Year of the Dragon Introduction – Brendan Lung & Alex Zhao
The 1985 film Year of the Dragon is set in New York’s Chinatown and follows the story of Stanley White, a Polish-American police captain and Vietnam War veteran, and his efforts to fight the triad there. The film has been criticized for portraying Chinese/Asian Americans in a xenophobic and stereotypical light.
Specifically, Chinese/Asian Americans are portrayed as subordinate to the white community in the film. We are shown how Stanley, the main character’s white identity is established and affirmed through his exploitation and dominance of Joey and Tracy, the two Chinese/Asian Americans.
The release of Year of the Dragon was met with strong criticism at the time. Members of the Asian-American, especially, the Chinese-American communities, remonstrated against the racial stereotypes and racism in the film, concerning the harmful association and thus the ecnomic downturn in the community, brought by the film’s biased representation of the Chinatown. As the result of the protest, a disclaimer was attached to the film’s opening credits:
The 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.
1. How are Asian Americans, in specific, Chinese Americans portrayed in this film?
2. How is the relationship between the Chinese community and the American community portrayed in this film?
3. How does the portrayal of Asian American in this film compare to other Yellow Peril films?
4. Do the stereotypes portrayed in this film fit with the general image of Asian Americans at the time? What are the political, historical reasons behind?
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