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Cinema Junkie Episode 216: Asians On Screen, From Yellow Peril To Superhero

Wood Moy plays a cab driver turned detective in Wayne Wang's 1982 indie hit "Chan Is Missing," which announced an exciting new voice in Asian American cinema.
Koch Lorber Films
Wood Moy plays a cab driver turned detective in Wayne Wang's 1982 indie hit "Chan Is Missing," which announced an exciting new voice in Asian American cinema.

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 Marvel delivered its first Asian superhero in its cinematic universe with "Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." But it’s been a long hard road getting to this point in Hollywood. For the latest episode of Cinema Junkie, I speak with Brian Hu, artistic director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, about the evolution of Asian images on screen from the stereotypes of yellow peril to Shang Chi. Hu will take us on a tour through early negative stereotypes of Fu Manchu to characters like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto to the breakthrough stardom of Bruce Lee and finally to Shang Chi. I'll play lots of clips and Hu offers some exciting film recommendations to check out. Plus enjoy the decidedly eccentric rants and raves of Awkward San Diego's Ryan Bradford and Horrible Imaginings' Miguel Rodriguez on the latest Cold Turkey and Share Your Addiction. And check out the latest Geeky Gourmet video where I'll show you how to make Asian treats to eat with the films we discuss: https://bit.ly/CJGeekyGourmet I’d like to acknowledge the talented folks who make Cinema Junkie happen: podcast coordinator Kinsee Morlan, technical director Rebecca Chacon, and director of sound design Emily Jankowski.

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."

Geeky Gourmet Serves Up Lumpia With A Vengeance

And enjoy Share Your Addiction from Horrible Imaginings' Miguel Rodriguez and Cold Turkey from Awkward San Diego's Ryan Bradford.