Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Chinese American-ness to check out

The emerging Chinese-American male perspective in popular culture is a welcome relief from the Chinese-American female perspective that has dominated the market. Yesterday, I watched 2006 movie The Motel (based on Ed Lin's novel Waylaid, which I have not read yet) at the Asian American / Asian Research Institute. The movie captures how hard it is to be a 13-year-old male, in particular an adolescent Chinese-American male, and through Ernest's Korean-American mentor, Sam, an Asian-American man in general. The movie emphasizes its subject matter by doing away with the usual softening layer of a materially cushioned, if still alienated, Asian-American middle-class setting. Instead, the protagonist exists in an extraordinarily miserable and cruel, exposed, and isolated environment, even losing his one outlet for relief by the end of the movie. The Motel is short - I think too short - with a 76 minute running time, but it successfully makes its point about Chinese-American male life.

Endogenous wondering: I wonder what, if anything, will come of Ernest's relationship with Jess, the bullied younger (white) sister of teen motel resident Roy? Assuming, of course, her family continues to stay at the motel. Jess protests when Ernest is bullied by their shared tormenter, her brother. She seems affection-starved and alienated like Ernest, and kind. Whereas the white world seems off-limits to Chinese-Americans in the rest of the movie, Jess lives in Ernest's world. Surrounded by negative family male role models, Ernest may stand out as a neither cruel nor irresponsible alternative. Jess stands out as non-prejudiced in a world where other white characters - with the possible exception of Christine's (white) love interest Toby - are overtly racist against Asians. Most of all, she seems willing, with some adolescent protest, when Ernest chooses to kiss her in response to Roy's ultimatum to either kiss his sister or fight him. She even bends toward Ernest for the second kiss, with tongue, and doesn't seem too upset at his physical reaction to kissing her. After Christine's rejection to his clumsy overture, with Ernest's budding sexuality and growing need to assert himself, the shared alienation and proximity of the two, and the shared kiss, Jess seems like a potential first love.

Add to cart - my to-read, to-see Chinese-American male themed list:

2002 book Waylaid by Ed Lin

2002 movie Better Luck Tomorrow



Blogger JSN said...

I enjoyed watching "Blind Mountain" at Columbia U.

The Director was there, and he summarized the movie well by explaining that it showed how a perfectly normal, reasonably intelligent woman could be kidnapped and forced into marriage.

It's about the Chinese in China, and it has a different ending in China, but I have to admit, it answers that one question particularly well.

8/01/2008 4:20 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

<< Home

<< Newer
Older >>

Powered by Blogger