Why I’ve left Subtle Asian Traits

Subtle Asian Traits started out as a wonderful little convergence of trend-setting cultural discourse. Created by a handful of students from a Melbourne high school back in 2018, it filtered rapidly into Asian circles and, soon thereafter, the broader consciousness of the Internet.

It was incredible, finding so many millions of people with whom I shared common cultural experiences as an immigrant with one foot in my mother country and the other in my adopted country. It was more incredible still, appreciating the differences in how much or how little we’ve chosen to retain of our mother culture, or to embrace from our adopted culture. Some of us are seeking help with translations between languages, clarification on various customs relating to clothing, eating, how to cook certain dishes… It was, in a bizarre, theoretical way that only the Internet could execute, multiculturalism in full flight.  

It even gave struggling actors like Simu Liu a platform to become a $400 million Marvel superhero movie star.

But then something weird happened. It was a shift. It wasn’t subtle.

Suddenly it wasn’t about sharing experiences and learning from each other. Now, it’s all about validating our feelings about generational trauma from our immigrant parents. Standing up. Being seen. Demanding equality. Justice. Standing side by side with the Black Lives Matter movement. Saying “Me Too”. If you’re not out there taking a stand, then you’re complicit in perpetuating evil.

The numerous offshoots of Subtle Asian Traits fared no better. Subtle Asian Leftovers (a group for desperately single Asians over the age of 25) became a hive of incels and catwomen who encourage, validate, and reinforce every pathetic and tragically misguided theory as to why they’re still single, thus keeping themselves trapped in singledom.

Over at Subtle Cantonese Traits and Subtle Hong Kong Traits, never ever make the mistake of saying you are Chinese, or that the people of Hong Kong are Chinese. The Chinese are Communists and therefore not to be trusted (as though invading countries and sabotaging their political systems to get to their oil is somehow more noble). I kid you not, they actually prefer the idea of returning Hong Kong to imperialist British occupation over being reunited with the mother country.

The photo in today’s post was originally a black and white image of a wonderful little Hong Kong café in the trendy Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn called Tea Master. I’ve blended it with a second version of the photo that is hyper-saturated and super contrasty, which is kind of the way I see the United States of America: bubbly, cloying, and happy… If you look deeply enough into such images, you begin to like them. It’s insidious*.

Blended together, however, it only slightly resembles the original. It’s altogether jarring. And it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. 



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