Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Flower Drum Song" - An Asian American "Chop Suey"

I found this film to be the most entertaining out of all the ones we've watched for class. I think it did a good job portraying Asian Americans in the 1960s while also showing contemporary viewers that some of the struggles Asian Americans faced in the 60s are still present today.

Asians are not commonly known for their singing and dancing abilities so the broadway musical set-up of this film definitely served to make Asians also American. While showing Asians as American, the film also showed the struggles that Asians face. The struggle to actually learn Chinese, the expectation to achieve a high level of education, the emphasis on finding the perfect husband/wife with all the right qualifications, the idea that the father must approve of any relationship beforehand, and the evilness of anything Americanized are all themes that I'm sure many Asian Americans have definitely come across in dealing with "the other generation."

Although this film may have been groundbreaking for its time, there were still some stereotypes portrayed in the movie that bothered me. The fact that being Chinese entails not showing others what's on one's mind (when Wang Ta and Linda Low are talking in her car), that Chinese are so skeptical of Western culture that they won't even put their money in the bank, Wang Chi-Yang's entire "orientalized" house are just a few. Being made in 1961, during the Civil Rights movement, I guess some parts had to be sacrificed in order to make more progress in other parts of the movie.

I think what makes this film most Asian American is how it shows all the different and controversial aspects of being Asian American. Asian American experiences all depend on generation, past environment, present environment, age, gender, etc. There is not just one role that Asian Americans are known for so its hard to make an overarching generalization about Asians. There are so many generalizations of Asians which ultimately works to defeat another generalization that "all Asians are the same." This film did a good job showing all the different dimensions of being Asian. There are "FOB" Asians, and there are assimilated Asians. However, within assimilated Asians, there are those who are completely assimilated, and there are those who are assimilated but only to a certain extent. FOB Asians could be the perfect match for the more Americanized Asian, while the more Americanized Asian can still be attracted to the completely assimilated and "plastic" Asian. In the end this film displays so many aspects of being Asians American that it makes it difficult, for me at least, to even make a generalization about this film. I hate generalizations. I think writing this blog has made me even more confused.

No comments: