Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flower Drum Song: Assimilation of the Asian American

I truly enjoyed "Flower Drum Song", the story of two couples fighting for their voice in marriage. It brings up many important issues raised in an Asian American community: one being assimilation.

In the film, we meet 3 members of the Wang family, each with their own degree of assimilation into the American culture. First, we meet Wang Chi-Yang, the head of the family who is firm in his traditional Chinese ideals. He is adamant about his son marrying a girl from mainland China, with Confucian values and honorable Chinese morals. To sharply contrast Chi-Yang, we meet his youngest son, Wang San who is completely immersed in the hip young, American culture. He is quick to use slang of the early 1960s and dresses in "American" clothes. And to mediate the two, audiences meet Wang Ta, one of the leading characters in the film. As the eldest son, he is conflicted between the two cultures: his traditional Chinese values and the new American way.

Through this representation, we can see the correlation between cultural divides and the generation gap. Chi-Yang is old and stubborn, refusing to adhere to the American lifestyle. When approached by his sister-in-law to put his savings into the bank, he becomes outraged. We also meet Sammy Fong and his mother: a young hip club owner thriving in the American lifestyle and his traditional mother who has arranged for his marriage. It is easy to see the correlation between age and assimilation. However, we also meet the character Auntie Liang, Chi-Yang's sister-in-law, who is born of the same generation as Chi-Yang and Moadame Fong, but more readily assimilates to the American way of living.

In the end, the young bordering both cultures, Wang Ta, does not have to choose either one, but rather incorporates both into his life. He does indeed choose to marry the woman his father has selected for him, but by plan of his father, he has independently fallen in love with her.

The film is a great example of the complexity of Asian Americans. Yes, we do have stereotypical Asian characters such as the shy, demure girl in Mei Li, and the Asian seductress Linda Low. But we also see characters of diversity in Wang Ta, and as the movie progresses, Wang Chi-Yang who slowly gives into the American way.

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