Watched The Joy Luck Club again last night

25 Mar

I like Amy Tan’s work. Two of her books were listed in my Best Reads 2005! I first saw the movie of The Joy Luck Club (1993) with M and others back in 1993 and we both cried… Last night I cried again; it’s that sort of movie. When I wrote From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt (published by Longman 1994-5) I quoted one Lim Toom Wei from Sydney University:

Contrary to the unreserved praise gushing forth from many teary ‘politically correct’ intellectuals, this film is full of stereotypes and straightforward hogwash, What else can you make of the opening voice over that claims that in China, a woman’s worth was measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch? Though only most, but not all, of the female leads in this film conform to the soft-spoken, submissive Oriental-woman stereotype, all the significant male characters are truly despicable… On the other hand, the only significant, meaningful, loving, and ultimately successful, relationships in the film were between two of the daughters and their respective handsome white husbands. Not only are stereotypes retold, new ones are also created in this film.

Like most of the literature and films about China that have gained great popularity with Westerners, The Joy Luck Club runs like a catalogue of the same worst excesses of Chinese feudalism… The Joy Luck Club, like the average Hollywood production, is one that panders to the tastes and prejudices of the average white American audience…

Racism is bad. When it is made to look respectable, it is dangerous.

I invited students to “write a reply, not to the writer personally, but as a contribution to the argument.” Well, having seen the movie again I have to say that, while Lim Toon Wei was making some interesting observations, what he says really is piffle, or at least hyper-reactive.

Tell you what, the Chinese “mind-games” (not meant in any derogatory way as they can be beneficial) played by some of the older characters ring very true. M has employed similar strategies on me at times!

In the YouTube below Amy Tan reads from and discusses the fictional “Note to the Reader” from the beginning of her novel Saving Fish from Drowning, a really excellent novel.

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2 responses to “Watched The Joy Luck Club again last night

  1. Adrian

    March 25, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I agree with you that those Chinese mindgames you mention ring true. When I saw the film, any number of characters reminded me of my rellies. It was almost as though Amy Tan had raided my family tree.

    But I also know that Lim Toom Wei’s reaction to the film is quite common. Joy Luck Club seems to invite, if not reflect, a certain angst about what Chinese identity means to Chinese born and/or living in Western countries.

  2. ninglun

    March 25, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    M didn’t react that way. The women in the movie just reminded him of his mother and sisters in Shanghai… And the characters were speaking Shanghainese too, apparently, at the end…

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