Sunday, February 10, 2008

Broken Blossoms

Although this film may have been popular and successful for its time, I find this film mildly disturbing and difficult to watch now in recent times. It seems that Asian racial slurs were widely acceptable at the time of production, but now have unfortunately contributed to present negative Asian stereotypes. Insults like "yellow man," and "chink," portrayals of Asians as having squinted eyes, and a passive and timid manner, and even the fact that an actual Asian man was not casted for the part of the "Yellow Man," are all very bothersome to me and many of these same suppressive characteristics are still incorporated into modern popular culture.

It seems ironic, yet slightly confusing, how Griffith purposely portrays Cheng Huan as a gentle, peaceful man while he lived in China, but after immigrating to the Western world, suddenly becomes villainous and threatening. The "Golden Rule" is an idea played with not just in this film, but throughout human history. "What thou dost not want others to do to thee, do thou not to others." It seems obvious that if white society is going to ostracize and threaten a group for their identity, why shouldn't they expect the same kind of treatment in return? Even Eugene Wong wrote, "Considering the nature of Japanese-American relations...it was not surprising that Japan should determine to offset the United States...The insult and trauma to the Japanese nation were so overpowering that 'the train of events that culminated at Pearl Harbor may be said to have been set in motion in 1924" (after the passage of the Immigration Act). The struggle American society has had more recently in wanting specific ethnic groups, like Asian-Americans, to assimilate while these groups push to stay separate and independent did not just happen out of nowhere. It really seems that until racial slurs and stereotypes are eliminated, and minorities are made to feel comfortable and accepted will this struggle come closer to a conclusion.

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