Saturday, February 9, 2008

Appreciating Broken Blossoms

Watching movies as old as Broken Blossoms is really hard because you have to try to put yourself in the mindset of someone that came from that time. I tried to imagine how racist or unaware people 90 years ago must have been to foreigners and was surprised by how the East and its way of life in the movie was given such a favorable portrayal. In Screening Asian Americans, Feng mentions how Julia Lessage identifies both a favorable message that “Asian Buddhist peacefulness is superior to Anglo-Saxon ignorance, brutality, and strife” and the way that Griffith “hides the social reality of racism”(Feng 5). I also found it surprising that there didn’t seem to be racism in the movie except when the father of the young girl calls him a Chink. The favorable portrayal of the Chinese and the lack of racism in the movie made me wonder how people really felt about Asians during that time period. Although it bothered me that a white man was playing the part of a Chinese man and how he kept squinting his eyes and walking around with a crouch to act the part of an Asian man, I was not that disturbed because the movie came at a time where people were unaware of stereotypes.

After reading about how marriage between races was a crime in 1919 and how this may have been the first movie about an interracial love story, I realized how controversial this movie must’ve been. In Feng’s book, he talks about the popularity of Dr. Fu Manchu and other Asian serials during the first four decades of the twentieth century and how they were “thematically anchored in Hollywood’s creation of Asian racism, the goal of which was “the destruction of the white race”(Feng 58). Understanding that Hollywood’s influence on making whites feel victimized by the Chinese at the time made me respect the efforts of Griffith in making Broken Blossoms and it’s effect on leading people toward racial tolerance.

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