Sunday, February 10, 2008

Week 3 Response to Broken Blossoms

My interpretation of “Broken Flowers” was similar to that of Shiyin’s. The “Yellow Man” stands in as a figure of foreign and otherness, who ultimately fails to survive Western society. While his intentions of bringing peaceful Buddhism are good, in the end he resorts to the violent ways of harsh, modern Western society. Here the ways of the East and West are portrayed as incompatible, which, for me personally, insinuates that there is no Asian American identity: you are either White or Asian. The “Yellow Man” never assimilates into society nor does society learn anything about him or his culture. While I am sure one can account for the majority of the racist stereotypes utilized within the film as products of their time, I wonder what the initial reception of the film was like. Did Asian Americans see the film? If so, what were their reactions? Were there outcries from within the Asian American community? Or as a marginalized group, were Asian Americans glad that they were even represented (albeit inaccurately) on the big screen?

I am really excited that Geolani mentioned the film “Freaks”. It is a really great film, and she is right in drawing numerous parallels in how the “freaks” and Asians are portrayed as foreign and different. But because both films have such violent endings I feel that they are not really portraying these marginalized groups in a positive light. Both films seem to say: yes, these outsiders are essentially good people, but they are also capable of very bad things. On a side note, I find it interesting that the group of ‘freaks’ banded together and formed a very tight-knit community despite their various disabilities. Something that has been brought up in the other films we have seen in class is the lack of (or I guess you could say the slow accumulation of) a strong singular Asian American community. Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t remember ‘Yellow Man’ spending time with the other Asian Americans; he spent most of his time sulking around town in the corners or sitting in his shop smoking a pipe. There were some Asians that were grouped together in opium dens, but other than that there wasn’t a singular Asian community. What does “Broken Blossoms” communicate about Asian Americans as a community? As a marginalized group of people, how much progress have we made in achieving accurate, non-racist representations since this film?

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