This video of Osric Chau and his brother Owen has circulated on Tumblr before, but I felt the need to repost it in light of the posts coming out of ChiCon ‘13.
Look, y’all, I appreciate that Osric has a certain baby-faced charm to his looks, and that he, like most normal-sized people, appears diminutive next to Jensen and Jared, and that he’s very high-energy and extroverted and appears to have an excellent, irreverent sense of humor. I get all that.
That does not make him a baby, or a pet, or a child, or a monkey, or an accessory, or any of the other weirdly infantilized adjectives that I’m seeing people, mostly young white women, let’s be honest, call a grown-ass 27-year-old professional-grade athlete.
But wait, Andrea, what is all this crankiness? Why are you policing people’s squee? Aren’t people allowed to find him cute? Of course it is totally okay. I personally find Osric to be a very attractive man. He’s on the CW, a network that historically hates ugly. You know those height minimum signs on carnival roller-coasters? It’s like that with the CW and hotness. You must be this hot to ride that ride.
So, yes, cute may be a word I use to describe Osric Chau – cute as in a cute guy who is sexy and would turn my head if he walked by me at a bar and have you seen those arms because damn – not as in cute OMG he reminds me of my 3-year-old cousin lemme pinch those cheeks. The former is okay; the latter is frankly racist.
Because Osric is one of the very few Asian men on television right now. I mean, that’s a fact – there are very few recurring Asian male TV characters right now. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful and he’s one of them. And, precariously, he’s playing a role much younger than his real age, in a position of social subordination to two older white men. That is treading dangerous narrative waters already; there is no need to make it worse by continually comparing him to a baby or a pet.
Look, the reality is that Western media is consistently and collectively terrified of Asian male sexuality, to the point where emasculated, child-like, adorably unthreatening Asian male characters are a fucking racist trope. There are a lot of reasons for this and there is a lot of intersection of homophobia, racism and sexism behind those reasons. The aggressive media de-sexualization and infantilization of Asian males has a long and sordid and well-documented history.
Let me tell you a really sad story I’m mad about 6 years later still. Back in 2007, I wrote a blurb for an online magazine I was writing for at the time, about how the casting call for an Asian-American actor to play Harvey Milk’s staffer Michael Wong in the film Milk included very de-sexualized Asian nerd language like “fiercely intelligent and asexual.” This came from the casting director’s office and was approved by Gus Van Sant himself, and obviously I thought that was very iffy. The piece led to the real Michael Wong emailing me to say that he, too, had strongly objected to the casting call’s description; that he didn’t think himself particularly nerdy and he certainly was in no way, shape or form “asexual” and had been really taken aback by news of the casting call for the film, for which he was not consulted or contacted at all. This is how our current media narratives treat Asian men: unthreatening, child-like and sexless, too naive to have a voice in their own stories.
And you know what, this is especially jarring because I TRULY don’t think any of those adjectives apply to Osric Chau. Please see video above. Like I really think you need to stretch mentally to try to call him any of those things. Rewatch it if you feel the need to squee about what a cute little precious adorable infant pet panda he is. The man is pushing 30 and could kick pretty much anyone’s ass. You stop that right now.
That he plays a somewhat naive character (very convincingly, yes) and seems to have a silly unselfconscious sense of humor does not mean he is a child or a pet or whatever other weird thing the SPN fandom has decided to label him as at the moment. By contrast, Misha Collins, a white man who is a mere decade older than Osric, is also smaller than Jared and Jensen and also plays a naive character and also has a ridiculous sense of humor, yet I don’t see the fandom persistently and ubiquitously labeling him as a child, accessory or an animal.
I told Clari-Clyde that this was bothering me last night but I wasn’t even going to post this because, bless y’all’s hearts, the Supernatural fandom is intense and I hesitate in engaging its wankier factions as this post might. However, this morning I woke up to see 3 more posts on my dash comparing Osric to a baby/child/pet and I just feel like someone, somewhere, needs to be saying this.
So, yes, Osric Chau is indeed baby-faced and playful, but he is an adult, he’s very hot, he’s quite sexy and he could indeed be threatening if he wanted to. If you feel the need to describe him otherwise, maybe think about it and read some of those links up there before hitting “Publish.” And then maybe don’t.
Thank you for expressing something that was bothering me (especially pet references). I had trouble putting it into words but you did it perfectly.
I can’t even begin to speak to how much it must hurt to have it all compounded with the very real and serious racial issues Andrea raises, but I can say from personal experience AS a grown-ass 30 year old man who has been through eight kinds of hell and still looks like a teenager…IT SUCKS. Ok? I smile and laugh and give rote quips about good genes, but seriously, is there one teen on this website who thinks “yeah, this I want the world to relate to me for the rest of my life!”?