Sunday, February 17, 2008

Constructing Masculinity in Broken Blossoms: “The Yellow Man,” Battling Burrows and Evil Eye

I as well missed posting a blog, sorry!

"Broken Blossoms" has imprinted in my mind images, representations, and construction of Asian bodies, white bodies, masculinity and femininity, and the impact of these stereotypes and images. I want to focus on masculinity in the post because of the two main characters: Cheng Huan and Battling Burrows, who offer particularly stark contrast in their caricatures and visual representation.

Masculinity is a rampant theme throughout the film. To be “masculine” (as well as “feminine”) have been racialized and narrowly defined and constructed. The"Yellow Man" (as stated in a post below by Amy Huynh) is "socially awkward, frail, and sensitive" (among many others) and thus is "feminized" and emasculated as a figure. This creates the perfect juxtaposition with a character like Battling Burrows who is everything but. Battling Burrows in many ways is a representation of the incoming wave of European immigrants in the 20’s: urban, working-class, “dirty,” and problems in the domestic sphere.
Masculinity here is two extremes and this appears to be created in large party by the anxiety of around the new social roles of white, middle-class men at during this time period. These men don't wanna be like Cheng Huan or Battling Burrows and men like them threaten their own masculinities.

I would also consider bringing Evil Eye’s character into this mix. Although “Evil Eye” is not one of the main characters in the film nor does he play an integral role in the plot, his caricture represent one of a snaky, stalker of white women. This ‘yellow man’ (although I believe he appears less of a “yellow man” then Cheng Huen’) even physically grabs the girl in the streets of Chinatown when she is buying the flower. Evil Eye is in many ways both emasculated like Cheng Huan and hyper-masculated (through his quest and lust for the girl and violent, irrational attitude) like Battling Burrows.

Thus I would say Evil Eye is the most threatening male character of all in the film.

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