Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chan is Missing: Response

Peter X Feng asserts with regard to Chan is Missing: "the real problem posed by the narrative is not 'Where is Chan Hung' but 'Who is Chan Hung?'" After interviewing many of Chan's friends and acquaintances, Jo finds that he knows even less about Chan than he thought he did in the first place. Everyone he talks to reads their own identity into their construction of Chan, and his real reasons for disappearing remain unknown. I agree with Feng when he argues that this works to destabilize notions of a Chinese American identity and (similarly to My America) demonstrates that that identity is fluid and that there is no such thing as a unified Chinese American (or presumably Asian American, although the film does not really deal with Asian Americans of non-Chinese descent) experience. I too believe that this is a worthy objective to undertake and can understand why so many people found the ideas expressed by this movie revolutionary. However, after watching My America and Chan is Missing and thinking about their similar perspectives on Asian American identity, I still can't help but wonder, if there is no unified Asian American experience, why use the term at all? If Asian Americans do not always share a common language or culture or background or perspectives, then what are the criteria for entry into the group? I guess what I'm asking is: we've seen what being Asian American isn't, but what is it? Are Asian Americans a group merely because they happen to be descended from people who lived on the same continent, or is there something more to it? Perhaps it has more to do with the similar ways in which they are treated by non-Asian Americans that has led many people of Asian descent to adopt this label? In that case, is being Asian American like being Chan Hung: never getting to define yourself, only being defined by others? Yet, just because Chan never gets to give his side of the story doesn't mean he doesn't have one, and just because so many people have their own conflicting narratives regarding Chan doesn't mean he doesn't have his own, consistent narrative of himself. Or does he? Maybe its just my "American" perspective getting in the way ("just the facts, m'am"), but I find myself wanting to know who Chan is, wanting to believe that there is some secret to his identity that makes his sudden disappearance make sense, but the movie leaves me without any resolution. I am confused but intrigued and fascinated by Wang's film and look forward to reading and hearing everyone elses viewpoints in class.

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