Midterm Paper

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There have been a number of themes in the history of Asian American cinema, in a plethora of films. To start, The Mask of Fu Manchu, an adventure film made in 1932, played heavily on the theme of “Yellow Peril,” or “Yellow Terror.” The “Yellow Peril” was a metaphor for Asian Americans in the early twentieth century, and portrayed East Asians as vicious, coldly calculating, and utterly bent on annihilating western society. However, Better Luck Tomorrow, a crime-drama film made in 2002, parodied almost the exact opposite, specifically the “model minority” theme. The term “model minority” referred to minority groups that were perceived as achieving high success in education, income, and general stability. Lastly, Chan is Missing, a movie made in 1982 consisting of an amalgam of different genres, such as detective and drama, explored the identity crisis that Chinese Americans faced in the United States, and also served as an example of the shifting nature of Hollywood productions. Throughout the history of Asian American films, there have been a number of themes portrayed in a diverse selection of movies. The Mask of Fu Manchu, starring Boris Karloff in Yellowface, was an adventure film in the early twentieth century that played on the theme of the “Yellow Peril.” In the time of the World Wars, East Asians were feared for their expansion, and migration, and viewed as a threat. In an attempt to sway the western public a certain way and make them fearful of East Asians, the metaphor of the “Yellow Peril” was created. Essentially, the “Yellow Peril” refers to any East Asian as violent but intellectual, cold and calculating, and in a position to overthrow western society. “Penny-press journalism warned of the Yellow Peril, a popular term... ... middle of paper ... ...uly represents the melting pot culture of the United States. There have been a variety of themes in Asian American cinema history, both contemporaneously and in the past. The Mask of Fu Manchu played on the Yellow Peril theme, serving as propaganda to help western society view East Asians as the evil in the world. Better Luck Tomorrow used the model minority stereotype in a way that parodied it, making it ridiculousness enough that it helped to remove the constraints of various Asian American labels. Lastly, Chan is Missing helped to highlight the difference in the shifting nature of Hollywood films. Asian Americans used to be cast as the evil opposition in The Mask of Fu Manchu, but now Asian Americans have a voice in how they are portrayed in media as more and more begin to make movies. Different, diverse themes are abundant in the history of Asian American films.

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