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From Fu Manchu to Kung Fu PandaImages of China in American Film$
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Naomi Greene

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838355

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838355.001.0001

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The Cold War in Three Acts

The Cold War in Three Acts

(p.95) Chapter 4 The Cold War in Three Acts
From Fu Manchu to Kung Fu Panda

Naomi Greene

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines American films that illustrate the shapes taken by China in the cinematic “dreams” and, especially, the “nightmares” of the Cold War era. Both reflecting and fueling the paranoid climate that erupted in the late 1940s, films such as The Manchurian Candidate, 55 Days at Peking, and The Sand Pebbles show how ancient images of Chinese barbarism merged with and drew strength from fears surrounding the Red Scare of the 1950s. This chapter considers how screen representations of China and the Chinese, shadowed by the yellow peril’s specter, underwent a radical transformation, with particular emphasis on how the dialectic between the self and the other seen in earlier films blossomed into an almost mythic, absolute struggle of civilizations. Marks of difference, such as those of sexuality and Christianity, tended to disappear. Impregnated with America’s “anxieties” and “betrayed illusions,” the films of the Cold War era reveal a dramatic swing of the pendulum governing images of China.

Keywords:   Cold War, American films, China, The Manchurian Candidate, 55 Days at Peking, The Sand Pebbles, yellow peril, self, other

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