Inside Chinatown: In Hollywood, Chinese people should not just be heroes and kung fu masters


Willis Wu is not a kung fu master. However, what made the Asian American actor very frustrated was that no matter how hard he tried, he could only play the role of “Ordinary Asian Number One” or “Oriental Man in the Background” in hollywood.

However, his other identity is the protagonist of the satirical novel “Interior Chinatown” (Interior Chinatown) in Hollywood movie. The book won one of America’s most prestigious literary awards last month-the National Book Award for fiction.
The author of the book is Charles Yu (Charles Yu). He said that the purpose of writing this book is to “create a space where the characters in the background can also have stories.”
More importantly, he hopes that this novel will give more inspiration to the ongoing debate about expressions and stereotypes of Asian Americans, and encourage people to discuss the rejection of mandatory roles.
In the words of Willis Wu in the novel, it is: “The yellow race in the United States is just a special guest character and will always be a guest.”

Not just black and white

You Chaokai, a former lawyer, became famous in 2010 with the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.
After serving as a screenwriter for the HBO award-winning TV series Westworld, he returned to literary creation.
“I worked hard to write this book for several years,” the 44-year-old said in an online BBC interview from his home in Southern California.
You Chaokai said that one of the main “catalysts” that made him act was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016.

You Chaokai, 44, is a well-known American writer.

“(In the U.S.) sometimes I still feel like a foreigner, which is really frustrating and challenging. We are from here, but the president basically does everything he can to incite xenophobia, and is concerned about what is foreign and what It was the United States that made a very general summary,” You Chaokai said.
“I just felt more urgency and desire to discuss immigration and share some stories of my parents. I realized I needed to write something.”
So he did. “Inside Chinatown” was written in the form of a script, mainly about Willis Wu’s trials and distress when he tried to break into Hollywood.
The story is set in the fictional Chinatown and tells of Willis’s role in a police film called “Black and White” (Black and White). The starring actors in the play are a black and a white.
He gradually climbed from small roles such as “deliveryman” and “silent entourage” step by step, and gradually approached the role he dreamed of-“Kung Fu master”.
But Willis soon realized that no matter what role he played, he was catering to a stereotype of Asian Americans.
“(These characters) are trapped in their own roles, they are part of the narrative that has been set,” You Chaokai said.
For example, the role of Willis’s mother changed from “Asian woman in dust” to “Asian old woman”.

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Willis also gradually realized that everyone ultimately has to face the stereotypes given in life.
“Do you think you alone are the invisible group?” a character in the book asked. “What about older women, ordinary elderly, black women, obese people?”
You Chaokai explained: “This book is about people who don’t see others as people with their own subjectivity. When you use someone as a background board. Whether it’s an Asian character, a female lover, or an elderly person… you will Deprive them of part of their humanity.”
He admitted that certain parts of the novel were “difficult to write… (but) it was then that I knew it was beginning to become real.”

Hollywood and the road ahead

Part of the inspiration for the novel itself comes from You Chaokai’s own experience as the son of Taiwanese immigrants.
“I draw inspiration from my family. My parents came here in the 1960s (from Taiwan). I really want to capture what I have absorbed from their experience and the sacrifices they have made over the years.”
“For me, their story of becoming American is both inspiring and very complicated.”
In one of the scenes, Willis’ father had almost no money when he came to the United States, which reflects the experience of You Chaokai’s father.
“I think many parents have a similar story. As far as my father is concerned, he only brought about $50 when he came to the United States. He didn’t know anything about the United States when he worked hard here.”
“I saw the span between my parents and the children I was born here. I saw how much has changed in just a few generations… But at the same time, some aspects may not have changed, and there are still some people. Treat us as foreigners.”
But in Hollywood? Is there still a feeling that Chinese are all “kung fu masters”?
“I think the industry is slowly moving forward. I think people are really interested in real and diverse perspectives. It is including sex, gender and different kinds of stories,” he said.

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