Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nora Jones and Mulan

I’m always interested to find out about which celebrities are actually partly Asian that no one would expect (like Mark-Paul Gosselaar who played Zack Morris on “Save by the Bell”) and when I was Googling “Asian American musicians” for this week’s blog entry, I found out to my astonishment that Norah Jones is half-Bengali. She was born Geethali Norah Jones Shankar and is the daughter of famous Bengali musician Ravi Shankar. She is known for her debut album titled Come Away with Me in 2002 and has won five Grammy Awards, including the prestigious award for “Best New Artist.” She also released her second and third album, Feels like Home and Not Too Late in 2004 and 2007 respectively, which were both very successful as well. The video I attached was her hit “Come Away With Me,” which is considered to be one of her most well known songs.

While Nora Jones might not be known as an Asian American artist, a soundtrack that I consider to be “Asian American” would definitely be the soundtrack for the Disney film Mulan. At first, I sort of thought about this jokingly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realize that there is some truth to it. Songs like “Honor To Us All” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” describe the gender hierarchy of Asian culture and reflect upon the concept of the Asian body. Simply because of her gender, Mulan is considered to be a weak character whose purpose in life is to tend to her husband and family. When Mulan is thought to be a man, she is treated as one who can control her future, serve her country, and be respected by others for her success. However once it is revealed that she is a woman (*gasp*), she loses all credibility and is instantaneously considered to be inferior to her male peers although she physically performs equally as well. In this film, Disney hits on the notion that the Asian female body is often considered to be docile, weak, and fragile. Mulan fights these stereotypes when she goes off to war. I consider Mulan to be a important animated product of Asian American culture because it depicts Asian women in a positive, more aggressive position, unlike the place they are often given in American media.

Nora Jones ("Come Away With Me"):

Mulan ("Honor To Us All"):

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