So we watched this movie after church today, as part of an ongoing Sunday school discussion on “Asian Canadian Identity and Faith.” Flower Drum Song is a 1961 musical film adaptation of a novel by the same name, written by Chinese-American author C. Y. Lee, and produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein (of Sound of Music fame).
My mind was mildly blown by the fact that something like this existed back in the 60’s, even before most of the dialogue around the African-American civil rights movement began. From Wikipedia:
The film was unusual (for its time) in featuring nearly all Asian American cast members (one of the few speaking Caucasian parts being that of a mugger), including dancers, though two of the singing voices were not Asian ones. Starring in the movie were Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, Benson Fong, James Hong, Reiko Sato and the original Broadway cast members Jack Soo, Miyoshi Umeki, and Juanita Hall.
Some today might find the drummed up (hehe) stereotypes and exaggerated cultural cues to be offensive, or at least in bad taste. But I think that this was something truly remarkable for 1961, in that it:
Fifty-two years later, and we’re still dealing with some of the same issues. Namely, struggles with cultural identity, obligations to filial piety, narrow ideals of success, pressures created by the model minority myth, and fundamentally unbiblical elements of Asian culture. (Thank God that arranged marriage is no longer an issue :P.)
Anyways, I’m really enjoying the Sunday school series so far! It’s fascinating learning more about the history behind the Asian-American struggle, its implications on our Christian faith, and also the slight but significant developmental differences between Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians.
According to my friend and ex-AAIV staffer of five years in Calgary, Asian-Canadian Christians are years behind in regards to having this type of open dialogue. Few have ever even heard of the term “model minority”. I tend to take it for granted just how much I’ve been exposed to the topic of AA identity simply from being involved in AACM and IV throughout college. I’ve had access to resources like “Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents”, and dialogue-starters like the open letter penned by Asian-American Christian leaders (including many IV staffers) to the American evangelical church.
So for all this (and so much more), I am thankful for IV. Thankful for its role in shaping my identity as a California-born, Texas-raised, Canada-living, first generation Chinese-American. And above all else, a Christ follower.
Oh come colder weather
Oh come something better please
it’s been a month since I moved here. Some musings:
(Video clip is my favorite part of one of my all-time favorite movies.)
In exactly one month, I will be moving to Calgary, where I pretty much know no one, for my next six-month work rotation. And to be honest, I’m a bit terrified. The initial giddy restlessness has passed. The anxious hand-wringing and skeptical eyebrow-cocking has begun. The distressing sensation of floating threatens to call into question the legitimacy of all the relationships I’ve made here.
When I first arrived in Seattle, I told myself not to let the dread of being uprooted stop me from ever taking root. Perhaps I listened too intently to my own advice, because the roots run deep and the dread is real. Brothers. Sisters. Colleagues. Friends. The friendly cashier lady at Safeway. The Californian couple that owns the boba tea shop. The motherly Chinese-Vietnamese hairdresser who is also a great conversationalist. The archetypal, nuclear, American family, complete with golden retriever, that always happens to be at the park as I run/bike by in the evenings. The edgy-cute hipster barista at Espresso Vivace. So many real and prospering relationships, their advances halted, their futures relegated to the confines of Facebook walls and tiny chat windows. “Keeping in touch” offered as a pale and paltry substitute for “living life together.”
But that’s an awfully depressing outlook, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not a phenomenon that is unfamiliar to me or you or anyone else. It happens at all transitory periods of life: high school to college, college to career, and every other in-between. And in this Life revealed as a single interminable sequence of transitions, it seems we are in store for many more promises to “keep in touch” in the future.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my working life. And, though a bit arbitrary, I think it’s worth reflecting upon. Some thoughts rolling around in my head recently:
So looking forward to the next six months, and the next year, and the next x amount of time… Yes, I am terrified. But I think that’s okay. Life was designed to terrify us, at least a little bit. There will be, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness, because I am alive. Yes, alive.
The Great Gatsby
“I’m getting my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.”
“And what does a Mechanical Engineer do?”
“Well, when a company wants something new, we take some old things and squish them together. There’s a few more bits and bobs to it, but that’s the general gist.”
(San Francisco, CA)
I’m not a fan of scary movies. Maybe it’s because I’m a wuss, but I just don’t see the point in paying money to watch bad acting and to be made uncomfortable. The worst horror films are the ones that are “based on a true story.” Because somewhere in the back of my mind, I think… stripped of its cinematic embellishments, there has to be at least a tiny sliver of truth in the events being reenacted before my eyes. Then the empathic node in my brain starts to tingle, and suddenly, unwittingly, I’ve projected myself into the movie. And I don’t want to be a character in a horror film.
The Passion of The Christ is another movie that I don’t like watching. The first time was on opening weekend, back when I was a high-school freshman and still a non-believer, at the invitation of Jonah and his church youth group. I remember just being very confused. And the Satan character just scared the bajeesus out of me. The second time was during Easter of my freshman year at UT, my first Easter as a Christian, together with the rest of Ben Yang’s Super Street Fighter Small Group. As expected, my reaction to the movie was much more emotional the second time than the first.
Tonight was my third time watching The Passion of The Christ. And again, I can’t say I was looking forward to it. In his preface for the screening, Pastor Roy voiced the same sentiments, and he identified the cause of the distress Christians experience towards this film. “I dislike watching this movie because it feels sickening to be faced with the horror of sin.”
It is bloody, gory, and gruesome. It is stomach-turning and spine-stiffening. It is supernatural. It is unbearable to watch. It is based on a true story, in the truest sense of the word “true”. And not only do I imagine myself in the story, I AM in the story. I am Judas the betrayer. I am Peter the thrice denier. I am Pontius Pilate the moral coward. I am the crowd chanting “Crucify him!” I am the onlooker, the bystander, and the enactor of the crucifixion. I am the wielder of the whip and the brandisher of the spear. I am the laugher, the slapper, the kicker, and the spitter.
I often wonder what my response would be if I witnessed Christ’s life and death firsthand. Seeing as how even his closest disciples abandoned him, let’s just say I count myself very fortunate for lying on the right side of history.
The story of Christ’s crucifixion is most certainly a horror story. Because what slew him was the horror of our sin, manifested in a form much more sinister than zombies or axe murderers or poltergeists. In his death he bore the entirety of evil, the cause of evil and the consequence of evil, the action of evil and the thought of evil.
Good thing that’s not the end of the story, right? If the Death of Christ can be likened to a horror film, the Resurrection of Christ can be likened to a chick flick. Just when you think all is lost, the bridegroom always come back to save his bride. Then they get married and live happily ever after.
And the upcoming third installment of this epic trilogy? I hear it’s going to be an action film. White horses, swords, floods, wars, flames of fire, and explosions - it’s gonna be awesome.
My routine for the past two of three Saturday afternoons:
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but I love my routine. I am learning to be comfortable hanging out with myself. I used to think that eating alone in a restaurant was one of the most depressing things for a human soul to endure. But I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think it’s a sad thing for a soul to be alone all of the time. But I think it’s a beautiful thing for a soul to be alone some of the time.
Video credit goes to le best frond Michael.