I really liked Hollywood Chinese; it was satisfying to see all of the films we screened in class come together. It was especially fun to see the interviews with Louise Reiner and Nancy Kwan. I wonder if that is just because they are from an older generation. Louise Reiner talked about her yellow face role from the perspective of artistic expression. I think this is a rather poor justification. Nancy Kwan and other actors also mentioned their dislike of very stereotyped roles (e.g. defeminized males by B.D. Wong) and expressed some regret for them afterwards. In some cases, the excuse fell along the lines of “needing to pay the rent” and that bothered me a little. I understand that actors need to practice their craft but I think that they should also be aware of how their representations impact a larger audience — outside of their own personal situations. Joan Chen realized this and I admire her bravery in moving away from acting in lower grade films and taking a risk to make her own film and to tell a story the way she wanted it told. I suppose that times are changing and we do see more diverse representations of Asian Americans. The idea that struck me the most was how it was okay to have “bad” representations of Asians. The truth is that not all Asians are alike and so, representations should be diverse.
It was amazing to see Luise Reiner interviewed. She seemed rather eccentric (as did Christopher Lee). Was she part of the older generation that Arthur Dong expressed displeasure about?
In the end, I’m really not trying to judge them because they grew up in a different time than I’m living in so I can’t really ever know what it was like to be in their shoes.
In class, I asked a question about Nicholas Cage’s cameo as Fu Manchu in a fake trailer for Grindhouse. Well…here it is!
Even though it was not intended to be taken seriously, is it still okay for him to act in yellow face? Was it even necessary? Or was there a point the artists were trying to make?
Also, here is the article where Arthur Dong really briefly mentions it in passing (he was either mistakenly quoted or he was B.S.-ing.