Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Sweet and Endearing Masculine Asian Man

Michael Saechao

In the book Straitjacket Sexualities by Celine Parreñas Shimizu we had read many of the chapters in the book, not sure how many. I am sure we just read all of the book already. In chapter 1 one of the things I keep remember about what Bruce Lee stated “When I wake up in the morning, I have to remember which side of the ocean I’m on and wether I’m the superstar or the exotic Oriental support player” (39). This really caught my eye, because he makes a very good visual representation on how the people of the United States see Asian Americans. That we are not good enough to be the lead role, but we are that mysterious support character, the  sidekick. One of the things about Bruce Lee is that in the movies he is in, he doesn’t have to try and elude himself to make himself look more masculine. In this Chapter Shimizu focuses on the fact that Lee doesn’t simply overtly seem sexually, but he combines sex and great ethics into one, showing the new image for Asian Americans.

In Chapter 5, we spoke about the sexuality of Asian men in a way that is transforming the weak, nerdy, thin Asian male into a different area. The new transformation of the Asian man is one whom is most sincere and showing Asians are able to get the girl despite their appearance. The American film industries conceptualize the Asian male as being weak and feeble, where they wouldn’t be able to get a girls attention or girl in general, but these barriers are starting to come down, with emerging Asian Americans.

This weeks readings were not too bad. I found them interesting about the films in which we watch everyday and how it is starting to change from a one sided opinion about Asian Americans, but there are new beginnings in which Asian American males are being portrayed. Overall this weeks reading was well intriguing.

What Makes a Man a Man

Julie Huynh, 46376331

Shimizu’s first chapter one is all about the alternative masculinity and sexuality that Bruce Lee brings to the table, not only for Asian American men but for males roles in general. The alternative that Bruce epitomizes is basically demonstrated through the “emotional vulnerability” apparent in his fight scenes, and the lack of carnal sex scenes. In place of love scenes that primarily utilize flesh as a signifier of sexuality, Bruce Lee appears to be able to demonstrate attractiveness and manhood through other means, such as his character and courtship.

Thus, Bruce Lee’s appeal translates onto Hollywood film in a way that shows manhood or masculinity is not all about the phallus but more so the way one expresses his love and desire. In the case of Bruce Lee, he shows this through his strength as a fighter, his philosophy, and actions. In class, one figure that is similar in the way that he is utilized as a lead male actor in Hollywood is Jackie Chan.

Though Jackie Chan has managed to make a name for himself as an Asian actor in Hollywood films, the type of romanticized character he is in American films is quite different than his Hong Kong films. In the American films, he is not characterized as someone overtly sexual but rather the conservative fellow. In Rush Hour 3, Chris Tucker notably comments his pal as a “boy becoming a man” when he sees Jackie Chan looking as if he is about to go have his time with a hooker. This kind of statement says a myriad of things; that in not being sexually promiscuous, Jackie Chan is prepubescent; that without having intercourse or establishing phallic conquests or territory a man is not yet a man; or that Jackie Chan is predisposed to this type of characterization because he is Asian.

It’s difficult at the moment to determine whether this typecasting results more positively or negatively for Jackie Chan, or Asian American male roles. It might make the role of an Asian playboy less plausible in this industry where Asian American males are shifted to roles that cast them with stereotypical “Asian characteristics” such as being submissive, quiet, soft-spoken, and conservative. Then again, on the other hand, with Jackie Chan being in this type of role, he embraces a respectability for his type of character; he ends up with the main girl because he’s not as slutty as his opposite.

Sexuality in Bruce Lee

79935303 Daisuke Tohyama

Sexuality in Bruce Lee

            In chapter 1, we see a different sexuality or masculinity from being physically aggressive against women such as kissing, flirtation, or hugging through Bruce Lee’s films.

In the Big Boss, Cheng, whom Bruce plays, defenses his extended family from violence and saves Chow Mei from a bad man. After he saves her, they realize their sexual desire for each other. However, he leaves there without anything to her. From this scene, we notice that he has a sexually desire for her.  In another scene, when Chow cries, Cheng tries to touch her and withdraw his hand. Then he said to her that don’t  cry without touching her. From this scene, we also notice that although he has a desire, he sacrifices his emotion to comfort her. These two scenes imply he tries to get intimacy by being kind. Shimizu mentions that “Bruce has sexuality as larger and more expansive than the criteria privileged by hegemonic masculinity” (Shimizu 34). As we see in Bruce Lee’s film, here is the authenticity of sexuality and masculinity. What makes males? What is sexually desirable? In the film, the son of the factory’s boss tries to having sex with Chow. This aggressiveness is the appropriate sexuality in Western way.

Not only Bruce Lee’s films also does Joe express the different sexuality or masculinity in the Crimson Kimono. While Charlie, his colleague, kisses Chris and grabs hands to have intimacy with her, Joe tries to have intimacy by their conversation. He focuses on a relationship with her through their conversation rather than physical aggressiveness.

Shimizu also states that “Films can shut down our ideas about others. I consider the production of Asian American manhood in terms of a sexuality that limits identification.” (Shimizu 203) This statement means many actors are still suffering from the Western sexuality. This suffer reminds me of racial expectation, too. As Lucy Liu in Charie’s Angels, Asian American women are expected to play exotic, hyper sexual, or dragon lady because she looks Asian. Sexuality is totally related to racial expectation.

Although many films treat Asian American male as less desirable or sexual, these sexuality can release them from straightjacket sexuality. Since I did not expected that there are different sexuality in Hollywood films, I was surprised that Bruce Lee and other actors express that sexuality. In Japanese film or drama, there are a few sex scenes because that scenes are considered as taboo for kids in Japan. Instead, as Bruce does, many actors secretly imply sexuality. Even though many Japanese actors kiss girls, they focus on relationship such as what they do with her.

Work Cited 34, 203

Image Inconsistencies

By Kaitlin Wright

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(Characters from 1967-77 Green Hornet TV Series featuring an Asian American sidekick)

 

Ask anyone, and they can rattle off a list of common “personas” found over and over again in movies. We know of the Prince Charming, the superhero, the bad guy, the evil stepmother, the princess, the damsel in distress, the sidekick, the henchmen, the comic relief etc. Each of these characters also seems to have a specific “image” or “look” that goes a long with them– Our superheroes are tall and muscular and our princesses are petite and delicate. These image stipulations are qualities that are agreed upon and accepted. When they are combated, sometimes they are ill-received for lack of alignment with the ideal image defined by society. 

Celine Parrenas Shimizu in Straitjacket Sexualities writes, “we cannot idealize something without at the same time identifying with it” (202). This presents a problem for people of color who are often not cast in the “ideal” roles. Specifically thinking about the Asian American male and the roles he plays, we see that the characters’ qualities are used to highlight the primary, white lead. If the story is about a burly male figure, an Asian American role might be the foil that reveals “just how masculine the lead is” by accentuating the contrast between the Asian and the white physical/personality attributes. There is an artist named Deborah Lao who presented a series that featured five Asian American figures, that she said “represented the ideals behind the people, more than the people themselves” (Blum). With her art, Lao hopes to make the point that just because the Asian American male is often portrayed as the bumbling, nerdy guy who never gets the girl, doesn’t mean that all Asian American me fall into this one category. The images display Asian men from American culture that counter Asian anti-masculine stereotypes. 

Image

 

(Deborah Lao’s “Manhood” series)

The stereotypical images that the media presents are mere caricatures of people who lack something. This incomplete “other” is almost defined as a half-human. This incorrect representation leads to conflicts. For instance, a Native American child might want to grow up and be like John Wayne instead of the “bad” Indians represented in the movies, and Asian children would rather be like the powerful, Green Hornet hero as opposed to his sidekick. There is a defined mold in cinema and media in general that castrates the races from identifying completely with the primary characters. For people of color, this misidentification could breed a sense of inferiority, or shame in one’s heritage.

Shame is a topic that Shimizu brings up in Straitjacket Sexualites. She discusses the way that some Asian American male characters are shamed by the goofy roles they are asked to play. The Asian character, Long Duk Dong from the movie Sixteen Candles for example “deploys laughter in the face of his abjection” (118). This idea of shame is also discussed in terms of Asian American male sexuality. The homosexual Asian image is another point of contention for viewers, and it, like the “dorky Asian” image, shows how a fiction character can sometimes transfer to a real people. People begin to attribute certain qualities to the race as a whole, instead of accepting that the actor is being asked to portray a specific character. 

 

Article on Deborah Lao’s “Manhood” Series: www.tigerstartups.com/blogs/433/deborah-laos-manhood-series-portraying-asian-american-masculinity

 

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Challenging Representations of Asian Americans in Film

Dana Roy

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“What if we reclaim the hypersexuality of Asian women on screen as both enslaving and empowering?” –Shimizu

In Shimizu’s The Hypersexuality of Race, I became interested in the ways that Asian women are represented in the media.  Shimizu asserts that sexual critique cannot be examined without also examining the Asian American woman. As I watched more movies and became aware of this idea, I started to notice the ways in which this statement is true even still. Asian women are often still characterized with a dangerous sexuality and alluring seduction. The image of Asian women as femme fatale is perpetuated by the roles that actresses such as Lucy Liu have made famous. In reading Shimizu’s theory on understanding the role that Asian actresses play in hypersexualized roles, I found it interesting that she involved the idea of a “passionate attachment”. I understood this to mean that Asian women must have the desire to play a subordinate role. This desire also reaffirms a visuality we become familiar with again and again. Does this mean that Asian actresses/actors are perpetuating these  hypersexualized characters because it is their only option? Are we generally accepting of this image of the Asian woman in our generation?

As I reflect on the roles that have been taken up by actresses like Lucy Liu, Anna May Wong, and Nancy Kwan, I see how their roles have supported the storyline of the films they are cast in. I never thought about how their roles aid the character development of the protagonists, who are usually Caucasian. Shimizu uses the example of Anna May Wong in The Thief of Bagdad to illustrate how her role helped contrast the princess’s role as a pure character. Anna May Wong’s character as a Mongol slave girl is further sexualized through her actions of drugging the princess. Shimizu analyzes this as a “serious determination” in characterization which further demonstrates her role as the subject-in-struggle. In connection to our discussion in class about alternative femininity and alternative masculinity, the roles that Asian/American actresses/actors portray can be seen as representations of a new envisioning of gender roles.

This new envisioning can be evinced by the characters that Bruce Li has played. He challenges society’s idea of masculinity by the way he treats women in romantic scenes, never asserting physical acts of sex, but rather, showing a sense of control, caution, and respect. His character is supported by the women’s character in a way that allows him to demonstrate responsibility as a citizen as well as an ethical man. I think that these character roles show more complexity and give more opportunities for Asian American actors and actresses to breakthrough the stereotypes that they have been categorized to in the past.

Asian Masculinity

Aaron Kim

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As Am 115

Growing up as kid, I have always seen Bruce Lee as the epitome of Asian men. He is both strong, quick, respectful, lovable, and of course Asian. In the eyes of an Asian person, seeing Bruce Lee take away Hollywood as the main character in films brings about something to celebrate and even look out for. But Bruce Lee in actuality not only appealed to Asians, but also to other races. For example, his pupils in the art of Jeet Kune Do (a martial arts ‘style’ as well as philosophy) were mainly all white men. He had influences from the Asian community, as well as America through his films.

In our readings of Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities Chapter 1, we read about how Bruce Lee redefines Asian sexual manhood, in aspects where performance in strength greatly exceed the ideal manhood of the penis and phallus. Surely, throughout his films and works, Bruce Lee broke down the stereotype that Asian men are weak. But as most main characters in films participate in the essence of love and sex, Bruce does not. It’s mind blowing to me because whenever I would watch Bruce Lee movies, I would never have thought about Bruce’s sexuality. I did see however that Bruce is a gentleman for women in his films, but no sex is involved. A sense of mutual respect as well as degrading the fact that men prevail over women, is seen through Bruce Lee’s depictions.
This is particularly interesting because he defines himself as a character in the role, but many other people see Asian Americans through his depictions. Such depictions include asexuality, homosexuality, mindless violence, and even savage. But Shimizu offers Bruce Lee as someone like the Renaissance man. He urges to be someone of ethical manhood, that is, to fight injustice. He also brings about violence only when it is necessary to establish a greater good.

What I don’t get is why they would question his sexuality. Why is such question necessary for building up the character of Bruce Lee? Surely he is a male, but does a male in the essence, have a greater need for sex than for ethical needs? Masculinity should not be correlated to sexuality, but rather the mutual respect that Bruce Lee shines, as well as the ethical morals he conjures. Shimizu quotes: ” I argue that Lee’s manhood is contingent upon a larger field that must account for his ethical relations with male friends, romantic relationships, and his protection of community as well as nation”, in order to show that his manhood can include all of these. But if we look at Bruce Lee in reality, he was a heterosexual man married to a white woman. Just that fact in itself should be enough to break the stereotype that Asian men are homosexual or asexual. When one does look at Bruce Lee as an individual of asexuality, it can be perceived that asexuality can be means for stoicism and principles of strength through his independence.
Overall, one’s sexuality does not and should not affect his character and morals.

Who is a Hero?

Melody Erhuy

Imagine a superhero. What does his costume look like? Is he brazen in red and gold with lasers shooting from his shoulders? Is he decked out in a cool blue, with a cape glistening after every spin, turn and jump? Is he Caucasian? Or better yet, is he ever Asian?

Our vision of a knight in shining armor is usually a brood man straddling a horse. The bad guy is a man of color, covered in black clothing from head to toe. The evil witch sports a hook nose and an apple offering to all her visitors. The princess is a blonde, and is always pretty in pink. The superhero? A buff Caucasian male who always gets the lady while his sidekick, usually a man of color, picks up after him. Many people can concur that these attributes are normally correlated with this roles in American film and media. When an Asian male, for example, is cast in the lead role of a superhero movie, it is surprising for Americans. Not used to seeing someone of a different race play such a role, Americans can illy receive such changes to their ideal image of a character.

Celine Shimizu’s book “Straightjacket Sexualities” delves into this racialized heroic picture as a problem for Asian American males, whose roles are, at best, a counterexample to the heroic male lead to make the protagonist seem even more manly. Moreover, the Asian American male is not seen as an automatic choice for being heroic, because he simply never gets the girl in movies. Many of my peers would attest that they are just ‘not attracted to men of color’ based on their own personal preferences, yet it is such thinking that de-sexualizes Asian American males in American society, and further de-humanizes them as they are void of being compatible with any traits associated with heroism. Feeding the image that Asian American males are sidekicks at best, the muted roles of Asian American males in film and media further implement a de-sexualized ideal into the minds of Americans, which makes it more difficult for Asian American men to be perceived as manly as other races in society.

Denise Uyehara Presentation

Michael Saechao
February 14: Show at Pitzer College

Self Reflection

Denise Uyehara’s presentation I found was very compelling and quite interesting. Though Dana, Kaitlyn, and I were a bit late to the presentation I was confused at first what was going on, but then I started to get the grasp of what she was talking about. In general performing arts and the visualization of it can be quite confusing when you try to analyze the performance. When she showed us the clip of her going back to her homeland it made me feel connected to her in a way, because I myself would love to go back to where my parents are from and see the area they grew up around and to see the culture in my eyes. One of the most compelling clip I found very interesting was the one, where there were bones collected and you had to try and build or figure out what was a soldier and what another type of person. I found this very amazing, because it put into perspective that people cannot distinguish one person from another through the dimensions of our bodies.

The performance she had done live was very exciting. I wasn’t expecting her to do a live performance and I found it very fascinating, since it was my first time ever seeing this live. When she started singing the Abba song and doing the dance, it reminded me of my best friend and I. Then she progressed and talked about the internment camps and the japanese and the women who had alzhemiers. This was my favorite part of her performance. It made me think more critically and try to analyze the piece more thoroghohly.

THE HYPER SEXUALITY OF RACE

79935303 Daisuke Tohyama

THE HYPERSEXUALITY OF RACE

 In the chapter 3 of the hyper sexuality of race, Shimizu talks about stereotypes of Asian American women through three Hollywood films. She states that “race is always a sexual production in Hollywood cinema, one that is bursting with conscious fantasy.” (Shimizu 101) This means by describing Asian American women as hypersexual or dragon lady. These stereotype are still fully exist.
We could see two type of stereotypes in Hollywood films. One is hypersexual or dominatrix images. In The Thief of Bagdad, The Mongol slave girl, Ann May Wong is described as hypersexual, immoral, and exotic. For example, the scene that she poisons the princess reminds me of dragon lady. I also felt that she is primitive, exotic, and sexual when I saw her bare clothes.

In The World of Suzie Wong, Suzie is submissive and follow Lamax’s suggestion. For example, when Lamax tells her to wear ordinary clothes instead of luxury one, she follow the suggestion. This image can create a submissive Asian girl.
In Charie’s Angels, Lucy Liu is described as hyper sexual or dominatrix like Ann Way Wong. Unlike other heroines, she often kills or beats up some bad guys.
Through these films, one thing that I noticed is that Asian American women have two types of opposite stereotype such as hypersexual and submissive. Two stereotypes exist simultaneously.

These chaotic images influence actresses and us. In the hyper sexuality of race, Lucy mentions that “Once she succeeds in Asian roles, the studio or audiences consider her as a good actress.” (Shimizu 93) In her perspective, taking Asian American women’s role affects her in positive way. However, taking the role reproduces the stereotypes again and again. Applying it to daily life, Asian American women should be quiet, submissive to get a promotion in some companies. The expectation of being Asian women comes from the society, which is affected by media. We should rethink about how much media influence us now.

Work Cited

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Reflecting on Denise Uyehara’s Performances

Alyse Blachly

                Wednesday, February 13, I got the chance to experience some of the work by performance artist, Denise Uyehara at Pitzer College in Claremont. Like many others, I hadn’t really seen performance art before, so it was both a surprise and treat to get to experience it for the first time through such a talented artist like Denise. I appreciate her ability to take us through a range of emotions throughout her performances and videos in which we could relate to our own experiences of memory, body, and family, but also to her own and others’ experiences.

From what I interpreted, she thinks performance art has two purposes—1) to give meaning and recognition that an event/experience happened. It can be extremely therapeutic for the individual or community who participates in the art. Experiences of trauma, loss, place, family, and body are often difficult to talk about, and yet they significantly impact all aspects of life and identity, whether we like it or not. By creating some representation or response to it, it gives the artist and audience an agency of recognition. For example in the interactive piece where participants interacted with bones and shells it represented two very different losses that two specific groups of people went through. It played on the Okinawa tradition of honoring the dead, but also let individuals come together and recognize a common trauma by experiencing different emotions together. Next, 2) her vision of art and its value isn’t solely based in the intent of the artist so much as it is in the different perspectives and emotions the art itself can elicit in others. Her example of children viewing the negative space in her grandmother piece is exemplary of this. Denise expressed her own feelings and story of her grandmother’s suicide, but through the art itself others were able to see the story through different perspectives. The children’s visions of the grandmother’s love and family life were not explicitly stated, but it opened up a dialogue to talk about difficult issues of death, loss, and something as incomprehensible as suicide.

                The first performance piece took me quite by surprise. It instilled a fear and uncomfortable feeling that I was able to relate to the other pieces and to the people represented in them. As a masked police officer walked throughout the audience with a flashlight, a loud but distorted voice echoed throughout the auditorium. “Papers Please” or “License and Registration” were some of the phrases the officer kept repeating. The way it was set up, the officer appeared very threatening and intimidating. My first thought wasn’t of deportation or immigration issues, but of all the recent news stories involving cops unjustly harassing or shooting people. The recent Christopher Dorner case, for example was fresh in my mind— both Dorner’s own victims and the police officers who fired at two women and a man who they thought was the suspect, in addition to the riots in Anaheim last summer after police shot and killed two men. This got me thinking a lot about why it’s so scary when police officers are accused of being unjust. The uniform they wear is a representation of authority and power that lets people know they must respect them. Police officers aren’t the villain, but a representation of how power and authority can be favored and allow injustice.  The idea that there are certain people in society that are given power over others and the fact that they can abuse that power easily puts vulnerable people in a very helpless situation. The scene itself needed a police officer because of the specific issue of the Arizona laws being so unjust allowing police to pull over anyone who looks a certain way or fits a certain image that is “illegal immigrant.” But it also brought up so perfectly this larger issue of power being related to body and appearance. The police uniform= power and respect, while the victim’s appearance=target, unimportant, menace.  While the scene wasn’t about killer cops at all, the emotions and thoughts that I connected with could relate to the theme of discrimination in Arizona and discrimination during the Japanese internment camps. By shining the scene of the interview of an experience one woman had with fear of deportation on different individuals’ bodies, it was very effective in connecting the entire experience. It was as if, although the interview was very personal, the act of discrimination and injustice could happen to anyone.