“Baby Steps” is a film released in 2015, written, directed and staring Barney Cheng. He plays the lead character, Danny Lee, a Taiwanese-American living in Los Angeles with a Caucasian boyfriend, Tate. They’ve decided to have a child, through surrogacy, although Tate is a little less invested in the idea than Danny. Added to the mix is Danny’s mother, who’s convinced she’s never going to have a grandchild, while all her friends are celebrating the births of their “Sūnzi 孫子”(grandchildren).
I hadn’t heard of this movie prior to last week, when my sister sent me a link to it, thinking I’d be interested in watching it. I have to admit that my first thought when reading the description was, “why did it take so long for a movie to come out about a gay mixed-race couple going on a surrogacy journey?” You have to understand, my husband and I started our surrogacy journey back in late 2003, more than a decade earlier than the release of this film, and our daughter from surrogacy just turned 13.
It was fascinating to watch the various events around surrogacy unfold for Danny, as I had some similar experiences with surrogacy and with my own parents. There was a large difference though, I was lucky by comparison in that I was older when I reached the point in my life when I was able to, and ready to, have a child. In “Baby Steps,” when Danny’s mother finally finds out her son is planning to have a child via surrogacy, she inserts herself into the process in unexpected ways, producing funny and memorable scenes, ones that are crazy, yet believable if you have an Asian mom.
Given my experience with the surrogacy progress, some scenes did seem completely unbelievable (usually the egg donor is anonymous, so I was surprised to see them meeting various egg donors), and I was left wondering how they negotiated all the legal issues of having the birth in Taiwan. But leaving the practical issues aside, the movie had funny, serious, and sad scenes, and many brought out plenty of empathy for Danny’s (and Tate’s) situation. Perhaps even more believable was Danny’s Ma’s stance on her gay son, keeping his sexuality hidden from her friends, and eventually her determination to do everything possible to find the right surrogate to carry her grandchild.
One other side note, the movie did remind me a bit of “The Wedding Banquet“, the 1993 movie directed by Ang Lee. It was the first movie I ever saw to feature a Asian-Caucasian mixed race gay couple. While the films were created a generation apart, there’s definitely a similarity to them in style and content. Both should be on your viewing list if you’re a gay Asian American and should probably make your list even if you’re not.