Monday, February 4, 2008

Why is Chan missing?

One of the first things I noticed after being sufficiently introduced to the characters of the movie is how their individual beliefs on immigration and being Asian American affected their explanation of Chan's whereabouts. Henry the cook attributed Chan's disappearance to the fact that he as well as his fellow Chinese Americans are foreigners in the United States which is why Chan went back to the mainland where he would "fit in." Ironically, Henry is described to be the epitome of a foreigner who has achieved the 'American Dream' with his success as a restaurateur. Contrasting this to Steve's supposedly western view that he is a mere criminal made "Chan is missing" to me something beyond a movie about the search of a man gone missing. Another interesting detail in the film is the extent to which certain characters use the Chinese language as opposed to English (like Henry versus Steve) to portray their "Americanness", or rather their assimilation to American culture.
The most intriguing aspect of the movie to me was Jo's curious and rather objective investment in the search for Chan. Unlike the other minor characters of the movie, Jo does not fit any of the stereotypical categories that Asian Americans themselves assign to each other (like 'FOB' or 'twinkie') and is the only character that does not give us a racially (or rather culturally) charged commentary on Asian Americans. It almost convinces me that he is the "model" Asian American, which sounds absurd but seems to be the message of the movie (maybe Wang is just advocating an open mind). On the same note, it struck me how many different stereotypes exist within the Asian American community when we are usually concerned with how they are viewed by non-Asians. For this reason I feel that it's so difficult to define what it means to be "Asian American." Are you considered an Asian American if you don't speak English but live in America? Are you still considered Asian American even though you were not born in the United States? Where does being Asian end and being Asian American begin? Perhaps we find ourselves with these questions because these terms are just as artificial and superficial as the boundaries of race that we have created to compartmentalize the human population.

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