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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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Questions of Otherness

Questions of Otherness

From Opium Pipes to Apple Pie

(p.50) Chapter 3 Questions of Otherness
From Fu Manchu to Kung Fu Panda

Naomi Greene

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines three American films that take us from otherness to sameness and reflect the swing of the pendulum governing images of China that took place in the 1930s: Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express and The Shanghai Gesture and Sidney Franklin’s The Good Earth. The chapter first discusses the 1927 silent film Mr. Wu, directed by William Nigh, and the contrast between the two faces of the protagonist. It then explains how Shanghai Express, The Shanghai Gesture, and The Good Earth embody the opposing archetypes of the Chinese that have long inhabited the Western imagination. Whereas von Sternberg’s films bear witness to American sexual taboos, The Good Earth reveals a missionary or Christian-inflected preoccupation with the “good life.” However, all three films define the other in terms of the self; sameness, not difference, holds sway. The chapter also looks at cinematic representations of the Chinese villain par excellence, Fu Manchu, in order to highlight the Chinese stereotypes prevalent in American films.

Keywords:   otherness, sameness, China, Shanghai Express, The Shanghai Gesture, The Good Earth, Mr. Wu, Fu Manchu, stereotypes, American films

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