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On Sept. 8, Olivia Rodrigo (@livbedumb) fans were finally able to revel in the release of her sophomore album, Guts, the follow-up to her Grammy-winning debut Sour. As expected, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter served up a healthy dose of clever, gut-wrenching lyricism that delves into heartbreak and the perils of being a teenage girl.
Asian American fans, however, feel particularly seen by the album’s opening track, due to what they recognize as Rodrigo’s shining light on an experience that’s commonly felt by women of color: the feeling of not being enough as you are. They’ve taken to TikTok to delve into what they believe is the subtext of Rodrigo’s lyrics on the track, “all american bitch” and how she’s chosen to convey her Filipino American pride.
Hannah C (@loudhannahbanana) shared her thoughts and why she feels as though the song is indicative of the Asian American experience, especially for adolescent girls, on Sept. 9.
“The reason why I think the song ‘all american bitch’ by Olivia Rodrigo is so powerful is how it reclaims the phrase ‘all-American’ for Asian American women,” Hannah said. “When you think ‘all-American’ you think blonde hair, blue eyed, right? … Well, she doesn’t just reclaim it, she also comments on the fact that oftentimes Asian Americans aren’t seen as American. We’re seen as foreigners or outsiders.”
Added Hannah, “In the outro she sings, ‘I’m grateful all the time.’ And that’s what we’re expected to be. So grateful to be in America … and if we aren’t grateful or good enough or contributing, people tell us to go back to our country.”
In an age when many Asian American women are fetishized or commodified on dating apps like Hinge, for instance, Rodrigo’s problematization of the treatment of Asian American women compared with their white American counterparts seems relevant as ever.
TikTok users @user66727491 also suggested that the song could also be referencing the ways in which some critics question the validity of her being Asian American. “I low-key also think it’s about how people deny her Asian heritage, that all they see is an [white] American,” they wrote in response to Hannah’s video.
“Her being Asian American has always been a debate for the last few years so I’m not surprised she made this song,” @theyan____ also commented.
In 2022, Filipino American TikToker Kim Saira (@kimssaira) even defended Rodrigo against previous arguments that she isn’t “full” Filipino, therefore she isn’t “Filipino enough” to actually claim the culture.
“I sometimes get DMs from little girls being like, ‘I’ve never seen someone who looked like me in your position,'” Rodrigo told comedian Bowen Yang for V Magazine about being seen as a role model for Asian American girls. “And I’m literally going to cry, like just thinking about it. I feel like I grew up never seeing that. Also, it was always like, ‘Pop star,’ that’s a white girl.”
Hannah isn’t the only creator who believes Rodrigo is redefining what it means to be “all-American” with this song. In fact, many Asian American TikTok users have taken to the app to corroborate this take and have pointed out additional ways they feel the song speaks to their personal experiences.
Maggie Zhou (@maggie_zhou), on Sept. 8, declared the release of Guts a “big day for Asian girls everywhere.” Zhou added that all-american bitch “encapsulates the Asian woman experience and the expectations put on a hyper-sexualized by demur community.”
On Sept. 11, Joy Lee (@joyamandalee) shared some of the racially charged comments she’s received over the years. “You have to do something to set yourself apart from the other Asian girls in the room. They never take more than two,” read one of the quotes.
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