Hollywood Chinese
May 4, 2008 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films (official site w/Flash) Filmmaker Arthur Dong covers the good (YT), the bad and the players (link to Flash video clips) in his latest award-winning documentary. Related MeFi post.
posted by LinusMines (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
That "The Curse of Quon Gwon" is astounding. Thanks for the post.
Bert Kwouk has been the UK's most prominent Chinese actor for as long as I can recall, and is no stranger to Hollywood either.
posted by Abiezer at 11:50 AM on May 4, 2008

Looks like an interesting movie.

I'm amazed at the amount of racism that is still present in our media. Has anyone else noticed that whenever an Asian appears on TV, there is a gong sound played in the background? I just saw this in a shampoo commercial (of all things) earlier this morning.
posted by wigglin at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

"The Curse of Quon Gwon" is an amazing find, thanks for posting this.
posted by pravit at 12:10 PM on May 4, 2008

How the hell do they omit Long Duck Dong the list of most infamous yellow face performances? Every time his character entered a scene they played a gong!
posted by autodidact at 3:17 PM on May 4, 2008

Well that explains why there's a kid with a gong following me around.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:27 PM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've touched on this several times over the years: Hollywooden-headed and Movie Mix.

Hollywood doesn't have a clue.
posted by bwg at 3:52 PM on May 4, 2008

I was lucky enough to pick this film to see at the recent film festival here in Madison. What a classy documentary -- very cool to see it up here on MF. If you have the chance, DON'T hesitate to see it.
posted by evhan at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2008

I'm amazed at the amount of racism that is still present in our media. Has anyone else noticed that whenever an Asian appears on TV, there is a gong sound played in the background? I just saw this in a shampoo commercial (of all things) earlier this morning.

It's not just that. It's odd how Asians get an almost unique treatment in the media in terms of racial stereotypes. If there's an Asian male, he's almost always either a martial arts master or a lovable nerd. If she's a female, she's almost always either a prostitute/sex object, or a "Dragon Lady". This doesn't seem to bother anyone, whereas if almost every black male character was a ghetto thug or a sports star, people would be outraged. Or if every Jew were a greedy banker, or every Hispanic a janitor or something. It's just strange how this one set of stereotypes is allowed to go on with almost no comment from the film industry at large while almost any other stereotyping of that scope would be hammered down.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:12 PM on May 4, 2008

This is definitely a problem (and I always get mad about this sort of thing), but to be fair, I've begun to see token Asians appearing in commercials for consumer electronics(e.g. Best Buy and that sort of thing) and financial services. Without gongs, thankfully.
posted by pravit at 5:25 PM on May 4, 2008

This seems like an appropriate time to admit to this: in 1987, my family got asked to do a commercial for a chain called "Wag's," to promote their new line of stir-fry entrees. And well... we got the gong treatment for that one. At least four, by my count, in a 30 second spot.

Looking back on it today, I'm not sure what was worse - the fact that we helped perpetuate Asian stereotypes... or our hair.
posted by avoision at 5:57 PM on May 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

It actually does bother many of us, but Asians aren't a big enough marketing demographic yet that the entertainment industry will really care whether we're offended. Plus there's the whole "model minority" stereotype - even if we're offended, we're supposedly too polite to mention it.
posted by casarkos at 6:00 PM on May 4, 2008

Those darn inscrutable Asians!!!

Flower Drum Song, The World of Suzie Wong, Who Killed Vincent Chin and The Good Woman of Bangkok are all films that I would make required viewing in public schools if I could. Well, I guess everyone sees Harold and Kumar, and that'll have to suffice.

I wrote a dumb paper on no-Chinese-People-in-Firefly ans why that I've talked about here kind of a lot. Not gonna link it AGAIN.

It's nice that this is being talked about so much more than in the recent past.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:35 PM on May 4, 2008

Well, there are starting to be some films, such as Undoing (although it isn't very good), where the characters are Asian but their Asian-ness has very little to do with the movie.

What are mefite's opinions on the Harold and Kumar characters, as portrayed in those movies?

Here in HongVancouver lots of local English-language advertisements feature people of Asian descent.
posted by porpoise at 8:13 PM on May 4, 2008

Strangely, the AsianWeek article seems to focus on the quality of performance more than the fact that these actors are playing yellowface...so it's how well you mock the culture that counts? The quality of racism? I don't get it.

As for Asians not benig a big enough marketing demographic in the entertainment industry, I'd say they are most certainly a core demographic, worldwide, as consumers of enertainment and targets of advertising.

I for one am amazed at American movies coming out and behaving as if routines a-la Rob Schneider in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry are actually funny. I guess Asian culture still holds some mystery for Americans? It's still foreign enough to be exotic, but familiar enough not to be scary a-la Arab culture?
posted by cosmonik at 9:05 PM on May 4, 2008

I just saw the movie on Friday...Long Duk Dong is included in it. It's an outrage that Anna May Wong wasn't cast for the lead in The Good Earth.
posted by brujita at 10:05 PM on May 4, 2008

I thought of Harold in Harold and Kumar as well - nerdy, yeah (how much more stereotyped can you get than 'investment banker'?) but 'stoner' is definitely not a commonplace stereotype for an Asian actor to be playing.
posted by WalterMitty at 11:09 PM on May 4, 2008

I was pretty happy about Harold and Kumar, actually - Harold was 1) a lead actor 2) good-looking 3) didn't have an accent and 4) got the girl, which is pretty amazing as far as Asian male actor roles go. And a lot of people actually saw that movie.
posted by pravit at 11:12 PM on May 4, 2008

I went to a neat grad talk about Harold and Kumar, but I still think that there's sort of an inappropriate inside joke going on, since Harold is consistently resistant to irresponsibility and is the uptight one throughout the film, letting loose only in his dream sequence. Koreanness in the film is portrayed as insular and an indomitable source of pressure for him to adhere to the model minority behavior script, which maybe is an authentic thing to portray, for people experiencing the cultural contrasts of being, say, second generation Korean American to relate to. But considering that the main purpose of the film is to set stereotypes up for falls, to comedic effect, I think it's sort of a failure that it doesn't do that totally for Harold and his cultural milleu, and I think it reinforces certain cultural stereotypes about Korean people we have.

But that's a nitpicking criticism of a very smooth, comfortable and progressive film.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:39 PM on May 4, 2008

Thank you, come again!
posted by tadellin at 8:04 AM on May 5, 2008

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