By: Warren Chung (Angry Singaporean Man)
Being raised in Singapore in my early youth I have many fond memories of spending time with my brother and father watching Chinese movies. However the fondest memory I have was the movie directed by Michael Ritchie called “The Golden Child”. The movie is about Chandler Jarrell played by Eddie Murphy, who is “The Chosen one” destined to save the Tibetan “Golden child”. The Golden Child, a nearly invincible young “boy” (I quote this for further explanation later in the blog) with mystical abilities to revive the dead, as well being able to change the perception of evil doers to do good deeds with a single touch, is captured by westerners and being forced to consume the blood of innocent victims to remove this invincible ability to destroy humanities “compassion.”
My first deconstruction of this movie is the concept of Yellow Face. First the explicit Yellow Face which is done by Kee Nang’s character, which is played by Charlotte Lewis. (Charlotte Lewis, primary of white ethnic background being born in the UK, and her father was half Chilean and half Iraqi.) Kee Nang’s character is from Tibet, she is the daughter of the “The old Man” from Tibet who is played by Victor Wong who coincidently plays an implicit Yellow Face character because he is a Chinese-American born playing a Tibetan character. Kee Nang’s characteristics in this movie is split between Asian and White, having jet-black hair, larger eyes, and the ability to do martial arts. This reinforces this explicit Yellow Face idea in our schema. Another “hybrid” of implicit Yellow Face would be the Golden Child. Played by J.L Reate, originally Jasmine Reate (changed by the director to camouflage her sex) also reinforces this idea that Asians and Asian Americans have these effeminate stereotypes.
My second deconstruction is on ambivalent representation of Asian and Asian American women, particularly on two characters Kee Nang and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains behind a curtain.) Kee Nang’s character represents the Lotus Blossom image, which are the sexual availability and this idea of exoticism. Kee Nang remains very quiet, meek, yet holds characteristics of being subservient, and willing to sacrifice herself for the western male. By not having a male Asian or Asian American main character to fall in love with, Kee Nang’s character may reinforces the idea of intersectionality, where it may show that Asians and Asian Americans men are undesirable. Kala’s character, whose mother was noted to have been raped by a dragon 300 years prior, reinforces the meekness, and subservient culture of Asian and Asian Americans not being able to defend themselves and the idea of Asian and Asian American women being exotic and unique.
Another example this movie portrays is the idea of Model Minority Myth. Although very subtle in this movie since the primary acting is not framed around Asians or Asian American. James Hong who plays Dr Hong represents a doctor and an adviser, and is quiet, and respectful of others. And Victor Wong who was “the old man” represents a smart, witty, and wise man. This type of acting may reinforces the stereotypes that pits racialized minorities against one another.
The Golden Child is modern parody and deconstructing it reveals the orientalism of Asians and Asian Americans in the media. Although Eddie Murphy plays this black protagonist who fights a white antagonist, he actually can be viewed as the antagonist by objectifying eastern beliefs with the western beliefs in the end reinforcing the idea of media racial hegemony.