies depicted as just being nerdy and dorky like Long Duck Dong in "Sixteen Candles." Bruce Lee was cool and ripped, but I always resented Bruce because people would always ask me if I knew kung fu or karate followed by that obnoxious wail and swirl of choppy hands in front of my face. God, and what a dork the Karate Kid was. Ralph Macchio wasn't even Asian! He was like the teenage version of David Carradine. As Margaret Cho said, "Kung Fu (Bruce Lee's idea!) should have been called "Hey, that guy's not Chinese."
But my ten-year-old daughter gets to grow up with cool, popular images of Asian boys. Now we get to see cuties like Korean American actors Justin Chon (Nicklelodeon's "Just Jordan"), Charles S. Kim ("The O.C."), and Aaron Yoo ("Disturbia") play nonstereotypical roles. And look at the cult hit "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" - two Asian American actors (John Cho and Kal Penn) play the loveable slacker title characters. People are now laughing with us, not at us.
Korean pop stars and soap actors like Rain are huge because of the Korean Wave (hallyu), and I'm glad to see there's some homegrown adoration going on now in America. Are Korean guys hot? (Eliaday, I think you posed this question in a comment in the Rain post.) If preteen and teenage girls in this country have any say, "Mmm, yeah!" Check out this cafepress shop and myspace group
Behold, the glorious rise of the Asian American Hunk. My daughter's loving it, and frankly so am I.