Monday, February 25, 2008

Flower Drum Song

Although this movie version of the Broadway musical features an all-Asian American cast, I would not credit it as being progressive or depicting its characters in a realistic or even innocuous manner. Throughout the film, characters are branded with inelastic roles by their physical characteristics (thanks to the casting director) and by the accent or speech patterns they were directed to use (ex. "Why are you stare at me?". Even the paucity and simplicity of the words used for Mei Li's musical solos indelibly marks her as a foreigner.

The contrast between Lisa and Mei Li is interesting because I they both represent the opposite of what one might expect at first glance. In the end, it seems that Mei Li is the one that marries for romantic love, while Lisa seems more devoted to the idea of marriage, being a good wife, and fulfilling her womanly duties. ("It's important to be successful in her gender.")

Finally, I was unsettled by the fact that Helen, the most "assimilated" or "American" of the young female roles and the only female character without an accent, was never again seen or mentioned after Wang Ta left her apartment. Especially given her lengthy dance number in which her romantic fantasies and fears are symbolically represented, it was sorely apparent that her story never found resolution.

I do realize that there is a necessity to suspend reality when watching theatrical works such as opera or musicals, but I was consistently uneasy about the ideological work being done by the film's presentation of the characters and their eventual fates.

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