Variable West on Asian Futures, Without Asians

“Asian Futures, With Asians: Astria Suparak and Everything Everywhere All at Once”

May Maylisa Cat
May 17, 2022


“In Asian Futures, Suparak combs through the depictions and history of Asian architecture, food, weaponry, and more, in notable sci-fi staples such as Firefly (2002), Ex Machina (2014), Ghost in the Shell (2017), and Star Wars (1977–present). In a genre that has humans colonizing space, fighting interplanetary warfare, and enslaving aliens—sometimes realizing aliens are also sentient as a redemption arc—this casual Orientalism is not lost on me. What I hadn’t realized was how deeply ingrained it was, and is. Suparak describes first-time audiences seeing Asian Futures, Without Asians like being “red-pilled,” and suddenly I cannot unsee the copious amounts of red lanterns, Buddha statues, and bad wardrobe. […]

The cinema has long been a tool of white supremacy’s meaning-making machine. It has told the masses who to alienate and dehumanize, who to award, and why. What Suparak has mapped—through the miscategorizing, misclassifying, the white fantasy of the Other—is the algorithm flourishing. The fantasy of Asianness in science fiction is designating marginalization and racism. […]

I know what it feels like to be reduced to a prop, given the rise of many empty diversity initiatives these days. Though the normative mainstream renders Othered bodies invisible, as [Legacy] Russell pointed out, Suparak’s presentation confronted me with something more sinister: Asian genocide. […]

When the cinema indulges in othering and dehumanization as norm, as Suparak has revealed, it fuels the algorithm of white supremacy. Is it any wonder that a group of people can go extinct when they were deemed so expendable in the first place? […]

What I like about Asian Futures, Without Asians is that it didn’t miss: it was meticulously curated and combed over—every name, pronunciation, artifact, fabric, statue, pattern, and possible speculation. White filmmakers, you designated all this racist stuff out there in the universe—about us, about our sisters and brothers—and Suparak isn’t here to tiptoe around it for your comfort. […]

It was as if Everything Everywhere took all the things that make sci-fi films insufferable and racist for Asian people, and banished them to another universe. Asian Futures, Without Asians showed us a map of where they were embedded, awaiting their destruction. In their own way, both are defiant, which made it cathartic, brilliant.”


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