The Intersection between Media and the Dark Side of Interpersonal Relationships: Asian Fetish

Curator's Note

The “dark side” is a metaphor used to describe areas of interpersonal and relational communication that are: (1) underexplored or “lying in the shadows;” (2) destructive or dysfunctional; and/or (3) poorly understood or often misinterpreted. The “dark side” perspective acknowledges that while relationships are often a source of joy and satisfaction, they can also elicit feelings of uncertainty, frustration, and pain. This week, we will explore the connections between media and the dark side of communication.

In the clip I have selected, Mark purchases a car for his fiancé, Nikki, who has recently arrived in the United States from the Philippines. Mark tells Nikki she will drive them home, though a short distance, and instructs her until they arrive at the destination; however, Nikki is concerned about driving them both. Upon parking in front of the garage, he begins to talk about how sitting in this car takes him back in time 25 years ago; Mark follows up by stating he had purchased his ex-wife the same car and talks about what transpired in his previous marriage, completely ignoring Nikki’s uncomfortable look as he reminisces his past.

The video shows Asian fetishism effectively when understanding whom Mark was previously married to—another woman from the Philippines. The beginning of the clip is enough to shock the audience since Mark is 58 years old while Nikki is 19, demonstrating an apparent age gap that can be concerning. However, the final 30 seconds showcase an Asian fetish. In his interview, Mark expresses his desire to keep Nikki happy and have her stay with him; after stepping out of the car, he begins to talk about his previous marriage and how he had gifted his ex-wife the same car model. Though this might appear as a weird coincidence, a little context is required. In another individual interview, Mark says he was previously married to a Filipino woman from the same town as Nikki, and they had kids—one of them is present in the show and is older than her soon-to-be stepmother. Mark shows he has sought women from the Philippines, and I argue that gifting the two women the same car, in Mark’s mind, would work since he views Nikki as akin to his previous wife. Therefore, he transposes feelings and ideas from one person to the other solely for their race, which remains harmful despite his “love” for Nikki (or Filipino/Asian women).



90 Day Fiancé. (2015, November 3). Nikki’s Surprise [Video]. YouTube.


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