WHAT’S NOT IN THE GUIDE?
First of all, all works must be available on VHS video. Sadly, this forces us to omit some important titles. Many of Anna May Wong’s starring vehicles aren’t available, particularly, Daughter of Shanghai (1937) and Dangerous to Know (1938) , films that would provide a rare glimpse of an Asian American leading lady in “golden age” Hollywood. James Shigeta’s co-starring roles in The Crimson Kimono (1959) and Bridge to the Sun (1961) are–alas–nowhere to be found in the video stores. Also unavailable are some television films with strong Asian themes and Asian American casts: If Tomorrow Comes (1971), Judge Dee and the Monastery Murder (1974), Farewell to Manzanar (1976), Hot Summer Winds (1991) , and the Vanishing Son and All-American Girl series (both 1994-95). We look forward to adding these titles to the guide as soon as they come onto the market.
Because the guide is designed to spread awareness of video titles that resist the stereotyping of Asians, there are certain kinds of Asian-themed films that have been intentionally omitted:
- Films that limit Asia or Asian America to an “exotic” backdrop for a non-Asian lead (“You Only Live Twice,” “The Year of the Dragon,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” etc.)–unless it has some redeeming feature.
- Films that fall back on the over-used cliché of pairing a white male lead with an Asian female love interest–or “white knight” movies, for short (“The World of Suzie Wong,” “Come See the Paradise,” etc.). Romances between Asian women and white men are only included when they cast a critical eye on such a relationship or when the love story isn’t the central focus of the film.
- Films with white actors in lead Asian roles (“The Good Earth,” “Buckaroo Banzai,” etc.)–unless, again, it has some compensating value. This is not to disparage the many talented white actors throughout the world, but to protest the lack of equal, commensurate opportunities for recognizably Asian American actors to compete for white lead roles.
- Films with ethnically Asian stars in non-Asian roles (Lou Diamond Philips in “La Bamba,” Jason Scott Lee in “Map of the Human Heart,” Brandon Lee in “The Crow,” Pheobe Cates in “Princess Caraboo,” etc.). The guide makes one historically significant exception: Merle Oberon in “Wuthering Heights.”
- Films from Asia (Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong movies, Japanese samurai films, etc.).
- Asian productions that are shot in the English language just to break into the American market (“Shadow of China,” “Fire,” etc.).
- Films where the Asian talent is kept off-screen (movies photographed by James Wong Howe, directed by John Woo, etc.).