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|Title:||The Politics of Adaptation: Asian American Texts and Popular Film|
|Keywords:||politics, problematics, Asian Americans, simplified, gender, anti-essentialist, traditions|
|Abstract:||This thesis explores the politics and problematics of Asian American self-representation in popular cinema by focusing on film adaptations of Asian American texts. In the first chapter I consider the Chinese American director Wayne Wang's adaptations of Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club (1989) and Louis Chu's novel Eat a Bowl of Tea ( 1961). Here I demonstrate how the representations of Asian Americans in the domain of popular cinema are "simplified" and constrained to universalizing tropes, such as "generational conflict," that negate the heterogeneous factors (i.e. culture, gender, class) that contribute to the making of Asian American subjectivity. As well, though I find that both films tend to de-problematize the United States as a context for the Asian American's assimilation, Eat a Bowl of Tea, in its historicizing efforts and cinematic flair, manages to posit a more ironic view towards the narrative of assimilation than Joy Luck does. In the second chapter I shift my discussion to David Henry Hwang's 1988 play M. Butterfly and its film adaptation by David Cronenberg. The opening (longer) section of this chapter explores Hwang's critiques of Western (American) discourses of sexism, racism, and imperialism in relation to Edward Said's and Judith Butler's theories of orientalism and gender performance respectively. When Hwang' s arguments are also understood in the context of Asian American history and contemporary debates over "identity" in the Asian American community, it is possible to see how his antiessentialist stance challenges all (Western and Asian) impositions of discursive power. The second section of this chapter compares the formal/performative construction of the play to that of the film version. Here I argue that Hwang' s utilization of Brechtian theatrical techniques corroborates his anti-essentialist political argument. Cronenberg's film, however, attempts to situate this critique within the traditions of realist cinema, and thereby significantly diminishes (and "simplifies") the Asian American perspective of the play. Taken collectively, these film adaptations, despite moments of opposition, attest to the ideological limitations that severely restrict the possibilities for complex Asian American self-representations in the realm of popular cinema.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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