Film: Hamamoto’s “Masters of the Pillow”


In an attempt to break stereotypes about Asian-American sexuality, Darrell Hamamoto, a professor at UC Davis, created a pornographic film. It was recently screened for the Asia-Pacific Law Students Association as part of a monthly series of discussions aimed at encouraging frank discussion of Asian American identity issues, entitled RACE (Raising Awareness for Cultural Equality). So far, it?has explored stereotypes of Asians as “perpetual foreigners” and “model minorities”.

Hamamoto wants to revolutionize mainstream perceptions of Asian Americans, particularly males. The documentary attempts intellectual rigor by including comments from Asian-American actors, playwrights, and academics, but for many who attended the screening, his attempt at a revolution fell short.  For one, the porno his project produced was just bad. More importantly, though, the actors’ Asian-American identity does not come through. “Japan already produces Asian pornography,” one viewer complained. Another suggested, “it would have been more revolutionary if he had paired an Asian male with a non-Asian female.”

Others said the film did little to change Asian-male stereotypes, and may have even reinforced them.  The male lead was described by some viewers as “meek and unassertive”.  Moreover, the plot of the porno involved the male lead seducing the female lead by teaching her how to play a video game.  Criticisms were raised around the irony of attempting to use pornography to break stereotypes of Asian females, given pornography’s propagation of oversexualized female stereotypes. Yet, while falling short of Hamamoto’s intentions, the film succeeds in provocatively drawing attention to insidious, widely accepted stereotypes. 

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