1. According to Gordon H. Chang, Mr. Yunioshi is a caricature of the Japanese American painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Gordon H. Chang, “Emerging from the Shadows: The Visual Arts and Asian American History,” in Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970, ed. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 10. [return to page 1]
2. For a history of yellowface performances, see Karla Rae Fuller, Hollywood Goes Oriental: CaucAsian Performances in American Film (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2010). The recent BuzzFeed Video “East Asians Watched Yellowface and It Will Make You Cringe” shows the continuing relevance of the issue. Chris Lam and Candace Lowry, “East Asians Watched Yellowface and It Will Make You Cringe,” Buzzfeed, July 30, 2015,
https://www.buzzfeed.com/chrislam/east-asians-react-to-yellowface?utm_term=.qddKPb6oa#.xewZKAJL4, accessed August 4, 2015.
3. For critical assessments of Bruce Lee’s legacy, see Sylvia Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011) and Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).
4. Meaghan Morris, “Learning from Bruce Lee: Pedagogy and Political Correctness in Martial Arts Cinema,” in Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies, ed. Matthew Tinkcom and Amy Villarejo (New York: Routledge, 2001), 180-181.
5. Vivian Sobchack, Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2004), 6.
6. For a brief but comprehensive overview of the history and current state of Asian American film and media studies, see Kent A. Ono, “’Lines of Flight’: Reterritorializing Asian American Film and Media Studies,” American Quarterly 64.4 (December 2012): 885-897. For an introduction to Asian Americans and the media, see Kent A. Ono and Vincent Pham, Asian Americans and the Media (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2009).
7. In this article, I follow Carl Plantinga’s using the term “spectator” not in its narrow sense within screen theory but rather as interchangeable with “viewer” and “audience” to refer to actual people or hypothetical roles or positions depending on the context. Carl Plantinga, Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator’s Experience (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009), 17.
8. Notable exceptions include: Peter X. Feng, “Recuperating Suzie Wong: A Fan’s Nancy Kwan-dary,” in Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism, ed. Darrell Y. Hamamoto and Sandra Liu (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), 40-56; Eve Oishi, “Visual Perversions: Race, Sex, and Cinematic Pleasure,” Signs 31.3 (Spring 2006): 641-674; and Hye Seung Chung, Hollywood Asian: Philip Ahn and the Politics of Cross-Ethnic Performance (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006).
9. In the U.S., since the late 1960s, the term “Asian American” has been used to refer to a wide range of ethnic groups of Asian ancestry by both the U.S. government and U.S. society at large, as well as by people of Asian ancestry wishing to mobilize as a group. “Pan-Asian American ethnicity,” according to Yen Le Espiritu, “is the development of bridging organizations and solidarities among several ethnic and immigrant groups of Asian ancestry.” At the same time, “Although subject to the same general prejudice and similar discriminatory laws, Asians in the United States have rarely conceived of themselves as a single people, and many still do not.” Espiritu’s important book traces the history of the construction of “Asian American” as well as the tensions surrounding such a mobilization in terms of the distribution of power and resources. Yen Le Espiritu, Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 14. See also Lisa Lowe’s “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Asian American Differences” for an influential account of the multiple ways in which Asian Americans differ from each other. Lowe, Chapter 3 of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 60-83.
10. As Lisa Cartwright has written, “Feeling is a suspect area of research for media and film scholars, who, since the time of Brechtian distantiation and Althusserian apparatus theory, have worked to institute models that allow us to resist the seductive pull of the medium as it moves us to feel for the other.” Although her emphasis is on feeling for the other, while mine in this article is upon feeling as the other, the scholarly suspicion of feeling moved remains the same. Lisa Cartwright, Moral Spectatorship: Technologies of Voice and Affect in Postwar Representations of the Child (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 4. See Judith Mayne, Cinema and Spectatorship, for a thorough overview of theories of cinematic spectatorship. The Audience Studies Reader gives a useful sampling of audience studies approaches. Jackie Stacey’s book Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship (London: Routledge, 1994) productively combines psychoanalysis with ethnography.
11. Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 1990); Greg M. Smith, Film Structure and the Emotion System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
12. David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, “Introduction” to Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, ed. David Bordwell and Noël Carroll (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), xvi.
13. In addition to the works cited in the following paragraphs, see Charles Johnson, “A Phenomenology of the Black Body,” in The Male Body: Features, Destinies, Exposures, ed. Laurence Goldstein (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1994), 121-136 and the work of the contributors to Living Alterities: Phenomenology, Embodiment, and Race, ed. Emily S. Lee (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014). I thank Scott Richmond for sharing the latter reference with me.
14. Linda Martín Alcoff, Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 126.
15. Lee, introduction to Living Alterities, 7.
16. George Yancy, Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), 7.
17. Ibid., 9
18. As Meaghan Morris notes though, Lee’s response depends upon a generalized “Asian” identity that not all spectators find convincing. In Australia, she writes, some viewers “express incredulity that the real Bruce Lee would ever have ‘seen himself’ in a Japanese stereotype at all.” In a U.S. context however, given the history and development of “Asian American” as a pan-ethnic term, Lee’s response is not so surprising. Morris, “Learning from Bruce Lee,” 182. See also Yen Le Espiritu, Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993).
20. Robert Stam, Film Theory: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), 240, 242.
21. Per Persson, Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 17.
22. Ibid., 35.
23. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 4-5.
24. Ibid., 223.
25. Although Infernal Affairs (2002) was the first film to be released, in terms of the chronology of the overall narrative the events of the film take place between Infernal Affairs II (2003) and Infernal Affairs III (2003). Gina Marchetti offers plot summaries of all three films in Appendix 1 in Marchetti, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs—The Trilogy (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007), 169-176.
26. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 68.
27. Ibid., 72.
28. See Nicholas Holm, “Ex(or)cising the Spirit of Japan: Ringu, The Ring, and the Persistence of Japan,” Journal of Popular Film and Television 39:4 (2011): 183-192 for a comparison between a Japanese horror film and its U.S. remake. The edited anthology Hong Kong Connections offers a useful series of essays about the global circulation of Hong Kong action cinema since the 1960s: Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li and Stephen Chan Ching-kiu, ed., Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005 and Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005). Other books that address the global circulation of Hong Kong action cinema include: Kenneth Chan, Remade in Hollywood: The Global Chinese Presence in Transnational Cinemas (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009), Tan See-Kam, Peter X. Feng, and Gina Marchetti, ed., Chinese Connections: Critical Perspectives on Film, Identity, and Diaspora (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009), Philippa Gates and Lisa Funnel, ed., Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: The Reel Asian Exchange (New York: Routledge, 2012), and Sabrina Qiong Yu, Jet Li: Chinese Masculinity and Transnational Film Stardom (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). [return to page 2]
29. Readers interested in a deeper analysis of Infernal Affairs than offered here may turn to Gina Marchetti’s 2007 book-length study of the entire trilogy, Alan Lau and Andrew Mak’s Infernal Affairs-The Trilogy.
30. Ed S. Tan, Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine, trans. Barbara Fasting (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996), 44.
31. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 54, 68-69.
32. In Infernal Affairs II we learn the backstory to Sam’s relationship with his Thai colleagues.
33. In an unfortunate example of this tendency to conflate different Asian nations and cultures, an announcer at the 2007 Academy Awards described The Departed as based on a Japanese film. Critic Richard Schickel also apparently referred to The Departed as based on Japanese films in his book Conversations with Scorsese (New York: Knopf, 2011). See Philip, “Yup, Japan and Hong Kong are Apparently the Same to One of America’s Most Respected Film Critics,” You Offend Me You Offend My Family, June 3, 2011, https://www.yomyomf.com/yup-japan-and-hong-kong-are-apparently-the-same-to-one-of-america’s-most-respected-film-critics/, accessed July 18, 2016.
34. Although I do not explore the issue here, this recognition obviously depends upon the ability of the spectator to have a racialized sense of self, and to be able to recognize a similarly racialized embodiment in the characters on the screen.
35. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 109.
36. Murray Smith, “Altered States: Character and Emotional Response in the Cinema,” Cinema Journal 33.4 (Summer 1994), 39-41. Emphasis in the original.
37. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 108.
38. David Haekwon Kim, “Shame and Self-Revision in Asian American Assimilation,” in Emily S. Lee, ed., Living Alterities: Phenomenology, Embodiment, and Race (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014), 119-120.
39. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 162.
40. Kim, “Shame and Self-Revision,” 116.
41. Plantinga, Moving Viewers, 72.
42. Ibid., 69, 73.
43. Ibid., 74.
44. Marchetti, Alan Lau and Andrew Mak’s Infernal Affairs-The Trilogy, 25.
45. For more on Orientalism and mise-en-scène, see Homay King, Lost in Translation: Orientalism, Cinema, and the Enigmatic Signifier (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).
46. Sara Ahmed, “A Phenomenology of Whiteness,” Feminist Theory 8.2 (2007), 158.
47. Dorinne Kondo, “(Un)Disciplined Subjects: (De)Colonizing the Academy?” in Kandice Chuh and Karen Shimakawa, eds. Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 32. Such distinctions are increasingly complicated today, given not only transnational movements of Asians around the globe but also the trend toward transnational perspectives in Asian American Studies as a discipline. [return to page 3]
48. Valerie Soe, “Fighting Fire with Fire: Detournement, Activism, and Video Art” in Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism, ed. Darrell Y. Hamamoto and Sandra Liu (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), 177-178.
49. See Chapter 7, “Tragic and Transcendent Love” in Gina Marchetti, Romance and the “Yellow Peril”: Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 125-157 for an analysis of Sayonara and The Crimson Kimono.
50. Darrell Y. Hamamoto, “Introduction: On Asian American Film and Criticism,” in Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism, ed. Darrell Y. Hamamoto and Sandra Liu (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), 11, 12.
51. “FOB” or “fresh off the boat” is a term used to refer to recent immigrants to the United States, typically with negative connotations. See David Henry Hwang’s play FOB for a dramatization of the kinds of tensions that arise between recent immigrants and the more established sons and daughters of immigrants. David Henry Hwang, FOB and Other Plays (New York: New American Library, 1990).
52. David Desser, “Hong Kong Film and the New Cinephilia” in Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema, ed. Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li and Stephen Chan Ching-kiu (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005 and Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005), 210.
53. Ibid., 212-213.
54. David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 8.
55. Since Anderson’s focus is on martial arts films—in these articles he writes in particular about Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Steven Seagal—his analysis would not apply to a film like Infernal Affairs or to those directed by John Woo that feature gunplay rather than martial arts. Aaron Anderson, “Kinesthesia in Martial Arts Films: Action in Motion,” Jump Cut 42 (December 1998): 1-11, 83 and Aaron Anderson, “Violent Dances in Martial Arts Films, Jump Cut 44 (Fall 2001), http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc44.2001/aarona/aaron1.html.
56. Homi Bhabha, “The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism,” in Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 66-84.
57. Valerie Soe, “The Skinny on beyondasiaphilia,” beyondasiaphilia, beyondasiaphilia.com/about/, accessed on March 5, 2014.