Friday, July 22, 2016

Literary Images: On Mapplethorpe, Star Trek and Being Seen

I had the pleasure of going to the Mapplethorpe shows at LACMA and the Getty.  They were amazing.  He shot iconic images and he was one of many artists we'd lost to AIDS.  His photographs tell a story of a time and place in latter part of the twentieth century.  They speak of what was attractive and interesting and edgy during the 1970s and 1980s.

Robert Mapplethorpe
Mapplethorpe's eye was truly one of a kind.  From his photographs, one can see how moving and controversial his photographs were.  He spoke of gay sex and sexuality.  He spoke of S&M--in this world of Fifty Shades of Grey, people would hardly blink now.

He loved working with models of color.

One of his favorite models was Asian female body builder Lydia Cheng.

He photographed many celebrities.

Grace Jones
Yet through these images, I kept looking for the photographs of Asian men.  As an Asian man who counts the 1980s as formative years, I thought it was interesting that we weren't there.  This is NOT a slam of Mappplethorpe.  However, I do think it was common to treat Asian men, particularly gay Asian men, like we didn't exist. The world, it seems, is merely black or white.

I also saw Star Trek Beyond.  I wanted to support the movie on the first weekend, the most important weekend for a movie.  I usually don't go to the first weekend--too crowded--but I wanted to support this.  Why?  Because it was announced that Sulu, played by John Cho, would be gay.  A gay Asian man in the future!

I was more than thrilled to know that he had an Asian husband and a child.  He had a family!

Actor/Writer Doug Jung
It was important to me that his husband was Asian.  What does it say about a gay Asian man when he couldn't even entertain the idea of loving someone who looked like himself?

I spend years at the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team trying to convince my peers that safe sex was self love.  I enjoyed seeing the new Star Trek.  Even though the gay Asian story line was implied, it was nice to be part of the narrative.  It was nice to be seen.