Description written and submitted by Chao-Ying Rao about her performance.
Narratives and Counter-Narratives, Chao-Ying Rao
Commissioned by Cabbage Arts as a part of the Cabbage Resilience Programme, and supported by Creative Scotland, with sound support from Hannan Jones
Premiered 2022 in duo show ‘Skin Flicks’ with MV Brown
French Street Studios // Strangefield Glasgow
‘Sucky sucky five dolla!’ the boy shouted at me. I was about eleven years old, and he was the same. Maybe younger. It’s a phase I’ve heard a few times since I moved to the UK four years before, but didn’t really understand what it meant. The words stuck to me, and I knew implicitly from the mockingly exaggerated Asian accent coming out of the white boy’s mouth that 1. It was racial, and 2. It was sexual.
I didn’t get to witness the source of this particular phrase until a few years later when I finally watched Full Metal Jacket. It’s been referred to as a cult classic, one of the most outstanding war movies of our time. Stanley Kubrick’s genius on full display. Full Metal Jacket. Sucky sucky five dolla. Me love you long time. Me so horny. What shocked me about watching the film for the first time wasn’t the grim depictions of war from the perspective of the white soldiers, or even so much the inhumane protrayals of the Vietnamese people. What struck me was how minor a role Papillon Soo played and how little screen time she took up. Less than three minutes, to be exact. Three minutes of screen time that translated into lifetimes of racial mockery for Asian women living in the West. Three minutes of screentime regenerated via pop culture over and over again. Me love your long time. Me so horny.
It was a phrase I’d hear over and and over again. Even to this day. At thirty-two, it still sometimes catches me by surprise but it never fails to leave me feeling the same way as I did that day at eleven. Confused, belittled, and with a rage gnawing at the pit of my stomach. It makes me want to enact violence towards the perpetrator in ways not unlike that portrayed in Full Metal Jacket. And so I do what I always do in these situations, because I’m not the best at processing my emotions. I analyse and research and I dig. I tell myself if I can understand it, if I can just get to the bottom of it, this immediate reaction can be explained away. Maybe if I theorised enough I can remove its visceral twist and fucked-up power. Maybe if I watched it enough I can numb myself from what it means. Maybe if I revisited the evidence and collaged it together, I can tell a different story. And so here is my attempt at just that. I hope you enjoy.