Cinema Junkie Episode 216: Asians On Screen, From Yellow Peril To Superhero
Take a cinematic journey from Charlie Chan to 'Chan is Missing' to Shang Chi
In part two of this month's focus on Asian representation in Hollywood, Cinema Junkie speaks with PacArts' Brian Hu about how Hollywood has moved from negative Asian stereotypes to the heroics of Bruce Lee and Shang-Chi.
Earlier this month, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ring" scored a box office hit with the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only did Asian Americans have a hero that looked like them on the big screen but also an Asian American at the helm in Destin Cretton.
On the previous Episode 215 I spoke with director Cretton, who was a San Diego State University film student, about making "Shang Chi" and creating characters that looked like him and his friends.
In this episode, I explore a diverse array of films that take us from Charlie Chan to "Chan is Missing" to Shang Chi.
My guest is Brian Hu, artistic director of PacArts' San Diego Asian Film Festival. In his 10 years with the festival, he has seen a lot of films by and about Asians and Asian Americans. He has extensive knowledge of both cinema and the historical context that often led to negative representations of Asians in Hollywood.
As someone of Asian descent — my grandfather was Chinese — I was thrilled to see Destin Cretton have the opportunity to bring an Asian superhero to the screen. But I also am fully aware of the painful stereotypes that often came before like the yellow peril images of the 1930s that were fueled by racism and fear to Mickey Rooney’s horrendous Japanese caricature, with buck teeth and bottle-cap glasses, in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." And that was in 1961! Hollywood should have known better. That was the same year the "Flower Drum Song" signaled a small step forward for Asians in Hollywood.
But sometimes Hollywood takes a step backward before moving forward.
Hu and I will look at the best and the worst Hollywood has served up over the decades and play clips from many of the films.
Plus check out the latest Geeky Gourmet and learn how to make Lumpia with a Vengeance to pair with Hu's film recommendations. And look for an announcement from Hu on Oct. 3 at Chew the Scene for information on where you will be able to see "Lumpia" and "Lumpia with a Vengeance."