Sunday, February 24, 2008

Response to Flower Drum Song

The female characters in Flower Drum Song fit the two categories of Asian women that Renee Tajima talks about: Mei Li as the "Lotus Blossom baby" and Linda as the "Dragon Lady." In this sense, the film does perpetuate the stereotypical portrayal of Asian women, but at the same time it pushes those images outside the boundary of the typical objectification of women by providing females characters with their own voice. Helen's "Love, Look Away," Mei-Li's "I Am Going to Like It Here," and Linda's "I Enjoy Being a Girl" all narrate the story of Asian American females from the perspective of the female characters. The film could have narrated the story from a strictly male point of view, thereby possessing females within their language, keeping them silent and powerless like an object. Although male characters like Dr. Li and Master Wang do treat women like objects from time to time, the movie itself leaves some room for the female characters to speak. I am very surprised by how Dr. Li, although he is supposed to have just arrived from China, does not attempt to dominate every decision and action of his daughter, perhaps as a result of assimilation during his brief time in the United States. I notice that Mei Li's seemingly endless smiling face (which is unnatural and doll-like) finally relaxes its cheek muscles towards the end of the movie as she begins to believe that Wang Ta does not love her, breaking away from the "Lotus Blossom Baby" image. When she does confirms that Wang Ta loves her, however, Mei Li does not hesitate to kiss him, something that also disentangles her from the typical image of the modest Asian woman.

Another point I should mention from the movie is the process of assimilation represented by the Wang family. At one point Wang Ta says, "My father is Chinese, my brother is American, and I am both." Both his brother and Wang Ta are second generation immigrants, yet somehow one is Chinese American and the other is only American. Does this mean that Wang Ta is in the transition bridge between his father and his brother? If Wang Ta should be rebelling against the Asian ways of his father, why isn't he just like his brother? What prevents him from losing that Asian side of him, his age?

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