Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chan Is Missing & The American Male

The character that really made an impression on me from “Chan is Missing” was Steve, the fast-talking, bell bottom-wearing, swear extraordinaire. Feng suggests that breaking down and decentralizing Chan’s FOB-ness threaten Steve’s sense of identity and masculinity, both of which are embedded deeply in his personal quest to negate any of his own resemblance to FOBs. However, I personally feel that Steve’s increasingly adamant aggressive and masculine behavior and language are only partly explained by his desire to distance himself from a relationship to the undesirable FOBs in the eyes of America and his own eyes. In distancing himself from one thing, he is trying hard, very hard, to associate himself more with something else: American culture. He, in fact, at times seems to affect the behavior and talk of a African-American male (one of the other characters even asks him if he thinks he’s Richard Pryor), trying to save his faltering identity whose bedrock was the renunciation of the FOB ways by taking on the stereotypical American male. Yet, in using the negative Steve only manages to highlight the positive, as Jo would likely say. Steve’s attempts to claim that he’s nothing like the new immigrants who are reluctant or cannot assimilate shows not only his own insecurity with his hyphenated identity but also his own “otherness” as someone living in America. As Henry stated earlier in the film, both the Chinese FOBs and the ABCs are foreigners, regardless of how long they had been living in the US. It also seems that Steve, as long as he lives in Chinatown and corresponds with people such as his uncle Jo who live there, will never be able to escape the problems of the mainland. The Commie/Taiwan debate traveled across the seas in the jumbo jets with the people, and as long as there are unassimilated FOBs in Chinatown and America, sharing the same living space as all the other possible types of Chinese-Americans, the “identity shit” can never be a thing of the past.

1 comment:

chuynh said...

I completely agree with your argument. If I may take your idea a little further, I think that masculinity should be viewed not as a set of traits but rather as a socially constructed gauge that determines who gets how much power. That is to say, there is a hierarchy of power with the hegemony getting the most power and that the rest is delegated to other minorities. Male minorities assert masculinity in order to gain power over either other male minorities, women or homosexuals. Steve by asserting masculinity is trying to obtain some amount of power. So, in other words, I completely agree.