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In 1992 , there was an art opening I was fortunate enough to crew on at the Walter Mc Bean Gallery in San Francisco. It was a multi-artist exhibition with a pop-culture theme. One of the installations featured a video compilation for various clips of Asian women in film. In contrast to the seemingly pleasing images of Asian beauty and sensuality was a feminist commentary in text. The theme was the objectivity of Asian women and their stereotyped submissive nature. It totally tipped the happy smiling images on their heads.
One the films featured was the 60’s travelogue film, The World the Suzie Wong. The controversial image was of William Holden violently puling off Suzy’s dress as if she were a doll that he didn’t like. Even in context the scene was offensive. It implies that you can do anything to as Asian woman, for unlike a Westerner, she won’t round house and kick you ass. The entire film is full of contradictions because on one hand it’s offensive to the Chinese and on the other hand it’s makes a big effort to make of point against racism against the Chinese by post-colonial businessman British and their jealous wives in Hong Kong.
Racism aside the film is the quintessential Hooker with a Heart of Gold story. An architect decides to take a sabbatical in Hong Kong to see if he can make living as a painter and befriends a beautiful prostitute who becomes his model and eventually his wife. The story is wonderful when you think of it that way. Furthermore, if you’re an artist like me, you would absolutely die for the hotel room he got to rent cheap as a live/workspace. Who cares if the hotel is an ersatz brothel when the prostitutes are such nice friends! So in the spirit of the artists abroad, I gave you these lovely pics with a film recommendation for the World of Suzie Wong.