Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Broken Blossoms

Broken Blossoms came out in 1919, before Asian Americans acted, or were encouraged, to act in film, and so it was Caucasian actors who played Asian roles in a very highly stereotyped way: the hunching over, the meekness, the eyes, etc, etc. However in Broken Blossoms, I thought it was interesting where the few real Asian actors were placed in the movie: as the the monastery leader in China, as the messenger in London, and in other more minor roles. The types of roles that these Chinese actors are placed in represents a lot about how the director and other Americans at the time wanted to see Chinese people: as supporting players, on the side, and largely out of sight. Though the beginning of the movie shows some respect to the monastery, Buddhism, and the monk played by a Chinese actor, through the failure of the main character, Chinese people and their values are seen to be inapplicable or unsuccessful in the Western world; only within the main character's private and separated domain can he express his own culture. However, cast as the messenger and in other contributory roles in Western society, Chinese are tolerated, so long as they are second to Caucasians.

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