Sunday, February 3, 2008

Finding a third way in a binary

Having never seen this movie before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. After numerous references to the movie in Renee Tajima-Pena’s documentary, I knew the movie was supposed to be impactful, a cult classic. To my surprise, it wasn’t anything like I expected. Although the title should have given it away, I never would have guessed that it was a mystery/detective story.

Note: I wanted to see what my thoughts about the movie were before reading the section of “Screening Asian Americans.”

Before “SAA:” for me “Chan is Missing” seemed to share a lot of the same characteristics of RTP’s “My America,” even though it was restricted to the context of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The movie is an attempt to showcase modern Chinese Americans, using the characters to breakdown stereotypes and expand the images of Chinese Americans. The day to day life of Jo and Steve (great names!) were used in the film to display fashions, mannerisms, and daily lives, challenging the delineated identify of Chinese Americans. Jo’s meditations were also an effective way to add another dimension to the film expanding upon identity, the immigrant experience, and “Chinatown Politics.” Lastly I was intrigued by Wayne Wang’s choice of using a detective film, which is a popular early American film genre to do all of this. This balancing act of Asia and America throughout the film furthered nuanced the Asian-American identity.

After “SAA:” Peter X Feng added some interesting thoughts on the complexities of an Asian-American label and the ways that “Chan is Missing” advocates for it as an expression. I particularly liked his line:

“We will agree to refer to it as a label, but in doing so we must constantly foreground the inadequacy of the label...The question then becomes how exactly to mobilize such a label” (191)

Because without creating a “third term” out of this binary, no revolution takes place.

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