Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Two-Faced Schizophrenic Chinaman"

(Personal Reaction to Film prior to Readings)

Jo’s words aimed directly at Steve and his self-confidence with his identity. The phrase piqued my attention and I immediately realized the connection between the words and the inner identity conflict and insecurities facing Asian Americans. The blunt deliverance of Jo’s argumentative words signified the rawness and sensitivity of the issue. For some, the questioning of self and place is a constant thought pining in the recesses of their minds. However, other Asian Americans do not feel a permanent sense of “internal schizophrenia” or find a need to reflect upon self-identity, a viewpoint embodied in this movie through the character of Steve. The argument between Jo and Steve unearthed more than just the debate over an Asian American identity, which we have come to learn through Renee Tajima Pena’s film that such notions of “Asian America” and “Asian American” are based primarily on individual experiences and the ability to relate to the struggles facing Asian Americans as a collective, amongst other variables. Issues of pride and loyalty to friends and family, characteristics labeled as “Asian”, are juxtaposed to the more “American” traits of personal independence and transparency. Despite the fact that both sets of values are fluid and existent in all societies, the contrasting setup attempts to provide viewers with a sample of the topics debated within Asian Americans and the greater community.

The ongoing conversation over identity complements the idea of a continuing construction of the label “Asian American” and the subsequent difficulties, clearly expressed through the varied descriptions of Chan Hung throughout the movie. Asian Americans, regardless of generation, are inevitably drawn into surrounding and oftentimes larger conflicts and differences, whether political (e.g. the PRC vs. Taiwan), educational (e.g. the scene with the Asian legal representative for Chan and Jo and Steve, Taxi drivers) or socioeconomic, etc. Chan was perceived as integral to the major events and issues within the community as well as individuals Jo interviewed at the time, and his disappearance symbolized the oftentimes heavy and complicated burden Asian Americans face in their everyday lives. The “two-face schizophrenia” exists with every Asian American, regardless of whether each individual accepts or shuns the idea. However, perhaps the negative connotation behind “schizophrenia” is misguided, as the dual-faceted or multi-faceted label should not be viewed as a disease or disorder. Asian Americans may find George’s optimistic approach towards the “two-face schizophrenia” most comforting: “To take the good things from our [Asian] background and trying to take the goods things from this country [America] to enhance our lives.” Difficulties in coming to terms with the mixing and fusing within Asian Americans will arise, but for now let’s try all try to eat some of that apple pie. Each pie may have a different taste, but isn’t that what makes life, and food, most interesting?

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