The Proximity of Other Skins:
Ethical Intimacy in Global Cinema
Transnational films representing intimacy and inequality disrupt and disgust Western spectators. When wounded bodies within poverty entangle with healthy wealthy bodies in sex, romance and care, fear and hatred combine with desire and fetishism. Works from the Philippines, South Korea, and independents from the United States and France may not be made for the West and may not make use of Hollywood traditions. Rather, they demand recognition for the knowledge they produce beyond our existing frames. They challenge us to go beyond passive consumption, or introspection of ourselves as spectators, for they represent new ways of world-making we cannot unsee, unhear, or unfeel. The spectator is redirected to go beyond the rapture of consuming the other to the rupture that arises from witnessing pain and suffering.
Self-displacement is what proximity to intimate inequality in cinema ultimately compels and demands so as to establish an ethical way of relating to others. In undoing the spectator, the voice of the transnational filmmaker emerges. Not only do we need to listen to filmmakers from outside Hollywood who unflinchingly engage the inexpressibility of difference, we need to make room for critics and theorists who prioritize the subjectivities of others. When the demographics of filmmakers and film scholars are not as diverse as its spectators, films narrow our worldviews. To recognize our culpability in the denigration of others unleashes the power of cinema. The unbearability of stories we don’t want to watch and don’t want to feel must be borne.
Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies
Depictions of Asian American men as effeminate or asexual pervade popular movies. Hollywood has made clear that Asian American men lack the qualities inherent to the heroic heterosexual male. This restricting, circumscribed vision of masculinity—a straitjacketing, according to author Celine Parreñas Shimizu—aggravates Asian American male sexual problems both on and off screen.
Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies looks to cinematic history to reveal the dynamic ways Asian American men, from Bruce Lee to Long Duk Dong, create and claim a variety of masculinities. Representations of love, romance, desire, and lovemaking show how Asian American men fashion manhoods that negotiate the dynamics of self and other, expanding our ideas of sexuality.
The unique ways in which Asian American men express intimacy is powerfully represented onscreen, offering distinct portraits of individuals struggling with group identities. Rejecting “macho” men, these movies stake Asian American manhood on the notion of caring for, rather than dominating, others.
Straitjacket Sexualities identifies a number of moments in the movies wherein masculinity is figured anew. By looking at intimate relations on screen, power as sexual prowess and brute masculinity is redefined, giving primacy to the diverse ways Asian American men experience complex, ambiguous, and ambivalent genders and sexualities.
The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/ American
Women on Screen and Scene
In The Hypersexuality of Race, Celine Parreñas Shimizu urges a shift in thinking about sexualized depictions of Asian/American women in film, video, and theatrical productions. Shimizu advocates moving beyond denunciations of sexualized representations of Asian/American women as necessarily demeaning or negative. Arguing for a more nuanced approach to the mysterious mix of pleasure, pain, and power in performances of sexuality, she advances a theory of “productive perversity,” a theory which allows Asian/American women—and by extension other women of color—to lay claim to their own sexuality and desires as actors, producers, critics, and spectators.
Shimizu combines theoretical and textual analysis and interviews with artists involved in various productions. She complicates understandings of the controversial portrayals of Asian female sexuality in the popular Broadway musical Miss Saigon by drawing on ethnographic research and interviews with some of the actresses in it.
She looks at how three Hollywood Asian/American femme fatales—Anna May Wong, Nancy Kwan, and Lucy Liu—negotiate representations of their sexuality; analyzes 1920s and 1930s stag films in which white women perform as sexualized Asian characters; and considers Asian/American women’s performances in films ranging from the stag pornography of the 1940s to the Internet and video porn of the 1990s. She also reflects on two documentaries depicting Southeast Asian prostitutes and sex tourism, The Good Woman of Bangkok and 101 Asian Debutantes. In her examination of films and videos made by Asian/American feminists, Shimizu describes how female characters in their works reject normative definitions of race, gender, and sexuality, thereby expanding our definitions of racialized sexualities in representation.
*Winner, 2009 Cultural Studies Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies
The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure
The Feminist Porn Book brings together producers, actors, consumers, and scholars of feminist pornography. Addressing the fraught history of pornography, the rise of the anti-porn movement, and the ubiquity of porn in society, this comprehensive collection identifies the importance of porn made for and by feminists.