You’re white. Do you want to be in my friend’s soap opera?


What does a Mandarin-speaking American woman in Beijing do? If you're Rachel DeWoskin, you serendipitously wind up the star of a daytime Mandarin-language soap opera called Foreign Babes in Beijing, a show that takes all the Western stereotypes (from the Chinese point of view) and milks them for all their melodramatic worth. (They probably watched too much Dallas.)

Comments (12)
  1. Adrian says:

    A similar thing happened to my uncle while touring China.  He happened upon a director who cast him in a beer commercial (which was a good fit if you’re playing to stereotypes).  The same directory then case him into a minor role in a miniseries as an American rocket scientist (which doesn’t fit at all).  The miniseries was fantastically popular, leading the director to joke that my uncle had probably become the most-recognized American in China, even more than then-President Clinton.

  2. Dan McCarty says:

    I grew up during part of my childhood in the Philippines.  (My parents were missionaries.)  It wasn’t uncommon for talent scouts to approach us children on the streets and try to cast us as the token foreigner in some Filipino movie.  My blond brother, who spoke very good Tagalog, was especially sought after and actually starred opposite a Tagalog actor in a nationally released movie.

    Imports work both ways, I guess.  :-)

  3. slight imprecision says:

    Rather than saying "a Mandarin-speaking American woman," you should say "a Mandarin-speaking White American woman" just like your precise headline.  Otherwise, it looks as if you were assuming that American = White.  Of course, I know it was just imprecise wording, not intentional…

  4. Vince P says:

    Rather than saying "a Mandarin-speaking American woman," you should say "a Mandarin-speaking White American woman" just like your precise headline.  Otherwise, it looks as if you were assuming that American = White.  Of course, I know it was just imprecise wording, not intentional…

    hahaha.. are you kidding? People like you never cease to amaze me.  The post’s topic clearly denotes the all-important skin color of the American described, so you already know that fact by the time you encounter any further reference to this person.  Do you expect him to include her race as an adjective at every utterence of her being?

  5. George Jansen says:

    You might enjoy a look at John Derbyshire’s writeup of his experience in a Bruce Lee movie: http://www.olimu.com/WebJournalism/Texts/Commentary/ThugUncredited.htm

  6. PC says:

    It’s European-American.  Unless you’re not American.  Saying someone is "white" is like saying someone is "yellow", "brown", "black", or (whatever else there may be).

  7. Tom M says:

    How can an American who speaks Mandarin possibly be a stereotype?????

  8. Nick Lamb says:

    If you say "American who speaks Mandarin" to me in the context of stereotypes, the one that comes to mind is the 1980s film bad guy – he was born in New York (or LA) to immigrant parents, he’s fought his way up to become a crime boss and he bribes all the local cops, but the hero has to take him down because he’s dealing drugs or has a really ugly tie. He looks Chinese and speaks Mandarin to his foot soldiers because it makes him an outsider so that viewers don’t cheer for him instead of the idiot hero.

    In the context of Chinese stereotypes, I’m guessing the stereotypical American who speaks Mandarin is a white business person working for a US corporation in China, or the offspring of such a person. It’s easier to write this sort of sitcom material because even things too wildly implausible for a normal soap can be dismissed as "those crazy foreigners".

    Judging only from Raymond’s comment she probably has to power-dress, drop exagerated US slang into conversations and try to sleep her way to the top.

  9. Dewi Morgan says:

    "It’s European-American." – I’m against this terminology, on the basis that it makes it sound like Europe is responsible for things like the Bushes, Barfield, Gaskins, Bundy and Fish.

    Sure, we’ll hold our hands up and accept Mengele, Torquemada, Hitler, Mussolini, Mme Bathory, Caligula, Tiberius, Thatcher and Blair… yes, we’ll accept the blame for every one of these, but we have to draw the line somewhere. We weren’t responsible for Genghis Khan, and we won’t take your Bush! (And neither your Clintons, in case you think me partisan.)

  10. required says:

    "Foreign Babes in Beijing" sounds more like a porno title than anything else. Is there something Ms. DeWoskin isn’t telling us?

  11. Vince P says:

    Dewi:  If you’re seriously putting Bush up against "Mengele, Torquemada, Hitler, Mussolini, …, Caligula, Tiberius", then I must say , I agree. you can’t have our Bush.  He’s much too good for you.

  12. faeroe says:

    Virtually the same thing happened to me in Egypt.  I am a white American who speaks Arabic.  I was hooked in on the street because of my skin color and blonde hair, but cast later because of my ability to speak the language.  I must say though, actually making movies and television shows is about as much fun as watching paint dry.

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