Monday, April 28, 2008

Weird is right: JJ Chinois and Terminal USA

So, I also agree with everyone that both JJ Chinois and Terminal USA are weird and difficult to discuss simply because there was just so much going on and nothing seemed very coherent…. I mentioned JJ Chinois in class last time because I seriously thought that that film was a real music video and didn’t know how to fit it into the Asian-American music category. After watching the video for a second time, reading his/her wikipedia profile more closely, going onto his/her website, and reading the article Bruce Lee I Love You, I’m just starting to have an inkling of understanding about what the heck is going on. Only after reading Nguyen’s article did I see that JJ Chinois (rather ambiguously) sexualizes the Asian masculine body, which historically had been “soft” (think Broken Blossoms) or “hard” (Bruce Lee) but sexually impotent and chaste in either case. This, in turn, reconstructs the Asian male body as a more subversive but comprehensive/complete masculine body. I guess what is “subversive” about the sexualized Asian male body is that, according to Nguyen, the “Bad Asians” reclaimed parts of pop culture (again, the soft or hard but still irregular Asian body) by forging a “perverse identification and relationship with pop culture that uncover … and play with the racialized fantasies, fears, and representations that make culture popular.” Umm, I *think* that means that Chan and others who work underground to recreate Asian-America do so by working within the confines of popular culture because pop culture is shaped largely by mainstream American audience’s subconscious fears and fantasies, and so pop culture offers many opportunities with which artists can twist and pervert it and thereby change Asian-American representation.

If this were the case, then I guess it sort of makes sense why the director of Terminal USA chose to use the family sitcom genre to explore issues of stereotypes and sexuality, etc. Working within pop culture domains allowed him to present seemingly familiar yet horribly different and perverse characters who seem even more dangerous or crazy or kooky because the white American audience’s subconscious fear of the Asian-American – of “the other” – being exactly like that. Maybe the super studious Asian nerd at your school actually is a closeted homosexual and has violent sexual fantasies about leather-clad men – how would you know? Maybe the “problem kid” in that nice Asian-American family down the street is actually dating an alien – how would you know? The film may be disturbing for more than just its bad acting and terrible special effects because, as JennAhn said in her blog, like American Beauty it forces the audience to rethink how it has previously perceived Asian Americans by using cues and settings that people are already very familiar with from pop culture.


No comments: