Saturday, March 1, 2008

What are we going to do about the other generation?

I would say that Flower Drum Song was very much a success of a musical; catchy song and dance numbers, colorful sets, and memorable characters. On its own it stands out as a well produced musical. Most of all it is very reflective of the time period especially with the main theme of women trying to get married. Even with various complex female characters that one could not really fit in one box, they all shared a similar ideal of marriage being important to a successful life.
Another predominant theme was the generation gaps within immigrant communities. This was made very obvious just in the way each character spoke, with Master Wang using traditional Chinese phrases and being oblivious to the American slang that his youngest son repeatedly used, almost in spite of his father rejecting his Chinese culture. And then Wang Ta, who was almost in the middle, although he did reject a lot of his Chinese culture, he still was not the polar opposite because he was aware and knowledgeable of the culture, but just actively chose not to participate. Another scene where this generation difference was very different, was in the Chinatown square where Mei Li was performing, the police officer scoffed at the idea of leaning Chinese, and the Chinese American crowd agreeably laughed at his statement. This showed the huge difference between assimilated Chinese Americans and first generation immigrants such as Master Wang. All the characters in the musical were assimilated to different degrees, which I think accurately portrayed a Chinese American community at this time.
Another interesting correlation was between assimilation and sexuality. For instance Wang Ta in the beginning is very drawn to character of Linda Lo who is very sexualized and is always making out with him, but based on her song about her love for being a girl, her materialistic qualities make her seem very American and assimilated. And on the opposite side, Mei Li is a recent immigrant, and she is portrayed and sexually inexperienced, just having a crush on Wang Ta in the beginning, and it is not until the end of the movie when she has watched enough TV to become more assimilated, does she actively flirt with Wang Ta, and pushes her sexuality on to him, asking him to kiss her, and kiss her 'hard.

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