Because Chinese Movies Live in Fantasies

So I was scrolling through twitter, like I usually do, and an ad for an upcoming movie shows up on my feed. The title of the movie is called The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, Willem Dafoe, Lu Han, and Andy Lau.

… Hello, Matt Damon! What are you doing in Song Dynasty China? Do you need to be rescued again? Also, Oberyn Martell is wielding an axe!

In all honesty though, I didn’t know what to feel when I saw this. After the representations chat in class, this trailer just rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t even finish the whole trailer, actually, because I just thought “oh. Another film about a white guy in China that probably saves the world blah blah blah.”
Then I started to think about it. Am I offended?




So I watched the whole trailer, and it’s a fantasy movie about monsters on the other side of the Great Wall. Okay, sure. But it still doesn’t satisfy me. Why not, you ask? It’s a fantasy movie, which means everything is pretty much made up anyway, but I’m still not convinced. Even if Andy Lau is in it. Even if Zhang Yimou directed it. Because I feel like Chinese movies have been doing this kind of thing for ages already. Take Painted Skin for example, or A Chinese Ghost Story (omg. translations. why. The Chinese title 倩女幽魂  literally means beautiful girl ghost; if I had to translate the title it would probably be something like The Ephemeral Beauty). These movies are all historical fiction taking place in some ancient Chinese Dynasty, which to be fair, is pretty much the premise of The Great Wall. Perhaps I’m just desentisized to these now, because there have been so many in Chinese cinema and film that I really don’t care for another one, starring a white guy no less.

The question of representation and the insider/outsider status creates space for these types of discussion. Am I offended because an outsider is seemingly infiltrating into my supposed “insider” culture? The 3 out of 5 main cast and the director are Chinese, is this enough of a “representation” of culture? I don’t know. Also, question about subtitles or I guess movies in general: Hong Kong watches English films with subtitles all the time, because it’s “main stream”. What does it take for a foreign film to be shown in theatres here, in North America, or in any English speaking country, without being dubbed over? Do people here read subtitles?

the moral obligation of my human existence

Hello #ACAM350! In continuing the discussion about identity, though I don’t really call myself an Asian Canadian, I am… Let me explain. I was born in Canada then packed on a plane at 3 months old to be raised in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is not China. I have a Canadian passport. I also have a Hong Kong passport. Technically, yes, I’m a Chinese-Canadian, but:  Canadian identity  <<  Hong Kong identity. Complicated, as identity tends to be.

I feel like identity is something that’s fluid, as with all the facets that make up one identity, and that’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint. Anyway, that’s a little intro to me. Moving on!

While reading Voices Rising, I was intrigued by Tanaka’s idea of a moral obligation to community and that “the end of all art should be to bring about an understanding of the community’s being in the world”, while pitting it against the idea of “the artist in Western society” (Li 20). The two opposing concepts of individuality versus community is one that highlights the fundamental differences in Western societies and East Asian societies (cue epic music).

Confucian philosophy and ideologies shape community orient East Asian societies––a way of thinking that resurfaces as “moral obligation to community” in Tanaka’s argument. The difference between his proclamations and the “artist in Western society” then, becomes more than a simple opposition of perspective, but one rooted in the distinction of the differences in cultural perspectives. The argument to “develop a community consciousness” is invariably tied to the idea of an East Asian identity and culture, whether that is Japanese/Korean/Chinese (20).

Going back to the idea of an Asian Canadian identity, how do we reconcile the clashes in ideologies and cultures that make up who we are? What about the idea of “reconstructing” identities, where we unlearn cultural teachings and biases to create a new meaning for being Asian Canadian? I don’t know where I’m going with this but maybe I will at the end of this course (:

Chamberlin: “Different Ways” Leading To The Idea Of Complete Denial of Others

Assignment 1.3–– This weeks question:

Figuring out this place called home is a problem (87).  Why? Why is it so problematic to figure out this place we call home: Canada? Consider this question in context with Chamberlin’s discussion on imagination and reality; belief and truth (use the index).Chamberlin says, “the sad fact is, the history of settlement around the world is the history of displacing other people from their lands, of discounting their livelihoods and destroying their languages” (78).  Chamberlin goes on to “put this differently” (Para. 3). Explain that “different way” of looking at this, and discuss what you think of the differences and possible consequences of these “two ways” of understanding the history of settlement in Canada.


Chamberlin discusses many different perspectives of looking at the history of settlement in Canada. The “different way” of looking at how displacing people from their lands, “of discounting their livelihoods and destroying languages” is that they are also “dismissing a different belief or different behaviour as unbelief or misbehaviour, and of discrediting those who believe or behave differently as infidels or savages” (78). This reminds me of the sociological concept of the “other” and of the fear or apprehension associated with the unknown, the unfamiliar, the strange. By taking away or dismissing the Aboriginals’ belief and behaviour, the settlers have effectively eradicated their identity (because that is what defines people, of who they are: their behaviour, their beliefs), writing off complex history and culture by slapping “laws” and “treaties” across their faces.

The two ways of understanding the history of settlement in Canada, then, following Chamberlin’s description, has more to do with the complete disconnection of every aspect between people and place. The eviction of Aboriginals from their homes not only took their land, or as W. E. H. Stanner puts it, their “hearth, home, the source and locus of life, and everlastingness of spirit”, but also their identity and their very existence as a society and community. Not only does it remove them from their land, but it also labels them as being “wrong” or “unnatural” because of their different beliefs and behaviours. This kind of unsettlement of the Aboriginals truly marks them as “homeless”, as they are forcibly removed physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally from their homes. They are, in a manner of speaking both literally and figuratively, denied the essence of their being. And yet, the idea of home still has lingering remains in their language, their stories, and their songs.

Chamberlin says on page 81 that “[a]boriginal people around the world… have turned back to their own languages and literatures to find ways of recovering the idea of home, and to tell their tales”, that “they feel like strangers in the languages they now speak, in the livelihoods they have been forced to take up, in the literatures they are given to read”. Here is an example of the idea of home: it holds no physical place, no belonging but only that through language and histories of ancestors and past generations. While taking a music class in high school, we studied Inuit throat singing as part of our curriculum, and the idea of the Aboriginals returning to their languages and traditions reminded me of the revival and raising awareness of this type of entertainment between women when men are out hunting. Throat singing is a part of the Inuit identity, and the interest of a younger generation in the art is a step towards them rediscovering the “differences” in behaviours and beliefs which were denied by others centuries ago, knowing that that difference is what makes them feel at home.


Works Cited

Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories?. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2003. Print. 22 Jan. 2016.

Griffith, Sian. “Keeping Inuit Throat Singing Alive in Canada | All Media Content | DW.COM | 18.03.2015.” DW.COM. 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
Zuleyka, Zevallos. “What Is Otherness?” The Other Sociologist. 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

identity crises

Hong Kong was a colony of Great Britain until July 1st, 1997, when it was handed back to China. My point? I’m 19 and have lived pretty much all my life in a post colonial country. Why is this post titled “identity crises”? Because even though Hong Kong is considered to belong to China, Hong Kong is not China. Sure, we have the same customs and traditions and most of our culture is the same but it’s just different. Same same but different. This, I feel, ties in with Black Skin, White Masks because the idea of races is applicable to Hong Kong people’s rejection of the idea of being a part of China, or at least from China.

The distinction Fanon made between races such that people begin to distance themselves from subordinate races (black) and create connections with the dominant race (white) is a rather interesting idea: “because the Antillean is more ‘évolué’ than the African––meaning he is closer to the white man” (9). I believe this applies to Hong Kong people too; because we have been colonized by the British and have been under the influence of the British, we are closer to the “white man” as opposed to our other chinese counterparts.

Post-colonial times for a country means reconstructing a whole society, or even an entire culture and figuring out how it operates. Hong Kong obviously went back to its Chinese roots, but has become more… sophisticated, I guess I could say. In Hong Kong, the act of squatting is mainly looked down upon. This is because this act is associated with the mainland Chinese and is a behaviour separating Hong Kong people from mainland Chinese. This is significant in that it clearly demonstrates the “évolué” Fanon talks about; Hong Kong people do not squat on the sidewalks because it is not the civilized thing to do.

But then I arrive at the dilemma that I am also Chinese, and insulting my own race is not a very nice thing to do––the Antillean and the African. Identity crisis ––> I am Chinese, but I’m not Chinese Chinese, I’m Hong Kong Chinese. I’m also Canadian.

Now the word ‘Chinese’ looks weird to me because I’ve typed it too much.

Naming the unknown –– Antigone’s Claim by Judith Butler

What we have here is The Ambiguous Case of Antigone, where she is “unintelligible and unthinkable”. So… why do people even bother trying to understand her?

Here’s why I think so many people have attempted to define and classify Antigone as something, yet end up failing to some degree: because society and its people cannot deal with individual anomalies. They cannot deal with the appearance of something unknown, unable to be classified and put into order. In my opinion, it drives them insane like some kind of OCD for the whole of society, going along the lines of the exclamation “WHY WON’T YOU FIT?!”, similar to that of someone trying to complete a puzzle.

This form of anxiety and interest in the anomaly is greatly influenced by the idea that society fits together; everything is within society and has a place, name, and function in social structures. Because Antigone is such a far off point in the collation of humans in general, everyone looks at her like she’s some sort of rare extinct animal. I find that these specimens of humans or characters to be the ones who challenge what we or society believe as a whole. It’s interesting to think that in classifying Antigone, humanity might gain some understanding of what or who she is, and add her to the organized list of What To Name People.

But perhaps this isn’t the point of Antigone’s ambiguity, to be named, but rather to stay unnamed so as to always remain a mystery, an unidentifiable being that transcends society and social norms to give people something to fawn over and obsess about because she does not fit, and because she is special.

Ambiguity then, I think, is good for human kind. We do not know and we are uncertain.
But isn’t that the beauty of knowledge, that we might never know? I think so.