Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chan Is Missing - Response

After I viewed this film, my initial reaction was one of annoyance that Jo and Steve never found out what actually happened to Chan Hung, after having gone all around Chinatown asking various people about his location. However, this is probably the reaction that director Wayne Wang wanted to evoke in the viewer, as it leaves the viewer (as well as Jo and Steve) wondering about the true identity of Chan Hung. I feel that Wang wanted to emphasize the point that there is no answer when it comes to the question of Chinese American identity. This can be seen in the various narratives of each person Jo and Steven visit in their attempt to find out more information about Chan Hung. The parts of the film that struck me the most were these discourses that each character had with Jo in regards to Chinese American identity. Although Jo meets with each character to obtain information about Chan Hung, they almost always end up talking about this self-identity. Jo’s conversation with Henry, the cook, was one of the most honest in regards to how Chinese Americans fit into the community. Upon hearing Jo’s belief that the Chinese Americans must fight to gain recognition, Henry responds, “If they don’t recognize us, they don’t want to recognize us. And they will not recognize us.” I thought this was an interesting point, especially in conjunction with Peter X Feng’s view in Screening Asian Americans that the film’s “destabilization of Chinese American identity not only allows for, but actually contributes to, the construction of Asian American subjectivity” (186). Henry’s dissatisfaction with Chinese American recognition in the United States thus shows that something new must be done to obtain a sense of belonging in the American community. This then allows Wang to introduce the concept of an Asian American identity in hopes that this will be recognized. However, this brought up a question – will a Chinese American identity ever be recognized in the wake of the push for an Asian American identity?

I actually found Chan Is Missing and My America or Honk, If You Love Buddha to be very similar in structure. Although Chan Is Missing is a fictional story, it still entails traveling around (on a much smaller scale than Honk) and speaking with different people, which leads to a destabilization of the definition of self-identity. If the point of Chan Is Missing is that the notion of Chinese American identity must be questioned in order to allow for the idea of an Asian American identity to take its place, then what is My America or Honk, If You Love Buddha trying to do? I feel like there is, to a certain extent, a sense of destabilization in Tajima-Pena’s film, for she was trying to show that there is no single Asian American identity. How do these two films compare?

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