Wix is in a crowded field of websites that….help you build websites. A very meta business they’re in. But where Wix claims to innovate and differentiate itself by offering, for example, a wider range of templates to businesses, it demonstrates conformity in its advertising by following a time-worn script in American media — and that is showing a white male domineering an Asian male.
Here we have Brett Favre, former Green Bay Packers quarterback, as well as former sexting expert (sending dick-pics to a woman not his wife), slamming his sneakers on top of someone’s desk. Who’s that someone?
This guy’s name is Rex Lee, most well-known as Lloyd Lee, the diminutive, sycophantic assistant to Ari Golds “alpha” agent (played by Jeremy Piven) in Entourage. As far as the ad goes, Lee has plenty of practice representing Asian men in submissive roles.
And here’s the ad:
The ad itself doesn’t feature Favre and Lee all that much, instead showing various NFL legends in their post-NFL careers and creating websites for those businesses. However, those few seconds where Favre has his feet up on Lee’s desk indicates something significant. The two are in Lee’s office; and its a fairly massive, stunning one at that, indicating that Lee has professional status. As Favre is the visitor, presumably in this situation he would show reasonable respect. Instead, Favre shows who’s boss by putting his dirty sneakers right on Lees otherwise immaculate desk.
It doesn’t help that Favre dwarfs Lee in size.
But think about the subtle message sent. It doesn’t matter if you’re in charge or you have professional status. If you’re Asian, that means someone who’s white, whatever their relative position to you, whatever the environment, can always assert their higher status — their dominance. You can dress the part, have the corner office but a casually dressed white visitor can act whatever way they want – as though all of the factors of status are jettisoned for the only one that matters — race.
Now one may say, “Well wait Tom. Favre is made to look unsophisticated in this ad. And the Asian looks smart.” The problem for Asians is not that we’re not seen as smart enough. It’s that the Bamboo ceiling is a function of the general perception amongst whites, in part due to the culture, that Asians are weak. We are low on the totem pole when it comes to social status, to leadership.
This racial view becomes prescriptive, true or not; and gets applied to the individual whether or not he shows these traits or failings. That’s how the human mind works and that’s how the harmless fun of the visual media, through repetition, trains our mind to see whole categories of people a certain way. The group acts with this bias in mind and the Asian is not taken as a leader. Once the role is molded for Asians, it is difficult to break out of it; the group’s expectations are relatively set.
Let’s say you do the opposite of Lee and speak up when someone steps on you. First the other man would object, seeing his actions as normal behavior (telling you to “relax”). If you kept standing up for yourself, the group would begin to see you as unduly hostile (even though you are merely insisting to be respected like everyone else). The word ‘uppity’ is applied whenever we see someone (across race, gender, etc.) that is acting beyond their prescribed role.
So now the Asian is damned in any case; a target of micro-aggressions (that others feel assured is their right to dole out) and vilified as threatening and unreasonable if he tries to break out of his role as passive doormat. This is why we have to be vigilant when entertainment vehicles assign us this lowly prescribed role.
So long as others are trained to take liberties with us in social settings, these micro-behaviors bubble up to a group consensus that Asians can’t be the one in charge. Removing the Bamboo Ceiling is essential for Asians to fulfill our potential in life; to go as high as our capabilities take us as opposed to be stifled by artificial limits. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, captains of industry, pillars of their community, business managers of all kinds, influencers — all depend on this vital, ineffable quality and perception that is denied Asians in America.
We may laugh at commercials like the one above but it is very much a steel glove wrapped in velvet. Objecting to Wix, the advertising agency that conceived this 30-second spot, and people like Rex Lee may feel excessive, but it is essential. These subtle barbs are the death of a thousand cuts and they far outnumber the blatant, overt media offenses.
This memory of this commercial gets lost amidst the countless visual impressions we encounter throughout the day, the month, the year. But it does get registered somewhere. For Rex Lee, it’s another payday. For Asian-Americans, this scene, and the hundreds like it (courtesy of Hollywood), unfortunately reinforce a disturbing aspect of the racial pecking order in America.