After watching this movie, I was really interested in the audience for which this movie was intended. What did they think after watching this movie? What were their expectations for this movie while filing into a movie theater to watch Broken Blossoms? I definitely wasn’t expecting to watch a movie this old, and I found it very interesting and eye-opening in terms of the way Asian Americans were truly depicted in the media. For example, in the opening scene where “Yellow Man” is still in China, there are shots of a bustling city with many Chinese (who are actually Asian) going about their daily life. Then, the movie progresses to a scene in a temple, where “Yellow Man” is played by a white man. After reading about how white men always played leading roles regardless of the ethnicity in Feng’s Screening Asian Americans, I found it slightly amusing to see this manifest itself in this scene, with the actor shuffling along the street with his eyes half closed in his efforts to appear more “Chinese” on screen.
I also found it interesting that there are moments where it seems like Yellow Man is going to kiss Lucy, for he starts approaching her and then pauses, inches from her face, before pulling away. These periods seem like they were put in the movie just for the purpose of creating suspense, which shows that a Chinese man kissing a white girl was a cause for drama at the time. These racial barriers are enforced as Yellow Man does not do anything to the girl, since this sort of relationship was probably deemed too improper to explicitly show on screen.
I noticed that there is a huge difference in the mannerisms and demeanor of the Chinese characters versus the white characters in this film. “Yellow Man” is portrayed as being naïvely idealistic, which I found almost emasculated him as he pleaded with white sailors in the beginning of the movie to stop fighting, only to get knocked down as the sailors continued to beat each other up. On the other hand, Battling Burrows is introduced with scenes from a boxing match as he knocks down a man and then parades around, showing off his muscles. Yellow Man’s love for Lucy is portrayed as almost childish, as he proudly presents silk robes, dolls, and other Chinese items to her and then lovingly waits next to her bed. The fact that he gives her dolls makes it apparent that he is aware she is very young, thus making his love almost like “puppy love.” The comparison in the masculinity between Yellow Man and Battling Burrows is incredibly different, and while Yellow Man is portrayed as kind, the film does have a role in creating the sense that Chinese Americans are inherently weaker than white Americans. How cognizant were producers and directors at the time of creating such stereotypical characters?