Friday, April 25, 2008

How comfortable are you watching JJ Chinois?

I haven’t had very much exposure to “underground” productions, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the content or presentation of Terminal USA or JJ Chinois.

It’s actually very funny that I was so surprised, because I thought I knew exactly what JJ Chinois would be about after Prof. Lee’s references to its transsexual themes. I’ve attended a couple of fashion shows/beauty pageants featuring transgendered individuals in San Francisco, and a disproportionate number of the contestants were Asian, so I thought “JJ Chinois” might be a look into this potentially “underground” culture.

I suppose I was wrong to think that there is just one narrative that includes being Asian and being transsexual, but I am really interested in the links nonetheless. As I watched JJ Chinois, I wondered about the male Asian body and sexuality. How does the average viewer feel about the homosexual Asian male, considering that the Asian male is generally emasculated in media portrayals? Is there a different charge associated with the Asian homosexual male vs. that surrounding the white homosexual male?

And how does this relate to the large percentage of trangendered individuals who were Asian in the shows? Is it just because I was in San Francisco, home to a fairly large number of Asians/Asian Americans, that the proportion was so great? Or is there something about Asian culture that lends to making the surgical switch with less difficulty?

So I left more questions than answers here. About Terminal USA—I found an interview with the filmmaker, who was funded by PBS to make this segment as part of an “American Families” series. I’m not sure how it made it into the mainstream (any portion of the movie, really) or if the satire was clear enough to be educational. I look forward to hearing other peoples’ thoughts on this as well.

Here's the interview with Jon Moritsugu:

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