Hollywood Chinese

April 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm 1 comment

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.

–Michelle Fong

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YOURS TRULY, MISS CHINATOWN Screening – Wednesday, April 8, 7pm, Broad Hall 210, Pitzer College Guest Speaker Arthur Dong and “Hollywood Chinese”

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Liana Engie  |  April 6, 2009 at 5:58 am

    I’ve never seen that video of Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu – it looks particularly ridiculous 😛 I don’t know much about Grindhouse, except that it was basically incredibly over the top. I believe that Nicholas Cage was in a segment entitled “Werewolf Women of the SS”, which was a fake trailer between the two “films” played during Grindhouse. I’m not sure how Fu Manchu was supposed to fit into this, but I think that it was supposed to be obvious that he didn’t, and poke fun at the Fu Manchu stereotype, which is also why they had it in Yellowface. I don’t think it would have worked the same if it was an Asian actor playing Fu Manchu. So, no, it wasn’t necessary, but I think that’s why they did it? And the Yellowface part, to me, was necessary. I’m not really sure about the point that artists were trying to make.

    I also particularly enjoyed the showing of Hollywood Chinese. It was really well done, and it was a great way to tie in a lot of things we had seen and discussed in class. It also brought up the issue, which I have briefly discussed with Michelle, about whether we define “Asian American films” as films with Asian Americans in them, Asian American issues, were made by Asian Americans, or a particular combination of them. For example, Wayne Wang’s Maid in Manhattan or Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility or Brokeback Mountain were made by Asian Americans (well, Ang Lee isn’t technically Asian American) but I’m not sure how I feel about saying that they’re Asian American films. Some filmmakers inherently put in some Asian American issues in their films, as that is part of who they are and thus how they make films, but you could probably find some Asian American issues in many films, not necessarily made by Asian Americans or with the issues intentionally added.


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