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The Caricature of Generational Differences
by Danielle Balderas `

 

Wayne Wang’s characters explore the tension between multiple generations.  He accomplishes this through the caricaturization of female roles.   This clip encompasses the interaction between Mr. Shi and the American blonde woman.  The blonde is a stereotype of an all-American woman—blonde hair, sunbathing, not working yet still educated, innocent, and sweet. Moreover, Wang is able to portray this caricaturization in less than three minutes. 

            The marginality of the woman enhances the effect of the caricature. The scene focuses on Mr. Shi’s response to the caricatured woman.  It serves as a scene of comic relief and light-heartedness as Mr. Shi tries to avoid eye contact with the scantily clad American woman. Wayne separates the two characters in the majority of the shots, implying that Mr. Shi is inherently uncomfortable with the immodest dress and friendliness of a younger generation.  The harmless dress and inquisitive behavior of the woman that provokes an embarrassed reaction from Mr. Shi provides a concentrated dose humor as a result of her brief stint as a caricature.

Moreover, Wang is focusing on a caricature of the American blonde woman to portray a generational gap between the two characters—Rachel S. Park of the Harvard Crimson notes that “the central conflict is ageism, not racism”[i].  Hence, Wang’s message is an emphasis on the generational differences that can plague a relationship—a central theme to the film with Mr. Shi and his daughter’s struggling relationship. Although the two primarily appear in separate frames, the brief shots of them in the same frame heighten the visibility of generational differences between the two characters. Her lack of clothing and bubbly personality contrasted with Mr. Shi’s modesty and embarrassment further progresses Wang’s caricature that serves a central theme of ageism.

The primary purpose of the caricature of a barely clothed and overly friendly woman is to emphasize generational, not gender, differences. Wang accomplishes this realization through the humor and brevity of the interaction of the protagonist with the caricatured woman.



[i] Park, Rachel S. ""A Thousand Years of Good Prayer"" The Harvard Crimson. 17 Oct.

2008. Web. <http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2008/10/17/a-thousand-years-of-good-prayers/>.

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