To Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , is “not a parenting guide.” (We knew that, right?) It’s a “cautionary tale about marriage. A wife is like a box of chocolates, fellows. Except that the chocolate bites you.”
Milloy follows that rather trite reference by dragging out the classic stereotype of the Asian woman man-trap. In his fantasy about Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, Chua represents pretty much everything someone who gets his life philosophy from Forrest Gump could imagine about those Oriental feminine wiles: Once “what at first blush appeared to be a demure, socially awkward 20-something classmate … got her tiger mom claws into Jed,” all that changed. “Poor Jed. If a guy like him ends up married to a flesh eater, then nobody’s safe.” This is presumably meant as a joke and is really an incorrect reference to the title an older Lulu (Chua’s youngest daughter) suggested for the book: The Perfect Child and the Flesh-Eating Devil , which she means as a complaint about the way her mother compares her to her “perfect” older sister in the book’s pages.
But why read the book, or admit you didn’t, when others already have, and such a convenient target appears so easily in your crosshairs? “Chua must have used everything in her arsenal of feminine charms to blind Jed to the warning signs. The flick of a ponytail, perhaps, or a fluttered eyelash; a neckline revealed, a glimpse of leg, a shake of the hip?” It sounds like once Forrest Gump ended, Milloy’s cable channel served up Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . “Beware, young men,” he concludes, “it’s a jungle out there.”
I understand that Milloy was attempting to offer a clever take on popular topic. But while lashing together a lot of tired old stereotypes about women, men, and marriage and floating them out on a bed of underlying racism may say a lot about the writer, it doesn’t say much at all about the subject. And-perhaps the worst crime of all-it isn’t funny.