Monday, February 11, 2008

Chinky Yellow Man

Although this film was dated in 1919, it sophisticatedly captured a lot of ideas surrounding ethnic identity. The emphasis on social awkwardness, frail frame, and sensitivity were tools used to feminize the Asian male image. “Chinky’s” obscure masculinity and role as the “other” was furthered by the portrayal of him smoking. The illustration of this character as an awkward smoker seemed to be an attempt to reveal the segregation of his identity. Despite the “Yellow Man’s” devotion to Lucy, it seemed like his feelings for her was not reciprocated. The film created the idea that Lucy enjoyed the attention she received, but did not feel comfortable around the “Yellow Man”, which continued to feminize the character.
The “Yellow Man” was juxtaposed to the tough and physically fit American male body, which was illustrated by Lucy’s father. Lucy’s father was irrational, controlling, and exemplified leadership skills, while the “Yellow Man” was merely a merchant in his community.
There seemed to be a fear of foreign invasion present in the film. Lucy’s father had anxieties that his daughter was interacting with a “Chink.” According to the character, that would leave room for his replacement by a foreigner who already was penetrating the economy of the community.
While watching the film, I was curious whether the stereotypes of Asians during that time was as noticeable as illustrated my the media of that period? Then I realized that some of the titles, such as “The Yellow Man” and “Chinky”, are still being used today. It is so frustrating that bigotry is timeless.

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