Year of the Dragon (1985): A Class Discussion

December 11, 2012 at 7:09 am Leave a comment


Based on Robert Daley’s novel, Year of the Dragon was released in 1985. The film was directed by Michael Cimino and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was not shot on location, but rather shot on sound stages in Willmington, North Carolina. Total, Year of the Dragon cost $24 million but grossed only $18 million. Stars of the film are Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane Koizumi and Raymond J. Barry. Interestingly, both the writer of Year of the Dragon and the director of the film are Caucasian.

Year of the Dragon follows Polish police detective and Vietnam veteran Stanley White as he attempts to rid New York’s Chinatown of crime. White goes toe to toe with Joey Tai, a young member of Chinatown’s elite core of crime-organizers and a major player in the importation of heroine.

Year of the Dragon met with much controversy from and protest by members of Chinese American and Asian American communities upon its release. Many viewed the film as racist because of racial profiling, inaccurate stereotypes and use of derogatory language. When released, the film began with a disclaimer as a result of the controversy: “this film does not intend to demean or to ignore the many positive features of Asian Americans and specifically Chinese American communities. Any similarity between the depiction in this film and any association, organization, individual or Chinatown that exists in real life is accidental.” Director Cimino responded to the controversy, stating: “”The film was accused of racism, but they didn’t pay attention to what people say in the film. It’s a film which deals with racism, but it’s not a racist film…  It’s the first time that we deal with the marginalization which the Chinese were subject to… the Chinese love the film.” The film presents issues of racism, gender representation, class representation, generational differences and the ideology American dream.

Discussion Questions: 

1. Do you think the film is racist?

2. What do you think of the portrayal/representations of Chinatown compared to the other films we have seen thus far?

-generational gap within Chinatown

3. What do you think of Tracy Tzu’s representation? The triangle between Stanley, Tracy, and Joey?

-Tracy’s role in the film is the body. She is the only one who is naked.

-Stanley and Joey are similar: both are immigrants, misfits in their own community, and trying to rise above their communities. N

arrative and visual parallels between them…one of them is a cop and one of them is a criminal though they are the same person…but a lot of the time there is a woman that goes in between them.

the visual construction of Tracy and Joey are very similar

androgynous, mixed race…the gender politics becomes very interesting and pretty screwed up– use Tracy to expand and talk about the larger gender politics. how are class and gender intertwined?? stanley’s wife is working class but stanley is trying to get out of his working class background/the relationship with his wife is not work.

the parallel with Tracy in how he looks and how he dresses…not at all similar to his wife. Both Joey and Stan are weirdly kind of assimilationist and have aspirations to move beyond their immigrant working class background….Tracy is the ultimate prize as the rich, upperclass woman. This is basically a yellow peril film…what is different between this film and the ones we have seen.

4. What does the film say about American government and corruption?

5. Is it a postmodern film?


By Kasey Taylor and Lauren Moon

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Film Festival Reflections Film Festival Reflection

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