In the documentary “Seeking Asian Female,” filmmaker Debbie Lum follows a 60-year-old white parking attendant named Steven as he eventually persuades Sandy — a 30-year-old office worker from China — to come to the U.S. to be his wife.
Filmmaker Lum, a fourth-generation Chinese-American, found Steven on the online matchmaking site Asian Friend Finder, where he had been searching for and corresponding with potential Chinese brides for years.
The film — which aired Monday evening as a part of the PBS “Independent Lens” series — looks at Caucasian men’s infatuation with Asian women and explores the stereotypes that paint Asian women as sexual and submissive creatures. It also investigates the complexities of Steven and Sandy’s relationship as they navigate married life, dealing with a language barrier in addition to typical relationship issues such as jealousy.
According to a 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article, arrangements like Steven and Sandy’s are becoming more and more popular. The Tahirih Justice Center — a nonprofit organization that protects immigrant women — estimates that the number of “mail-order” marriages in the U.S. more than doubled between 1999 and 2007. In 2010, the international matchmaking industry claimed more than $2 billion in revenue.