Did "Hipster Grifter" Play On Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish?

“She’s just a really good liar. She goes after people who are very trusting, and exploits that. She really had me going-my first instinct is not to Google someone when I meet them.”

We’ve all known variations on the personality type: the pathological liar so desperate for attention that she writes herself love letters at camp, alludes to much older, never-seen boyfriends in Junior High, and is always the star of some manufactured crisis. In this way, the story of Kari Ferrell isn’t so different from any (sociopathic?) “grifter”; it’s unclear whether the using is cold-blooded or so deeply ingrained as to have become an alternate reality, and either way, the user ends up walking away with a trail of broken hearts, debts and confusion wherever she goes.

Kari Ferrell – whom the New York Observer terms “the hipster grifter” is interesting largely because she seems to have used the tropes of the hipster counterculture to achieve her ends – becoming every alternative emo boy’s dream girl. She claimed to have jobs with music companies, to love their bands, and even scored herself the cred of a job at Vice. No wonder she left a chain of bewildered young artists behind her!

In some ways, Farrell puts one in mind of “Clark Rockefeller,” the crazy person/scam artist who built a life by being what people wanted him to be – in his case, a blue-blooded society guy. Farrell’s hipster-girl seems just as designed to blend in, to create a sense of comfort, even in this age of the automatic Google. Take one ex’s words,

She acts very warm and super-interested in what people have to say…and she has lots of offers for things. She’s really into music and knows a lot about music. She’ll say, ‘I work at GoldenVoice, I can get you into that show. Anything you want to go to, I can get you on the list.’

Take this description:

It’s likely that when Kari Ferrell walked into the Vice magazine offices in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last month to interview for an administrative assistant job, they thought they’d hit the jackpot. Ms. Ferrell-petite, 22 years old, of Korean heritage-had a huge tattoo of a dragon across her chest and a cute pixie haircut. She was talkative, funny, charming, adorable. She had a tattoo on her back that read “I Love Beards.” She told them she’d been working for the New York office of the concert promotion company GoldenVoice, which puts on huge rock festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs, Calif., and that she’d moved to New York from Utah just a few months earlier. They hired her on the spot.

The article doesn’t get into it explicitly, but the fact that she’s Korean-American is intriguing; as anyone who’s been to a Williamsburg art opening knows, for a lot of these dudes, having an Asian girlfriend is some kind of weird fetish (to the point where one Chinese American friend of mine remarked once, “I can’t go near those hipster neighborhoods. These guys just want to date an Asian, doesn’t matter who, and it’s racist and weird and really uncomfortable.” Another friend adds, “It’s obviously rooted in some racist stereotype of the ‘exotic’ or ‘submissive’ – I don’t even want to know what.”) Vice has never made any bones about its love of hot Asian women – see any “Dos” – so Farrell chose her targets well. One has to note that after writing a note to a stranger at a bar reading, “I want to give you a hand job with my mouth,”she signed it “Korean Abdul-Jabbar.”

Wrote Jaemin Kim in a HuffPo article in February,

Asian-American women suffer a stunning exception to hard-fought notions about racial equality applied to other minority groups. It is a societal norm to reduce an Asian woman to a sexualized stereotype, a one-faceted “thing” that is exclusively an object of desire…Reducing Asian women into a sexual object is not funny, it is not flattering. It is perilous. We can see this when Asian women are subject to race-targeted sexual violence. The racist nature of the crimes go unrecognized and unpunished, as if there is nothing wrong with choosing a rape victim because she is Asian.

Farrell is by no means emblematic of Asians, Asian women, women, Straight-Edge ex scenesters, adopted children, administrative assistants, or even other con artists: she’s clearly a deeply disturbed person who, however immoral, was seeking love and attention. She wreaked havoc on a lot of lives and left a lot of people feeling not just hurt, but humiliated. She seemed so harmless! They all seem to suggest. And why would they think that? To quote Kim, “unlike any other racial group in America today, Asian women routinely are dehumanized in popular culture as sexualized, meek and voiceless objects.” Surely Farrell knew this too?

The Hipster Grifter [New York Observer]

Related: Asian Girls And The Guys Who Fetishize Them [Hyphen]
Asian Women: Rape And Hate Crimes [Huffington Post]
Tokyo Undressed [Vice]

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