Archive for April, 2009

Hollywood Chinese

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

April 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm 1 comment

YOURS TRULY, MISS CHINATOWN Screening – Wednesday, April 8, 7pm, Broad Hall 210, Pitzer College

Three Women Set Out to be Miss Chinatown, and Wound Up Finding Themselves


In person: Daisy Lin Shapiro (Director), Kristina Wong (Performance Artist), and surprise guest!

Ever since the very first Miss Chinatown was crowned in 1958, the titleholder has been a highly recognizable Asian American icon at once admired and reviled.  At the center of the storm are the women themselves, who get just a few seconds to speak on stage. What are these women really like?  Who are they beneath the glossy facade?

Set against the backdrop of glittering crowns, colorful dresses, and lively dance music in one of the oldest and biggest ethnic pageants in the United States, “Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown” features the intimate stories of some unforgettable young women who vie for the title Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, while struggling to define themselves in two cultures with different values and expectations.  The crown is a link to the past, while the women’s lives are a sign of the changing times.

A beautiful and poised teacher is the perfect candidate but a disappointment in her father’s eyes because her boyfriend is African American; a half White, half Chinese tomboy joins the pageant because she thinks it will make her more Chinese.  Meanwhile, a Miss Chinatown imposter shows up around town – she wears a sash and gown, but sports a cigar, granny glasses, and tells bad jokes.  Turns out she is really performance artist Kristina Wong, who grew up in the shadow of Miss Chinatown but found that she could never live up to this ideal image.   If she couldn’t beat them, she figured, she would still join them.

Documentary cameras follow the lives of these three subjects for several years, at a pivotal time as they are just starting to find out who they are as women.   As the drama of their lives unfold, so do frank conversations about romantic relationships, familial dynamics, body image, mental health, career, and identity.   What emerges are some of the rarely heard voices of young Asian American women at the turn of the 21st century.

For more information on the film, or to see the trailer, go to the Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown web site

Posted by Ming-Yuen S. Ma

April 1, 2009 at 10:00 pm 14 comments

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